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Rip, chomp, shed

§ November 6th, 2009 § Filed under Shawls, sweaters § 12 Comments

It’s finally getting a bit chilly here in the evenings, and I brought out a shawl I made two years ago, the North Sea Shawl. I was quite impressed with the Malabrigo lace, for not pilling at all despite two years of good wear. But here’s what I found:


My first thought was that there was a mouse in my closet and that all my woollens had been chewed through over the year that I was away. (No, I did not individually wrap each one in plastic with mothballs in them..) But nothing else has been damaged – the socks, gloves, other shawls and sweaters are all ok. Just this bit. Yet it does look like the yarn has been cut or bitten through in several places in that one area of the shawl, and not worn out. Any suggestions on how to fix it? I don’t have any pink malabrigo left, but even if I were to find some, how does one sew or darn something that already has holes as a design element?

Speaking of durable yarn, I am quite disappointed with a lot of brands I used over the last year. The Cascade Eco that I used for my Ribby Cardi and the handdyed merino for my Cobblestone pullover have pilled quite heavily.


What’s bizarre is that the same merino I used for the aran pullover has barely any fuzz on it. Maybe it’s because the fabric is so tight? I generally tend to go down a couple of needle sizes to get a firm fabric just to avoid pilling to the extent possible, but I guess some yarns still start shedding earlier than other. I have worn both these sweaters quite a LOT, but still, I wish they wouldn’t look so unkempt and old this quickly.

What are your favourite durable yarns? I think I want to make another Ribby Cardi in Blackwater Abbey or one of those scratchy finer gauge Shetlands. I love the pattern, and think it will be worth the maths required to redo the measurements.


§ June 25th, 2009 § Filed under Lace work, Shawls § 12 Comments

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.

Joint effort

§ July 13th, 2008 § Filed under Clapotis, Lace work, Shawls, Socks § 4 Comments

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.

(S)trapped in

§ June 6th, 2008 § Filed under Lace work, Shawls, Socks, Travel § 14 Comments

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.

Kiri shawl, at long last

§ August 30th, 2007 § Filed under Lace work, Shawls § 13 Comments

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!

Project Notes:

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…

Rhapsody for Kiri

§ June 21st, 2007 § Filed under Lace work, Shawls § 9 Comments

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.

Metamorphosis, or how a Shaped Triangle became a Swallowtail Shawl

§ November 7th, 2006 § Filed under Shaped Triangle turned Swallowtail Shawl § 15 Comments

Memories of a 6th standard (or thereabouts) biology lesson.

Caterpillar, or Just off the Needles, Finally:


Chrysalis, a.k.a. the twenty-minute soak:


And finally, the butterfly:                               


Perched on a branch, and on a wall:                                                               


Project specs:

Pattern: Started out as Shaped Triangle shawl from Gathering of Lace, but got sick of that pattern and ended it with the Swallowtail pattern from Fall 06 Interweave knits, almost a year after starting it. The saga of this shift is here. 

Yarn: Jaggerspun Superfine Merino 100% wool (this is the full merino cousin of Zephyr). I have no idea how much, but a ton of it is still left on the cone. Body on size 3s, edging on size 4s.

This shawl is so difficult to photograph! It’s light and wispy and soft, and I hope my MIL likes it. It turned out a little smaller than I’d anticipated (60" wingspan x 30" depth before blocking and 80 and 40 after blocking).

I wrapped it around myself today and it should be okay, I think. But I’m not so sure I like laceweight shawls, actually. I find I need the weight of the shawl as much as the actual wool to be warm. I think fingering, or sportweight might be my preferred weight, and that would allow me to use larger needles and make the fabric firm too; the airiness of the lacy fabric is gorgeous to look at and is surely warm as well, but I don’t know why, it feels a tad too wispy to me.

ED: [i]sorry, i had to tweak a few times to fix the damn formatting[/i]

How much cashmere?

§ October 23rd, 2006 § Filed under Cartridge Rib Pullover, Elsewhere on the Web, Shaped Triangle turned Swallowtail Shawl § 10 Comments

I stumbled across this thread and this one on a knitting forum about a recent spat between two distributors over the cashmere content in some popular yarns. It’s not clear yet who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong; accusations are flying back and forth, but in the whole mess (and I’m really resisting the knitting puns and metaphors here), one thing really stood out: the amount of cashmere content that seems to be under scrutiny in yarns that (are claimed to?) have cashmere in them: between 5-10%!

That’s just laughable. True, the industry standards require a minimum of 3% so no rules are technically being broken, but talk about proportion, eh? The amount of mark-up that companies can claim just by that little content and the resultant "luxury" tag: it’s not for nothing that most of these yarns have "cash" mentioned in them. I find it hilarious everytime I see either the owner of the brand or the distributor insist, "there *is* cashmere in there"! Sure.

Anyway. I spent another weekend hurtling across the country by plane, this time for the large desi wedding annual South Asia conference in Madison, WI. Which was surprisingly subdued, actually. Saw lots of friends: sepoy, pdcs, pandit among others, and collected more entries for my Weird Things Academics Say and Do series. Daku, if you’re reading this, you were sorely missed!

