Saturday, September 29, 2007

Chart 1 is done

It only took me what, 16 days of knitting to finally finish all the repeats of Chart 1 of my Icarus shawl. I still had almost half of my yarn left, most likely enough to add a second repeat to the extra one I've already knit, but the mere thought of doing another repeat was more than I could stand last night. I am moving on! After counting to 7 ad nauseum, now the mantra is only 3. Nevertheless, I still catch myself counting to 7 on occasion and I have to stop and tink a couple of stitches before proceeding. Even still, I feel like the end is in sight and what's left is all the fun stuff--the lace!

Maybe, if all goes well, I will be finished knitting Icarus by next weekend. Surely that will be enough notice for Regenia to knit the last few rows of her shawl so she can beat me to the "finish first" prize. Well, not exactly a prize really, but more like bragging rights :-) I think Regenia already has her prize (wink, wink, smile).

The first clue for the Secret of Chrysopolis KAL is out and I must admit I really like what I see. Even though I hadn't anticipated knitting this project anytime soon, I may just change my mind and cast-on after Icarus is done. If you are interested in joining the KAL, sign-ups remain open through this week and the link is in the sidebar. While the group is a German language group, the clues are given in both German and English, in chart and text form, and the leader, Moni, is fluent in both languages. In short, don't let language stop you! There are plenty of English speaking knitters participating to help you as needed.

I added to the yarn stash this past week with another package from Richard at ColourMart. This time it was a cone of 65%/35% cash/silk in my favorite BonBon pink. Oh this is yummy stuff! It has the lovely sheen of silk with all the fluffy softness of cashmere. All this and the yarn is still on the cone and hasn't been washed yet. I've petted this cone everyday, but I have yet to decide what project to knit with this yummy yarn.

My other yarn acquisition was a couple of balls of Panda Wool in shades of teal and blue called Ultramarine. Sandy at the Yarn Haven just received a new shipment from Crystal Palace restocking the Panda Cotton and adding Panda Wool to the mix. I've already cast-on a pair of socks, but I'm not sure my gauge is right. I'll let you know more once I make sure I can get the cuff over my foot! Until then, Knit on!

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Way Knitters Write...

or What is a Repeat. I'm knitting away on my Icarus Shawl and looking forward to getting beyond the boring plain section and moving on to the interesting lacy section at the bottom of the shawl. I want this shawl to be big enough to really wrap up in when I'm freezing to death in church on Sundays. It's surprising how such a fine shawl can provide so much coziness and warmth while weighing practically nothing.

I have 112g of a slightly finer lace yarn than the designer used. She used 90g for her shawl, so I have at least a 20g "fudge factor" which is a good thing if you are considering increasing the size of your shawl. I'm thinking I may need to work more repeats because my fine yarn will most likely block out a little smaller than the original. This led to an interesting discussion, mostly with myself of course, of what is a repeat? I came to the conclusion that the way knitters write patterns and the way we really think about what we're knitting are two very different things. Icarus is an excellent example. This is what the pattern tells you to do:
Work R1-42 of chart 1;
Rep R19-42 five more times (aka 5 repeats)
Work rows 19-34 one time.

My logical math brain adds up the number of times I have to knit the same series of rows and says 7 repeats, but my pattern reading brain says there are 5 repeats. No wonder so many knitters get confused! It's a brain teaser game... Q: When is a repeat not a repeat? A: When it's the first or last time you knit a pattern sequence, or not!

Regenia says she knit 7 repeats on her Icarus and she ran out of yarn. Did she knit 2 repeats too many...or not? Who knows, but one thing I know for sure and that is I have knit the rep R19-42 5 more times and I'm on R25 of the next repeat. I have more than half of my yarn left-- which is more than enough to knit an extra repeat, which will result in a bigger shawl, which will make my already crowded needle even more crowded, and will take even longer to knit, which will almost guarantee that Regenia will finish her Icarus before I finish mine. I wonder where Diana is on her Icarus?

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Equinox: 1) Either of two points on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator intersects the ecliptic; 2) either of the two times each years when the sun crosses the equator and day and night are everywhere of equal length.

Think about it... for one brief moment, twice each year, there is perfect equality of light and dark on our planet. A perfect moment of balance that has existed from the first day of Creation. And God pronounced that it was good. I find I have to remind myself that the change in the balance of daylight and darkness, the changing of the seasons is a good thing. Don't get me wrong, I love autumn with its brightly colored leaves, crystal clear blue skies, and crisp cool mornings. I love pumpkins and squash and juicy apples and the smell of cinnamon and big, bushy pots of chrysanthemums. All the traditional symbols of autumn are beautiful it's that change in the balance of light and dark that I have trouble with.

