Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring Mystery Shawl 2010 - Clue 3

Clue 3 finished.  Now on to clue 4.  I'm getting pretty good at the nupps, although they tend to go to the back of the knitting.  I hope that will resolve itself when I block the shawl.

On the Evenstar Shawl and KALs

This past week there was a bit of a furor over in the Evenstar Knit A Long group on Ravelry.  One of the members started a thread in which they expressed their frustration with the pattern and the process, even stating that she didn't think that she should have to pay to be a test knitter.  There have been a few hiccups, this is Susan's first mystery shawl, but it has not been excessive.  A lot of the other members rallied to Susan's defense, but the damage of that initial post was still done.  I agree that we all have a right to our opinion, and a right to free expression, but I don't think that it is polite to air grievances in public until you have addressed them to the merchant first and given them a chance to respond.  It is far too easy to vent on these electronic forums (Facebook, Twitter, Ravelry, etc.), posting in the heat of the moment and forgetting how broad an audience your words may have, and how much harm (both psychological and material) they may do to the target of your post.

I admire Susan greatly, both as a designer and as a person.  Her blog (A Few Stitches Short) is a wonderful read, both for the pattern news and the life lessons.  I did not weigh into the discussion on Ravelry because once these things get started I think it is best just to walk away from them.  Responding only provides more fuel for the fire, regardless of your intentions.  But it saddened me and I think that it is an indication of the corrosive effect that the electronic age is having on our social relations.  The internet is a mixed blessing.  It broadens our horizons immeasurably, giving us incredible access to information and ideas, but it also isolates us and insulates us from human contact.  We must always remember that there are human beings on the other side of the electronic link, and give them the consideration that they are due.

Jade Pullover - Take 2

About a week ago, after almost finishing this pullover, I decided that it would be better if I re-knit it from the top down and used short-row shaping for the sleeves, rather than the provisional cast on that I had done.  If I had thought about it when I first cast on, I probably would have realized the top down approach would work best, but sometimes I jump into projects without proper reflection.  I don't mind re-knitting, as I always learn from the process, and seldom make the same mistake more than a few times.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Evenstar Mystery Shawl - Clue 1

I finished up clue 1 last night of my second Evenstar Mystery Shawl.  I'm glad to be done with this clue as it has some fidgety stitches - increasing 4 stitches in a decrease of 3 stitches and knitting 4 stitches together, to be specific.  Not easy with silk that doesn't stretch.  But I made it through and only dropped one stitch on one of the knit 4 together stitches, and I spotted it before it unraveled completely so I was able to pick up the dropped stitch and fix everything when I came around again.  My other issue right now is knitting needles.  I don't have enough.  I now have 4 lace shawls going at the same time and they all use size 3 needles.  I have been using the Addi Turbo Lace needles, which have a brass finish and pointy tips.  In desperation this morning I pulled out a set of KnitPicks size 3 circular needles (32 inches long).  KnitPicks needles have pointier tips than typical knitting needles.  They are as pointy as the Addi Lace, but the tip isn't quite as long.  They also have a nickle finish.  The cord is a bit stiffer than the Addi cord, but not excessively so (like the Susan Bates circulars).  I was pleased to discover that the silk actually slides easier on the nickle than on the brass.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Evenstar Mystery Shawl

So this is why I didn't finish the second clue of the Spring Mystery Shawl until today.  Friday night I decided to start a second Evenstar Mystery Shawl and knit this one according to the charts, without modifications.  It took me pretty much the entire evening to get it this far.  I am using the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Silk Thread II in Tanzanite, which is the first yarn that I purchased for the project.  The yarn is not that easy to work with.  Silk does not stretch and it is slippery, and I'm finding it harder to read the lace, which makes catching my mistakes harder.  Yes, I do make mistakes, but I usually catch them very quickly and I can often fix them without having to tink (that is knit backwards).  I am glad that I did not start with this yarn.  I think that you have to have some lace experience before you tackle as unforgiving a fiber as silk.  It is a beautiful fiber, however, and feels wonderful to knit with, and it all started as the cocoon of a moth.  Pretty amazing.  Silk takes color so beautifully because when you get it wet the fiber opens up, letting the dye penetrate.

Spring Mystery Shawl 2010 - Clue 2

I just finished up clue 2 of the Spring Mystery Shawl.  Clue 3 came out yesterday.  Almost fell behind because of other distractions.  I am getting quite good at reading lace, and once I understand the row pattern I can often knit the row without looking at the chart.  I can't even imagine knitting lace (or cables for that matter) from written instructions any more.  It is so much easier to knit from charts.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tools of the Trade - Zen Yarn Garden - Serenity Lace

I cannot keep my hands off of this yarn.  I first discovered Zen Yarn Garden yarns last year during the Year of Lace.  The yarn for the Wisteria Garden Shawl is Zen Yarn Garden Sea Lace.  That shawl was my first lace shawl, and that yarn was my first lace yarn.  I wanted more Zen Yarn, so I went to her web site and signed up for the email list.  I bought two skeins of the Serenity Lace last year when I first caught the lace bug.  I think that they were my first lace yarn purchases outside of the Year of Lace club.  I couldn't resist the name having both Buddhist leanings and being a fan of Firefly.

