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.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Blob

I am happy to say that these are the last pictures you will be seeing of this shapeless form.

Because I finished it!  Thanks so much everyone for your sympathy about my dropped stitch fiasco, it was greatly appreciated.  Many of you even messaged me asking how the fixing process turned out, which I appreciated as well.

I wasn't happy with the way things looked after I had laddered down and reknit the one leaf that was missing.  I ended up ripping back the border, and then ripping (well, I actually tinked it, one stitch at a time) to below where the stitch had dropped to and reknit that portion of the body.  (Ugh, that sentence was confusing and extremely grammatically incorrect, sorry.)  I'm really glad I did, because I had plenty of, "um, WTF is going on here?" moments when I got to the part I had "fixed."  There were stitches everywhere, and at one point I had even twisted strands of yarn so that one row of stitches overlapped another, it was very strange.

Anyway, it all worked itself out, I was able to reknit the body without a problem, and just this morning I finished the border.  Now all I have to do is weave in my ends, wash, and block the shawl.  I'm so close to the end!  I held it up today and then felt very, well, less-than-impressed because it took me FOREVER to knit this shawl and it looked so small in my hands.  Blocking better fix that.

and look, I was finally able to get a picture that showed the variations in "color."  For one reason or another, the darker parts of the yarn were much stiffer and scratchier than the lighter ones, which were more lofty (if one can use that word to describe this yarn) and drapier (again, if possible.)  Let's hope I have enough blocking pins, I don't want to have to run to the yarn shop in the middle of my blocking party (so far I'm the only one invited, don't feel bad.)

Possibly FO pictures tomorrow?  Keep your fingers crossed for me.  Please and thank you!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Surgery

Step 1: Assess the situation

Step 2: Gather all required materials

Step 3: Very carefully pull out the insides to get to the problem area

Step 4: Fix the problem and prepare to stitch everything back up

Step 5: Leave patient to rest for a day or two

Well, it turns out an entire leaf was missing all due to one dropped stitch.  I ripped the border back to that spot and then laddered down to where I knew, or at least kind of thought, I had all the correct stitches and some sort of idea of how to fix the problem.  I don't have any dropped stitches anymore, but it still looks like there's a giant hole in the lace.  Everything is way too loose, especially up by the needle where there are supposed to be four rows of garter stitch.  Any ideas as to why this is?  I haven't a clue.

I did some spinning therapy yesterday.  Aren't those colors pretty?

I also swatched for a sweater.  I need to move up a needle size.  More on that if this shawl every gets finished.

Thanks everyone for your kind words and suggestions and sympathy!  I had a bit of a panic.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Oh my god.  Ohmygodohmygodohmygod.


What?!  Oh my god.

Oh. My. God.                          Ohmygod.

Do you see it?!

Oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god look look look LOOOK look!

Oh my god.  There's a hole.  There's a hole in my lace!!!!!

Oh my god.  What do I do?  What do I DOOOOOOO?!

How?  Why?    ... HOW?!


How? .... Why?HOW?!

::gulp::  help me.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Oh my goodness is it good to be home.  I don't know what it is, but there's something about Minnesota that is very comforting.  As soon as I cross the border and see the "Welcome to Minnesota" sign, there is an instant feeling of relaxation and excitement.  As beautiful as this view is,

after five hours it gets a bit monotonous.  I was glad to see the skyscrapers of the Twin Cities once again.

My little sister and my dog both gave me a very warm greeting, and then my sister came running up to me with a package that was waiting for me.  One of my other sisters, the one I always mention here, sent me a very generous box full of wonderful things to keep me occupied during the summer.  She sent me THREE 4 0z., um, bunches of merino top from J.Knits.




The box also include eight skeins of Berroco Ultra Alpaca in the Tanzanite Mix colorway.

I can't wait to make a sweater out of this one.  I've wanted one ever since I fixed up the sweater that my sister made for my younger brother (which he seems to never wear).  You can see where I even added length to the bottom because he thought it was too short at first, but he still doesn't wear it.  I may still steal it.  Don't tell.

There was also some fun Japanese candy in the box.  Yes, my sister goes a bit overboard and apparently loves to spoil me when she sends me packages.  I haven't tried these yet, but my little sister assures me that the mushroom ones are delicious.

I've also been doing a bit of spinning using the hand-dyed BFL that Anne sent me.

It's so fun to spin and I love the luster that this fiber has.  I'm really excited to see how it looks in the end.  I'm going to make this one a 3-ply yarn.

Also, sadly, the shawl is still not finished.  I'm going to have to zip through the border pretty quickly and mail it to my LYS (which, ironically, is now 5 hours away) as soon as I get it done.  Wish me luck! (1/2 the border to go...)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

And Then It Was Summer

Ah, the school year is finally over!  I don't think I have ever looked forward to a break more than I did this term and now that it's finally here I couldn't be happier.

It hasn't hit me yet that for the next three months, I won't have deadlines to meet, I won't have my entire day full of a rigid schedule to follow, and I won't have to pull an all-nighter once a week.  What a wonderful feeling.

