Wednesday, December 28, 2011

a most frustrating knit

(Before I begin, let me emphasize: the following discussion has nothing to do with the pattern in question, or the yarn in question. It is solely limited to my own boneheadedness and lack of lace knitting experience. The products in question are without fault.)

At the Garden State Sheep Breeders Festival this year, my mother and I had a lovely time strolling around the vendors and admiring their wares together. I may have bought too much sock yarn at the same point, but that is a post for a different day. Brooke, at Twisted Fiber, had a beautiful red shawlette hanging up, made of red alpaca lace, which my mother admired. It so happened that I had that precise yarn in my stash (purchased the previous year, and of course not used yet) and I decided to make the same shawlette for her for Christmas.

I cast on in very good time, around the end of September. My progress was quick and encouraging, as progress on things that start with instructions such as "cast on three stitches" tend to be. You get through those first thirty rows so rapidly, it seems as if the project will be done in an instant!

The pattern is elegantly simple, and right there is where I ran into problems. It seems that after I had 100 or so stitches on the needles, I lost all abilities to (1) follow a simple pattern; and (2) count to any number greater than 100. It got to the point that I began to question whether I really knew how to knit and purl. I finally wrote out every line count of the pattern, all the way to the 99th (and final) row, and obsessively counted each row as I knit. It didn't solve all the problems but it did cut down on them significantly.

At long last, round about December 17th, I got to that fabled 99th row, and my count was correct. I did a little happy jig of Christmas completion (with a week to spare, even!) and turned the page...

And saw that 75 little points had to be knit onto the border.

Lacking lace knitting experience, I neglected to put in a lifeline (i.e., extra thread that will hold your place so you can rip back if necessary without dropping all the stitches) and just plunged in, determined to be done by the end of the weekend. With Bramwell playing away on Netflix, I doggedly worked my way through those darn points. I tried not to cry when I finished, and found that I had 37 points on one side (correct number) and 38 points on the other (incorrect, and errors easily spotted). I thought about ripping out, but due to the lack of lifeline and lack of time, realized it was a fool's undertaking.

I was stuck with what I had. I contemplated my spit of red dog barf, which is what all lace projects resemble prior to blocking, breathed deeply, and finally went ahead with the washing and blocking.

Stretching it out to block it was when I discovered not one, but two, dropped stitches, as they merrily unraveled their way up the shawl. Of course. And of course the errors were that much easier to spot, once I had it all pinned out.

Once again, what choice did I have? It was December 23 at this point. Dropped stitches were repaired. Shawl was wrapped and placed under the tree, once it dried.

And after all that... thank goodness... it still looks perfectly lovely on my lovely mom. But Mom -- whatever you do -- resist the urge to count those blasted points.


  1. Elegant is this shawl in one word. The lace is absolutely beautiful! It is delicate and shows off supreme knitterly skills. (I do understand the challenges of lace knitting.) It is sooo dramatic and, as if the sheer beauty were not enough, it's a delight to wear.

    Think of the extra points as the Navajos think of spirit trails. And if there ever were a piece of knitting that showed love, care, and spirit, this is it.

    And now that the spirit has been released from this knitted piece, you are free to embark upon your next challenging knitwear.

  2. It's gorgeous, Kris! And your mom looks great in it. Machines can do perfect, we knitters do our best and come out with some pretty amazing stuff. Wonderful :*)