Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lace Challenged

I have noticed a pattern in my response to knitting lace charts. Whenever I start a lace knitting project, there is always a period where I can do nothing right. This pattern is despite the fact that I am not new to lace. In fact, I have knitted quite a few lace projects over the years, some of which have been fairly complicated.

I am not sure why this occurs, but the result is that I tend to be nervous as a kitten whenever I start knitting lace. By the end, I find lace projects some of the most satisfying knits, but that satisfaction often comes after a great deal of aggravation.

In my recent push to peel off the topmost layer of my stash (in the form of finishing UFO's), I have wrestled with a lovely little shawlette called "Billie Holiday" by a designer who goes by Susanna IC.
I am a BIG fan of Susanna IC's designs, as they tend to be fluid and elegant, and lean towards that practical crescent shape that so many designers do these days. A crescent shaped shawl can double easily as a stylish scarf, while you are outdoors, wearing a coat. Inside, it can drape over your shoulders, adding warmth, but not too much.

But I stray off topic.

I bought a BH kit off a fellow Raveler, who was destashing. I loved the dark indigo colorway, with just a hint of fading here and there, just like newer blue jeans starting to really break in. Ever the impulse buyer, me, I snapped it up. This was a project I was into, so I didn't have the yarn long before I rewound the skein and gathered what I needed to start. And, start I did, casting on 341 stitches. First thing let me say is it is a GOOD idea to put in markers ever 50 stitches to keep your count straight. Furthermore, count twice. Count three or four times even. Five counts won't hurt either. Nothing like getting to the end of a 341 stitch lace row and find yourself off a stitch. At this point, it means you have to rip out, because fudging will make the edge uneven. So rip and recast on. Goody.

Next, put markers between each motif. This helps IMMENSELY. Then count the stitches between each motif. Hey, count again! It couldn't hurt. Then get cocky and knit a couple of rows, realize on row 5 you have dropped a stitch, try and fix it, fail, get a tangled mess at that point, rip it all out and start over. Again. See where I'm going with this?

This has been a hell project, but really, I am not sure why. The chart is clear and I could find no mistakes. The lace pattern follows a fairly logical progression. Add some beadwork in, for extra fun. I will say the yarn, Miss Babs Moo & Ewe, while a lovely color, is a slippy pain in the ass to work with. This, of course, does mean it will likely drape very nicely as a finished shawl, which is a very good thing. Still, one must reach the top of the mountain before planting the flag, so plan on muttering foul language under your breath while stitches leap from your needles like lemmings from a cliff top from time to time.

So back to my progression: after a purl row, put in a lifeline. And don't use thread, use YARN. A nice constrasty acrylic with do--one with some grab. This, I found, is what you do with that afghan yarn you get from well meaning friends who say "My grandma died and she has all this yarn and I want it to go to a good home. You knit. Would you like it?" This last question opens up a whole other blog post topic I will get to another day. Cheap afghan yarn. It does have it's uses. Like lifelines. Or yarn bombing. And how can one say "no" to much-loved Grandma's crappy Red Heart or Caron, without insulting the grieving friend...

Ahem. Lifelines. So I have one on row 8 of a 28 row chart and I thank it. It has stayed in place, like a net under a tightrope walker. I am now on row 27, almost off the lace chart. In fact, the last row is a purl row and row 27 had no yarn-overs, so I am essentially done. I even made mistakes that I was able to fix. It was cocky to not add another lifeline, and I thought about doing so, but I kept saying "one more motif row" and my stitch count would balance and I kept on going. I reached my stride. I dropped a yarn over here or there, but was able to fix it. I did have to make myself quit knitting some nights when I realized I was getting tired and was about to start seriously messing up if I pushed on for just one more row, which really would have take too long anyway at 341 stitches of a complicated chart at 11 PM on a work night...So I took things in bite sized pieces and now I have broken the back of the chart. I am about to begin the short row shaping, which is in stockinette. Once I have sussed that rhythm, this will likely become a lunchtime project until I get to the beaded top row.

I chalk my lace knitiot savant tendencies, my propensity to biff lace charts at a project start and coordinating my hands and brain to being like an old car that needs to be warmed up a bit before driving it. It's just one of those things and all part of the process. I have other lace projects to start-- yes, more lace! In fact I want to start this in couple of weeks for a KAL. Bring out the straight jacket...

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