Category Archives: Wingspan Scarf




This is the same scarf.  At the left, it’s fresh off the needles.  On the right, it’s been through this torture:


All lace benefits from a savage blocking.  Is your Wingspan looking flabby?  It’s probably not your knitting technique. Try blocking it and see.

For the record, I used my visually horrific checked sheet and damp-blocked my finished Lattice Wingspan.  First I dampened the thing and squeezed it out gently (no wringing).  I patted the center curve into shape and pinned it first.  Then I used a minimal number of pins – just one at each point – to pull the points out from the center. Finally, I let it dry overnight.

The ends?  I don’t darn in ends until after I’ve blocked.  Especially on lace.  Finishing off the end may introduce a small area that does not stretch like the rest of the piece.  Better to let them hang, then deal with them after blocking is over.


Where have I been?  Busy, mostly. 

I’ve been getting our India-bound household goods shipment organized – buying what’s needful, and sorting the rest out from our domestic inventory.  There are tons of details that have to be settled before we go, and not enough time to do them, of course.

But that doesn’t mean that stress abatement isn’t happening.  I’ve taken to watching Dr. Who with Younger Daughter, after dinner is picked up and homework is complete.  I’ve worked a bit on stitching, but mostly knitting.  Holidays are coming up after all, and there are gifts to be stockpiled. Plus in all of the rushing around there’s a fair amount of “hurry up and wait.”  I don’t do that well, so I always go armed with some sort of handwork.  My big frame isn’t portable at all, so small knitting projects have been accompanying me on my rounds.

So far the tally for September/October is two pairs of socks, four Wingspan scarves (three were my variant on the basic pattern), and two pairs of booties.  The socks below – finished yesterday – are my standard 72 stitch circumference short-row heel/figure-8 cast on toe-ups, with an improvised Old Shale/Feather and Fan variant on the cuff.  The other pair of socks is making its way cross country to Elder Daughter (chasing the first Wingspan, sent several weeks ago), and the booties have been distributed.  The two remaining Wingspans will be blocked this weekend. 


Last night and this morning in the splendor of the Sears auto repair shop waiting room I worked on an old friend – my Kombu Scarf.

I’ve knit a few of these since first posting the pattern in 2004.  The initial one was in Schaefer Little Lola, a space dyed mix of greens and browns, that combined with the undulating shape of the center, gave the scarf it’s kelp name.  Since then I’ve done it up in other yarns, ranging from sport to worsted weight.



Kombu is a graceful, narrow scarf that can be made from as little as around 280 yards of yarn.  The design is both bold and a bit fluttery.  The pattern knits up well in every fiber I’ve tried (cotton, wool, acrylic, alpaca, cashmere blend). It’s reversible, attractive on both front and back.  There’s no seaming – the bottom edging is knit as a narrow strip, then the scarf body is picked up and knit north from there, with the side borders worked at the same time as the scarf center.  At the end, the final bit of edging at the top is worked across as a finish on the remaining live stitches, right from the needle. There’s no need to sew on or pick up and knit an edging, and if done from a large ball of yarn – there are only two ends to darn in when it’s done.

Here’s the latest. It’s in Marks & Kattens Indigo Jeansgarn – leftovers from one of my all time favorite projects.


I started this one in part because I needed something on the needles, and I wanted to add to my pile of presents-to-be.  But also I got a shout out from a Ravelry reader who was wrestling with her own Kombu project and needed help.  It’s been a while since I knit one of these, I had to cast on in order to lend a hand.  Happy to say, she appears to be over her problem, and is now knitting away again.

If you’re interested in the Kombu pattern, it’s available as a free PDF download, at the “Knitting Patterns” link at the top of the page.  There’s a German language version there, too.


LATE BREAKING UPDATE:  The Lattice Wingspan Variant instructions are now available as an easy-to-download PDF, at the Knitting Patterns link, above.

Another Wingspan.  I’m trying to codify what I have been doing because I wanted to post it as yet another enhancement to the pattern, hence the multiple iterations.  UPDATE:  Test knitting complete, pattern corrections are now in!