The yarn is 90% superwash merino and 10% cashmere.  It comes in 1200 yd / 4 oz skeins and is very reasonably priced at $38.00 a skein.  It winds up easily and knits like a dream.  It is very soft, with a very high fondle factor.  The colorway on the left is Fig Tree, the colorway on the right is 14kt, and the one in the middle is Into the Fire.  The yarn has just the right amount of twist, which gives it a springy body that makes it feel alive in your hands.  It also has great stitch definition as can be seen in the close-up of the center panel of the Phoenix Rising Shawl.
A wonderful yarn, beautiful colorways, great price, great customer service.  What more could one ask for?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Evenstar Mystery Shawl - Clue 3, my version

Clue 3 came out this past Friday.  Turns out that it was really a continuation of the second chart.  Fortunately I had stopped a few rows shy of the end of my chart 2 so I was able to adapt fairly easily to Clue 3.  At this point it has become something of an experiment on my part.  Having diverged from the pattern it is interesting to see how my variation evolves.  Consider it something of a genetic mutation.  I take the motif of each clue and try to adapt it to where my pattern is at.  I still have more stitches than the pattern, and that will continue to grow as I do the increase rows (which double your stitch count every time you do one).  I am pondering starting another Evenstar Shawl and knitting it strictly according to the directions, just to have a live specimen for comparison (I've been depending on photos posted on Ravelry), but I definitely don't need anymore projects on my needles.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spring Mystery Shawl 2010 - Clue 1

I finished clue 1 of the Spring Mystery Shawl by Goddess Knits, aka Renee Leverington.  The clue came a week ago, but I only started it last night.  The yarn is Zephyr Lace in Hawthorn Rose by The Painted Tiger.  The beads are size 8, lavender transparent matte silver-lined (2-08-724-73 from Beadcats).  The silver lining combines with lavender in a way that almost makes them glow.  The yarn has been really wonderful to work with, and the color of the beads compliments the yarn, which is purple with a slight silvery hue.  The knitting has been pretty easy so far, but this is the first time that I've done nupps.  You can't really see the nupps very well at this point, but they are the areas of greater density at the base of the diamonds.  They look like little flower buds, and remind me of the French knots that I used to do back in my embroidery days.  I never thought that I would do nupps, but I trust Renee and if she puts nupps in her pattern, I figure there must be a reason.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Phoenix Rising Shawl - Body Chart Started

I finished the first repeat of the Body Chart.  I charted the left side to make it mirror the right.  The yarn is a real dream to work with and I love the colors. 

Monday, March 8, 2010

Jade Pullover

I finished the front of the jade pullover.  I'm home sick from work today and my head being fuzzy I can't knit any lace, so back to the simple stuff.  Fortunately Turner Classic Movies is running Cyd Charisse movies all day, so I'm all set.

I love working with the silk.  The color is so rich and it feels so wonderful and it is going to be soft and drapey when it is done.  I'm not so crazy about the beaded yarn, however.  They string the beads on a separate thread and then spin it with the main yarn.  It is a relatively easy way to get beads on your yarn, but you don't have much control on where they end up.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Phoenix Rising Shawl

As if I need another project on the needles, let alone another lace shawl, but I am really excited about this one.  It may partly be the title, Phoenix Rising.  The Phoenix is such a powerful myth, and one that I can relate to.  This pattern was originally part of the 2008 Year of Lace, but I didn't join YOL until 2009, so I picked up the pattern when it became available to the general public.  Then I had to find the perfect yarn.  Fortunately I discovered Zen Yarn Garden's Serenity Lace, and in the absolute perfect colorway - "Into the Fire."  The last task was finding the perfect beads - they are red transparent with a gold luster.

One mod to the pattern (do I ever not mod the pattern?) - I charted the left side to make it symmetric with the right - there's that symmetry thing again.  The design is by Sivia Harding.

Evenstar Myster Shawl - Clue 2...well, sort of...

The second clue came a week ago this past Friday, but I didn't get started on it until yesterday.  Everything was going okay, except that the new chart design was not symmetric with the first chart and that was bugging me.  I can't help it, I like symmetry.  Maybe it is the physicist and engineer in me, but the more I worked that chart, the more it bothered me.  So, I did a little redesign.  I kept the basic motif, but modified it to line up better with the previous chart.  Of course, first, I had to rip out what I had knitted.  To do that, I inserted another circular needle (a size 2) into the last row of chart 1, and then I pulled out the other needle, and ripped away.  It was strangely liberating.
In doing the redesign I kept the same number of rows but I didn't do the decrease row that chart 2 called for, so my chart 2 section has 288 stitches, not 280.  Right now, my chart has 39 pattern rows, but I stopped after knitting row 34 in case I have to modify the chart to fit with chart 3, which will come out next Friday.

It feels a little strange doing this redesign, but I'm liking the results, as well as the process.  Bruce keeps asking me when I'm going to start creating my own lace designs, but there are so many beautiful designs already out there that I want to knit.

A word about the yarn.  The Unique Sheep Eos, 50/50 Tussah Silk/Wool.  It is a dream to work with, buttery soft, and the color is amazing.  A soft lilac, with some blue and pink and slightly darker purple.  The silk gives it a wonderful sheen.

Fuchsia - left sleeve started

I set aside my lace knitting this morning to work on Fuchsia, my top-down raglan.  I had been getting close to the point of joining and starting the sleeves and I wanted to get past that point before the work week started up again, as this is the project I am currently carrying with me in my everyday bag.  So this morning I curled up with my Kindle (I'm re-reading "The Lord of the Rings" as part of my prep for Susan's knitting journey) and finished up the neck shaping and started the first sleeve.  I did a figure 8 cast on for the stitches under the arm.  I've never done this before but like the look of the results.  It is a common technique for starting toe-up socks and also for mittens.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Belle Nuit - Finished!

I finally finished this shawl this morning (the picot cast off was all I had left) on the way up to Fort Belvoir for a meeting (no, I was not driving).  The beads really slowed things down, but they do look beautiful.  I know that I sang the virtues of using a needle and thread for placing the beads, but I switched back to the crochet hook method because it was considerably faster.