Friday, July 18, 2014
B is for...
B is for... being blocked. Stalled. For the longest time, this project just wouldn't come right. This shawl (or a red shawl, really) has been a really long time coming. I think the idea of making a lacy shawl for this special friend came when I made Kiri, in 2006 (that long ago?!), doing some of the knitting during a visit to her place. A few years after that I decided to start an Orenburg honeycomb lace scarf for her, from Piecework magazine. I worked on that on and off, even taking it travelling a few times, but it stalled after a while. I think it was never the right choice - it will be beautiful if I ever finish it, but it was quite hard work and at the same time not quite the showy, pretty lace I think I really wanted to make for her.
In last year I admitted to myself that the honeycomb, which had really stalled, wasn't going to be the one. Having made the Semele mini shawl for myself already, I hit on the idea of making a bigger version, but with lace yarn. Using laceweight seemed to be a rule in my head for this gift. I picked out some gorgeous red Misti Alpaca 'hand paint lace'. I showed the pattern and the yarn to my ever-patient friend and she liked both. Then I got down to work.
And I worked and worked and worked. It wasn't too hard, but it didn't exactly flow either. The pattern is written for 4ply, but it does also suggest finer yarn. Even with 4ply, as written it makes a fairly narrow shawl, and I forgot until I was too far in that there is the option to increase at a faster rate to make it wider and more triangular. I kept going for ages, diligently weighing the remaining yarn to make sure I would switch from increasing to decreasing before I had used up half the yarn. When I eventually stopped and had a good look at it, I started to understand why it seemed to be taking so long to get anywhere. It was getting very long actually, but staying too narrow. It was already approaching the full length of the original blue one (at top in the photo below) and I wasn't half done yet. It was going to be more of a scarf than a shawl.
The other problem was that I wasn't really liking my choice of yarn for this pattern. I had thought a somewhat variegated yarn would work well enough, because the pattern has a large stocking stitch section in the middle. But I didn't really love the way the lace looked, and if I was honest, the point of this project was largely to make *impressive* lace! Now, we might also be getting at why I had insisted to myself it had to be laceweight yarn.
I had a visit to J planned and I was already working to that as a deadline. (Oh, and it was for a milestone birthday, but I had already had a shawl in mind for several birthdays so that was almost beside the point!) I thought about how quick and relatively pleasant the knitting had been when I made this pattern in 4ply. And I remembered I had some Filatura di Crosa Zarina, a very fine soft merino, in a fabulous red.
This kind of smooth, squooshy merino I always find very fast and satisfying to knit with. It went fast - after all those months/years of thinking about it and attempts, this actual shawl came together in under two weeks, with a bit of concentrated effort.
B is for... Blocking. It was really interesting making the same pattern (if not completely) in three different yarns. I love my luxurious cashmere and silk version, it is the most soft and luxurious yarn and the amazing very dark blue means I wear it quite a lot, when my more lairy scarves just clash too much with my loud winter outfits. I recently realised I have at least 6 different pairs of red tights - obviously they are psychologically warming when I am mad at winter for being cold.
Anyway, the blue Semele did photograph beautifully when held up to the light, but in wearing it, the pattern doesn't show up so much. Whereas this red yarn has a lot of stitch definition and body. Look at those bobbly leaves! This was before I washed it and blocked it by spreading it out flat and pinning out the points of the leaves.
And thank goodness, it blocked out very nicely.
B is for... bad photos. I hate to post poor quality photos, but if they tell an interesting story, I'm not a perfectionist so I'll compromise. Even when I finished the red one I wasn't entirely sure I had made it big enough - I just knew I wanted it to be more substantial than the blue one. And even though I've played this game a couple of times, I still got a great shock to see just how big it got with blocking. The angle of the shot below probably exaggerates it a little, but it really is almost twice the size. I did some extra increases/decreases to make it more triangular, or at least wider - the specifics are on Ravelry.
B is for birthday. And for my beautiful friend. She wore it right away.