Before and After (pre-blocking):


This one was knit from Marks & Kattens Fame Trend.  Its labeled as a heavy sock yarn to be knit on 3mm needles, at 26 stitches = 10 cm, but it’s really somewhere between sport and DK, with some thick-thin variability.  What drew me to it was the very long repeat – evident in the skein.  I like the way extra long color gradations play out in this project, and the slow progression from green through olive, warm chocolate and tans played well.  Because this yarn is heavier than the original recommended yarns, I used a 5mm needle, instead of the recommended 3.5mm.

I knit my Fame Trend Wingspan starting with a cast-on row of 75 because I wanted my piece longer and more scarf-like than  Maylin’s Tri’Coterie shoulderette mini-shawl original.  Here are my mods. I was inspired by Lenora’s Angel Wingspan variant, and decided to take the eyelet idea to the extreme, using larger eyelets and lots more of them, plus adjusting stitch count to work better with the project’s natural tendency to “clump” into three-stitch units.  I also transposed this to all garter stitch because I liked the way the welts framed the double eyelets.

Again, the basic concept and shape here is Maylin’s.  Click on the link above to retrieve her free pattern (free Ravelry sign-in required).  You’ll need it to use my supplement, below.  And the idea of piercing it with holes came from Lenora.  I just took their concepts and ran with them.


If you are using standard fingering weight yarn, use a needle larger than the 3.5mm needle recommended for the original, in order to increase laciness and yield a softer more fluid drape.  For my Zauberball Crazy edition of this variant (true fingering weight), I used a US #5 (3.75mm).  For the Marks & Kattens Fame Trend I had to go up to a US #8 (5mm) before I got the result I liked.

Triangle 1:

Rows 1-4:  Work as per original instructions, rows 1-4

Row 5: Sl1p, K2, YO, *SS-K1-PSSsO,  YO2*, until 6 stitches remain before the marker. Finish last 6 stitches by SS-K1-PSSsO, YO, k3, remove marker.  Turn. (If you like any other double decrease may be used instead of the slip-slip-knit one-pass-both-slipped-stitches-over, I’ve experimented with K3tog and SSSK, and both look fine)

Rows 6 and 7: Work as per original instructions, row 3-4, but knit instead of purl – working a K,P in each double yarn over and a K in each single yarn over when you encounter them. Advance the traveling marker as described in the original on each wrong side row, until you work a final wrong side row with only 3 stitches, and have no place to put it.

Triangle 2:

Row 1: Sl1p, YO, *SS-K1-PSSsO, YO2*, until 6 stitches remain before the marker.  Finish last 6 stitches by SS-K1-PSSsO, YO, K3.  Turn

Row 2: Sl1p, K2, place non-traveling marker. K3, place traveling marker, knit to end, working a K,P in each double YO, and a single K in each single YO.  Cast on 18 stitches.

Row 3 and 5: Work as per triangle 2, row 3 of the original.

Row 4 and 6: Work as per triangle 2, row 4 of the original, but do it in all knit rather than purling.

Repeat rows 1-6 until the traveling marker walks all the way back to the starting edge.

Triangle 3 and all subsequent triangles:

Row 1:  Work as per Triangle 2, Row 1 above, until 24 stitches remain before the marker.  Finish last 6 stitches by SS-K1-PSSsO, YO, K3. Place a new non-traveling marker, and turn. After you place the non-traveling marker, there should be 18 stitches between it and the previous non-traveling marker.

Row 2: Work as per Triangle 2, Row 2 above.

Continue working Triangle 3 (and subsequent triangles) in the method established for Triangle 2, following the original pattern’s logic.  Because my version of the Tri’Coterie pattern is narrower and uses big eyelets, you should get 9-10 triangles out of a 420+ meter skein of fingering weight or sport weight yarn, instead of the pattern’s described eight.


After the completion of a triangle, when you decide your piece is long enough, and you still have about a third of a triangle’s worth of yarn left, it’s time to finish.

Row 1:  Repeat Triangle 1, Row 5 above across the entire backbone of the piece, removing all markers as you encounter them.

