Monday, June 25, 2012

My Most Challenging To Date...ARG!!

A childhood friend of my daughter (her first when we moved here) is getting married in late July and it will be an outside wedding in a park.  Not dressy, but not jeans ilk, either.  Chances are greater than not that it'll be hot.  I'm trying to avoid buying an outfit I can't get wear out of, so figured that a simple, plain solid, summerweight "nice-fabric" pair of slacks or skirt and hopefully same color top would work well if I made a very nice lace shawl that could honor the occasion.  That means lace, so it's not hot.  And it means something other than wool yarn, because even an open lace pattern in wool laceweight provides warmth. 

My LYS has their own brand of yarns and they have an outstanding dye guy, who uses good quality yarns.  I went in there asking for "something fine, something very cool."  We landed upon his line of very beautiful 100% silk laceweight.  (1085 yards to 100g).  All his colorways were gorgeous in this silk line, but what kept calling my eye back to it was a dusty light green without yellow tones or "minty."  This color doesn't show up on most photographs, but I was able to get it pretty accurately on this one, so in viewing the photos that follow, this is the yarn, complete with sheen and all.

About that yarn, this by far THE most challenging thing I've knitted to date.  Not because of the pattern, but because the yarn is very slick, it's extremely thin (like working with 2 strands of sewing thread) and my needles are also slick enough so that when laying the point tip of one against the shaft or taper of the other to dig out an ssk, it's like mercury against crisco.  Not only that, when you slide the sts from your circular cable onto the shaft of the needle, those sts have pulled taut onto the much thinner cable (being slippery, nothing prevents it) so they are a struggle to push onto the needle.  And then, of course, they readily overlap, one over the other.  Sometimes one over several others.  MUCH time is spent carefully, painstakingly e-x-t-r-i-c-a-t-i-n-g all that overlapping of stitches with the thinnest edge of a fingernail.  These rows took me a minimum of 35-45 minutes each.  The one row that involves a complicated Estonian Lace stitch (5-st twist a/k/a star stitch) took me 3-1/2 hours.

But here it is, finished and finally blocking.  Wet-blocked onto 7 ft. of blocking mat squares lined up with one offset mat at each end for the curve.  I did NOT block it aggressively.  Center back, bottom to top, about 20" at the points and about 18" at the rises (the white blocking mats are puzzle-notched, the unmatted portions are my office desk).  This took me two days short of 7 weeks.

Full depth.  Laying flat as it was, I measured 20" depth at the points and 18" at the rises, neck edge to bottom.  (Photo looks weird because of the puzzle piece edges of the blocking mats, it's the neck edge that's off the mats and I used sewing pattern weights to trap it in position.

Close up of the beaded sections...

Beads take a LONG time.  To mount one, you use a ridiculously thin crochet hook that looks more like a hypodermic needle and has the teensiest hook on the end that I can't see it without a magnifying glass.  You slide a bead onto the hook shaft, then take the stitch off the knitting needle.  Slide the bead down over the whole loop.  Return the stitch back onto the knitting needle.  And knit it.  You do that for every bead, one by one, stitch by stitch.  (If you accept that this is just going to be very time consuming it gets easier.)  The pattern does not call for the beads on the lower mesh section, only on the u-shaped scallops above that.  Another knitter beaded the mesh sections and I loved it, so followed her design.  Nicely, she provided a diagram for others who wanted to do theirs that way also.  I did learn a shortcut to beading over ssks and k2togs as these are, which made it easier. 

This is a closeup of the Estonian Lace stitch.  Fortunately it only occurred in one row.  (Two per repeat, 13 repeats, there were 26 of these.)

Though I'm not done experimenting with how to wear this bigger-than-expected shawl, this is what Jenny and I came up with so far.  Though I took it to my LYS who did the yarn, and it seems to have contracted some because at least in their mirror, just laying it over my back so the designer's talents show, and letting it cascade down the front, worked.  I might re-block it pulling more depth to shorten wingspan because I really treasure Susanna IC's designs which deserve to be shown in detail.  (To say nothing of showing off the result of HOURS of at times very frustrating work.)

But until then, at least this shows it some, on a human body.

Unfortunately the top back neck edge was rolled up here, and that's actually one of the prettiest parts of this design, which is why I want to get the wingspan blocked shorter so that I can wear it in a way that shows that beautiful bit of design work.

So there it is.  My biggest knitting accomplishment up to now.  I don't know if I'd ever tackle anything this large with that slippery of a yarn/needle combination again, but I learned a LOT in the doing and will unmodestly say that I am very proud of having completed it.

1 comment:

Julianne said...

Your shawl is beautiful!