Spring Lace

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Ah, spring lace. My skinny Elm Row has been a real between-projects project; using up leftover yarn from my Orchid Lace Mitts (seen below) and picking up the slack between other, more ambitious knits.

orchid

I was going to get to the Orchid Lace Mitts eventually in my flashback series, as I finished them about two weeks before I started this blog, but at the rate I’m going with those flashback posts it was going to be a long while. And I wanted to photograph them together with the scarf, anyhow.

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Yes yes, how charming. The yarn is Fearless Fibers Laceweight Merino, in the Brunette colorway, and it was fantastic. Both patterns are from Anne Hanson, and they are lovely. I knit the mitts over winter break and found the lace interesting, but not so difficult that I wasn’t able to watch movies with my family & my visiting boyfriend — Return to Oz in particular is forever associated with knitting them. I had quite a bit of yarn leftover, so I decided to cast on for a skinny version of Elm Row — the pattern calls for four repeats of the lace pattern, and I only did two. Near the end, it became clear that I really could have cast on three, but I rather like the scarf long and skinny, and it’s more decorative than functional in southern California anyway. I began my Elm Row while on a Buddhist meditation retreat, thinking that my increased powers of concentration would benefit such a complicated lace motif, but it didn’t turn out to be nearly as complicated as I thought. It’s only a 10-stitch lace pattern, and while there are no all-purl “rest rows,” 10 stitches is still not so much to keep track of that it’s impossible to do in front of the TV. There were occasional bouts of tinking and swearing, but I never had to do any serious frogging. Here are some close-ups of the stitch pattern, on the blocking board and in the wild:

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What’s still giving me guff is my orange Woodsmoke Sock. I ripped out the whole thing (I only had about 3 inches done) and started over again with the aid of my brand-new chart keeper, but it still requires much closer attention than a TV knitter is capable of paying. It’s spending some time in the naughty corner at the moment, but I may work on it in the car over my impending spring break. What’s at the top of my priority list right now are some socks for the boyfriend — I’m not going to link to the pattern right now because he reads this blog, and though he’s going to see me knitting them I want him to be at least a little bit surprised by the finished product!

ETA: I have just discovered a Ravelry group for “Knitters Who Like to Knit While Walking and Singing Sea Shanteys.” What?? I am tempted to join said group, but I think that would make me a poser. They appear to be serious, with discussion threads on topics such as “best clothing for walk-knitting.”

Rainforest Swallowtail

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Aside from the Clapotis, which is technically a wrap anyway, the Swallowtail Shawl is the most popular shawl on Ravelry by a large margin. Over 3,500 people have made it, whereas the second most popular shawl has only racked up 1,700 Ravelers. I figured, therefore, that it was (a) idiotproof, and (b) wearable, which made it a perfect candidate for my first lace shawl pattern. I’d had this idea in the back of my head for a month or so, but the Swallowtail suddenly leaped to the front of my queue, hopping over several already-in-progress projects, when I discovered Handmaiden Sea Silk in the Rainforest colorway. One skein would provide exactly enough for the Swallowtail, and the rich combination of greens was irresistible. Recalling both my Irish heritage and my forest-dwelling childhood, it called to me in a voice that said “drop everything and knit me now.” Its voice was so loud that I went ahead and bought a shawl pin before I even cast on; the one pictured above was hadmade by Nicholas and Felice on Etsy. It’s made of aluminum, so it’s nearly weightless (which is perfect for a shawl pin), and it’s gorgeous!

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Here’s the shawl on the blocking wires. The color is less true (it looks browner & less vivid here), but you can see the stitch work better. This was, by the way, the first time I’d used blocking wires and I am never, ever looking back. I bought them a month or so ago when it became clear that there was going to be a lot of lace in my future, and I’m so very glad I did — pinning this out would have taken three times as long without them. I still don’t have a proper blocking board, as you can see, but these ghetto-fabulous flattened cardboard boxes have been serving me well, and they’re fully modular. (As in, I can duct-tape them into whatever configuration I need.)

Anyway, the Swallowtail Shawl was a surprisingly easy knit. All of the lace patterns were pretty easy to memorize, and as long as I paid a little bit of attention it wasn’t hard to figure out whether and how I’d screwed up soon enough that it wasn’t a disaster. The only really serious ripping moment came when I had a massive loss of confidence in how I’d been knitting the nupps, fearing that I’d been missing loops in my p5togs. Fortunately, I’d placed a lifeline at the end of the budding lace pattern. In my second try at the nupps, I used the cheater’s method: instead of p5tog, I slipped the first 3 stiches, then did p2tog and passed the 3 slipped stitches over. This way, I could make damn sure that each and every loop in the nupp was accounted for.

There was, however, one terrible moment when I dropped the stitch that had been holding a nupp together. Ravelry to the rescue! After a panicked search, I found this great link for “emergency nupp surgery” — it looked a little dodgy when I was actually doing it, but as soon as I was a few rows away I couldn’t find the surgeried nupp anymore, and now that the piece is blocked I’d say it’s definitely undetectable. Yay!

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So I’m incredibly happy with my Swallowtail, but what remains to be seen is: will I actually ever wear a lace shawl? It’s a fussy, delicate garment and moreover it’s kind of old-lady-core. The fact that I’m itching to cast on another one right away (Knitty’s Laminaria; I want to make it in silver) despite the fact that this question has yet to be resolved has led me to the realization that I definitely am a “process” knitter — what Debbie Stoller calls a “hurts so good” knitter, the kind of knitter who looks at a pattern and thinks “I’d like to knit that” before she thinks “I’d like to wear that.”

Well, there are worse things to be. I do try to think about what I will actually wear, and some of my pieces (like my Dollar and a Half Cardigan, which I will eventually get to in my “flashback” series) see a lot of action, but I do have a whole shelf in my closet devoted to knits that rarely if ever see the light of day, even though they came out perfectly well.

That’s all for today. I should have another lace project done and ready for you to look at in just a few days! (Hint: it’s something you’ve seen before).

Yarn Maraca, Yarn Egg

Behold my new toy:

nostpinnde

I am too poor for a ball winder and swift, so I recently got it in my head to buy a nostepinne. This one is walnut wood, handmade by Birch Creek Naturals, who are lovely. It fits perfectly in my hand and is a pleasure to work with. With the help of directions from Fiber Fool and Hatchtown Farm I was able to create, well, this:

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A Yarn Maraca. (You know, those things you shake while doing the Mexican Hat Dance? Yeah.) Theoretically, a nostepinne should allow you to create lovely flat-ended center-pulling balls like the ones an electric ball winder will make. But this was my first time, and it was hard. The end you can’t see very well here did end up pretty flat, though. I figured that as long as one end came out flat, the thing could stand up on my coffee table while I knit from it like it was supposed to. And behold:

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A lovely, standing-up Yarn Egg. I was unreasonably proud of my Yarn Egg, showing it off to several perpexed non-knitting guests and one minorly impressed knitter. The yarn is Handmaiden Sea Silk, which is gorgeous and was a pleasure to work with. (It’s also the yarn pictured in my blog header, before its chrysalis stage as a Yarn Egg.) It has now become a beautiful butterfly, in the form of a Swallowtail Shawl which is off the needles and waiting for me to block it. Soon you will hear the story of knitting the Swallowtail, and see pictures of its blocked-out gorgeousness!