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

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.

FO – Hope’s Jellyfish Shrug

Two Christmas gifts had to fly under the radar around here. While I’m not sure that my best friend Hope reads this blog, I do know she sees my Flickr photos, and I didn’t want to ruin the surprise.

I also finished this one with almost no time to spare before rushing it to the post office in an express envelope and crossing my fingers that it got to Boston on time (it did!).

Pattern: Jellyfish by Iris G in the July 2007 MagKnits
Size: Small
Yarn: Patons Brilliant 69% Acrylic 19% Nylon 12% Polyester, color 3008 Crystal Cream; I used a little less than 2 balls, each 1.75 oz/50 g and 166 yards, for approximately 332 yards total.
Needles: aluminum 9-inch size 10.5 (my mom’s) and Knit Picks Options size 9.
Modifications: Changed yarn and needle size, accidentally changed lacy rib pattern.

Started: December 7, 2007
Finished: December 22, 2007

Hope is a sparkly, fun girl, a musician who works in IT by day, a classically glamorous style mixed with a punk-rock sensibility. She’s recently lost a lot of weight and has many weddings to attend this year, so I thought a sparkly new shrug would complement all her pretty dresses in an exciting but relaxed way.

This project actually started with the yarn, a delicious cream color with gold metallic flecks running through it. It reminds me very much of champagne and shouted “I am for Hope!” from the shelf a year ago.

I consulted a Ravelry forum for suggestions, and everyone was taken with the Jellyfish in a solid color. I didn’t know if I’d have enough yarn, since I was subbing a stretchy DK for worsted weight mohair, but I ended up with plenty, even some leftover.

I loved the fabric it created – nice structural stitch definition but very delicate drape.

I have adored this pattern since it came out, and it was an absolute pleasure to knit. The vine lace stitch pattern is beautiful, easy and simply flies by. I memorized it within the first few rows, which really helped me keep knitting through the very stressful last two weeks of the semester. The shaping is elegant and entertaining without becoming cumbersome, which I think is a mark of a brilliant pattern. I knew exactly what to do on every single row, but it didn’t feel like I had my hand held – the instructions were clear and well-written and this project was a pleasure, through and through. I can’t say enough good things about it.

This was the shrug while blocking, an interesting shape. I was very pleased that the lace opened up at this point, as I’d worried about using a synthetic.

I had a few accidental modifications when I got to finishing. When I picked up stitches for the ribbing, I ended up with spaces. Because they were regular, I decided it’d be a little lacy detail, and I didn’t let it bother me.

I also misread the pattern while doing the lacy rib, so the order is a little off, but I kind of fudged it and think it came out alright. This project had such an all-over serendipitous quality that I really felt that anything I did was okay – it looked great no matter what!

I’m really happy with the outcome, and my friend absolutely loves it. She called me on Christmas Eve saying it fit perfectly and she would wear it to a New Year’s Eve wedding – woohoo! I will ask her permission to post photos of it modeled soon. This was a really fun knit, a great gift, and a remarkably pleasant experience.

FO – Top-Down Seamless Raglan Baby Sweater!

I finally, finally, finally finished Gabriel’s baby sweater!!!

For as long as I’ve been putting off the buttons, they really make it come alive.

So stinking cute.

Pattern: Top-Down Seamless Raglan Sweater by Carole Barenys for Knitting on the Net
Size: about 18-24 months; dimensions: 11″ wide across body, 12.5″ long, sleeves are 7.5″ from underarm
Yarn: Caron Simply Soft 100% acrylic in color #9905 Bone, less than 1 skein
Notions: 5 natural wood buttons, 5/8″ size, by JHB (they are either #1774 or 50951 – the packaging is unclear); Coats & Clark sewing thread
Needles: Knit Picks Options size 6 circular, size 5 straight (for ribbing)

Modifications: I used a heavier yarn weight than recommended, resulting in a larger sweater. I tried to approximate the same proportions based on the amount of button holes and the ratio of sleeve length to body, rather than going by the measurements as written in the pattern.

Started: March 2007, as a different pattern
Finished: finished knitting in August 2007 (with many delays), sewed buttons on December 2007

Those who have been reading this blog from the beginning may remember that this sweater started as an ill-fated, or maybe cursed garter stitch cabled sweater. It went through several fatal errors until I finally found the right pattern. I decided against giving the accompanying hat I made, since I can’t imagine the huge bulky seam would be comfortable to wear.

I delayed this project for months over nonsensical fears, such as picking up the stitches to knit the arms on DPNs and most notably, sewing on buttons.

I’m so glad I finally finished it because it’s just plain adorable. I love this pattern, and I highly recommend it. The yarn is beautifully suited, with a gorgeous drape and the added benefits of being stain resistant and machine washable. I’m pleased with the color and the style of the buttons; I think it gives it a classic, sophisticated look. (Can you tell I’m just a little happy with it?)

It’s all ready to be gifted, and only – what? – 9 months late. I’m thankful I had the premonition to knit it in a much larger size so that just in case I behaved true to form, the baby would still get ample wear out of it.

Let’s hope they like it!!!

Previous Entries on this Project:
Notes from the Pile
The Beauty of Monogamy
Oh right, this is a knitting blog
Progress
This sweater is cursed
So Much Better
Finishing, ugh
Cabled Baby Set

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!