Sunday, July 30, 2006

By Slow Degrees

Still crawling along on the Wedding Ring Shawl, I have almost finished the second 66 row repeat. I approached rows 41/42, where I had the problem on the first repeat, with trepidation. I needn't have worried - of course the chart is not incorrect, of course the stitch count is not off. I don't know what I did the first time round because I counted, and re-counted, I tinked, re-knitted and tinked again and for the life of me I couldn't find any mistake, but yet the stitch count was still off by one. In the end I decreased the extra stitch away and carried on. This time round there has been no problem at all.

I want to knit on the WRS to the exclusion of all else but it is not physically possible. The concentration required is immense - there is no chance of watching TV and even listening to the radio can be a bit dodgy; "Don't talk to me, I'm counting" is the constant refrain and God forbid that the phone should ring. I therefore need a little light relief.

I sort-of-started the Romance Shawl from Dorothy at Fiddlesticks Knitting a while ago. The recommended yarn is Margaret Stove Artisan Lace Merino (the yarn I used for the Garden Shawl) but I just wanted to see how the pattern looked and to this end I took up some white Patons 2-ply Baby Wool. Obviously, this yarn is thicker than the Margaret Stove but I quite like the look of it and so have decided to continue with it. The problem of how to find a contrast colour for the double edging will be solved when I get to it. I might use a different yarn, I might dye some of the Patons, we shall see.

This is the progress so far:

Romance shawl start

The construction of this shawl is one that Dorothy uses in quite a few of her designs (it's used in Flirty Ruffles, for example) and it's one I really like. You cast on a few stitches at the centre back and increase four times on each public side row - twice on each side of the central two stitches and once at each outer edge. It's early days but I'm liking the look of it.

Just because I could, I knocked off this rosette:


I thought I might use it for something-or-other but I'm not sure what.

No picture of WRS - it's still skinny, it's still fine, ethereal, floaty, beautiful and it's just a bit bigger than it was.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Watching paint dry

I'm knitting on the Wedding Ring Shawl to the exclusion of all else. It's like a drug - I just want more and more. So it is growing but at a rate so slow that it is more interesting from your point view to watch paint drying.

There have been requests for a stretched out picture. Here she is:

Red yarn markers detract from her wraith-like beauty so I've removed them. This is only temporary - I still like my yarn markers and I know others have got rid of theirs but mine are staying.

So here she is again, more ethereal than ever:

She is not blocked in any way. I simply stretched her out on a dark background, so she is a little skew-whiff, but I think you can get the general idea.

A close-up of the two rings motif:

Not much more to say really. I've just completed row 21 of the second pattern repeat. I had a little adventure where something was not right but I've fixed it (at least to my own satisfaction - the chap on the running horse is reasonably happy, too). I didn't document the process because I had enough to do to stop the stitch slipping away from me without juggling a camera at the same time.

It really is very difficult to correct mistakes so the moral of this story is - don't make a mistake in the first place. Easier said than done but I'm trying my best.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Making it up as I go along

I've never knitted anything with such skinny (technical term) yarn as the Wedding Ring Shawl, though I have knitted with such skinny needles. The result is that I'm learning a lot (ie making it up as I go along).

What have I learned?

I've learned that it is essential to have smooth hands and nails - according to Sharon, the most expert knitters in the Shetland Isles were exempted from the "heavy" work, to keep their hands in good nick for knitting with ultra-fine yarn. Unfortunately, there is no-one exempting me from the "heavy" work in this house, so other measures have to be taken.

I have purchased a pair of thin, white cotton gloves and each evening I slather (that's the only word to describe it) my hands in Neutrogena (as used by Arctic fishermen, and if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me), don the gloves and retire to bed. I look like one of those babies who have to wear mittens at night to stop them scratching their own eyes out.

I have purchased emery boards and keep one at hand all the time. I wash my hands almost as much as I did when I worked as a nurse and apply talc religiously before I start knitting.

That's just the hands - then there are the eyes. I had to get a magnifying glass and I sling that round my neck and peer at the miniscule stitches. I don't always use it because I feel a little "removed" from the action - like a surgeon performing keyhole surgery.

Then it comes down to the actual knitting.

I've made a copy of the chart. That is on the metal board with the magnetic strips positioned just above the row I am working on. This means I can see where I've been and check that the pattern is lining up correctly. I know some people prefer to write out (or chart) each row on index cards and just look at the one corresponding to the row they are working but I just think that would confuse me even more.

I have running yarn stitch markers separating each 12 stitch repeat. Other knitters have said they ditched the stitch markers at an early stage. This might be because the stitch markers do have to move occasionally to accommodate the triple decreases and moving a stitch marker which sits on the needle is much more difficult than moving a yarn marker that goes through the fabric and doesn't interfere with the needle at all. Whatever is the case, I've still got my markers and am finding them very useful.

