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Finally. I completed one of the most challenging projects I have done to date. No, it’s not an Orenburg shawl, or an Alice Starmore fair isle, or even a Norah Gaughan geometric masterpiece. It’s a simple kid’s lace cardigan, but one that I worked out totally from scratch, entirely my own design from stitch pattern to construction to detail, trying to flesh out a very particular picture of it I had in mind. I was so wrapped up in it that I totally forgot my blog’s FIFTH freaking anniversary back in November!!!!!
Voila Arohi’s cardigan, the end result of many, many swatches, maths calculations and frogged versions:
I mentioned earlier that I first started with this lace cardigan from Knitty, but just couldn’t get the lace pattern to flow, or the gauge and yarn to work. I wanted to use the same yarn, plus I wanted a more intuitive lace repeat, and, if possible, a seamless raglan.
I picked a simple leaf lace motif, the same I had used for the kiri shawl, and cast on from neck downwards. Since the leaves have a fixed number of stitches and I wanted to avoid any bands of stockinette if possible, this was a bit tricky, but it worked out beautifully in the end. I started with one leaf each for the fronts and sleeves, and two for the back, and the leaf shape blended neatly into the raglans, as well as the tiny v-neck:
The best part of all, however, was that the pattern continued seamlessly even at, and past, the raglan joins at the armhole. Figuring this out without gaping holes or lines going awry was the hardest part. But honestly, my – ahem – nimble fingers apart, so much of this symmetry is inherent in the maths of lace patterns that you just have to pay attention and let the motif guide you. I was quite pleasantly surprised when I first realized how the leaves were coming together at the raglan join, then excited, terrified, and supremely pleased, in that order of emotions, as I worked out the decreases.
No doubt, this is old hat to anybody who’s designed anything mildly complicated, but hey, it’s my first time. Also, I badly want to write this pattern up, but my notes scribbled as I went along are now quite indecipherable, and I am terrified again of the calculations. The fact that the beginning of each round of the sleeves kept changing due to the lace pattern was a bit intimidating, and I have no idea how to write out the instructions, let alone graph it. But I would like to, just to learn the damn process, and note down some variations and such, so let’s see. Right now just seeing the leaves cascade down the raglan is putting a big grin on my face.
Pattern: Arohi’s cardigan (lace cardigan for a 3 year old)
Yarn: Adreena’s Supreena Pure New Wool, fingering, 75 gms, approx. 450-500 yards
Some random acrylic in deep green for the border, approx 75 yards?
Needles: size 4 (3.5 mm) circulars and DPNS
Gauge: 6 spi over stockinette stitch, using size 4 needles
Dimensions: total length 14″; length from armhole to bottom 9″; raglan depth 7″; neck 6″ wide; sleeves from underarm to wrist 9″; bell sleeves width 6″; chest 26″
I first chose a knitted border in pale green cotton, and then a silky black one. But the knitted border, despite the fact that I added it after the whole thing was quite ferociously blocked beforehand, bunched up the lace, and tightened the neck, in particular. So I went with two rows of a more relaxed single crochet edging, since only one was still causing the edges to curl.
This one is all ready to be sent off – and you know you have a good pattern with you when you immediately want to make another one! I think my next one will be in cotton or acrylic, simply because I think these might retain the blocking a bit longer. But this one is whisper lightweight, and I hope it fits the little girl well.
This is a personal milestone for me in my own relationship to the craft and my understanding of how it works, no matter how simple it might objectively be – so it’s quite appropriate that even if a bit belated, it should mark five years of this blog, and my adventures in knitting!
All I’ve done this past month is swatch. Swatch, swatch and more swatch, for a good yarn, gauge and fit for this lace cardigan. Even the left front that I ambitiously embarked on eventually turned out to be just a giant swatch.
A friend of mine asked if I do items for sale, I said no, but I would be happy to knit something for her daughter, and picked this one out, as it seemed relatively simple, yet interesting and dressy for a kid’s cardigan. She liked it, we went back and forth a couple of times about fit and colour and yarn choices, and we decided on the lovely rust Supreena pure wool DK I had just found in a local wool store.
