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!

When you are older, you need a lot of crutch's (Dodges to keep from messing up!)

Although Jason was nice enough to say that I appear to be knitting fast, in reality I'm not fast, just sedentary. I like to sit and knit. I'm also menopausal so when hot flash wakes me up in the middle of the night, I will just sit and knit a little until I can go back to sleep. My attention span is not very good, my eyesight sucks so what's a person to do in order to get the job done? We develop "crutches". Ways around some of our limitations. I like to enlarge my charts and put them in plastic sleeves so I can put post-it notes under the line's I'm knitting. I also use smaller post-it's to section off the part of the line I'm working on so I don't get as confused. This slows down the progress of knitting but It helps me not make as many mistakes that I have to correct later because I'm tired or inattentive. Lots of people use magnetic boards instead, but I have way too many projects to do that and the sleeves are light and portable too. You can also use painters tape to make reusable" section" markers instead of the smaller post-it's. They stick better and for longer. (see above example of a chart). It's never been about speed for me. I learned to knit as an adult so I'm just happy to be able to do it at all, much less be fast at it.

I have some pictures of the Peacock Shawl above and I am at row 85 of 223. The "feathers" are beginning to appear and I must say that after knitting on US 0 for the Shetland swatch, knitting on US 1 is much easier now. Also, in the Peacock Shawl, as in the Wedding Ring Shawl, there is a "double yarn-over" stitch that makes what ends up being a "gigantic" hole that I do not like at all. It might be ok in a thicker yarn, but in such delicate yarn, it just looks too big. Sharon Miller gives a great tip that I used on the Peacock shawl. I made a single yarn-over instead of a double, and on the flip side, I knit and purl into that one yarn-over stitch and end up with a much more reasonably sized hole. There you have it, cross pollination at it's best! That's the nice thing about knitting. If you don't like what was done, you can change it on yours!

Now that I've had a break, I will return to working on my Shetland swatch again. Knitting right now is a challenge as it's been hotter than the hinges of Hell out here in Castro Valley CA. Since I went to multiple places seeking out Susan Bates US 0 straight needles in 14" unsuccessfully, I ordered this as well as Inox US 0 in 24" on-line. I have time. I'm still swatching!

Happy knitting to all!