Monday, July 24, 2006

Venus in the Closet

Venus has now been confined to the closet and is waiting for the weather to break before going out in public. The yarn is silk but it is a sort of fluffy silk that feels more like merino... lovely to knit with and I'm sure lovely to wear when it isn't 90 degrees out.

Here is a closeup of the lace pattern, complete with the white lifelines, before assembly and blocking:

I am almost sorry to be finished with her, since it was such an interesting pattern to knit and the yarn was so scrumptious.

And, speaking of scrumptious yarn, the Zephyr for the Mystery Stole 2 is also wonderful. As is the pattern. I have completed the first side of Part 3 and am extremely sad to have to leave it for the time being, since I won't be able to get the remaining clues while we are on vacation. It has been so much fun watching the pattern reveal itself that I'm not sure I can stand the suspense until we get back.

Meanwhile, I am trying to figure out what to take on the Baltic cruise. I have enough Zepyr to make another shawl but haven't decided which one. The Zephyr should be perfect for travelling, because it is very lightweight and scrunches up to almost nothing. Now that I am hooked on lace knitting I'd like to try something interesting, but will be out of range of help if I run into trouble. What to do??? For somebody who only started knitting two years ago (after a 20+ year hiatus) it seems pretty psycho to be planning my knitting for the trip even before I start thinking about what clothes to pack!

What I won't be taking: the cotton chenille baby sweater on size 2 needles that I hate working on. It is just stockinette, but it makes my hands hurt after just a few rows. I have to finish it before my granddaughter comes to visit in September, so there is a deadline. I have a feeling that I know what I'll be doing Labor Day weekend!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Just in time

Against all odds I managed to finish Part 1 of the Mystery Stole just in time for Part 2 of the instructions to be released. I had to stop for a few days to go down to Miami to visit my mother... lace doesn't make for good airport or airplane knitting since it requires so much concentration, and the complicated pattern means having lots of space to spread out. So instead of unpacking and doing the wash today I treated myself to a long knitting session, and here is how it looks now:

The photo doesn't do it justice, since one end of Part 1 is squished on a stitch holder – it is symmetrical both horizontally and vertically (but I wasn't willing to take the stitches off the holder for the sake of the photo). The next section will be knit from the bottom and then repeated at the other end. The yarn is wonderfully fine and soft... the whole thing can be mushed up into the palm of your hand.

As for airplane knitting, I took along a summer top that I started on the plane to Paris. I had finished the back and was planning to do the front and cap sleeves on this trip. Unfortunately, because of several extra hours in the airport when the plane was delayed, I finished it all before the plane eventually took off and had nothing to work on for the whole flight. I suppose I should have put it together today, but it was much more fun working on the Mystery Stole!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Venus: Vedi, Vidi, Vici

Venus is now complete! Well, not completely complete. It is officially off the needles, just in time to start the Mystery Stole (more about that below) since I had promised myself "Just Say No" to new projects until at least one was finished.

Here is Venus in her unblocked form, complete with dangling ends and lifelines:

The photo is a bit distorted because of the angle necessary to get the whole vest in the photo, but you get the idea. The yarn is Fiddlesticks hand-dyed Country Silk, and it is scrumptious.

This was my first real lace project, after doing several scarves. The instructions were extremely well written. There were charts, which I had never used before and found somewhat intimidating at first, but they were very easy to follow. The liberal use of stitch markers and lifelines kept me on track and I rarely had to do more fixing than pick up a dropped stitch between markers. It is knit from side to side, with a 16-row repeat, so I threaded in a lifeline at the end of every repeat. Even though I never had to frog it down to a lifeline, they came in handy for keeping track of where I was. Here are closeups of the lace patterns:

Blocking will have to wait, since I will be away part of this coming week and part of next week. But then it is too warm to wear it before fall anyway.

On to the Mystery Stole! I had already made four swatches in ivory alpaca to get it up to gauge. As you can see in my last post, the Penguin is looking at them dubiously, so I ended up buying a cone of the lace weight Zephyr (50% silk, 50% merino wool) that the designer was using. It was touch and go whether the yarn would come in time... I was itching to start, and if it didn't come in yesterday's mail I was going to have to wait until Thursday. But, miracle of miracles, it arrived late yesterday afternoon, just as I was about to dunk Venus in the sink! So Venus got a reprieve, and I started winding manageable-sized balls from the cone.

There were several false starts, not even counting the previous swatches. I decided not to do another swatch, since everyone else using Zephyr was using #3 or #4 needles, and I didn't have any #3's and would rather have it a little bigger anyway. I started on an inexpensive bamboo circular and after carefully marking up the charts, doing the provisional cast on, and putting in stitch markers, I did the first few rows. There were lots of booboos along the way... counting to 10 or 12 would seem to be a simple matter, but on the way back the number of stitches between markers would change. Aaaargh! And then the yarn kept catching on the join of the needle. Clearly it was meant to be frogged and restarted on the Addis I had once bought and never used. I was afraid that the Addis would be too slippery and stitches would slide off the needle too easily, but the snagging and catching with the bamboos was ridiculous. So back to the beginning!

By the time my eyes were announcing the end of the evening I had completed the first 20 rows of the chart:


This looks like it is going to be a beautiful design... but with 2 inches to show for an entire evening's work (with absolutely no distractions) it could be a very long process indeed.

And yes, I plan to thread in a lifeline before I do one more row!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Couldn't resist a mystery

For someone whose favorite genre of (junk) literature is the mystery, the Mystery Stole Knitalong was irresistible... even though I already have too many projects on the needles and had promised myself not to start anything new until at least one project was complete. The plan is for Melanie to post directions for a lace stole in six sections, one each week for six weeks. There is a Yahoo Group for the participants to discuss progress, questions, etc. as we go along. It sounds like fun, even though we won't know what the stole is supposed to look like until the end – but judging from Melanie's other designs, it should be a beauty.

We were give a head start to choose the yarn, do the gauge swatches, and cast on the first 99 stitches. Here the Penguin is watching over the four swatches as they are blocked...

The yarn is a fine ivory Superalpaca that I bought on eBay a few months ago. It took four tries to get it up to Melanie's gauge – I was actually hoping for a little larger so that the stole would end up bigger than specified in the initial specs. The first swatch is on size 4 needles, then 6's, 7's, and finally 8's.

I've already learned a few things. I cast off way too tightly, as you can probably tell from the swatches, and will have to devise a way around that. (There's only so much you can do with blocking!) I also tend to cast on too tightly but have learned to cast on with a much larger needle to solve that problem. This pattern calls for a provisional cast-on, which I learned to do from the excellent video from Knitting at Knoon. A provisional cast-on always sounded a bit intimidating, but it wasn't at all difficult and, in fact, I may adopt the crocheted cast-on on which it is based in the future. I've also learned (as if every knitter and pattern designer didn't already stress it over and over) how important it is to do a swatch. Or two. Or four.