Tuesday, June 30, 2009

FO: Myrtle Leaf Shawl

You guys, it's totally and completely done.  Ends woven in and everything.  Done.

I have to tell the truth - this project was a total pain in the you-know-what.  Right from the get-go I was having problems with this shawl.  I guess the fifth cast-on is the charm, right?  I have noted many times how crunchy and un-fun this yarn is, and I am standing by those claims.  I never had any problems with breakage (this stuff was practically steel wire), but it was hard to keep an even tension because there wasn't even a hint of stretch in it.  I noticed during blocking last night that my tension must have changed from beginning to end, because it was extremely difficult to get the width of both ends to match.

I have to tell you about blocking, because it is yet another funny story about how I'm stupid (see above link and scroll down to read about my mitten issues.)  Oh, and I have to say thanks to everyone who was so confident in Blocking's ability to work wonders.  I actually did go out and buy two more cases of pins before I started blocking, and it's a good thing I did.  Even with blocking wires, I used over 200 pins (I used blocking wires around the body, and then pinned out the border.)  Ok, back to the story.

The pattern called for yarn that was about 440 yard per 50 grams.
I was knitting with yarn that was almost 700 yards per 50 grams.

The pattern called for size US5 needles.
I was knitting with US4s.

Ok, all is fine right?  I'm using thinner yarn, so I should use smaller needles.  Here's where the stupid come in.  After I finished knitting and got to the blocking part, I tried to block it to pattern specs.  That sounds fine, right?  Helloooo!  I used thinner yarn and smaller needles, OF COURSE my shawl is going to be a little smaller.  Well, I was determined (because I didn't come to this realization until I was almost done blocking) to block this to size and I swear I stretched that shawl to death - I was so afraid I was going to rip it in half.  Surprise, I couldn't stretch it big enough, and only then did I realize why.  I'm a smart one I tell ya.

Project details:

Pattern:  Myrtle Leaf Shawl (rav link) by Jane Sowerby from Victorian Lace Today
Yarn: Habu Textiles A-13 40/2 Kakishibu Ramie, 2.1 cones (about 55 grams)
Needles:  Addi lace needles, size US4
Time taken:  November 5, 2008 (cast-on #5, the real one) to June 30, 2009

I think blocking worked.  Even when it was all pinned out waiting to dry, I wasn't impressed with my work.  However, this morning after taking out all the pins and picking it up for the first time (I love that moment - the picking up lace for the first time after blocking moment), I was all of a sudden happy with the results.  I kind of felt like I was picking up a thin sheet of homemade paper, but it was kind of cool.  It was super flat and transparent and weighed nothing at all.  Guys, this shawl definitely did NOT kill my love of lace.  Thank Jebeezeluh!  (I made him up.)

Ok, all my negativity aside, I'm happy with the results and proud of what I accomplished.  This is only my second lace shawl (I don't count the Ishbel I knit as a lace shawl, a stockinette scarf knit in fingering-weight yarn with a little lacy edging does not a lace shawl make in my eyes), and by far the hardest thing I have ever done - knitting-wise.  I had never done patterning on both sides.  I had never done a knitted on border.  I had never knit with a plant fiber.  Even blocking was a challenge for me, which is not surprising as I lack any necessary finishing skills.  I seem to have fallen asleep during that part of knitter training.

(The required shawl-on-bush picture)

I did have one little tiny, um, not issue with the pattern per se, but I questioned it a tiny bit when I was working on the border.  (oh, by the way, if you have the older version of this book, there are a few errata and you can get them here or on the ravelry page for the pattern.)  The long sides of the body of the shawl have slipped stitches on the edges, so that when you knit on the border (which is knit back and forth in a small strip and attached to the body every other row), you are actually attaching the border every two rows for every two rows, does that make sense?  The slipped stitch spans two rows, and you're attaching the border every other row, so it all evens out.  The ends of the shawl, however, remain as live stitches and the border is then attached as two rows of border for every stitch of the body.  Do you see the problem?  There are going to be way more border rows than there are stitches in the body.  I realized this as I was knitting the border, but I thought blocking might help it because maybe the body stitches were wider horizontally than the border stitches were tall.  Even if this is the case, the border on this shawl is much more bunched together on the ends compared to the sides.

(For some reason this picture makes me think of old wooden boats out at sea)

(and this one reminds me of some sort of Indian clothing of which I know nothing and therefore am being extremely stereotypical)

I'll be packing this up soon and shipping it off to my LYS in Wisconsin.  I hope it survives the trip and arrives looking just as good as it does now.  Oh, also, the pattern calls for 1200 yards of yarn, and most people on ravelry used about that much, so how did I manage to get by using only about 750?  I haven't figured that one out yet (I don't think the smaller needle size can really account for such a large difference.)

I think a little celebration is in order.


  1. I am very, very proud of you. ESPECIALLY since it's not like you get the incentive of it being for you, and I only say that because you already told me so, no assuming there. :P

    It's absolutely gorgeous, and very ethereal.

    Bet you feel kinda like a knitting god right now, don't you? I know I did the first time I knit and blocked a lace shawl, and mine was in DK weight yarn! Go you.

  2. Congratulations! You did it! And it's beautiful!

    I think the smaller yarn and the smaller needles combined to use less yarn. Plus I wonder if gauge was an issue in there somewhere, too. It's not like we swatch for shawls or something.

    And I'm so glad you got more pins before you started blocking. Some of us don't plan that far ahead.


  3. Bravo, sir, bravo, and also, well done! It's gorgeous! I particularly like the ethereal shot, and the bush shot. :-) Ready to start another?

  4. I think you deserve a BIG celebration - it came out absolutely gorgeous! So ethereal. Glad it was worth it. :)

  5. It totally looks better than you made it sound in your email! I'm sure the LYSO will be thrilled, and you should be proud of your work, too. But best of all, YOU'RE DONE (and I don't have to hear about it any more)!!!!!

  6. Oh, you poor thing, what a bunch of trouble it gave you. You did all that for FREE?!?!?!

    Congratulations - you get the award for perseverance - I would have thrown it aside and given it back. Ugh. It looks great!

    Isn't that moment of picking up a blocked shawl great? I love how thin it feels all of the sudden, very ethereal.

  7. You are too funny.

    That shawl is just gorgeous. Seriously. And now, you can get on with your life :)

  8. That is such a nice project! It is absolutely lovely, and I love that you used super thin yarn!

    You should be utterly impressed by your skills!

  9. It's stunning! I knew it would be.

    I didn't want to tell you this whilst the shawl was still in progress, but I started a shawl with one of those Habu super fine yarns. I thought it would drive me insane. The yarn was beautiful, but after 24 hours of knitting I had a shawl the size of a bread plate. Said shawl now sits in the back of my closet waiting for me to be desperate enough to reclaim the Addi turbos to face frogging it!

    So, congrats on completing this!

  10. It looks so fine and long! Well done, that first lace moment is something else, isn't it?

  11. Completely and totally time to celebrate. The preview was already impressive - now fully blocked, it's breathtaking. I agree, the close-up looks like little boats, but the overall effect of the pattern I find mesmerizing. Want to touch and drape and flaunt.

    You really nailed the blocking. I'm all about showing the garment who's boss during the blocking process.

    I liked your detailed review of how you created your own spin on this pattern and all of your "firsts" in embarking on this project.

    You're awesome.

  12. That is a lovely shawl! And perhaps it is the grace with which you are holding your hand that reminds you of some indian fabrics?