Aloha again

I am back from Hawaii, and I am thrilled to say my grandmother loves her shawl.

She kept stroking it and admiring it, saying how soft and lovely it is. I told her how I think of her every time I see that color and she said “Yes! It is so me!” It suits her wonderfully, and she kept saying she feels so elegant in it.

She wore it often while we were there, and she had it on her bed or draped over her chair when she didn’t. Whenever she had it on, she told me how perfect it was, and she showed it off to family and friends. My aunt washed it once, and I was relieved to see it held up perfectly – the lace didn’t even need to be reshaped.

It is incredibly gratifying to see how visibly happy someone is in a hand-knit. I’m definitely inspired to make more gifts, and I hope every recipient is as pleased as my gram.

FO – Sun Ray Shawl

I absolutely LOVE this shawl.

I hope my grandmother feels the same.

Pattern: Sun Ray Shawl by Shui Kuen Kozinski, from elann.com
Size: approximately 80 inches wide x 40 inches long
Yarn: Knit Picks Shine Worsted 60% Pima cotton / 40% Modal, color Wisteria; I used a little more than 10 balls, each 50 g and 75 yards, for approximately 770 yards total.
Needles: Knit Picks Options size 10, crochet hook for cast-on
Modifications: none

Started: October 6, 2007
Finished: January 12, 2008

I got the idea to knit a shawl for my grandmother early on in my knitting career, and I’d actually purchased this yarn for a Cozy that I started back in November 2006.

My requirements for the yarn were not easy because my grandmother lives in Hawaii and is afraid of bugs getting into wool or animal fibers. I chose this cotton because it is machine washable and easy care, with a lustrous sheen and gorgeous feel. It should be said: I officially have a crush on this yarn. It is a pleasure to work with, and I think the results are stunning. When I had this shawl around my shoulders, it felt like heaven.

I chose the color because my grandmother often wears brights and pastels, so I know she’s not afraid of color. Her favorite scent is lavender, and I always think of her when I see soft purples and lilacs.

I also wanted something a little more casual than a crisp white or ivory because I want her to wear it often and get a lot of use out of it. I worried a more formal color would make her think it’s only for special occasions and thus relegate it to the bottom of a drawer. I want her to grab this shawl when the sun goes down in the afternoon and her house gets chilly, bring it to restaurants, or just drape it on her lap when she wants a bit of softness and warmth.

After the initial pattern sequence, I completed an additional six repeats, to give seven total, 154 rows. This gives it a really comfortable, substantial size and used up almost all of the yarn I had for this project.

The picot bind-off took me ages, but I think it gives a really nice edge. The pattern called for pinning out each fifth picot to give a scalloped edge, which my boyfriend enjoyed helping me with. I dug that effect. It looks very much like my grandmother’s style.

I really recommend this pattern for a great beginner’s lace shawl. I love the symmetrical progression of the pattern, which becomes easy to memorize in 10-stitch repeats across the rows. I strongly urge using a row counter to keep track of the 20-row repeat, and for my part, I found it easier to read the written instructions than to follow the chart. For peace of mind, life lines were a big comfort as well.

I will most likely knit this pattern again, as it yields a surprisingly large, comfortable, and elegant shawl with a comparably small amount of yarn.

As my first time blocking lace, it wasn’t too bad, though I found even a queen-size bed was a tight fit. I pinned it out on towels and had a fan oscillate across it to speed drying time. It came out feeling soft and lovely.

I packaged it up with fiber content and care instructions that I printed out. If I know my gram, she’ll keep the whole kit together, so I got a non-acidic tinted plastic portfolio at a local art store to protect it all. I will of course encourage her to keep the shawl bunched up in her purse or haphazardly thrown over the sofa, but we’ll see.

I’m thrilled with this shawl, and as I’ve said previously it is the largest project I’ve ever made. It feels like a real knitting milestone, my first big shawl, and I just hope my grandmother loves it as much as I do.

I will try to get photos of the shawl in Hawaii, which is incidentally where I will be through January 26th. I’m looking forward to lots of plane knitting and hope to have my Hederas close to finished when I get back.

Previous Entries on this Project:
The Finish Line
Organic Growth
Executive Decision

The Finish Line

I finished knitting my grandmother’s Sun Ray Shawl!

It is blocking this very moment, and I will have it dry and packaged to come with me to Hawaii on Monday.

I thought the picot bind-off would kill me, but I did it. This is the largest project I’ve ever undertaken, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out after blocking.

FO – Vine Lace Scarf

I just had to post another FO before the year ends, and as it happens, this one was a surprise favorite.

