reflections of a shawl knitter

My Whippoorwill has been finished for a while now (almost two months actually!). I am counting it as my first official shawl, and as such, I can say that it has illuminated me greatly on many things.

The knitting

The knitting itself was quite easy. Let’s face it, as shawl patterns go, this one is pretty much as simple as they get. But what worried me more than potential complexity was the fear of boredom. You often hear shawl knitters complain about those endless rows of several hundred stitches, about how they lose interest on purl rows, and also about how easy it is to lose track of where you are and mess up a pattern. I can happily report that I experienced none of that. I completely breezed through this pattern, at remarkable speed. I did mess up a few times, coming to the end of a row and realizing that my stitch count was a bit off, but I was equally remarkably unconcerned about that. I just picked up an extra stitch here and there, and things worked out on their own. I challenge you to locate the mistakes in my FO!

Ha!

The fabric

I usually consider myself quite a big fan of densely knit fabric. My ideal gauge is that thin line between a fabric that is compact, yet still soft. If pressed to choose among the alternative extremes, though, I would go towards the stiffer, tighter knit fabrics, much sooner than towards loose, open gauge. Whippoorwill taught me, however, that I may have underestimated what loose gauge can do to a knitted item’s softness. Whoa! This baby is so soft that I feel like I have to whisper the word soft when talking about it. (And frankly, while Malabrigo is amazingly soft, I think the gauge gets all the credit here.)

And the lightness, oh my, the lightness! To have something so soft, so light, yet so warm, now this is a completely new experience to me.

The size

I knit the size small (that’s how much yarn I had), and I was convinced the finished object would be the size ‘too small’. Again, underestimating the gauge.

When something is knitted so loosely, it becomes stretchy, and this small little thing wraps around my neck, twists itself into a nice knot and even leaves some ends hanging out of it prettily without any effort.

The rolling

Anyone who’s ever knit a shawl knows that they are ugly ducklings in the process and only turn into beautiful swans after you stretch them out like crazy, pin them out like a voodoo doll and block even the thought of scrunchupedness out of them. So I trusted my shawl while it looked all old-lady-skin on me, and waited patiently for the blocking to do its magic. Needless to say – it did. Wonderfully. However, after wearing the thing on and off for about a month, I can report that the edges are now rolling in again. I have to say I expected greater durability…

Am I going to have to keep blocking this every two or three weeks?

The wearing

Actually, the main part of my skepticism towards shawls comes from the fact that they simply do not fit into my wardrobe. When it comes to neckwear, I’m more of a chunky, elongated kinda gal (as opposed to the light, triangular kind). In this section, I have several things to report. One, this shawl is not too triangular for me. It might even be a good stepping stone towards more properly triangulary things. Two, it’s the perfect thing to have on your neck in these transitional autumn days. Not too warm, not too cold. Three, the shawl cuts into my neck. Now here we have a problem. The upper edge (longest edge if you think of the shape as a triangle) is the least elastic one. That is because of the construction of the shawl, from the centre of that side outwards, so that edge is formed by the stitches you keep casting on in each row.

That is also normally the edge that is in most contact with the neck and I would want it most stretchy. I find this quite discouraging since most shawls I’ve seen have the same method of construction, which means that they’ll all have this unelastic edge? As it is I end up wearing my shawl “upside-down” (with the unelastic edge towards the bottom and the decorative edge towards my face), to prevent it from cutting into my neck.

I hope you guys have some advice for avoiding this!

So there you have it! I am really happy with all the lessons learned from this experience and I think it has expanded my horizons as a knitter. I look forward trying out new shawls, and maybe even discovering constructions that suit me better… Do you have any additional reflections on shawl-knitting? I’d love to hear!

p.s. Have a great weekend everyone! :)

two episodes of Dr Who later…

Last night I found myself picking up two skeins of a yarn I’ve been trying out lately… the famous Cascade 220 (Heathers).

I had chosen these two skeins at the yarn shop with a particular pattern in mind, so there was really nothing preventing me from casting on during a calm autumn evening at home. Two old episodes of Dr Who later, quite effortlessly and without even noticing really, I had achieved this.

The brim and first colourwork pattern repeat completed! Whew! With all those socks lately, I had really forgotten how quickly things go in worsted weight! However, there is a but. The colours are not doing it for me.

You see, back in the yarnshop, I had first picked up this red to pair it up with a medium gray. Then, after a lot of debating with myself about the pros and cons of ‘a really beautiful colour combo’ vs. ‘while pretty, too classical and frequently used’, I decided to replace the grey with this beige/straw/yellow/howeveryouwanttodescribeit to produce a more daring combination. Something that would be pretty, but more unusual, something which people would look at and say “wow, I never would have thought of combining those two colours, but it looks great!” Alas, what I got does not make me think that at all.

Instead, it makes me think of Burberry patterns and of old ladies. Quite the opposite of non-classical and daring. So this is going to the frog pond. The colours are still great, and I am sure it won’t be a problem to put them to good use. Just not together. So if you have some pattern recommendations to use up about 100g of worsted weight yarn, please do not hesitate to throw them my way!

FO Monday: I love these socks!

Last week, I finally forced myself to part with my most recently completed pair of socks. They were knit up for my mom, as a birthday gift. In that capacity they are more than a month late, but I am hoping that their awesomeness in all other capacities will make up for that little detail…

I loosely based the socks on Wendy Johnson’s “Lace and Cable Socks“. And by loosely based I mean: I completely left out the lace (probably the key element of the design), but otherwise used the toe-up construction, the stitch-counts, and the cables.

The yarn I used was a proper sock yarn, i.e. a yarn that was conceived of and created specifically for the purpose of making socks, as opposed to just any fingering weight yarn. It was the first time I did this, and I can tell you the difference is palpable. Literally. These are just yummy, scrumptious, lovely, squishy, and any other such yarny adjective you can think of, while at the same time having perfect stitch definition and an unmistakeable feeling that they are going to last.

