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.

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!

Executive Decision

I’ve been thinking long and hard about the project I started last November for my grandmother. It’s a Cozy, which I intended to be some kind of shawl, wrap, lap blanket, bit of warmth combo item that she’d get a lot of use out of.

The trouble is, it is immensely slow-going. Literally it takes me hours to do one 8-row repeat, and it’s not going to end up terribly large for the amount of yarn it would take (eleven 50-gram balls).

It’s lovely, but I know I’ve made mistakes in the lace, and I know that I will never finish it with how slowly I’m going.

Therefore, and as much as it pains me, I decided to start a new shawl with this yarn:

the Sun Ray Shawl.

It has a lovely lace pattern, it doesn’t look too terribly difficult, it’s a larger size, and the examples I’ve seen on Ravelry look perfect for my grandmother.

In my first attempt I breezed through the first 17 rows, but suddenly I found myself with quite a few extra stitches. I started wondering if the written pattern was different from the chart, but in my infinite wisdom (and extreme laziness) I decided I’d rather re-knit the first 17 rows than spend the time figuring out what I’d done wrong.

This meant fiddling with the crochet cast-on again, for which I found Crafty Daisies’Learn to Crochet videos immensely helpful.

I feel a lot better about this project than I ever did about the Cozy. The yarn looks spectacular in the pattern, and I know this will become a really beautiful piece, with much less frustration and agony on my end.

And of course this time I put in a life line, just in case.