Rows 2-4:  Sl1p, knit to end.  AT THE END OF EACH ROW OF GARTER STITCH REASSESS YOUR REMAINING YARN.  Depending on available yardage, needle size and gauge, I’ve been able to knit at least one row of garter stitch prior to the bind-off row.   You will need approximately 4 times total project width for that final bind-off row.   The Marks & Kattens had enough for me to work four rows of garter prior to bind-off.  Noro Taiyo had enough for two rows of garter prior to binding off.

Bind off loosely.  Because of the big eyelets, damp block this piece to within an inch of its life to make them spread.  Try to do it following the design’s natural helix for best effect.

Hope someone else is tempted by this project in my variant or in the original.  It’s dramatic, quick, and not as difficult as all those abbreviations make it look. It’s a great one-skein holiday gift project that uses yarns that are tempting/beautiful in the ball, but are a true challenge to use effectively.  And like the best of those, is as addictive as potato chips.

Next post will muse on the changing nature of the on-line knitting community, with sincere appreciation to some old coteries who helped me think it through, and who wrote to me to express support.  Stay tuned!


As you can probably tell by the off-the-end-of-the pier style of my knitting and stitching projects here, not everything is fully swatched, graphed out, or perfectly planned before it’s realized.  This may horrify some readers, but it’s the way I think.  I prefer to learn on the fly, and don’t mind ripping back or starting again.  For me, exploration is more fun than final product.

Case in point – the latest Wingspan.  Let’s critique this thing to shreds:


Things I like:

  • The basic Wingspan pattern
  • The larger needle size/gauge for this particular yarn
  • Using dice to determine hole size and placement

Things I don’t like:

  • The color progression of this particular yarn
  • This yarn in garter stitch
  • The overall (near) finished look
  • The combo of color, stitch and technique is too busy

One thing that made the last two Wingspans so dramatic was the long and gradual shading of the Zauberball Crazy.  This was achieved by Zauberball’s dual strand ragg plies each cycling independently through their color ranges.  In this full strand as opposed to ply-dyed yarn, color change is abrupt and the colors themselves are high-contrast.  Speckles of the next color dot each block.  (Now I remember starting socks with this ball, and not liking them either).  The holes look less like airy bubbles, and more like the savaging of a demented moth army.  And the eyelets, which work nicely in stockinette, look sloppy in garter stitch. 

In total, I was Not Pleased.  So this has been totally ripped back.  I may play a bit with other stitches and this yarn, but in spite of it being a looonnnnngggg repeat, I am not confident that it’s right for a garter stitch Wingspan.  However, the technique of placing eyelets in a fabric using a randomizing device to determine placement is still gnawing at me, as is thinking about other possible Wingspan variants.  As a single project, this is a failure, but as a learning experience, it was valuable.

In other news, I’ve added to our house arsenal:


It’s a Korean-made sickle, sharp and sturdy.  Similar ones have been used in Japan for centuries.  They often figure in Anime, Samurai (and gangster) movies, both in their agricultural context and as weapons.  We are close-in suburban here at String Central, and not out in the land of gentrified sprawl, so why do we need such a thing?

Giant grass:


I cut the patches on the side and front of the house each fall, just after they bloom but before they scatter seed.  I don’t want to be responsible for colonizing the neighborhood with the stuff, and I don’t want it to sit looking forlorn and frowzy through the winter.  To date I’ve been clipping each stalk with a pruner, but that’s painful and time consuming.  I am hoping that this tool will allow a swifter handful by handful harvest.

For those concerned with possible waste – I strip the leaves off the stems and re-use the stalks to build my bean trellis each spring.  The leaves go to town composting. I also post about availability of (free) plant stakes each year on the local mailing list, and put them out on the curb for other gardeners to take.


Mid-blocking. Waiting for her new Wingspan scarf to dry:


Before blocking, and the op-art horror of pinning out on a checked ground:


The actual color of this Zauberball Crazy is more like the two pinned out than it is in the dawn-light picture on the wood background.

