Monday, August 28, 2006

Introducing Scheherazade...

Here she is... Scheherazade...

Pattern: Scheherazade, by Melanie Gibbons
Yarn: Jaggerspun Zephyr in Aegean Blue from Sarah's Yarns, approx. 90 gm
Needles: Addi Turbo size US 4
Blocked size: Approx. 22" x 78"

I have learned a lot from this project. It was my first lace shawl, and I probably couldn't have done it without the online support group from the Mystery Stole 2 Knitalong. There were hints about everything from the provisional cast-on to marking up and following charts, inserting lifelines, and blocking. What a wonderful group of knitters!

This has been a delightful knit, right from the beginning. I love the feel of the laceweight Zephyr, which is 50% merino/50% silk. It is light and airy and soft and squishy and drapes beautifully. The picture really doesn't do it justice.

So what's next? Maybe finish a few of the other projects already on the needles? Lace knitting seems to be addictive, and I already miss working on Scheherazade, so I have the feeling another lace project is in my near future. Maybe another knitalong?

Friday, August 25, 2006

57,559 stitches later...

Scheherazade, formerly known as Mystery Stole 2, is now finished and blocking on the bed in the guest room. I seem to be suffering from separation anxiety after 57,559 stitches (more or less, not counting re-do's). We have been close companions for nearly two months. The last few days were especially intense, working on the edging. Then this afternoon I bound off the last stitch and set it out to block. Instead of feeling the sense of accomplishment I expected after finishing this gorgeous stole, I was struck by a sense of emptiness. It's not like I don't have a whole basket full of other projects on the needles and a long To Do list!

Pictures tomorrow...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Knitting in the air

It has been a real challenge to prepare for knitting on an airplane – restrictions on scissors and other metal objects, not to mention knitting needles, required a lot of advance preparation. On our recent flight to Paris in June I had it all figured out: a simple top with interesting yarn but mindless stockinette, knit on plastic Denise needles, and even plastic stitch holders just in case they decided that a 6" metal stitch holder could be used as a weapon. A Clover yarn cutter pendant was tucked in my purse, though I subsequently heard that they had also been banned by some airlines. I got a lot of knitting done, and finished the top on a flight to Miami to visit my mother a few weeks later. Airport sitting time and squished-like-a-sardine time on the plane passed much more quickly, and there was even something to show for it at the end.

This time it was different. We were in Europe on a wonderful Baltic cruise when the news broke that a new terrorist plot had been foiled, but that it involved flights from London to the U.S., and that nobody would be allowed to carry anything onto the airplane – only travel documents, money, and non-liquid medicines needed for the duration of the flight, all in a transparent plastic bag. Everything else (cameras, electronic equipment, house keys, jewelry, and knitting) had to be put into our (unlocked, of course) checked luggage.

While the arrests by Scotland Yard of over 25 terrorist suspects was somewhat reassuring, we weren't entirely convinced that they had them all. (Maybe somebody didn't get the email that said the gig was off?) It was just too awful to contemplate being blown up, so most of us managed to shift our focus to the horrors of having our precious belongings lost, stolen, or otherwise "disappeared" once in the hands of the airlines. Some people were trying to calculate how much jewelry they could wear at one time and even suggested adorning their husbands with necklaces and earrings. Others were trying to figure out how much data to delete from their laptops and other electronic devices, lest they fall into the wrong hands.

Just imagine... you get to your destination, your checked-in carry-on bag has disappeared, and you have no car keys to get home from the airport, no cell phone to call someone to help you, and no keys to get into your house once you manage to get there. Meanwhile, you have had to sit on an airplane for 7, 8, or even 12 hours, with nothing to read and nothing to knit. How can anyone be expected to survive that???

It was difficult to put my camera, Archos video player, and laptop into a suitcase, but it was really torture to put in my knitting. I had started and completed a panta on the flight to Europe and it really helped to pass the endless sleepless hours on the plane. On the cruise I had worked on both the Mystery Stole 2 (see previous posts) and Eunny Jang's Print O'The Waves Stole and couldn't bear parting with them. After all, electronic gadgets can be replaced, but all those hours and hours of knitting. Even if I could get my hands on enough antihistamines/tranquilizers/sleeping pills to sleep on the plane without reading and/or knitting, what if they lost or absconded with the suitcase carrying these treasures???

In the eleventh hour (literally), the airlines relaxed the restrictions, allowing each of us one small carry-on (read pocketbook size), that could contain wallets, keys, even cell phones, cameras, and MP3 players. It was too small for the laptop, but I managed to squeeze in my camera. My husband used a small carry-on they had given us on the ship, which we filled with a book for each of us and.... (drumroll)... some knitting. I chose the Print O'The Waves on the grounds that it was less far along, so it was less bulky and I would lose less if they confiscated it, and it is being done on #5 needles, so I could use my Denise plastics, while the Mystery Stole is on #4 Addis. (It is really a shame that Denise doesn't come in 4's.)

The airport in London was a nightmare, even at 6:30 AM. It was totally mobbed, and it took us almost 4 hours to get checked in and get through two sets of security. We made it through the first security check exhausted but unscathed, and then they had another security check at the gate. They pulled my husband aside, patted him down, and then opened his carry-on (yes, the one with the knitting). I was literally holding my breath while they did it, but after poking around in it, they closed it up and handed it back to him with my knitting intact. Phew!

After a sleepless night, I violated one of my rules of lace knitting: DON'T KNIT WHEN YOU ARE TIRED. I haven't yet had the guts to look at what I knit on that flight, but at least it helped pass the time.

The good news was that we arrived safely in Newark. And, as a bonus, our luggage did too.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Lace Lessons Learned

As a beginning lace knitter, I have learned an enormous amount by working on the Fiddlesticks Venus Vest and then Mystery Stole 2 by Melanie Gibbons. Here are a few tips for anybody just beginning to knit lace:
  • Don't be afraid of charts. They might be intimidating at first, but they really are easier to use than written instructions.
  • Make an extra copy of your chart so that you can mark it up with colored pencils, and still have the original "just in case." Depending on the pattern, it might make sense to mark off every x stitches, where x is an arbitrary number like 10 or 20; or, if there are multiple repeats across a row, mark off each repeat.
  • Use some kind of ruler (PostIt notes work well) to block off the rows above the one you are working on. That way you can see the current row as well as previous ones, so you can check your progress against the pattern.
  • Make liberal use of stitch markers. If practical, use them in the same places as the colored lines you have put on the chart. Sometimes they have to be moved, if there is a multiple-stitch figure (K2tog, SSK, etc.) that spans the marker, but it is a small price to pay.
  • Use a row marker to keep track of which row you are working in case you put your work down and come back to it a day, week, or month later.
  • Count, count count! Count the stitches between markers, and count again on the wrong-side row if it is a plain purl row. If you have lost or gained a stitch, you will be much more likely to find it right away and not have to tink or frog.
  • Use lifelines! They are easy to do... just thread a contrasting piece of yarn through the stitches on the needle after you have completed a row that you know is correct. It seems easiest to do this on a wrong side row, at least with patterns that do purl (or knit) across WS rows. If you make a mistake that you can't correct, you just have to frog back to the lifeline and pick up the stitches -- much better than having to start all over from scratch!
  • Don't panic if you are off by a stitch. It is often possible to fix the error in the next row, as long as you have been counting and catch it right away.
  • Don't knit in bad light.
Thanks to many of the members of the Mystery Stole group who made several suggestions that I wouldn't have discovered by myself without much more trial and much, much more error.