It’s the last day of the year, and like everyone else I should be looking back over the year past, and ahead to the year future.
Lessons Learned for 2004
First and foremost – blogging is fun and (I hope) less of an imposition on people than is?writing interminable posts to the knitting-related mailing lists. At least the audience here is self-selected. Plus I’ve never kept a knitting-specific journal before. I find myself going back and looking up what I’ve written before to see how or why I did something in a specific way. Who knew?
I learned a lot this year about the periodicity and use of variegated or hand/dyed yarns. Although the projects on which I employed them aren’t completed yet (Crazy Raglan, Entre deux Lacs Tee, and Birds Eye Shawl), I did spend lots of time figuring out how to get the color effects I wanted given the color cycle repeat lengths. This remains a fascinating topic for me, and as each skein of hand-dyed offers up new challenges, won’t be an area that becomes boring any time soon.
Filet crochet. I’ve done piddly little things in crochet before. Even blankets count as "piddly little" because they are generally very simple in motif and technique. Snowflake ornaments, a table-topper round cloth of simple design, several blouse yokes in the ’70s, a couple of ill-conceived faux Aran style kids’ sweaters, but nothing as complex as the filet dragon curtain. It turned out to be an even bigger project than I thought, and consumed the better part of five months. Lessons learned include the fact that no two companies’ crochet hooks are the same size (even if so marked); the effect that near imperceptible differences in hook size can make on gauge; how to do a near-invisible join on adjacent strips of filet crochet; and how well the old graphed patterns for Lacis and other Renaissance needle arts can look in filet.
Along the way to the filet crochet project I learned that none of the methods of filet knitting I tried worked particularly well, nor were they fine enough in gauge to handle the complexity of the dragon graph. I’m not through with this subject yet. I did do some experiments in alternate techniques that were less cumbersome than the methods I had read about. I’ll probably revisit this in the future.
Entrelac is much faster if you can force your fingers to knit backwards. I’m still no speed demon at left-to-right knitting, but I’m faster at it than I am at knitting and flipping at the end of each mini-row. Especially when those rows are only six stitches across.
I also learned (via my Suede Tee) that novelty yarns can bring a world of interest to a simple, well-drafted pattern, but at the same time can be a *(#@ to knit. Side note:? I am also not that pleased on how the Suede is wearing. The microfibers do tend to be grabby, and catch on even the slightest roughness.
I learned several methods of knitting a lace edging directly onto a piece, rather than making it as a strip and sewing it on later. The most fiddly but most satisfying came via the Forest Path Stole. I used it again on my Spring Lightning Scarf:
Under "miscellaneous," I learned a nifty I-cord trick that applies a band of cord to both sides of a strip of knitting (apologies for the blurry photo):
I also used?a highly trendy but extremely boring to knit kiddie poncho to experiment with double width I-cord treatments to help tame edge curl in large stockinette pieces.
And finally, I learned an important lesson about something to avoid in the future. If any of you have ever looked at a loosely plied yarn like the Paternayan’s normally sold for needlepoint, and thought about how nice only one or two of those plies might be for lace knitting – take heed. Spare yourself. The yarn for the Larger Kid’s simple drop-stitch rectangle poncho took longer to de-ply than it did to knit up. For this one, I still bear the scars…
Who knows. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll have noted that I’m more of a whimsy knitter than a planner. Projects leap up and seize my interest. Sometimes that interest wanders before I finish, but I (almost always) go back and work to completion. Eventually.
I’m finishing up a couple more unanticipated last minute gifts right now – more socks, and a pair of quickie Coronet hats from Knitty (one hat = one evening). Then it’s back to the Birds Eye shawl and the Crazy Raglan. While I don’t as a rule knit to deadline, the Raglan is for The Small One, and the one thing certain about 6-year olds is that they’re a moving target growthwise. The shawl is a present that I really should finish by the summer. Unless another killer project like the dragon curtain ambushes and drags me off first…
Well, here it is. Nine months in the making – my Forest Path stole is finally finished. (Pattern from Summer 2003 Interweave Knits). Biggest Lesson Learned: There’s a reason why most people knit lace in white or light colors. I encourage anyone wanting to do this (or any piece) in black to have their head and eyes examined. Not necessarily in that order.
We start with a clean sheet on the carpet, a sodden mass, eight three-foot long lengths of 1/16th inch brass tubing, and assorted straight pins:
Threading the tubing through the edge stitches was a bit tedious. It would have gone faster had the tubing nice knitting needle style points. The ends though didn’t snag very much, they were quite smooth. The only difficulty was that the adhesive used to attach the price labels in the hardware store was difficult to get off. Rubbing alcohol didn’t do it. I needed to resort to nail polish remover.
I have to admit, I’m pretty pleased with this one. I like the Suri Alpaca. For the record, I used two full skeins, and managed to eke out 21 tiers of motifs. I had only a tiny bit left over. My stole ended up being 29" x 75" (73.6cm x 190.5cm). Now with the Spider Queen and the Forest Path under my belt – both gifts for others – I’m looking around for killer lace shawl or stoleto make for myself. What to do next? Possibly Hazel Carter’s Alcazar (no affiliation, just gloming pix), or one of the many spectacular Niebling designs worked atshawl-let rather than doily scale (pix of many can be found off of Yarn Over, Nurhanne’s knitted lace website.) But there remains one problem: I am not the lace-wearing type…
Progress continues to be made on my two current projects. I’m just below the armholes on the front of my Shapely T in Suede, that places me smack in the midst of the short rows that provide extra fullness in the bust (and that make the piece live up to its name). I’m looking forward to seeing how this topography overlies my own. In the mean time, I can report on my quest for blocking wires.
Having read so much about the effectiveness of threading stiff wires through the edges of lace pieces undergoing blocking, and having struggled with pin blocking my Spider Queen shawl last year, I decided to treat myself to blocking wires. Here’s the Spider Queen all finished, laid out on my living room floor:
And a detail of it mid-block. I was fortunate enough to come across a pair of flat checked bedsheets in an odd lot discount store a couple of years ago. The two-inch squares are VERY convenient if you need to lay something out evenly. You can see how the pins worked o.k. with this piece, which has lots of dagged points along the edges. The Forest Path stole however is straight-edged, without points. I was afraid that using pins would distort the edges.
Since no local knitshops sell the wires packaged up for this use, I went to several local hardware stores instead. I was looking for long straight lengths of non-corroding wire, preferably stainless steel. I didn’t find them. Instead I settled for brass. I had two choices in brass – 1/16-inch rods and 1/16th-inch tubes. Both came in 3-foot lengths. I opted for the tubes because they were more flexible than the rods. I bought eight at $1.65 each. They were slightly oily and sticky, so I washed and dried them thoroughly. Tomorrow I plan on washing my Forest Path stole and blocking it with my new wires. Pix will ensue…