I need light. I crave daylight the way some people crave chocolate or pregnant women crave strange things like pickles and ice cream (or so they say...I have no experience in these matters so what do I know?). So despite the fact that it was just another 90+ degree hot and dry day like most of the days that have preceeded this day, it was *not* just another day. So to counteract the dread of darkness that grabs me on this day each year I went out into my garden to commune with the flowers that have lingered despite the drought. The roses are beautiful. They are blooming with gusto, seemingly oblivious to the dark and cold that lie ahead. That's the beauty of roses-- they burst out early in May and keep on going until a hard freeze tells them to stop for awhile. And so, given adequate water and a bit of pruning and fertilizer and they are content.

Roses stick around for months, from mid-spring late into the fall, but not all flowering plants are like that. Some wait until summer is almost over before showing their true colors. The flowers in this picture are like that. These sedum grow into huge mounds of chubby green "leaves" over the course of the summer, but they are just now coming into full bloom. I love their lacy lavender heads filled with hundreds of tiny blooms. In a few weeks, the flowers will shrivel and transform into dark burgandy stems that will provide interest in the winter. Others of my flowers develop purple berries that are a feast for the birds. Neither of these things would transpire if a change in the balance between light and dark didn't occur twice each year. So long summer... it's been good sharing the light with you.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Saturday Update

Another week has rolled past. The Vols are playing Arkansas State at Neyland Stadium tonight--not a big enough game to be on the usual TV stations so I'm listening to the game on the radio. It's a trade off not being able to watch the's much more fun to be able to see what's happening but I get more knitting done tuning in to the radio broadcast. I much prefer our UT announcers over anyone else, so that's a big advantage to following the game on the radio. No matter, the bottom line is the Big Orange desperately need a seriously good win after the shellacking we suffered at the hand of Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators last week. No defense! Things are looking good as they just scored another TD with 1 min. LTG before halftime. Leading 31-14 at the half sounds a lot better to me!

I took a few more pictures of my garden this week. It's still terribly hot and dry, so the garden looks kind of ragged. My roses are filled with blossoms and I've never had such an abundance of lantana before either. They look more like shrubs than flowers and they are covered with big fat fuzzy bees and a multiplicity of butterflies. Miss Emme, the wonder mini-wiener dog, is fascinated by those bees and she gets irritated with me for not letting her go after them. Children!!! I planted some bronze tipped golden mums out by the lamppost and in a few flowerpots this morning. It's still kind of hot for mums, but as long they get plenty of water they'll be OK. I was pleased that several of the little lavender mums I planted last year came back and are blooming quite nicely too. Gotta love those perennials :-)

I chose to share photos of 2 of my favorite plants today. The first is a blue hybrid passionflower. This flowering vine really takes off and starts to spread and bloom in August. Mine is a little late this year because I moved it to the back of the backyard where there would be more room for the vine to spread. I love the complexity of the flower and it's delicate features. It's amazing that a wild vine can produce such spectacular blooms! The other picture is native wildflower here in the Smokies that blooms in the late spring, fades in the summer, but returns with new foliage and flowers again in the fall. The native pink bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia) loves a moist shady location which makes it a bright spot under the trees.

Moving on to the knitting front, I've been focusing all my attention on the Icarus Lace Shawl. Regenia has taken me up on my throwdown so now I really want to finish fast! The pattern calls for 5 repeats of a 24 row section of chart 1 before moving on to the more interesting lacy stuff. I'm working on that 5th repeat but I'm concerned about the size of my shawl and how much yarn I still have left over. The original used 90g of Fino, which is a little bit fatter than the Lace-a-licious I'm using. They are both baby alpaca and I'm using the same size needles, but I'm at about the half-way point and I've only used 20g of yarn. That ain't very much folks. I've pretty much decided to add an extra repeat and I might even add a 2nd one depending on how things look after 6 repeats. A bigger shawl is good, a smaller shawl would be disappointing, and since I have plenty of yarn I'll just knit on!