What fancy blocking set-up am I using?  Four rubber jigsaw-edged floor cushion tiles, with a rally check sheet laid out on top of them – all on the dining room table.  I’ve got two twin size flat sheets like this, bought for pennies at a local salvage store.  The regular 2-inch square checkerboard pattern may make eye-blasting photographs, but it’s fantastic for blocking to dimensions.  Large checks come around every so often, most often in kids’ bedding, intended for proto-race car drivers.  Oversize gingham and Tattersall plaids are ultra-trendy right now.  They would also work well as blocking backgrounds.

Talk Nerdy To Me

I haven’t worked this Wingspan pattern out of my system yet.  I’ve got one more ball of long-repeat hand-dyed sock weight yarn.  My new yarn is mixed neons – very circus balloon like. This one has lost its tag, but I’m certain I found it at Wild & Woolly about a year or so ago.  I like the lattice work double eyelet texture I used for this second scarf, but I want to try something more… unexpected.

I want to play with eyelets and this design, using a multicolor.  But I don’t want to do the same regular lattice that I just finished.  


I want to make something more like Swiss cheese, with eyelets of random size and spacing, to pick up on the airy, light-hearted colors.  You can just make out a couple large and small eyelets in the purple stripe. 

How to achieve random size/placement?  Remember these?

Stand proud, you knitting dungeon crawlers of the past!  That same set of dice so often used for exploring graph paper on dorm room floors, armed only with friends, a bag of Doritos and a bottle of Diet Coke, can also be harnessed as a knitters’ tool.*

I’m using a d20 and a d4 to determine hole spacing and size.  I roll the 20-sided die, and the number rolled determines how many stitches I knit before I make an eyelet.  The d4 by landing on an odd or even number, determines whether I make a large or a small eyelet.  (Yes I could use die of any even number of sides for this, but why not employ that lonely, underutilized d4 for something for a change.)

The small eyelet is defined as a K2tog-YO2-SSK unit, with the YOs worked KP on the next row (a two-row double eyelet).  Large ones are a bit more complex.  They take three rows to complete – K3tog-YO3-SSSK as the base eyelet unit.  On the next row I do another YO3 when I get to the hole.  On the third row I work KPKP into the bottom YO3, encasing the horizontal strands left behind working both YO rows, and restoring stitch count to the original number.  Yes, that’s a YO3, not a YO4, even though I’m working four stitches into the open space.  I found by trial and error that YO3 made a less floppy, neater looking hole. 

I haven’t seen this particular three-row mega-eyelet documented anywhere else, but as with all knitting – I refuse to believe that I’m the first to think it up.  I’m sure there’s a reference book citation for it somewhere.

And using dice to introduce randomness isn’t an original idea either. There’s a whole school of aleatoric and indeterminate music that in addition to encouraging performers to take a major role in deciding how a piece is played, often employs mechanisms of chance (including dice) to add immediacy and uncertainty to its base compositions.   Other knitters have used dice to determine stripe width or repeat, motif placement, or color choice.

So there you have it.  Second Wingspan finished.  Third, if luck holds out and this method produces something attractive, will be a bubbly, swirly Swiss-cheese of candy colored neon.  If it does I’ll have to find a recipient whose idiom encompasses bubbly neon color scarves.  And if it doesn’t I’ll rely on one of knitting’s prime virtues: The ability to reduce worked materials to their pre-project state, ready to begin something else.


* Another knitting-related use for polyhedral dice is as row counters.  Put one next to you and advance it one number for each row (or stitch) that needs tracking.


Playing with the Wingspan pattern here, I post progress.  Wingspan #2 is almost finished.


Mine is narrower than the original pattern – 75 stitches instead of 90; and has one extra point.  Oh, and Swiss cheese holes (double YOs, followed by Sl2-K1-PSSO center double decreases, although first and last one in the row is a single YO to maintain stitch count).  I could probably have gotten away with knitting a tenth point, but I wanted to have a wider inside strip to finish.  As you can see, I had a very wide red/blue ragg section, and I used it to do a row of decrease-framed diamonds across the whole top.  I’ll finish out the ball flat, without additional eyelets.  And if I don’t like that, I’ll rip back and do that last point.  The next post will show my completed Swiss Cheese Variant Wingspan, mid-block.