So I began swatching. First with size 5s. It was going to be too large. Then with size 4s. Still too large. Before going down a further needle size I checked the chatter on this pattern on Ravelry and found that pretty much everyone said the sizes ran very large, the 2 year old size fitting 4-6 year olds, and so on. The designer very kindly emailed me a revised pattern, but still cautioned me about the sweater being roomy, so I started over with the smallest size for a 2 year old, even though my friend’s daughter is nearly 4.
But after finishing the left front, I realised that somehow, it wasn’t working. The lace pattern means that blocking the fabric would be both a disadvantage and an advantage for kids’ sweaters, which could be stretched to grow but also turn out huge. But even if I nailed down the sizing, this particular lace motif somehow just eluded me. It is gorgeous, but unintuitive, and for every finished swatch I made, there were potentially several that were frogged midway because I kept making mistakes.
So, I finally decided to abandon this pattern. But the kid’s lace cardigan bug bit me, and I decided to play around with other leaf-like motifs. Plus the idea that kids’ sweaters should involve minimal finishing and fuss is also very deeply ingrained, so instead of separate pieces, am tinkering with a seamless one instead. Yes, that means figuring out diagonal increases and decreases, and… you guessed it, more swatching. The top one is Supreena on size 4s (6 spi stockinette), and the bottom is Bouton d’Or Mango cotton/modal, at 5.25 spi (stockinette).
I realised that I don’t really know how best to measure stitches per inch in lace patterns. Do you pick a stockinette row and measure there, or swatch a fixed number of stitches and then measure the entire swatch? But I may have finally hit upon some workable numbers and instructions, to the extent that I can pretend that the latest iteration is not just a swatch but may even progress into project-hood and escape early termination.
We shall see. What is knitting without some swatching pain?
So my sewing class was abruptly suspended because of a massive bug that damn near felled me over the last couple of weeks. I was sick like I have never been, and the pieces of cloth are still waiting, all cut and marked, to be worked over into something wearable. My father swears it’s the sewing machine that did it – it is true, the foot-pedal thingie looks easier than it actually is, especially for a novice – but I think it was something a lot more devious than a rattling piece of metal. I don’t know if it was the delirium from the fever or the fact that the blessed monsoon has STILL not broken over Pune, that made me reach for a long-forgotten lace project. My red sampler from Victorian Lace Today, started, oh, just a year or so ago. It is currently my only project on the needles.
For some reason it’s going a lot faster now than it did when I first started it. I’ve already progressed a couple of inches after twoodays of feverish knitting. Of course, I did stupid things like put the lifeline through the marker instead of around it. I then got lazy about reinserting it, whereupon it naturally began to pucker and pull and make a nuisance of itself. I have to say, it’s a good thng lifelines really *are* lifelines, because inserting them is also a royal PITA. I thread a long needle and then insert it stitch by stitch on the row on the needle, preferably at a simple stockinette row. There isn’t a simpler way to do it, is there?
Of course, taking up a long-dormant project under less-than-ideal conditions of concentration has its pitfalls. I should have chucked the faggoting right in the beginning, I just knew it. I hate faggoting. (For non-knitting readers: it’s not what you think. It’s a lace stitch). The look is not worth the effort, and I always forget if the YO comes before the K2tog or after, and if it’s K2tog or Ptog on the WS. So of course I went and screwed it up for a few rows, and now there’s an unsightly, diagonal ladder in the middle of the cascading knots, like a trap set on the tracks for an unsuspecting train. Can’t you just see it going right off the rails there?
I know. I should fix it. But the lifeline is already above that part, and I feel like it missed its chance to get fixed. It has to stay there as a reminder to me the next time I see faggoting in a pattern and say – it’s only four stitches, I can do it! Luckily I’m not a perfectionist, especially when it comes to lace, and so I’m going to avert my eyes and just ignore it. When it’s an FO, like, another year from now, not one of you is going to remember this post and look for it in the pictures, are you?
