On Giants' Shoulders

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The link below is to a video that has a narrative in French (which I can understand about every 5th word of), but the video itself tells a real story of lace knitting.  I am simply stunned that these women (and even young girls) can knit lace that fast out of yarn that's much finer than what I'm currently using.  If you're a spinner you'll also be amazed at the speed with which they spin, but it's the knitting speed that amazes me.  The young girls who are just learning knit at about the speed that I do when knitting lace.  The older women knit at a speed I can never approach, not even when simply knitting plain stockinette stitch on socks (and I used to think I was reasonably fast).  Sigh...

Now I Can Feel Really Dumb and Clumsy

Friday, May 18, 2012

An examples of the shawl I'm knitting, as knitted by other people.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ssh Don't Tell Anyone

I hesitate to even say this because pride goes before a face plant, but I honestly think this lace thing is starting to work.  I just finished yet another pattern of the Elfin lace, I'm at least eight rows beyond the furthest that I'd gotten before.  It's not only starting to shape up, but I'm beginning to get the hang of figuring out if I made a mistake before going on to the next row.  I'm starting to see like the garter stitch border that's being created well enough that I may not even decide to put the other more complicated border on, we'll see.

I love the yarn.  It's a lace weight yarn in varying shades of aqua that was hand dyed by a local craftsman.  The varying shades really work well with this particular pattern and I can see how they're going to catch the light in some nice ways once it's finished.

I have definitely figured out that the Addi turbo lace needles are more difficult to work with than my double points.  They aren't as sharp, and they're definitely slicker which means that you have to really pay attention to keep the end stitches from slipping off.  Since the end stitches is where I was getting into trouble (as I couldn't always tell if they slipped off whether I needed to make one over again or not) I do have to be pretty conscious of keeping the knitting slid all the way onto the cable any time I have to set it down.  I am really tempted to look in my knitting needle stash and see if I don't possible have a size two circular needle that isn't an Addi Turbo.  Although, now that I've got more stitches on the needle things do seem to be coming along more easily.

I'm always surprised at how much more difficult any knitting is in the first few rows than it is later on.  I'm not sure whether the weight of the growing project simply makes it easier to get the stitches actually on the needles to actually be manipulated or what.  I know I always find it to be the case, even with socks which I knit nearly compulsively the past few years, that I'm far more apt to mess things up in the first few rows than once the knitting gets to a certain length.  Hopefully, I'm now at the point where I'm less apt to mess things up.

In one of the Yarn Harlot's books she talks about process knitters as opposed to product knitters.  I think I'm most definitely a product knitter.  I enjoy learning a new technique and challenging myself a little bit, and I definitely do knit for relaxation some of the time.  At the end of the day, however, it's all about actually having something to show for the work.  It's one reason that gauge samples are something I hate doing. I never do one anymore with socks, I just take a look at the yarn and sort of know whether it's going to be a size one or size two project and then plug the numbers in respectively.  I want to get knitting on the end product, not spend extra time knitting something I'll never use, washing and blocking it, just to find out what I knew in the first place.  I'll even confess that when I do a gauge sample, I rarely ever wash it before measuring.  If it were something where close fit was an issue I probably would, and in at least one case I probably should have because I would have figured out that the fair isle type knitting I was doing was going to pull the stitches closer together in a way that was going to make the yoke of the sweater to tight unless I changed some numbers (hence Abby's purple sweater's yoke got knit twice instead of once).  Gauge aside, however, I don't simply delight in new techniques and just seek them out everywhere.  I'm perfectly content to add a new one every now and again, and mostly spend my time cranking out things I know I can do well (Jackie Fee sweaters, socks, hats, etc). 