For those who have asked, the Wingspan pattern is available as a free download on Ravelry.

More patterns posted

For those of you who may not have noticed, I’m continuing to post the accumulated free patterns previously published on wiseNeedle and here on String.  All will be available as PDF downloads at the Knitting Patterns and Embroidery Patterns tabs, at the top of this page.  Some incorporate additional advice on the pattern or technique harvested from the associated pattern discussion posts.

Highlights of the knitting pattern collection include:

  Kombu scarf    

Embroidery charts include but are not limited to:


Note that the block unit graphs presented as embroidery patterns are also suitable for knitting, mosaics, crochet, and other work that’s commonly done off a gridded design.


The quick side trip to knitting is being just as quick as I thought.  Here’s Wingspan (Angel Variant), finished and blocking out on some rubber mats on my dining room table:


(Yet another traditional blurry String photo, taken at dawn.)

The colors are a bit red-shifted, but you get the idea.  A prismatic bat wing.  I do confess that I would have had a little bit left over at the end had I finished off where the pattern said to stop – after point #8.  But the color change in it was among the nicest in the ball, so I kept going, using every bit of the precious Zauberball Crazy, and finishing off with some leftover red sock yarn from my stash.  I’m pleased with it, and as soon as it’s dry and I can darn in the ends, I’ll be rocketing it off to Elder Daughter.  Unless she declines because she wants the fun of knitting her own.

Wingspan #2 is now on the needles.  Younger daughter requested the darker color ball.  She also asked that her scarf be narrower, with lots more holes.  So I’m playing with the concept.  Instead of one row of eyelets to close out each point segment, I’m working eyelets every 6th row; and I’m making them larger by doing them as S2-K1-PSSO center double decreases, followed by double yarn overs.


Some fudging is going on, all on the fly, to make a garter border around the growing point ends, and to fit the eyelet progression into the short row edge shaping.  Just enough (in combo with watching the colors change) to keep my interest.

<begin curmudgeonly rant>

In other news, we ran away for a bit of fun this weekend.  Younger Daughter, her pal and I went to King Richards’ Fair in Carver, MA – the local renfaire.  The kids dressed up and had a great time, being new to small stage jugglers, acrobats, and general comedic banter.

I will say that I was less impressed.  For all of the staff’s efforts, the charm of the thing is largely gone when compared to my memories of eight or so years ago.  There was only one artisan working in the compound – a fellow doing lamp work glass.  I missed seeing more of that – the leatherworkers, the folk at the forge, and the like.

The mounted “jousts” were the only things there that were free.


Younger daughter was camera wrangler, so it’s no surprise that our pix are all of the horses. The show we saw started with tilts at target and rings, and ended with lance to lance on horseback.  It was highly staged (which we didn’t mind, given the risk of injury if the combat were more real), and fun to watch.

From the start, I was mildly miffed.  Although I brought cash with me, I was annoyed that in none of their ads or websites anywhere is the fact that the faire is cash-only listed.  I heard more than one attendee retreat from the ticket window, to drive back to town to find a bank rather than use the exorbitant fee ATM machine at the gate.

Once you’ve paid your $27 per person, inside the faire you’ll find that everything costs money.  Food is on a ticket system, sold in $5.00 blocks of tickets only.  They’re 50 cents each, although (again) this isn’t posted anywhere.  A bottle of water is seven tickets ($3.50), a child’s plate of chicken fingers and fries is 17 tickets ($8.50), a sausage on a roll is 19 ($9.50). And the prices of foodstuffs are arranged so that it’s difficult to not have a few tickets left over that you can’t redeem.  I saw one guy hassled by staff when he tried to sell his leftover four tickets to another visitor.

All rides, attractions, or other events (again except for the horse-related arena stuff) come with an additional fee.  $2.00 for the maze. $4.00 for archery, $3.00 for a kiddie ride, and so on.  It would be easy to go with two kids and without eating a thing, spend $100 on top of admission just in an hour of walking around. It’s clear that even the small stage performers are largely paid by passing the hat.  They did deliver amusing, well rehearsed performances that we did enjoy. I did feel sorry for them and pony up, but again – you’re opening your wallet for everything other than breathing.