As I am knitting each repeat I check that the pattern is lining up correctly. This is especially important in the side sections, which sometimes have a slight variation and also in the first repeat, because a mistake here could be repeated across the row.After I have knitted each repeat I check back over the stitches to make sure I have the right number and that all the yos are present (and in the correct place!). I do this every single time. I haven't always done it and it's a pain to find the pattern is off a stitch because a yo was missed on the previous row. It's not a big problem to fix but it's a pain if you have to tink even a few stitches because you didn't spot the absent yo immediately.

Speaking of tinking, those K1,sl1,PSSOs are a real PITA so I also have a sewing needle near me, to help in opening up these stitches if I have to take them back.

One more essential thing is to wear dark clothes, or at least have a plain, dark cloth on your lap, so that you stand half a chance of actually seeing what you are doing.

And after all that I have just completed row 64 (ie almost at the end of the first pattern repeat) and this is the scrunched up, dishevelled old rag that I have created:

It could be worse - I could be toiling round France on a push-bike with temperatures in the 90s, as it is, I'm watching it on the telly. What's my problem?

Sunday, July 16, 2006


So there I was knitting away on the WRS and all was going well. I came to row 42 and hit a problem.

I'm doing the "Alternative Centre" (ie not the one that Sharon herself made). Row 41 is a plain knit row, except for where you work a knit and a purl into the double YO of the previous row and also into a single YO, thereby increasing one stitch. The problem is in the 16 st R. H. section. Before working row 41 the stitch count for this section is 16. After working the section the stitch count is 17 (because of the K,P into the single YO of the row before). All well so far. However, this section on row 42 requires 16 stitches (and ends up with 16 stitches). No matter what I did, I still had the same problem.

I cast on with some spare cotton and fatter needles and did the section again. (Twice.) I counted and re-counted. I pored over the chart and tore out some hair. I still came up against the same problem.

Eventually, I sent an email to Sharon herself and asked about the problem. She has been great - replied to my original email within minutes and said she'd have a look and get back to me, which she duly did. She doesn't seem to think there is a problem but I am convinced that there is. I let it bug me for a day and a half and then decided that it was one stitch out of thousands of stitches and I should just decrease it away and be done with it. That's exactly what I did. On row 42 I did K3tog instead of the very last K2tog of the row. Stitch count is now fine. I'll be very interested to see what happens on the next repeat of rows 41/42 - if there really isn't a problem there shouldn't BE a problem but if the stitch count really is off (which is my belief) then the same thing will happen again. We shall see.

Here's the scrunched up mess on row 50:

Close-up of the "two rings" motif:

and the whole thing, spread out as best I can:

While I was trying to sort out the difficulty on rows 41/42, I did a little work on the Burda Tablecloth, which feels like knitting with Aran yarn on tree trunks up to the WRS:

There has been little progress on the Kimono Jacket, since it is too hot to be bothering with wool. I don't suppose that will last long but just so you can see the delights of the rural backwater at the height of an English summer, I give you the view down to the river Stour:

Photograph courtesy of one or other of my pair.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Can you see this?

Well, I couldn't. See it, that is. So I shot off to my LYS to show off progress on the WRS and buy a magnifying glass.

Jane wanted me to put in a plug (though she didn't give me a discount when I promised to do so - an oversight, I think), so here is the plug. I bought my very excellent magnifying glass at my LYS, Shipston Needlecraft. The website of their sister shop in Burford is here. It's a lovely shop, but just a little bit far for me to get to on a regular basis. Shipston, on the other hand, is a lovely shop and right round the corner - a mixed blessing according to "'im indoors".

So things are moving along reasonably well:

working on WRS

That's all the stuff there. Magnifying glass to the fore.

See how it makes all the difference?

through the looking glass

Naturally, I didn't take this photo myself, otherwise why would you see my two hands in the picture? (Although seeing my two hands full of plates never seems to stop the punters in the Bell at Alderminster wondering why I haven't brought their salad - "Oh, I'm sorry, Madam - the hand that pops up out of the top of my head seems to be temporarily out of commission." Not that I say this out loud but I think it loudly.)

#1 daughter took that picture and then she ran round the garden taking more pictures. After I showed her how to use the camera she took this:

which I think is rather splendid.

Then #1 son got in on the act. They have decided to have a photographic competition. Each month they will submit five photographs each. These will be muddled up so the dozy mother/judge will not know which took what. There has been no mention of prizes (yet) but I just know this is going to cost me.

They haven't started yet - just limbering up so here's a taster of what's to come:


and this:


I've suggested they start a blog so we can all vote. Failing that I'll probably need help.

For those who are counting I've just done row 37 of the Wedding Ring Shawl. I've made a few mistakes, mostly involving a missed YO on the previous row. It is vital to keep your wits very, very near you (not just "about" you - they need to be close at hand).

Hear that sound? That glassy, rattling sound? That's the sound of my marbles skittering under the table and deserting me for ever.

