Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Please, Mr. Mailman...

In the words of the old song, "Please, Mr. Mailman, bring me my blocking wires!" Well, maybe that wasn't how the song was originally written, but that's how it has been going around and around in my head for the past week. I ordered blocking wires about 10 days ago, with a few other items. The other items arrived promptly, but the blocking wires, which were sent out on the same day in a separate box, have been (according to the USPS tracking info) sitting in a warehouse a few miles from my house for the past five days. Meanwhile, the Shetland Tea-ish shawl is sitting in an undistinguished blob on my dresser, waiting and waiting...

In the meantime, I have started my next project, the Pacific Northwest Shawl, from the long-backordered peacock Zephyr. Thank goodness for scanners! To see the charts at a practical distance I had to scan them and blow them up to at least 150% the original size, then print them out on 8.5 x 14" paper held sideways. Now that the preliminary work is done I am full speed ahead (if you don't count tinking a few rows here and there, or having to frog about 10 rows down to a lifeline after trying unsuccesfully to find a missing stitch). I am counting incessantly and still manage to be short a stitch here and there – fortunately, the alternate rows are plain knit, so it gives me a chance for a recount and an opportunity to fix a missed yarn-over. Even then, though, mistakes slip through. There must be gremlins about who slip a stitch or add an extra when I'm not looking.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Endless edging

On and on and on I knit. It should have been obvious – an edging that is knit perpendicular to the body of a circular shawl is going to take forever. This particular shawl is about 500 stitches around the bottom edge. (Thank goodness I didn't do another doubling to 1000 stitches and opted to count on aggressive blocking to increase the length.)I have been knitting nothing but edging for days and am only about 1/4 of the way around... How many synonyms are there for the word "tedious"?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Shetland Tea-ish Shawl

I can't even enumerate the number of rules I broke in attempting the Shetland Tea Shawl (from A Gathering of Lace) with some gorgeous hand-dyed lace-weight cashmere. The pattern called for lace-weight yarn, and this was lace-weight. I didn't swatch first (after all, it is a shawl, and gauge doesn't matter so much for a shawl, right???) and just plunged ahead.

Not quite. My first deviation from the pattern was to make it an open circle, so instead of making a complete circle it was necessary to knit back and forth on circular needles. Big deal, you might say -- just purl on the alternate rows and all will be well. If only it were that easy! The first two lace patterns weren't much of a problem, since the even-numbered rows were plain knit. But then came the Diamond Madeira pattern, which is much more complex and in fact has yarnovers and decreases on all rows. It was quite a project to convert the pattern from knitting in the round to knitting back and forth, but with the help of the conversions in Barbara Walker's
Charted Knitting Designs it seemed possible. It was really hard!!! After about 8 rows (which involved much tinking) it was time to rethink. Several members of the Knitted-Lace group mentioned Sharon Miller's Heirloom Knitting book for a Diamond Madeira pattern knit not in the round, so I took a deep breath and ordered this very expensive (but quite wonderful, as it turns out), book.

The next step was to frog the 8-or-so rows of the STS's Diamond Madeira, back to the lifeline I had fortunately put in before starting it. It is much, much easier to knit lace that has plain K or P on the alternate rows!!! (Those plain rows are not only faster and easier to knit, but they also allow for the chance to double-check the counts between all the stitch markers and fix any problems right away.)

It still isn't a fast knit – each row (about 500 stitches) takes about half an hour. But at least I haven't had to frog or tink more than a few stitches at a time.

Now here is the problem. Because the yarn is apparently finer than the yarn called for in the pattern, this shawl is going to be much too small, even allowing for enthusiastic blocking. The Diamond Madeira pattern I am now using has a 52-row repeat, instead of the 36-row repeat of the original. If my calculations are correct, this level of the shawl can have about 96 rows before another doubling is required, so I could do another repeat of the Diamond Madeira before doing the edging. OR I could return to one of the earlier patterns (Horseshoe and Shetland Fern) and do enough repeats to accommodate the correct number of rows. I'm not sure which would be better from a design point of view. One thing I am sure of, though -- I hope it won't be necessary to do another doubling and have to deal with 1,000-stitch rows!