I love the way the colors of this yarn are working out in this design. Icarus is well-suited to a subtly hand-painted fiber--something you can't say about most fine lace shawl patterns. I just received another cone of new lace yarn from Richard at ColourMart. This time I purchased a blend of 65% cashmere/35% silk in my favorite "BonBon" blush pink. I already have some pure silk yarn in this colorway in my stash, but I was unprepared for how stunning this cashsilk would be--all the softness and halo of cashmere with the strength and sheen of silk. Wow! I think I might like this blend even more than I love pure cashmere. I'm considering patterns for this yarn, but am leaning towards knitting one of the Shetland Sampler Stoles from either A Gathering of Lace or Victorian Lace Today. Of course I have lots of time to change my mind while I finish Icarus, but right now Hazel Carter's Stole in AGOL is in the lead. Oh yummy!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Arrrgh! That's the word today. I got it from a reliable news source (Al Roker on the Today show) that's it's International Speak Like a Pirate Day. And you thought I was about to tell you about some huge knitting mistake didn't you? HaHaHa...... Actually things are pretty quiet around here. It's been almost a week since I cast on for the Icarus Shawl and I've made steady progress each day. Today is officially Day 7 of knitting and I'm starting the 5th repeat of Chart 1. I'm up to 250+ sts. OTN and the knitting, while certainly not challenging, hasn't been nearly as tedious as I had anticipated. Pretty much this section is about not goofing up the yo, k1, yo increases that start anew with each pattern repeat. The rest is just count to seven, knit, knit, knit.

But with simplicity comes relatively rapid progress. It would be really cool if I could be finished with the knitting by this time next week. I might even finish my Icarus *before* Regenia finishes hers (gasp!) So how's it coming along Reg???? At least Regenia has a special occasion to wear her Icarus while I'm just knitting it to knitting another shaw out of great yarn. The Lace-a-licious has been a delight to knit with even though it is super skinny stuff. The size 3 needle I'm using is just about right--a 4 would be too big for sure.

I've got several KALs casting-on next week and I've added a few lace yarns to the stash in anticipation of my next projects, whatever they may be. Richard at ColourMart has been posting new yarns lately and I've succumbed to a couple of temptations. I received my 1st order on Tuesday, an Italian cashmere/cotton blend in a yummy deep amethyst purple. Even right of the cone this stuff is wonderfully soft. I'm knitting a bookmark swatch right now to see how is washes and blocks before committing the yarn to a shawl project. A few days ago Richard posted some more cashmere/silk blends in lots of colors. I opted for a cone of a soft pink that should match some 100% silk yarn I already have. I feel totally spoiled to be able to have such beautiful fibers at a price even I can afford...on occasion :-)

Knitting on!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Somebody Loves my Socks!

When I first started blogging, I had my doubts that anyone would have much interest in what I had to share. Well, I knew that my close knitty friends on EZasPi and a few others would come visit, but beyond that I had few expectations. Last winter when I was convinced my blog was very lonely I added a visit counter which helped a lot. At least someone--besides Kat, Diana, and Regenia, that is-- was looking at my socks and lace and flowers. Cool! I was happy.

Things started to change this summer when I joined the Summer of Socks KAL. Suddenly my circle of reach expanded beyond mostly lace knitters to folks who are mega passionate about knitting socks. One day I got this email from Dr. Laura of Sirius Knitting. She is perhaps best known in the knitting community for her Friendly Socks pattern books, but she also keeps a blog called Socks and More which highlights socks knit with yarns from Crystal Palace. Most of my summer sock knitting involved an awesome CP yarn called Panda Cotton--a fact not missed by Laura. She asked if she could post some of my sock pictures on the Socks and More website. How could I say no??? She posted a piece on my traveling Meida's Socks several weeks ago. Cool!

Today Laura emailed me to announce that I was "Star Search Sunday" on Socks and More. It turns out she did a collage of all my Panda Cotton Socks and wrote a few nice things about my blog in her weekly feature of other knitters. To say I'm flattered would be an understatement! Of course the best part is I have all these great socks ready to wear with my favorite clogs this fall, but a little acknowledgment from the knitting community and the folks at Crystal Palace doesn't hurt. If you have the chance, hop on over to Socks n More and see all the great socks featured there. Thanks Laura!

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Every Southern Lady knows the value of being fashionably late to parties and similar social events. Not terribly late, just a few minutes...say maybe 10 or 15 minutes after the stated time on the invitation. It allows you to make your grand entrance, to stand out from the crowd, or at the extreme, to blatantly draw attention to yourself. I'm certainly not trying to blatantly draw attention to myself, but I am a bit of a latecomer to this party. "What party?" you ask. Why, the Let's Knit the Icarus Shawl Party!