I do still have one deadline, which is to finish the lace shawl for my LYS before I go home.  I head out in two days and I estimate that I have about 18-20 hours of knitting left before the shawl is finished, but I think I'll be able to get it done.  I have no qualms spending my entire Thursday knitting  and watching movies or listening to podcasts.  Ooh, I could even sit outside and knit - I don't think I've ever done that (mainly because I always get distracted by birds.)

I may not be able to get blocked pictures of the shawl until this fall though as my LYSO (LYS Owner) wants to run the shawl through the washer a few times to soften up the fabric before blocking, so I'm going to give it to her as a big wad of unblocked lace.  :(  It'll be so cool to see it displayed in the shop though!

And finally, I got a picture of my favorite iris today!  It has been raining a lot lately and it certainly took a toll on the flowers.  Most of them look pretty battered, but a few of them are still in good condition.  Here is the little patch of flowers in which my favorite resides:

And here, ladies and gentlemen, is my favorite iris:

I don't know if it's blue or purple, but either way, it's purty.  :)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A List

It seems that every day lately there has been something I have wanted to blog about, but haven't had to time.  You see, I just finished my last week of classes for the year and am now preparing for finals and such.  My procrastination, as always, gave me a rather harsh beating this week as I did everything in my power to get everything done in time (the 15-page paper, sadly, didn't make it to the finish line.  I now have until Wednesday evening to get partial credit).

Anyway, here's a list of things I felt the need to share with my readers, but didn't have the time.

May 30, 2009:  I ran into a knitter in the wild!  This is the first time it has ever happened to me and it was kind of cool.  I was attending my friend's senior piano recital and in walks a woman wearing none other than the Fountain Pen Shawl.  Normally my shyness would cause me to pretend I didn't notice, but eventually I went up to her and asked, "Excuse me, is that the Fountain Pen Shawl you're wearing?"  She looked at me as if I had knocked the wind out of her - you know, both speechless and appalled, but then she recovered and asked me how I knew?  When I told her I was a knitter too, her reply was, "Would you like a hug?"  Now, normally I have a no-touch policy, but I thought it would be rude to decline, so this mysterious knitter and I shared a hug amidst the crackers, cheese, and grapes of the reception and I went on my merry way.

May 31, 2009:  I ate a bug today.  No, it wasn't an accident.  You see, I'm one of those freaky animal-loving, talks-to-bugs-more-than-he-talks-to-humans type people.  I always watch where I'm walking so I don't step on ants and I still don't kill mosquitos even if they're biting me (and, I would like to point out that, yes, I am a hypocrite because I am nowhere close to being a vegetarian).  Well, after dinner I was walking outside with my ice cream cone because it was a nice day, and a little river bug got stuck in my melty ice cream!  Any normal person would probably just flick it off or find some way to get rid of it, but as there was no saving this poor little bug and I didn't want it's life to go to waste because of my dumb ice cream cone - I ate it.  Does that make me weird?

June 1, 2009:  Woohoo, it's June!  Today, on my way to class, was the first time this year that it has smelled like summer.  It was wonderful, and no, I can't explain it.

June 2, 2009:  My favorite Iris in the world is about to bloom!  It's in a little patch of flowers outside the library and it didn't bloom last year at all, which made me really sad.  I didn't expect it to bloom this year either - I just assumed it was gone forever, but no!  It's here!  I can't wait!

June 3, 2009: Apparently there's a new spinning video coming out featuring Eunny Jang as "student" and Maggie Casey as "teacher".  I'm really excited and can't wait until I have money again to buy this video.  My lack of a summer job is going to take quite a toll on me, especially as I'm already anticipating having to forego seeing Harry Potter 6 because of it.  :( x100.

June 4, 2009:  My iris bloomed.  No, that's an understatement.  Not only did the iris plant that I am in love with bloom, but there are at least three others just like it in the area.  I'm so happy!  I forgot my camera though...

June 5, 2009:  I brought a bumble bee to class today.  I was on my way up the stairs of "Main Hall", which is highly trafficked between classes, and this poor little guy was standing there just waiting to be stepped on my at least 100 different people, so I quickly picked him up before anyone could hurt him and was then herded into the building before I had time to let him go (he wasn't in a hurry to let go of me either).  I I had to simply hold on to him throughout my entire class.  He was very friendly and spent most of his time in my sweatshirt sleeve.  Does this make me weird?  -  Also, I brought my camera to the irises.  It's out of batteries.

June 5th was quite busy.  I also had an orchestra concert that night and then at 11:30pm I departed on a 5-hour drive back to the Twin Cities so I could go to my best friend's wedding on Saturday morning.  Now I'm back on campus (I had to attend another concert here tonight) and have a final tomorrow.  Hopefully I will have a finished shawl to show you guys by Friday (because I think it would be not very nice to leave for 3 months without giving my LYS the shawl they asked for back in August.)

More to come (maybe with pictures of irises.  I hope they haven't shriveled up already...)