I didn’t think so.
Remember when this was a knitting blog? I actually have some updates to post, of new WIPs. I have been knitting a bit on and off, mostly on the sampler shawl from Victorian Lace Today. Surprisingly quick progress for the amount of time I have been able to devote to it.
So far it’s been smooth sailing, except for one major rip (hence the lifeline). It has faggoting on the edges, and I decided that I dislike faggoting. Not enough visual interest for the work involved. But now it’s there, so I’m going to continue it. The samples are a mix of knitted lace and pure lace (with patterning on both sides), with leaf motifs. These are simple patterns with just enough variation to keep them interesting. I think basic samplers like these are great to avoid the monotony of stoles. I am on the brink of finishing one major set in the pattern, but another travel stint is coming up, so it’s going to be set aside for a week or so. The red colour and the lace is very hard to photograph correctly (I don’t have pins and a carpet handy), so let me distract you with another blurry, artsy picture. The yarn is so fine I keep worrying about breaking it.
Here is something else I started for knitting while travelling, a pair of simple socks for my sister. Yarn is some Regia something. She wanted some multicoloured grey-blue; that’s what she’s getting. Right now, though, she can’t even bear to look at them, cause it’s nowhere near wool-sock-wearing weather, so they’re going to take a while. I also have to find buses with good suspension in which to knit them. Knitting is such a Nov-Dec activity here that it’s really unusual to see anyone knitting in public here outside those times. The fun thing about this project is that it’s a joint project; my niece Gargi shows up every now and then and knits a few rounds. This is her first project on DPNs and she coos every few minutes – such thin needlllllllllllles!
Finally, remember my yarn for the Cobblestone pullover? I had one 750 yard hank left over, and my mum has cast on for a Clapotis with it. Should look good in this yarn, no? I have a feeling she’s going to get bored with it once the increases end and both Gargi and I will pitch in, but right now she’s heroically at it. It’s worsted weight on size 8. Any suggestions about how wide to make it to get a long enough stole? I tried looking online, but was hit by an avalanche of Clapotis posts and suggestions.
I have a feeling all three projects are going to be WIPs for a while, though.
Hey, all! Thanks so much for all your good wishes for my trip – here I am, on the other side of the world, recovered from jet lag already.
Plane travel is exhausting, disorienting, annoying and many other things. It also infantalises travellers like none other mode of travel. It’s not just the security staff who speak to you slowly but loudly as if you were either deaf or retarded, barking out orders in elaborate legalese-politese and processing you on a long and complicated assembly line from dangerous unknowns into government-deemed safe travellers. It is also the feeling of being strapped into the small, uncomfortable seat for so many long hours, with food brought to you every few hours. You sleep, you eat, some sort of entertainment hovers in front of your eyes to keep you diverted, and then you sleep and eat some more. This is how babies must feel – slightly out of focus and irritable and trapped. The flight attendants also treat you with a combination of firmness-laced-with-nice that parents whose patience is about to snap use on kids running wild. If the airlines provided diapers with the headphones and acrylic blanket wrapped in plastic, I imagine our regression to infanthood would be complete.
Speaking of actual babies travelling, there seemed to be many more than usual on this flight. Or maybe my claustrophobia was conjuring them up all around me. They wailed and howled throughout – sometimes in unison, sometimes in harmony, but always in dreadful cacophony. It occurred to me that anyone unsure about whether they want children would do well to travel on a transcontinental flight surrounded by infants and toddlers before they make a final decision. But I do feel bad for the parents, who always have this hunted, apologetic look about them. It must be awful to juggle discomfort and disorientation with a shrieking baby and dark looks from people all around you. I was virtuous, though – in keeping with the whole kids theme, I took refuge in The Sound of Music. (Btw, these are the Regia socks I began on another transcontinental flight in February – 64 stitches on size 0 needles, very plain and simple.)