Yes, I have succumbed to what became an online knitting phenom. When Miriam Felton's Icarus Shawl was published in the Summer 2006 issue of Interweave Knits knitters everywhere went Icarus-crazy. Many lace knitters rushed to knit this design and folks who have never even thought about knitting lace suddenly decided to take the plunge. Soon a blog-based KAL was formed and the craze was on. Last summer knitting Icarus was the hip thing to do. I dunno, maybe that's why I didn't knit it? Or maybe it was because most of the design was rather plain, with the interesting stuff coming in only at the end of the shawl. My brain said boring. So I let everyone else Icarus-along and I knit other lacy stuff--like the MS2, which was spectacular. (Funny thing, this year the KAL phenom was MS3, which wasn't even remotely as awesome a design IMHO).

OK, so why knit Icarus now? This lowly shawl that has now risen to grace the cover on Interweave's new anniversary book and spawned them to form blog-based KALs for all their knitting books released this year. Why now, Kristina? Well, it was the yarn. I made an impulse purchase of some hand-dyed alpaca lace yarn from Sheri at the Loopy Ewe (an awesome place to buy skinny yarn). The yarn is the new Lace-a-licious from JKnits in a colorway called Wyoming. Basically, the yarn is shades of putty, terracotta and rose--all muted and very soft. The colorway reminded me of the rock cliffs in southern Utah at sunrise and brought back fond memories of my time living out west. The yarn is an extrafine baby alpaca and it's on the skinny side of laceweight--almost cobweb if you ask me. I cast-on and started knitting a rectangular shawl but the lace pattern didn't show off the beauty of the yarn and the rectangular shape result in zebra-like striped pooling. So I needed a triangle shawl that would do well with the handpainted yarn, something rather plain. That's when the lightbulb moment happened...Icarus!

I still had my doubts about the boring factor, but then I reminded myself that simple could mean "fast-knit" rather than "boring." When I pulled the pattern off the bookshelf and checked out the yarn specs, I knew it was meant to be--alpaca yarn on size 3 needles. Yup, perfect. So I cast-on late Friday night and knit a few rows. I'm almost through with the 2nd repeat of Chart 1 and I'm liking what I see. The design does require a bit more attention than I expected, and I did have one ugly tinking session of a couple of rows when I missed a decrease and everything got shifted and off-count. But, now that Icarus had my attention and my respect I expect things should go well. I have a couple of other shawls I'm working on so I can switch off when if I get too bored.

I know my friends Diana and Regenia are knitting away on Icarus, so I'm not alone at the party. Please pass the chocolate and let the music play on (I'm thinking American Classic stuff like Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett maybe...good party music). A toast to Icarus! Knit on!!!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Simple Pleasures

You know, it doesn't really take very much to make me happy these days. I think I demanded much more of my self (and others) when I was younger. Perhaps that's just the way it is as one gets older. Maybe not. Either way, I'll take my joy wherever and whenever I can find it. More often than not, I only have to look in my own yard to find joyful things. Sometimes, if I'm lucky, I capture those images with my camera. Today was one of those days. The first photo shows a Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly nectaring on one of my most loved wildflowers, the Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis). The spicebush swallowtail is a large butterfly (~4") and the iridescent blue hindwings glow in sharp contrast to the vivid crimson red of the cardinal flowers. (Can you believe I took that picture! Yowser!!!)

I fell in love with Cardinal flowers the first time I saw them in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park maybe a dozen or so years ago. I attended a plant sale my 1st fall (9 yrs. ago) back in Tennessee to complete a graduate school assignment. The gardenistas (is that a word???) were hauling 1 gal potted cardinal flowers out by the little red wagonload. I just had to have one so I carefully chose the perfect plant, a splurge at the time, and took it home. Given a nice shady or semi shady spot, a little compost, and plenty of water and in a few years you too can have dozens of cardinal flowers to brighten your yard in August and September when everything else is withered. You'll have enough to transplant to every shady spot you have and more to share with friends and family. Add a few Lantana to the mix and the butterflies and hummingbirds become your daily companions (esp. if those butterflies cocoon in the trees and bushes around the house). I never said joy didn't require a little work!

