Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Wedding Ring Shawl or Where is Yoda when you really need him? (There is no "rip" in lacework)

Every choice in tools has a "downside" and an "upside". Straight metal needles have no join to ease stitches over. A join that may shred delicate yarn. However my pretties, straight metal needles are slick. My needles slid out of the last 8 stitches on row 26 of the swatch when I reached for a glass of water and those suckers ran like a pair of cheap nylons. Note to self, hydrate at the end of a row and not before! Here then is something that older knitters other than myself and my sister may have noted. The new generation of knitters call it "frogging" because they "rip" out knitting. Older knitters only use the term "rip" in extremis because in lace, unless you have admitted utter defeat, there is no "rip" there is only "pick" as in picking back a stitch at a time so that you can save your hard work. The Shetland is so fine, that at one point, I had to undo a "slip one, knit two together and pass the slip stitch over" using the point of a sewing needle. yes, it's that fine folks. Consider that before you start to knit on this weight yarn. There are some who use a "lifeline" (a row of knitting where you have threaded a contrasting yarn through a row of your work so if you have to rip back, it will stop at this row and save your stitches). I have never used a lifeline and only heard of this technique lately. In my day, there was no lifeline. It's a Yoda type of a deal, "Do or do-not! There is no try!" . I have now picked back to row 22, right back where I started from. Sigh. Yet, when I look at the pretty pattern that remains intact, I want to keep going. Knitting can be a very masochistic kind of an activity little ones so beware!

Now came the tough part. If you have to pick back too much, you have damaged your yarn. It is a good thing to become aware of your tools/materials/issues before starting the actual shawl. it will help you decide if you want to be in that much agony or not. It also has told me just how many times I may pick back before I will have compromised the yarn so far that it is a issue of soundness. And soundness matters in a piece that will likely never be repeated by me. One which will require a lot of time, effort and patience. Part of the problem is that this is a cobweb weight single. Unlike a plied yarn, it does not have anything to bolster it's tensile strength other than characteristics of the wool and the initial spinning process to bring it to a cohesive yarn. So I threw away my swatch and started again (remember, there is no "rip" in lacework).

See above, the new swatch up to row 32. I have abandoned the metal needles and am working on Inox circular's even though the only length I have in a US 0 is a 120 cm length (I have sent away for a 24" one as I cannot find one that length locally). The grey coated metal holds the stitches. I imagine this will be an issue when there are lots of stitches on it, but I feel it is better to be patient with this type of issue than to risk dropped stitches because the needle is too slick. Only 30 more rows and my swatch will be done and I can look at it. If I like it, I will do this version. If not, I will swatch the alternate. You really have to be a bit mad to be doing this type of knitting I think.

If you want to see the very first person to finish "The Wedding Ring Shawl", visit YorkSett ( . Kudos to her and the beautiful work she did on a shawl for an actual bride! What a treasure of an heirloom and what a very fortunate bride. I can only hope that my version comes out well too!

I will be working on a few simple knitting tasks to soothe my frayed nerves. Maybe read a book. The siren song of the "swatch" will call me back to it soon enough I imagine.

Until then, Happy Trails!


alice said...

It's even lovelier the second time around, right? :) I'm currently knitting the Unst Stole from Heirloom Knitting with the Lacis yarn and it is definitely a challenge—I’ve gradually stopped holding my breath from fear the yarn will break, though.

And there’s no need to feel you have to earn any stripes to join the HK group—I mostly just lurk and soak up the helpful information. :)

Jason said...

That swatch is absolutely beautiful. So delicate. I wonder, does anyone really wear a shawl like this once it is finished? I would be so worried. But of course I have never handled anything like it. :-)

I am using a lifeline. It makes me less nervous. But I have to tell you that I do not enjoy putting in time moving the lifeline up after each pattern repeat. Especially when you have a large number of stitches per row. Time wasted. Hopefully I will know enough and feel less intimidated in the future to go without it.

Jane said...

Dear Alice,

You have picked a really lovely lace piece to work on! I was tempted to do the "Unnst Stole" as well, but then I saw "The Wedding Ring Shawl" and I was a lost woman. The yarn from lacis is really stronger than it looks but it's so fine that picking back is difficult. You are right. It's a challenge! The example in the Heirloom Knitting book is in Jamison & Smith Shetland Cobweb 1 ply and I have used that before on "The Sheelagh Shawl" by Glady's Amedro. It's nice but not nearly so fine as what you have choosen to work on! I will root for you in your efforts!

It's nice to know I can join the HK group before I actually get one of Sharon Miller's Shawl's done but I'd feel better doing it once I actually cast-on the center pannel for real!

Thanks for checking in on me!

Jane said...

Dear Jason,

Glad you like the partial swatch! I think it's pretty nice so far. As for anyone really wearing this type of shawl. In the packet with my pattern from Sharon Miller, she gave me 3 "preview" pages from her up-comming book. In those pages she comments that the large and more complex shawls were highly prized and so people took pains to preserve them. They don't look like they are for heavy wear to me!

As for lifelines. I had never even heard of such a thing when I learned to knit so I've never even tried to put one in. I imagine you run it through the stitches with a needle? I could not possibly move the darned thing every row! Maybe every 10 rows or something. Who knows. If I keep messing up, I might try a lifeline, but it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks sometimes.

Jane said...


I took your suggestion and went ahead and joined the Heirloom Knitting group over at Yahoo. What the heck! I will need support to get this shawl done! Thanks for the push!

alice said...

You're welcome! :)

Jason said...

Dear Jane,

There's a lifeline video on KnittingHelp here:

It's really simple but just a lot of work when you have hundreds of stitches. Ted has never used it either.

Jane said...


Thank you very much for the link. If I start messing up badly, I might give a lifeline a try, but I have to say, part of the lace knitting thing for me is flinging myself off the cliff to try to do something. If I fail, it is still educational for me, like starting the swatch over again. Sometimes the failure teaches me a discipline that will enable me to succeed the next time!