That’s one point for Continental, I gotta say, even if they do, rather horrifyingly, charge for alcohol on international flights (WHY do American airlines do that?) – they have a whole set of very diverse films for you to choose from on your own little individual screen. Along with Julie Andrews, I also indulged in Jane Austen, with the wonderful, smart Emma Thompson adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, and the godawful Keira Knightley adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. If you permit me to rant about this for a second, I wonder what Austen herself would have made of some rather odd moments in this adaptation. I didn’t mind that it took liberties with the dialogue – the S&S adaptation did too, but the ones in P&P somehow didn’t work as well, mostly because they seemed to turn this elegant narrative of manners into a faux-historical teenage drama. “Don’t you dare judge me, Lizzy!” Charlotte Lucas says (after choosing calmly to marry that horrible Mr. Collins), and that wooden Darcy, who looks like a confused, drowned rat with that oddly dishevelled look, unpardonably blurts out “I love you” instead of the glorious “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you” to Elizabeth Bennet. She, in turn, yells “Leave me alone!” to her family, slamming the door and running upstairs. WTF?? Ah well. At least the von Trapps were as familiar and saccharine as ever.
It is hot here, and very erratic and strong thunderstorms are allowing the electricity department to cut power even more than usual. But it’s also cool and breezy and deliciously overcast in the evenings, and I started a longue duree lace project to keep me company on my equally long research project. It’s the Beginner Sampler stole from Victorian Lace Today, in Jade Sapphire Lacey Lamb, in tomato red, on size 3 needles. I am already loving it, but expect an FO only sometime around December, I think. My mum is convinced that my eyes are going to get worse from squinting at the tiny yarn and needles.
Oh, and I’m eating a lot of Alphonso mangoes. Mmmmmmm.
I finished it, finally, and here it is:
I raved about this shawl pattern when I began it, and it is really one of the simplest, yet prettiest triangular patterns. If I could actually knit about 70% of it in 100-degree-plus weather, you can bet that it was special. The fern leaf motif is quickly memorised, the edging is elegant and it’s easily adaptable to different weights. It’s quite a well-known pattern by Polly Outhwaite, but still, if you’re new to it, the free pattern is here (.pdf).
I’ve been knitting it for so long, it seems though, that I have a strange sense of anti-climax and irritation, that is amplified by the smell of the wet wool. I also can’t help feeling strangely dissatisfied with triangular shawls after they’re done. They are definitely process projects, the complete opposite of rectangular stoles, boring as hell to knit but totally worth it when done. I wrapped Kiri around me this morning after unpinning it, and even though it’s fingering yarn and the wingspan is nearly 80 inches, it still feels small, and as if most of it isn’t really going towards the warming effort – large bits hang down your arms and hug your bottom.
I know, these are meant to gently, airily take the chill off an early fall evening, not keep you warm in a winter gale. This one is going to England, just in time, to Bua, my husband’s aunt who generously gave me a suitcase full of yarn one summer, with some stashes of Rowan and Jaeger in it, when I visited her. Thank you, Bua, this little knitted thank you has taken me a long time!
Yarn: Brown Sheep Fingering 100% wool, in a big-assed cone. I have no idea how much I used, but I’ll weigh the shawl at the post office today and then calculate the approximate yardage. The colourway was Maple something, which bled in the wash. The colour is fairly accurate in the first picture. The yarn is soft, but one word that describes it well is durable.
Dimensions: 70 x 27 before blocking, 80 x 38 after blocking (not very severely, am thinking of steam-ironing the border)
Repeats: 17 repeats, plus the initial leaf and the edging
Needle: Size 4, with size 6 for the edging, and size 7 for the cast-off row. This going up a size for the edging and cast off is highly recommended!
Finally, since I finished this before the start of term and Labor day, I am totally claiming this as a project started and finished during summer. Now, onward to fall, garments, holiday gifts…
I just couldn’t help thinking of a boomerang as I photographed what I’ve been knitting the past few days:
It’s the Kiri shawl from Polly at All Tangled Up, one of the earliest blogs I began reading, and which still remains one of my favourites. Doesn’t it look like it’s about to take off?
