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!


Leanne said...

That yarn is gorgeous! I'm sure it's going to be a lovely shawl, however you end up doing it :-).

Spike said...

Personally, I'd just suck it up and do the additional rows in the Diamond Madiera.

If you have to double again (knocking formica that this won't be necessary) then you could go back to one of the earlier (easier) patterns, and it would look like a design choice, in my oh-so-very-humble opinion.

But then, what do I know, right? (grin) Enjoy your shawl, that's the important part. And good on ya for jumping in with both feet to make it what you want.