What have I done?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Dental Floss

First, housekeeping. It has come to my attention that you couldn't see the picture of the cone of silk. (Thanks, MA for alerting me!). That was Blogger playing tricks again. I hope the problem is now solved and you can all see the yarn in its glory.

Second, I sent off the Garden Shawl to my knitbud in PA. I handed it over in the Post Office in Shipston on Tuesday. I felt like I was seeing #1 daughter off to school for the first time. I walked back to the car and drove home and I felt completely bereft. It was totally heart-wrenching. Not because of "letting go", oh, no; just because I wasn't quite sure that it would ever see the light of day again. I sort of trust the Royal Mail and I sort of trust the US Postal Service (I mean, Lance Armstrong rode for them - what's not to trust?) but yet...There is always a doubt in the dark recesses of the mind. However, all is well. I have received communication to the effect that the Garden Shawl has arrived at its destination, which means I can show you what went into the parcel as a surprise gift.

NB Non-knitting content follows (if you are a purist, look away now)

I made a little bag at my stitching class. You know, the one with the teacher who said, "Just start, Kate!"

That's the front there. Here's the back:

This is a type of embroidery called "Wessex Stitching", invented in the Victorian era by a Mrs M Foster of Bath and researched and written about by Gay Eaton in her book.

I can't now remember what possessed me to work this bag, on linen, and with very skinny thread (and I am talking very, very skinny here) but I did it and I wonder at myself.

Here's a close-up of the front:

and the back:

When I showed it to "'im indoors" he said, "Lovely, what's it for?" I showed it to his brother and he said exactly the same thing. Which is why they are brothers, I suppose.

The writing round the outside? It's a quote from St Francis of Assisi:

He who works with his hands is a labourer,
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman,
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.

Couldn't have put it better myself.

The knitting? There's been some:

That's the dental floss of the title.

Here's a close-up (less flossy):

It hasn't gone wrong yet but I know it's only a matter of time.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Be Still my Heart

The anxiously awaited silk (from Sharon Miller, to do her Wedding Ring Shawl) finally arrived yesterday:

It's even skinnier (technical term) than I remembered.

I've already done some swatching (gasp!) but I can't actually remember what I did. I think I used 2mm needles and also 2.5mm. I've decided to start with the 2.5mm Addis, simply because I happen to have them handy and I just can't wait to get going.

I cast on the 247 stitches using a waste yarn cast on. There are various methods of doing this and I've tried many of them. They all have more or less the same effect but the one I use tends to be easier to "unzip" than the others.

Then I did the six rows garter stitch:

It is very skinny but the silk is beautiful to work with - surprisingly strong for such a skinny yarn; smooth, so it slips through the fingers; all in all, it has a lovely feel.

I don't think the project is looking great at the moment:

I had the devil of a job getting the red cotton markers to stay where they were put - they kept slipping out of the fabric. I know this will get better as there is more fabric there for them to cling on to.

I don't wish to put the mouth on it but the pattern is, so far, not too difficult. You do have to be very careful with the double yarnovers, which need to have a knit and a purl worked into them on the following row. In fact, Sharon Miller suggests doing a single YO and just working twice into it on the following row. I thought I might as well take her advice, since she obviously knows what she is talking about.

Here's the pattern, just starting to appear:

and here's a close-up of the same:

Monday, July 03, 2006

Yet another product

I don't really know how I have had time to do any knitting at all, what with the start of the Tour (de France); the Indianapolis Grand Prix; the continuation of the tennis; and we will draw a veil over the F-word; but I have yet another product to show you:

This is the Garden Shawl, finally off the needles.

Doesn't look much, does it?

Wait, for the magic of lace knitting is about to be revealed.

Gather your tools:

A quick dunk in lukewarm water and hair shampoo. A gentle squeeze. Thread the fishing line (secret weapon) through each point. Drag out the blue checked bedspread. Spread out. Pin down. Stand back in amazement.

Here I am in mid-block. This photograph is for Gill, who left me a comment bemoaning the fact that I've only worn the Annie Modesitt silk corset once. Here I am in it. It crossed my mind that the reason I haven't worn it is that the weather has not been hot enough. I would say that the weather is certainly hot enough now. (Also, Gill, if you are reading this, send me an email (addy in the sidebar) and I will reveal all about the knitting of the silk corset. Otherwise, I have no way of getting in touch with you.)

Here I am in the garden, at 7.30am, dressed as if for the Opera (only the tiara is missing):

and again:

Photographs courtesy of #1 daughter.

Hark! Do you hear it? Yes, it's the sound of me blowing my own trumpet, or, as you chaps across the pond would say, "Tooting my own horn." The mental image that conjures up has no place on a knitting blog. No place at all.

So, what's next?

I ordered this because I've already got this.

I have succumbed to the siren call.

"One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to bind them,
One Ring to bring them all,
And in the darkness bind them."

I can't wait