This post is a rhapsody for Kiri. Why haven’t I knit this shawl before? Why hasn’t everybody who loves lace work? It has everything a good lace shawl pattern should. It is easily memorised, it has that beautiful rhythm that you settle into after finishing the first repeat and figuring out how the k2togs balance the SSKs, and it produces an elegant, gorgeous fabric that looks way more complicated than it actually is:
So all the non-knitters around you ooh and aah over what requires very little effort on your part. (The designer, in other words, has done all the hard work for you, all you do is ease gently into the pattern!) It has a fern leaf motif that grows surprisingly quickly: all that you see above was knitted in the last four days. Instinctively figuring out the pattern was key; although similar to the Leaf Lace and other Fiber Trends patterns, this one is turning out to be much more fun. I have been watching some dreadful old Hindi films on cable as I knit it. Although that means altogether too much mindless activity, the results are very pleasing overall! So thank you, Polly, for a lovely pattern. I know lots and lots of people have knit this and all of you probably know this, but just in case you don’t, I should mention that it’s free! (.pdf link)
The yarn is Brown Sheep Fingering Naturespun, workhorse wool in a maple-something-or-other shade. Wears like iron, I’m told (the yarn, not the shade). I brought it to make the Gracie Faroese Shawl, but like an idiot I left the book in Delhi. I found myself itching to knit lace when I got here, and voila, happened upon Kiri. Which was just as well.
Incidentally, the colour of my tongue totally matches this yarn right now, as I munch on Jambhul (Jamun in Hindi). They’re fat and engorged, and the blackish skin yields purple fleshy goodness within.
One of the best things about a lazy weekend is having an old friend to share it with, someone who knows your rhythms, your likes and dislikes. Even better when that friend is visiting, and not only sits around and talks to you nineteen to the dozen so you can knit and finish a project, but also helps you pin it out while blocking, and then models it for you. So this past weekend was a delight. My friend Latha visited me after a long time, and between reminiscing about university, walking around the Italian neighbourhood and Chinatown in San Francisco and eating and drinking lots of good stuff, I managed to finish the North Sea Shawl from Cheryl Oberle’s "Folk Shawls" book.
This shawl has a fair bit of bounce before blocking, due to the garter stitch panels. But once blocked, it flattens out into the most gorgeous undulating pattern. The colour on the photo to the right, with the blocked shawl, is closer to the real shades. You can see the Malabrigo laceweight working its subtle shade magic. This yarn is too gorgeous for words.
Pattern: North Sea Shawl (Folk Shawls by Cheryl Oberle)
Yarn: Malabrigo laceweight in Damask Rose, used double throughout, on size 7 bamboo needles
Gauge: 26 st to 4 inches over the main lace pattern
Modifications: I shortened the number of repeats to make for a narrower shawl. I cast on 85 stitches instead of 109, and got a final width of 15 inches. The finished shawl is about 75 inches long.
I loved this project: it was quick, simple and beautiful. Minimal
effort, maximum joy, just a variation of Feather and Fan, with a short
central panel. You knit one side and the central panel, then the other
side and graft the two together, which took me quite a bit of time. But
I did 14 repeats on each of the side panels, and got a stole of decent
length. If you’re looking for a simple rectangular stole, I highly
recommend this pattern. It has the right mix of pattern to keep it
interesting and garter to keep it going.
I thought of the process of knitting this stole rather like knitting a largish
sock: 80 plus stitches, an 8 row repeat with a 12 stitch pattern
repeat, to be done twice and with light and portable enough for me to carry
around. Before I knew it, it was done! I think it’s a good idea to
think of it this way, because the tedium of a long, 75 inch rectangular pattern is somehow made much more tolerable that way.