Anyway, production knitter that I am, I'm glad to see things starting to shape up with this shawl.  I might even finish it before Labor Day at this rate.  I was a bit taken aback to realize that the people who give instructions to beginners in lace knitting recommend not starting out with lace weight yarn.  However, I figured that since I've knit lace socks (not the soles of course), with size 2 needles and fingering weight yarn  a number of times, I'm not exactly a beginner with lace.  I'm just a beginner with shawls, and a beginner with lace weight yarn.  Hey, at least I'm not using that gossamer cob web stuff.  It's pretty and all that, but if size two needles and lace weight are hard to see at some points in the day (much easier in natural than artificial light, I've discovered), it's a sure bet that size 000 needles (which I'd undoubtedly have to find online) and gossamer yarn would be a challenge I don't want to undertake.

One interesting thing I discovered today while wandering around the Ravelry site was that there was a thread about blind knitters that directed me to a blog that actually is for people who are blind or visually impaired.  So I've sent the link to my sister-in-law whose daughter is a blind knitter,  In case any of you are interested, here's the link: .
 Now it's off to the post office, and the store for dinner supplies, then back for more knitting.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Lace Saga Continues

I was doing so well, oh I'd had to tink back a few rows, but I had a nice life line in and things were going swimmingly well, until... Until that is I noticed that apparently when I came back after taking a phone call I managed to do a wrong side row twice.  I had blithely gone along with the pattern, I had the right number of stitches I was all the way up to 45 stitches on my needles (when you started with 3 stitches, and increased only two stitches every other row, and your knitting with lace yarn, that's a lot of rows, but not very many inches).  The mistake was below the life line. Which meant basically the only totally reasonable thing to do (and the thing that was going to take much less time than tinking all the way back) was to rip it all out and start over again.  Which I've done.  I've also now completed the pattern back to one whole repeat of the Elfin lace (I now have 33 stitches on my needles), and so far I haven't managed to mess it up too badly (just caught one mistake before it became necessary to tink!).

What have I learned so far?  Well I've learned which of three methods I prefer for increasing close to the beginning and end of the row.  I've learned that I absolutely hate working with Addi Turbo lace needles when I've got a long cord and very few stitches. The Addi Turbo is currently on the floor where I flung it after it dumped the end stitches off the needle one time too many. I've learned that I'm better off for the moment working with my double point size two needles with rubber bands on the end for knobs because I'm less apt to get tangled up and somehow the stitches aren't slipping off quite as badly as on the Addi Turbos.  I've learned that intentionality is pretty important, and that it's far easier than you might imagine to forget to put in a yarn over, but if you do you will spend much more time tinking back than you ever imagined possible.  I don't even like to think how many hours have gone into what has essential been one stupid mistake after another.  I'm realizing just how deficient my fine motor control and eyesight are when dealing with tiny needles and tiny stitches.  It's odd because I just finished a pair of socks on size ones and I knit with small gauge double points all the time when knitting socks, but this project is really kicking my butt.

I'd feel a lot worse if I hadn't read something that Stephanie Mc Phee wrote about in All Wrapped up where she was knitting a lace shawl.  This is the Yarn Harlot who's knit a shawl with sheep on it, who knit an amazing wedding shawl, but her explanation of this one lace project sounds almost, almost as frustrating as mine.  I'm beginning to think that perhaps I should have started with a lace shawl in a DK weight yarn and bigger needles,   When I realize that I have 23 more repeats of this Elfin lace pattern  (with translates into 174 more rows, and that's before  I do the border or the lace edging, I'm really wondering whether I can do this or not.  174 rows means many more than 174 times to forget a yarn over (since the number needed increases every other row). Since each row gets longer doing a single repeat is going to start taking more and more time.

Anyway, I decided to blog about it because I just had to walk away from it for a little bit..  At least five hours into it today I have made no real forward progress, although I'm 2 inches further than I was at noon.  I have managed to listen to one presentation of the Gold conference, and watch the latest episode of Bones.  It wasn't a totally wasted block of time.  While it's better that I found that unfixable mistake now and not another 30 rows down the road it still was a pretty demoralizing morning.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Was This Really Such A Great Idea???