I intended to keep knitting these until I ran out of yarn, but at some point they just felt long enough, so I left it at that. I knit the last five rounds of ribbing and the bind-off with yarn held together with elastic thread, because I was scared the socks would be falling down. I probably should have done it on the whole ribbing, but I didn’t think of it on time.

And the final result, my friends? Well, if you ask me, it’s just the perfect socks! My mom is seriously lucky that her feet are several sizes larger than mine, otherwise I really don’t know how I would have parted with these… I want more of this yarn and I want to knit more plain stockinette socks with it, and I want winter to come just so I can snuggle up with them on my feet and a nice cup of tea and a book. When I look at them and put them on, I can think of nothing but coziness, coziness, coziness…

I love these socks!

my little army of hats

Remember when I had a bad day at work and it ended up in me bringing home a mass of knitterly goodies? There was a skein of discount yarn somewhere in that pile that also came home with me, with a particular purpose: the innocent Big Knit 2011. And here we are, a few weeks later, and I’ve just sent off a little army of 10 tiny hats to Innocent Belgium! I have to say I was quite excited taking these to the post office! And I even had a little chat about knitting IN FRENCH with the lady at the post office counter (ok, I understood only about half of the conversation, but I’m still quite proud!).

This is the first time I’ve knit for charity, and I have to say it wasn’t out of some particular sense of duty. Actually, this whole initiative led to some interesting conversations about the value of knitting for charity at my knit group: in terms of the time a knitter invests, the (meagre) amount of money which the company donates in return, and the good amount of publicity which the company itself receives in the process. I don’t have a particular passion for knitting for charity, nor any strong feelings against it. This time I was simply inspired to do it by a pretty skein of yarn! :) I should also admit that the potential of running into one of my little hats somewhere at the supermarket when the action goes live would be pretty awesome!

The hats were basically knit up in two evenings. I knit them flat because I don’t like knitting small circumferences in the round. I really enjoyed making up different stitch patterns and trying them out on such a small scale.

And the yarn (Gedifra Fiorista Fino) made me think that I should really reconsider cotton (which I normally never ever use). Look at that stitch definition! It was lovely to use, a real pleasure.

All in all, it was a fun activity, and the products may even do a tiny bit of good somewhere out there…

How about you? Any strong opinions on knitting for charity? Did anyone participate in The Big Knit? I’d love to see others’ tiny hats!

diary

Well, the computer has had an autopsy and has been pronounced dead-dead. Apparently my hard drive is physically broken. My data is most likely lost, though some people I know might give it a shot to rescue it later on… I did do a backup of all the important stuff fairly recently, so guess what is the main thing I lost? Photos! Not all of them, but a good part. (Boy am I regretting now not uploading any photos of my Amsterdam trip on Facebook…) But in any case, I choose not to dwell on this too much and get on with life. :) And until I figure out when and how to buy a new computer (or how to upload photos onto my work computer ;), I’ll just have to find ways of non-photographic expression.

Which is all to say… that I’ve started a diary! A knitting diary!

So, last Sunday, I finally started my Fiddlehead Mittens. (And when I say “finally”, I mean after a year and a half of having them in my queue and at the top of my wish list, and about 10 months after having bought the yarn). Because I want to actually wear these this winter, and because I find colourwork challenging, I decided to set myself an aim and monitor progress regularly. The aim is to knit 5 rounds each day and to write down my progress each day. In addition, I think it will be quite fun to have the story of the progress from the very beginning to the final product, which I will be able to look at even years later. I don’t get paid for my knitting, but if I write about the process in such detail, if I write down every round I make, it seems to somehow acknowledge the value of the time and effort I put into it. So here goes, my diary of knitting my very own pair of Fiddlehead mittens, first five days!

Sunday, October 9
I didn’t have a project to bring to knit group today. I searched frantically for a new project to start half an hour before leaving home, but rushing it like that didn’t work. So I just did some (long overdue) seaming at the group. But after I came home I was still in the crafting mood and suddenly inspiration hit – I would finally start my Fiddleheads! I did the I-cord cast-on (the I-cord looks decent, but the cast-on stitches are huuuuuge and unelastic, any ways to get around that? Since I’m working with a 3mm needle on DK yarn, going down a few needle sizes is not really an option) and 5 rounds of colourwork. I tried using the thimble I bought recently, but gave up very quickly (I couldn’t find a way to tension the yarn, things were just flying all over the place) and took up my method of two-handed colourwork.

Monday, October 10
15 rounds!

Tuesday, October 11
0 rounds
French class after work, then meeting former colleagues visiting from Croatia, came home at midnight and collapsed into the bed immediately.

Wednesday, October 12
Knit group, did 10 rounds with only messing up a few times and noticing it straight away, I’m quite proud of myself for that (though to be honest it was a very quiet group, only about 5-6 people showed up).

Thursday, October 13
0 rounds
I was really looking forward to some nice stitching after French class, but had forgotten that I had a dinner planned with the flatmates. After a few beers colourwork was no longer an option… But since I did a few more intensive days, I’m still averaging around 5 rounds a day, so I’m on schedule!

So, that’s the beginning. And maybe making it even more public like this will give me an additional incentive… ;) Feel free to join in with diaries of your own projects, I’d love to read about everyone’s everyday knitting habits. :)

computer death

My computer is dead. I am remarkably unupset about it (perhaps because I’m still convinced that the magical IT people will manage to recover the data, and as for the machine, it had a good long life). However, it means I have no way to upload all the photos I’ve been taking lately.

But here’s something funny found on the internet.

Have a great week! :)