Tag Archives: planning

Begin at the Beginning – Lots 349-352

…or at least, to begin at the beginning and continue until I came to the end was my intention. To start at the first hand knitting lot number and continue from there, as it were. To wit, “349 – Lap robe, min. size 1444-2699 sq. in.” This is the category that I entered the blanket into for 2015, and the one I won second prize in.

So all that I need to do is select a moderately to majorly impressive project that fits into the category of “approximately twin-size quilt”, right?

Well…the blanket took me four months to knit. I literally knit nothing else (save maybe a hat) while I was working on it. Plus I don’t really need another blanket, seeing as there’s only one bed in my apartment and it already has three hand-knit coverlets to its name. So let’s table that lot for now and consider the other lots.

350 – Afghan, one piece, min. 2700-3800 sq. in.

351 – Afghan, made in strips or modules sewn together 2700-3800 sq. in.

353 – Bedspread, min. size 3801 sq. in.

::breaks out into a sweat::

Okay, so apparently I could spend the next 2-3 years just knitting blankets for the fair. Blankets that I don’t need or want.

Honestly, I don’t want it to seem like I’m fleeing at the first obstacle. However, these lots were the first to have the ‘unreasonable’ label slapped on them in the spreadsheet. The point of this is to knit State Fair worthy items that I will enjoy (either knitting or using or both), not to kill myself to produce 47 items, one for each category, in less than a year.

However, thanks to the rule that allows objects finished in the three years prior to the fair, there are two options.

For 351, the modular Afghan category, I have this:

A blanket made up of seamed, knit squares that I knit over a period of three years. I love all the colors I chose, I love that friends and family all contributed yarn to make it, I…I hate the finished project.

No matter how I tried, I could not figure out a way to arrange the squares to make it look attractive. Eight of the squares that I knit never even made it into the blanket. I’ve often thought of ripping its seams and trying again, which would qualify it for the 2016 fair.

The second possibility stems from a rule stating that “Articles which have won a first prize at a previous Minnesota State Fair are not eligible for entry.” Which would seem to imply that items that didn’t get a blue ribbon can be entered year after year until the three-year rule comes into effect. Which would make the blanket eligible one last time, in 2016.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. I wish I knew more people personally who entered things in the fair regularly. Is it seen as allowed, but calculating? Is it frowned upon? Personally, I sort of feel like the blanket already had its day in the sun.

So! That’s the plan for the first four lots – I’ll be posting about the next four sometime this week. There will even be finished objects for some of these categories!

(That blanket picture is from the Culture Festival in Otobe, Japan, where I used to live.)

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Strategy

I’ve always liked the planning stage of a project – maybe too much. As a teenager I wanted to write a novel, something James Michener-ish but with dragons. First, however, I figured out the names and backgrounds of my characters…and their descendants 5 generations along, along with their ages over a period of about 90 years. This resulted in a poster made from sheets of taped together graph paper that was almost nine feet long and about three feet wide.

Thankfully, shortly thereafter I remembered the existence of Excel.

I made a spreadsheet for this project for two reasons: 1) There are 47 different categories for hand knitting in the Needlework division* to keep track of and plan for and 2) I needed a reference for figuring out what fits where and what might be blue ribbon-worthy.

The Minnesota State Fair lays out pretty clearly, in specific language, what qualifies and what doesn’t, and what goes where. For example, Lot 349 – Lap robe, min. size 1444-2699 sq. in. This is the division my blanket was entered in. I measured it before registration, but I noticed that it was also measured after I submitted it to the fair for judging. The judges aren’t heartless – for example, I mistakenly submitted one of shawls to the wrong category (the fair and I disagree as to whether a square is a kind of rectangle), but the officials were going to move it to the correct category on their own recognizance. Unfortunately, I had already submitted something in the correct category and only one item may be submitted to each category. Alas. I suppose it keeps people like me from submitting 2010’s special project, however:

The rules also lay out their definitions of light, medium, and heavy weight yarn, as well as what they men by “texture” and “color pattern”. Since only one project may be submitted by a competitor in each category, the more popular items have several categories, so that someone’s steeked Norwegian ski sweater isn’t competing with someone else’s cabled, fingering weight masterpiece. Some categories are based on the weight (or thickness) of the yarn used (scarves), some on the embellishing technique used (socks, mittens).

That covers the spreadsheet’s first purpose – if I’m going to make something for as many categories as possible, I need to keep track of which item goes where. So it includes the lot number, the category description, my planned project, its current status (some are already complete!), required yarn, and other required materials like zippers, buttons, etc.

Now for the second purpose. I had a fairly good grasp of what a first prize winning sweater or cardigan or shawl looked like – I’ve already done a fair bit of delving into the more complex side of those categories. However, Lot 364, “Cap or hat, plain” stumped me. Plain? No cables? No stranded color work or intarsia? Plain plain? What on earth does a “plain” blue ribbon hat look like?

I needed to study the competition anyway, so the spreadsheet also includes the name of the 2015 winner in each category and, where I could find them, a link to pictures of the winner’s project, along with the number of competitors in each category. This is why I won’t just show you the spreadsheet here – the winner’s names are publicly available online and all of the projects were found by carefully combing Ravelry, but even though many of these women freely link their full names with their online Ravelry personas, I balk at outright linking THIS person’s full name with THAT Ravelry username. I grew up on a part of the internet where that was very rude and damaging. You may do the detective work yourself, if you like.

Go figure,┬ánot a single winner of the so-called “plain” categories was to be found on Ravelry. Knitting ninja, apparently.

Anyway, I’ll conclude with a few interesting statistics I found while making the spreadsheet.

There are 47 categories in which a hand knitter can enter their work in the Needlecraft Division. In 2015, 45 blue ribbons were awarded (not including sweepstakes and special prizes); one category had no entries, and one only had one entry. In the case of there only being a few entries for a category, the judges may decide not to award a blue ribbon.

Of the 45 blue ribbons, 21 (46.7%) were awarded to women who won multiple blue ribbons in the hand knitting categories. Wow! One woman one 4, and another won 3. Something to aspire to eventually, I’m sure. Of the remaining 24 blue ribbons, 12 (26.7% of the total) were awarded to women who received other ribbons in the hand knitting categories (second place on down). So only 12 women won a blue ribbon and nothing else (I can’t tell if they submitted other projects that didn’t place, or if they just submitted this one, perfect, blue ribbon project). The competition is stiff indeed!

Next time…reasonable and highly unreasonable.

*There are other places to submit your knitting in the Creative Activities Department – Garment Making, for example. I didn’t include them because 1) I didn’t know they existed when I was planning this year 2) I didn’t know they existed until yesterday, actually (some detective!) and 3) I don’t want to. Maybe next year.

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