So a couple of weeks ago I got this fantastic idea that I'd like to knit myself a lace shawl. I'm not sure if I'm envisioning myself as Miss Marple, or just like the idea of a bit of light lace around my arms at church in the summertime. Or perhaps it was just that I thought I really ought to challenge myself just once, instead of knitting another pair of socks (which I can sort of do most of with my eyes closed). So I downloaded a pattern from Ravelry. I started it four times and couldn't get the stitch count to be right after about the fifth row every time. So I threw it aside in disgust and went back to knitting socks. Since I had two pair started and most of my current socks have holes in the toes, that seemed prudent. Tuesday after I left the chiropractor's office I had to stop at the shoe store and pick up my dress shoes which were being stretched so they didn't give me blisters. After I left the shoe store the rainy day, and the fact that the yarn store was so close, inspired me to stop at the yarn store and at least pick up some stitch markers. While there I managed to find a lace shawl pattern that looked somewhat less complicated than the one I had been attempting, so I purchased the pattern and some Addi Turbo lace circular needles.and headed home.

 I managed the first eight rows without too much of a glitch (although I still don't like making one right after the first stitch). I got the next section done, and then found I was off by one stitch, and of course hadn't put in a lifeline. So I had to frog it back to the place where I had 15 stitches on the needles. I managed to get through that section and the first eight rows of the Elfin lace pattern. I then had the good sense to put in a life line. I really thought I was doing well. Then it turned into six rows forward, four rows back because I kept ending up with a stitch short about every fourth row. This morning I was in a major snag and ended up ripping a full nine rows back. I've now re-knit those nine rows and intelligently put in another life line. However, I have a very, very small triangle of lace for all of the hours of effort I've put in (representing something like four episodes of Hardcover Mysteries and six of Bones---thank you Netflix!)

. I am finally beginning to see what the pattern looks like (which may help with future dropped stitches). I still want to knit this shawl, but I'm now doing it really and truly to prove to myself that I'm up to the challenge of it. This is not relaxing knitting. I can't say I yet understand the allure of lace, well other than the fact that it looks so pretty and I really do love the yarn I'm using. Knitting for me really hasn't been so much about doing complicated things. I like a pattern that's got a little bit of interest in it. The dress I did for Luci last spring was like that. The top had this sort of gathered effect to it, so the first part of the project was a challenge and you had to really be on your game. However, then I hit the section where it was just knit one round after another. For me, that kind of knitting is relaxing, meditative, and fun. For a lot of other people I guess that kind of knitting is --- well, kind of boring. I'm not sure that I'd like to knit miles and miles of stockinette stitch, I do like a little something to break up the monotony. However, this lace knitting is a real challenge. It's not a challenge like a Spartan race, like my daughter's former roommate just ran. It's not a challenge like losing 60 pounds (which I sort of need to do --- again) However, it is a real challenge in focusing on what's in front of me and not allowing my mind to drift away (at least not too far away --- re-runs of Bones seem to work some of the time).

 Right now with the world in such a chaotic mess, retreating into lace knitting and simply focusing on something I actually can do is my way of coping. I think I actually would rather be fuming at the piece of yarn from the center of the ball that snagged into a knot with my working piece of yarn than fuming about politics. I can't do anything about the politics, I can (with a very fine gauge needle) unsnarl the knot. So, that's how I spent my day. I got so present focused that I totally a. forgot to eat breakfast (or even lunch until 2:00 P.M. and b. totally forgot about a meeting I was supposed to attend this morning. I clearly have to pace myself a little better. I am determined to knit this thing, even if it's not such a great idea because I really want to prove to myself that I'm up to this particular challenge. I'm too old to run a Spartan race, I'm never going to run for political office. I'm never going to be a famous actress. I'm never going to make a big impact on the world outside, but I just maybe I can actually knit a pretty lace shawl.