I have frogged so much in the last few days that I could croak. Seriously. I decided to take a chunky wool skein and make a quick version of the Odessa hat with fewer stitches because I wanted to send a friend a gift, and I had to frog the whole thing no less than thrice. Once because I cast on too few, once cause it got too big (yes, I did swatch) and once because I twisted the join. Who does that, ever? Like anybody ever reads the pattern instructions every time there’s a circular join: "join, taking care not to twist the stitches." Evidently, I needed to this time.
(Aside: But these instructions are like the ones for cables: "slip x stitches to cable needle, knit y stitches, knit x from cable needle." I have never used a cable needle ever, and am convinced that the idea of cable needles was invented to make writing instructions easier. Otherwise we’d be reading something like "Now slip the first two off the needle, suddenly pucker up your knitting so as to not cause them to run, hold them with the base of left thumb, try to shove the right needle into the third stitch at the same time, put them all back on to the needle…" you get the idea.)
Anyhow, I used Elann Highland Chunky for this so-called quick project, and finally gave up. This yarn looks all soft and friendly but is really rough to work with! My hands really burnt after a few rounds; I’ve never had that happen with a yarn, not even Red Heart. Needless to say, no chunky Odessa. This thing will someday be felted. (like some life sentence!)
Also, I have frogged the Jaywalker sock several times too, and I’m barely past the heel. I don’t know what it is. I first made the foot too long. Then I tried to do one of those toe-up heel flap things and messed up a couple of times. Then I forgot to continue the pattern all around the cuff. Now I’ve realised that I forgot to increased stitches after the heel and I might have to frog yet again. It’s sitting in disgrace in my basket. It goes without being photographed.
But Malabrigo is much more well-behaved. Here’s the progress on my North Sea Shawl. I’ve done twelve repeats and will most likely do three more, before I start the center portion. Then it’s another 15 repeats done separately and the two pieces grafted together. I cannot *wait* to finish it.
Thanks so much for all the sock pattern suggestions, everyone. I am eyeing all of Cookie A’s patterns, especially the new ones! But after swatching for "hedera", and for the "smoking hot" ones for my variegated skein, I decided that this particular Trekking grey yarn was meant to be a pair of Jaywalkers. I’ve said this before, you know how a yarn sometimes almost wills itself to be something no matter how hard you try to do something different with it? The dark shades in this skein made it quite difficult to try something complicated, although my efforts introduced me to something wonderful in the process: The Walker Treasury Project. What a wonderful resource! I was trying out some lace repeats to develop a sock pattern of my own from the Barbara Walker volumes I have, and when I googled the names
of the stitches a lot of them showed up here. I’m planning to join the project myself in the summer.
Like Spud, I also reduced the number of stitches for the Jaywalker pattern (76 cast-on was waaay too large for me) and with 64 and just two repeats, it’s nice and snug. I’m doing them toe-up, short-row as usual, and might increase a few stitches from the ankle up. So far I quite like this Trekking yarn, although I imagine I’m going to be left with quite a lot of it after the pair is done.
I also started something else. Seeing the lovely pink flowers all around me here (and also the gorgeous pinks cropping up on various blogs) made me pull out my Malabrigo laceweight in Damask Rose. Mmmmmm Malabrigo.
I had set this yarn aside for something complicated like Frost Flowers or the Sampler Stole from Gathering of Lace, but once again, it seems destined to be something else. I got a lovely pink and grey silk salwar kameez as a gift that this yarn shade will go well with. So I thought I might make a light wrap out of it first, and then maybe use the rest for a cropped shrug/sweater of sorts. Let’s see.
So this is the beginning of the "North Sea Shawl" from Cheryl Oberle’s Folk Shawls book. The yarn is held double on size 6, but after an initial blocking I think I might frog, reduce the number of repeats and go up a size to make it a little drapier. I knit this very quickly; the pattern is a variation on Feather and Fan, and it’s the right combination of mindless and interesting knitting that I need right now.
Spring break begins tomorrow! I have a paper due for a workshop that I have to do during break, but just not having to go in thrice to teach means I have some time to actually sit and write something (other than a blog entry, ie!) and I am excited about being able to do that. Am also looking forward to seeing the Namesake tomorrow.
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