I was also disappointed at the large number of adults who seemed to be there in order to drink while walking around.  This was a holiday weekend, and the Faire’s opening weekend.  I expected to see more renfest geek kids – herds of teens in costume; and families with children over stroller age (strollers are difficult to push on the uneven ground).  But about three quarters of the crowd were adults in their late 20s through 30s, wandering around in advanced states of tipsy.  Not what I expected.

On the merchants – based on the prices, I assume that the Faire charges steep rents for those kiosks and stalls.  What I saw was very pricey.  Lots of stuff catering to folk dressing for the next renfest, of course, which I did expect.  $75. light cotton elastic waist skirts I could make out of a remnant for under $5.00.  $300 wench bodices.  $150 capes. $100 pewter cups.  $75 leather notebook covers.  There was some jewelry and toys in the $15-30 range, but you had to hunt for it.

Again, I will say that the kids had fun.  I did too in spite of being annoyed, and for that I thank the individual small-stage performers.  They made the day.  But the Faire as a whole has gotten more expensive and cheesier than I remember.

We won’t be going again.

<end rant>


Today I try to appease both my constituencies – stitchers and knitters.

First, for the knitters, I make confession that I’ve been seduced.  I recently came into possession of a true one-skein wonder, two balls of Skacel’s Zauberball Crazy.  One is an addled mix of red, turquoise, yellow and green (#1701), the other is chocolate, teal, cranberry and according to the official photo, on the inside somewhere – tan (#1507).  It’s a lofty and soft fingering weight, 100g/459 yards per ball, enough to knit a pair of socks for me.  Here are Skacel’s own photos of the two, at a color fidelity much better than I could achieve:

zauberballcrazy1701.jpg crazy1507.jpg

But looking at this stuff made me want to do something other than socks.  Given the number of variables in play right now, I decided I didn’t want to take time to design my own pattern, so I began poking around the ‘net and found the Wingspan scarf.  I’m working up this variant.  It’s all garter stitch, with the demonstrative shaping formed by short rows.  You can see the play of the extra long color repeat even in this traditional blurry String snap, taken at dawn:


A quick knit, totally on autopilot, with a clever system of traveling markers that make it impossible to make a mistake.  More on this as the thing grows.

And on the Big Green Sampler, I’m inching along the fiddly bits at the bottom edge, filling in my voiding.  The tightly drawn two-sided Italian cross stitch goes more quickly in an open field.  Around these odd little bits – especially the Y-shaped extensions in the top and bottom borders (a detail done exactly this way in the museum original) – it’s a slow and exacting ride:


The little empty rectangles at the base of each Y are especially tricky to leave unworked.  Still, I am making incremental progress none the less.

Now, why did I start the knitting project? 

Compulsion.  Plain and simple.  I do 98% of my yarn acquisition at Wild & Woolly, my local yarn shop – a heaven on earth for knitters.  But driving across the state to drop Elder Daughter off at college put me within striking distance of  Webs, the Northampton, MA yarn hypermarket.  My rule is not to buy stuff elsewhere that I can find locally, so Younger Daughter and I took a quick jaunt through the place looking for stand-outs – things I haven’t seen anywhere else.

That’s where I was attacked by the Zauberball.  It fairly leapt of the shelf in a direct assault on my magpie color sense.  It’s hard to describe this compulsion to a non-crafter.  I HAD to get it, and I HAD to find something good to knit with it, and I HAD to cast on right away.  That’s the way the best projects work – the absolute mandate to watch the piece take shape.  Time flies on its own. Any encountered problems melt away.  I look down and see more done than I realized was happening.  Oddly enough, the final product while valued, is not the goal.  It’s the process, the journey, the materials, and the sense of progress.  

I’ll split my time between these two.  Maybe I’ll figure out something myself to do with Zauberball #2.  Or maybe not.  But in any case, both balls have to be cooked, chewed and digested before I return to normal.

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