And I managed to finally start my cartridge rib pullover. I began with the sleeve. I had some gauge issues. I was getting 6.5 spi on the pattern, but it also stretches easily, and slightly stretched the gauge was 5.75 spi. After some tortured maths, I settled for 6 spi, figuring the stretch would take care of the fit.

Am using Ann Budd’s generic pattern for saddle shoulders, but with lots of mods. Cast on 64 plus 2 selvedge stitches, and instead of her staggered increase, am doing an even increase every 6th row from the beginning.
(Aside: when patterns say "every 4 rows" does that mean every 4th or 5th row after one increase? That always stumps me.)

I also did the first twenty rows on size 3s for greater tension at the wrists, and now am on size 5s. I cast on at the airport in Oakland, and this is where I was when I landed two days later. I might just finish this before December…

And finally, I’m at the point where I begin the nupps for the Shaped-triangle-turned-Swallowtail shawl. Seeing Lobstah’s gorgeous Flirty Ruffles shawl has inspired me to really finish this quickly. I switched to size 4 addis for the border, just to make it drapier, and 38 more rows to go. I have a feeling it’s not going to be large enough, as my MIL really wanted something to drape around well, but I am so sick of this laceweight. I’m going to finish it as it is, and if it isn’t suitable I’ll make another leaf lace or flower basket shawl in sportweight (and keep this one for myself!).

Taking Stock of WiPs

§ September 27th, 2006 § Filed under Cartridge Rib Pullover, Shaped Triangle turned Swallowtail Shawl § 4 Comments

This Peruvian alpaca is *soft*! It sheds a bit, but am loving it. The colour is so rich and I think I like the fabric I’m getting on size 5s. I don’t know what the pilling situation is, though. Anybody know? If it tends to pill I might move down to size 4.

Remember my Shaped Triangle Shawl? I didn’t take a fresh picture because it is a large black blob right now not unlike the one taken two months ago. I got stuck at where the small cockroaches beetles that form the base of the pattern morph into more beautiful and complex things, like mountains and flowers and whatnot. (See this complexity in all its glory here. This part of the pattern is charted only half the way; the other half you have to make your own way backwards. Not surprisingly, I was unable to walk back properly by myself. I enlarged the pattern, photocopied it front-and-back and put the two sides back-to-back in a plastic sleeve to make it easier to read both ways (this is a *great* technique, btw, in theory) and even knit about ten rows before I realised that my beetles did not want to shape-shift. Mountains and flowers met the frogpond twice over. It’s to do with the thin black lace; the topography just doesn’t show up as nicely.

So what to do? It would be really nice if I could send the completed shawl to my MiL in a month for a special occasion, so I sat and figured that I’d just beetle it all the way through, and then attach some damned border. All she wanted was triangular black lace, not any particular landscape.

Then, Eureka!!! I saw Alison’s gorgeous Swallowtail shawl and recognized in it my beetles, and a totally lovely border with something called nupps (is nupps just polite for bobbles?). Some courageous determined arithmetic later, I think it can work. I have 12 beetle repeats to do and the border, and hopefully at the end of it, my Shaped Triangle will have metamorphosed into the Swallowtail Shawl. Fingers crossed.

Leaf Lace Shawl

§ September 21st, 2006 § Filed under Leaf Lace Shawl § 7 Comments

Voila my leaf lace shawl this morning, blocking:

Things I learnt while on this easy, quick (hah!) lace project:

1) Frogging lace sucks, especially if you have to frog the same border rows thrice, the last time when you have only 20 stitches to cast off and you have run out of yarn.


2) I made a good decision after Class X to take Arts instead of Maths and Science, because I am still incapable of elementary arithmetic.

3) It doesn’t matter if you fudge a couple of rows to make it all fit.

4) Simple lace in variegated yarn rocks! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

5) And finally, when your leftover skein of laceweight/jumperweight wills itself to be something you aren’t sure of, do let it. The results can be quite breathtaking, viz. the photo on the left.

Am so happy with how this turned out! It’s folded into a pretty little triangle right now. After wrapping it around myself this evening, I had the twinge of a second thought, but I think I will send it, as I’d planned, to a sister-in-law of mine, to whom I owe a knitting gift for the longest time.

It is just right as a shoulder wrap to wear with a dressy outfit, and soft as hell.

Specs: Leaf Lace Shawl, designed by Evelyn Clark and available from Fibertrends

Size: 60" wide and 30" deep. I did 13 repeats of the main pattern, on a size 6 needle.

Yarn: handpainted laceweight/jumperweight from Laura. Have no idea how much. Genny gave great advice  last time about how to figure out how much you have and how far you can go with a skein, but alas, she didn’t take into account that I was beyond the help of even a calculator.

In my defence, I did try. I counted the total number of stitches I had to left to do, measured the yarn I had left by wrapping it around an open drawer and then multiplying the length of the drawer by the number of wraps (into 2, duh, cause it goes around twice!), but I mysteriously ended up with only 34 yards and thousands of stitches, when visually it was plain that I had enough for atleast one more repeat. I went with my eyes instead of my brain, and ultimately, I only had to frog the border twice more, that too once because I messed up the pattern. Eventually I cast off on the 15th row instead of the  16th to finish properly, and I have 2 yards left. Sweet, huh?

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