Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Exercising options

It was with great anticipation that I opened my package of KnitPicks Options needles last week. They had received excellent reviews in the knitting blogs and from Knitter's Review. I love my Denise needles but was looking for something with sharper points (not to mention that they don't have anything smaller than a size 5). Grumperina's scientific comparison of the weight of various alternatives had me a little concerned when the Knitpicks Options ranked heaviest, but it wasn't even clear that the difference would be noticeable.

Alas, this was not a match made in heaven. I hated the packaging and was really put off by the fact that the sizes were not marked on the needles. (This problem was mentioned by several knitters, but most found that to be a minor drawback.) I did order an optional set of Needle Size ID Tags, though it wasn't clear how to attach them to the needle tips when they weren't in use. More serious was the fact that the tips kept loosening from the cable. They didn't loosen enough to become detached, since I could always use the little key to re-tighten them, but the very fine laceweight yarn would snag in the join, and it was difficult to free it. Perhaps it was my fault for knitting too tightly, but after the fifth or sixth time I gave up and switched to an old Addi Turbo.

Grumperina was right. They are heavy. But there were things I liked: the skinny cables, the sharp points, the hole through which you can carry a thread for a lifeline (though I probably wouldn't do that anyway because of my liberal use of stitch markers when knitting lace). So it was with regret that I packed them up and shipped them back, exercising the option to return them within 30 days.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Blocking Gracie

With GS Gracie off the needles, it was time to block (or, as they say in England, to dress) the shawl. After blocking Scheherazade, I thought this one was going to be simple. It didn't fit on my blocking board, but it wasn't too big for the bed in the guest room, so with a beach towel laid out on the bed, I headed to the sink with Gracie and some shampoo to give it a quick wash. The rinse water was bright green – as was the second rinse, the third rinse... Off to the internet to check out excess dye in hand-dyed wool. "Heat and acid" they said, so the next washing was in warmer water with a little white vinegar. This looked like it could be a very slow process, so Gracie and I headed to the laundry room and the washing machine. Set to soak on the Very Delicate setting, with a little white vinegar in hot water, the washing machine took charge as I nervously waited, jumping up every time the sound changed to make sure it didn't actually spin after the water drained out. (Visions of a felted blob danced in my head.) One more rinse in warm water and – voilĂ ! No more green water! The final test would be the color of the yellow beach towel after the shawl finished blocking, and in fact, there was no hint of green on the towel.

It took two days to dry, but finally Gracie was ready for the official photo:

Pattern: GS Gracie, by Myrna Stahman, in
Stahman's Shawls and Scarves
Yarn: Hand-dyed Merino wool from Uruguay, purchased from 100purewool on eBay, single ply worsted weight, approx. 1100 yds
Needles: Denise size US 8
Blocked size: length 30" (center back) x 84" (wingspan)

The yarn is delightfully soft and snuggly. I have a feeling that Gracie and I are going to be spending a lot of time together this winter.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

When is there one mistake too many?

While on vacation I started a Print O'The Waves stole and violated almost every one of the basic rules of lace knitting, including knitting on a transatlantic flight while cramped into a bizarre position and in inadequate light. Much to my horror, though not to my surprise, when I got home and picked it up again I noticed quite a few mistakes. I considered frogging the whole thing (about 15" worth of the central panel) but my husband convinced me that "nobody will notice." Since then I have done another several pattern repeats and made a few more errors. The question is... will the mistakes be more or less obvious after it is blocked? AND... can I give the stole as a gift knowing that it isn't 100% perfect?

In the meantime, I borrowed the Myrna Stahman book on Faroese shawls from a friend. What wonderful and practical designs! There was some nice green Uruguayan wool that was happily stowed in my stash just begging to be knit as a GS Gracie. I guess after all that lace-weight yarn it was time to switch to something thick and warm and cozy, especially with summer over and the temperature dropping. I have ordered my own copy of the book, but the yarn didn't want to wait until it arrived, so I just had to get started right away. It seems to be going very quickly, which is a good thing, because I have some more Zephyr on the way and another shawl at the top of the project list. (And we won't even mention UFO'S!)