Pattern: my own (coming soon), using Barbara Walker’s Vine Lace stitch, learned from the Jellyfish shrug
Size: one size
Yarn: Patons Brilliant 69% Acrylic 19% Nylon 12% Polyester, color 3008 Crystal Cream; I used a little less than 1 ball, 1.75 oz/50 g and 166 yards.
Needles: aluminum 9-inch size 10.5 (my mom’s)
Modifications: all of it.

Started: December 23, 2007
Finished: December 25, 2007

In my mother’s family, we do a Secret Santa exchange among the adults, each person giving someone else one (or a few) big, personal gifts rather than everyone getting something small and impersonal. My recipient was my cousin’s new wife, whom I barely know, and all of the family told me she just wanted an Old Navy gift card. Begrudgingly, I bought her the gift card (I hate gift cards), but I thought “Well I’m knitting her something too.”

I had an extra skein of Patons Brilliant from Hope’s shrug, and I knew I liked the way it knit up on size 10.5 needles. I had intended to knit a Branching Out, but I just didn’t like the way it looked. Most of all, it took me several hours to do just a few pattern repeats. It’s a great pattern, but this wasn’t the time for it.

Seeing as I was starting this gift with a matter of hours to go (and a pile of baking, wrapping, errands, and other knitting to finish as well), I needed a pattern that would go quickly, stretch the yardage, and look good. I started and frogged probably five different scarves in the middle of the night between the 23rd and 24th, and I was starting to feel despondent.

I remembered how nice the vine lace stitch pattern looked on the Jellyfish shrug, and with a tiny bit of math and some fiddling, I cast on in the wee hours of Christmas Eve, conking out to sleep after a few successful pattern repeats.

The next day and night, I knit like a fiend, relying on muscle memory and repetition to carry me through the lace. Thankfully, I didn’t make any big mistakes, I didn’t have to frog a stitch, and it came out smoothly and beautifully. I collapsed asleep near dawn on Christmas morning, thinking “I wonder how I’ll block it?” as my head hit the pillow.

Blocking was what made this scarf. As it is a synthetic fiber, I was nervous that it wouldn’t open up nicely. I didn’t have time to soak it and pin it out, and I didn’t think that’d make a huge difference anyway. I had read about steam blocking online, but I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t melt the metallic bits in the yarn.

Cautiously, I laid the scarf out on a towel and used the iron spritzer to get it gently damp. I used my fingers to spread the lace to the desired measurements and with the iron on the “nylon” setting (thinking that was the most flammable of the materials), I gently steamed it open. It came out spectacular, the fabric actually a bit softer but maintaining its lace integrity. I had picked this stitch pattern because it looked alright unblocked, but when pressed and spread out, it becomes a whole new level of elegance.

Though I don’t really consider it a “design” in any appreciable sense, I really loved this process, and I’m already planning to knit another of these scarves. In all my rush to get the gift wrapped and out the door on Christmas day, I neglected to even measure it, having simply worked until I was almost out of yarn and it felt like a decent scarf length.

My cousin’s wife loved it and didn’t believe it was hand-made at first. She thought it was just a lovely store-bought trifle included with her gift, and when my aunt shared that I’d knit it, she was amazed. I was hoping it would become more special to her than the gift card, and based on her immediate wearing and subsequent admiration throughout the night, I think she will enjoy it for years to come.

I’m going to make another scarf for measurements and additional photos, then I’ll make this pattern available for free in the new year. It’s a great one-skein project and I think it made a pretty perfect little gift.

Organic Growth

I am consistently amused and amazed by the way the pattern develops on the Sun Ray Shawl.

It is such a lovely example of organic growth and natural development.

I quickly knit through two of the 6 or 7 repeats, and I was downright smug with how smoothly it was going. Of course you know where this is going with me and my hubris. In even the most elegant instances of organic growth, one cannot underestimate the role chaos plays in development. (Here chaos takes the form of whiskey).

I picked the shawl up when highly intoxicated and chatting with a friend. I purled one back row, and somehow in that, I’m left with a mess. I’m missing one stitch, somewhere, and I cannot figure out where.

See, my row counter says this:

That can’t possibly be true. I must wonder: am I supposed to be on row 60 or row 58? Did I somehow drop my counter and click forward, or did I neglect to click it when I drunkenly purled that row?

I counted the chart, I tried searching the stitches on earlier rows to find an extra stitch or a neglected yarn over. It’s been an unpromising search.

“Ah well,” I thought, “this is why I put in life lines, and I’ll only have to rip back a few rows.” To be honest, I was almost looking forward to it, but…

Well shoot. Life lines don’t really work if you drunkenly tug them out.

You know what happens when the going gets tough around here, right? Yep, the tough cast on a new project:

I just needed some mindless stockinette. Knitting therapy at its finest. I’m about ready to brave a careful unraveling and some more counting on the Sun Ray now. Wish me luck!