Sunday, September 16, 2007

Icelandic Lace Shawl photos

It never ceases to amaze me how much magic is involved in the blocking process. Here are some photos of the completed shawl.

It is soft and light and beautiful and should be a pleasure to wear. Or maybe I should just leave it folded over the sofa as an objet d'art.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Icelandic Lace - Ready for Winter

The beginning of fall is always a difficult time for me. It means that the glorious warm sunshine of summer is coming to an end, and the frigid gloom of winter is about to descend after a brief autumnal interlude. On my personal calendar we have two months each of spring, summer, and fall, and then six months of winter. O that it were reversed!

This year I greeted fall, which begins, according to my personal calendar, on the first of September, by knitting the Icelandic Lace Shawl. The yarn isn't terribly heavy, so it isn't difficult to knit even when the weather is still warm in summer's last gasps. The neutral colors – cream and several shades of gray and brown – are certainly reminiscent of stark winter landscapes, a real contrast to the spring-like light green and yellow of the Bee Fields Shawl!

This shawl was finished in record time, but I'm not sure why. The pattern wasn't difficult, though I did make several mistakes, and despite some serious tinking there are still a few which will remain. It may just be that I was able to spend more time on it than usual because it didn't require heavy concentration.

Here are a couple of before and after (blocking) pictures. You can see why the errors didn't show up clearly in the "before" state.

(The pinkish and yellow colors in the photo on the right are from the blocking squares under the shawl and not the shawl itself.)

I did make several changes to the pattern. About half way through I became nervous that it would be too small. Because of the interesting construction it was tricky to figure out if I could just add some extra rows, but in desperation I tried. I also switched from #6 to #7 needles at the same time. In the "edging" part (the edging is a rather wide section beyond the wide white band) I added a couple of extra rows to the brown bands and then repeated the medium and dark gray bands (though narrower than in the first part). (I also used the dark gray for the final bind-off instead of black.) I did the optional edging at the top in order to obtain another inch, but I think it finishes off the shawl nicely.

After all that, the final dimensions are very close to the dimensions given in the pattern (76" x 37"). That seems odd, because I used the yarn called for in the pattern, I was using #6 needles instead of the recommended #4's, and my gauge is generally average (though I confess to not swatching this time). It may be that a more aggressive blocking would gain another inch or two in each direction, but that decision will have to wait until it is completely dry and I can try it on.

Even if it is a little smaller than I would like (and how often that seems to be the case!) I expect to get a lot of use out of this shawl when the Season of Suffering arrives this year.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

'Tis easier to knit than to tink

One advantage of a shawl that starts at the tip and gets wider is that if you make a mistake before the pattern is firmly in your head, it is no big deal to tink out a few rows. But if the pattern begins with "Cast on 339 stitches" it is another story. And so it is with the Icelandic Lace Shawl from Knitting Daily. It is a beautiful shawl and promises to be nice and cozy in the Jaggerspun Main Line that Sarah's Yarn kindly put up into kits for the Icelandic Lace Shawl KAL. This yarn is fingering weight, and since I am also working on the Bee Fields Shawl in very fine merino at the same time, this one seems like a fast and easy knit.

Maybe that's the problem: since it isn't too complicated, maybe I don't give it the attention it deserves. On Thursday night, I was knitting while watching the Channel 13 tribute to Luciano Pavarotti – a replay of a wonderful production of l'Elisir d'Amore from the early 1980's. I didn't think it would be a problem knitting this shawl while keeping an eye on the subtitles of the opera, though I knew that it would be out of the question with Bee Fields. Unfortunately I overestimated my multitasking capabilities, and after doing one the the last gray-beige section realized that the whole row was one stitch off in the second row, throwing the whole lace pattern out of whack. So, stitch by stitch, I worked my way back to were the first error was made. What a tedious process! When I finally got to reknit these rows, it because clear that it takes much less time to knit than to tink the exact same stitches.

Meanwhile, work proceeds slowly on the Bee Fields Shawl by Anne Hanson. What a gorgeous design! What a difficult thing to knit! The first sign of trouble was the instruction to p2tog tbl (purl two together through the back loops). I could never have figured out how to engage in this particular maneuvre without Anne's explicit explanation, and I still feel like I am doing a backbend when I do it, but it seems to be right, because the Bee Swarm section does (with a little imagination) look like a swarm of bees.

If I thought that was bad, the third section asked for a knitting move that I couldn't imagine doing until I had the needles in my hand. It involves a series of multiple yarnovers and dropping of yarnovers and picking up of multiple rows of dropped yarnovers... It is almost like magic how it all works out to look sort of like bees after the 6-row repeat is completed. (See the "bees" just below the needles in the above photo.) The yarn, from Wooly Wonka fibers, is absolutely scrumptious, and the shading of the green and yellow is even more subtle and interesting than it looks in the skein.

I am knitting this shawl (gasp!) without lifelines. I usually put in lifelines at least between sections, on a row that is plain K or plain P... but there are no rows that simple in this pattern. So I spend a lot of time holding my breath while knitting. Does that count as multitasking?