I'm delighted beyond words that this photograph turned out. Let's just say I tested the limits of my camera's ability to focus at maximum zoom. This is a juvenile Cooper's Hawk perched in a very large tree in my neighbor's yard. The tree may be in his yard, but from our deck & patio we get maximum enjoyment from it. This summer we've had an unusually high number of visits from a pair of Cooper's Hawks. This tree is a perfect place to scan the underbrush for prey like chipmunks, rabbits, field mice (eek!), snakes (yikes!!!), and even squirrels and groundhogs. And to think I live in a subdivision in a very populated area of town! These large raptors look quite massive when they decide to drop by my birdbath. Needless to say every one else vacates the premises in a hurry. I'm grateful to have such a natural form of rodent control nearby :-)

So, that's what's happening in my garden, now for the knitting content (this is a knitting blog, right?). I dropped in at Loopville yesterday to chat with Jinka, the owner, and see if I could exchange the 2 balls of Kidsilk Haze I bought 2 weeks ago. Long story short--do not expect KSH purchased now to match in color/dyelot the KSH purchased last winter. I tried and it didn't so rather than keep the mismatched balls I figured I trade them in for another color and maybe add a ball or two to knit another project. Jinka was a sport and I left with 4 balls in a yummy deep burgundy color called liqueur. So now I have 3 balls of Trance and 4 balls of Liqueur and decisions to make on which 2 shawl patterns I want to knit. Maybe I will finally knit something out of VLT

I ran into Judy Sumner, our local famous designer and the woman behind Knoxsocks Designs, while at Loopville. She does walk-in tutoring 3 afternoons a week but no one showed up yesterday. That was great for me because Judy had just received one of the new Japanese Stitch Dictionaries she had ordered and she was anxious to share this newfound treasure. I was practically speechless this book was so good. These stitch designs, which included cables, lace, edgings, and the like, were so far superior and creative way beyond anything I have seen coming out of the United States or Europe. I left the shop drooling and chanting "I want, I want, I want!!!" Better yet, the price point was no worse the buying the Barbara Walker Treasuries according to Judy. That means I can afford it if I plan well. I have the ISBN# and where she ordered them so maybe next month. Judy was busy designing a sock pattern for a popular handpainted yarn company, so keep your eyes open! While I'm at it, you should check out her website. There are some very nice sock patterns there and you would be supporting one of the most kind and generous ladies I've ever had the pleasure to meet.

Whew! I'm getting long-winded here, but I just have to share my used bookstore find before I shut up and call it a night. As a part of my dejunking endeavors I gathered up a bunch of gardening and flower arranging books to trade in at McKay's, my favorite used book store. I knew I get pretty good credit for these books and I was right. It was a good thing cuz' I scored a copy of EZ's Knitting Without Tears in superb condition! I've been trying to slowly acquire all the Elizabeth Zimmerman books for my knitting library as I consider them to be among the bones of a good knitting library. You know, right up there with the stitch dictionaries and lace books like AGOL and VLT. So while I'm standing there in the craft section I meet a couple of ladies from a neighboring town and one lady points to a book on the shelf and tells me it's on her must own list, especially if you ever want to design your own sweaters and such. She said the magic words, design your own, so I grab the book and start thumbing through. I can tell right away that she is correct and I decide to splurge even though the price point ($8) was a bit much, I thought, for an old book. Later i decided I had made out like a bandit with this book: The Complete Book of Progressive Knitting by Ida Riley Duncan (c)1940. This little green book has it all, from how to knit to how to design a skirt or sweater with the proper proportions to a small stitch dictionary at the back. I just love vintage books--another simple pleasure in life.

Knit on!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Froggy Paddle

Over the summer I became well acquainted with the frog pond. Getting to know the frog pond is inevitable for any knitter who spends much time engaging in the clickety-clack. It happens. You find a mistake way back in the project or you end up not liking the yarn you chose to go with a pattern or, or, or... I could go on forever but I won't. When I sentence a project to the frog pond, I usually toss it in a basket or a bag on in the enormous trunk at the end of my bed where the best of my stash resides. Once tossed, the guilty party languishes until such a time when I decide I want the yarn for something else or I'm just tired of looking at the pathetic mess and in a moment of mercy I release the trapped yarn back into balls ready to be knit into something wonderful (I hope). I then meantime, the unwanted project is left to froggy paddle on its own.

I've never had a doomed project survive the froggy paddle before--that is until this weekend. That's when I decided I needed to clean a little and empty some of the many baskets of yarn that were sitting around gathering dust. Some of this yarn is new and waiting for projects while the rest are UFOs. All needed to be stored in the stash trunk or somewhere where there would be less dust to impair my ability to breathe and knit at the same time. So I'm sorting and filling big Zip-lock bags and making a really big mess when I come across a fuzzy mass of tomato red with a circular needle dangling off the end. "Um, dust bunnies," I say to myself, "mega dust bunnies." This project had been sitting a beautiful artisan-made white oak basket on a shelf behind my recliner for what, maybe 6 months? I remember tossing the project to the frog pond, but it had more to do with the "boring, I'll never finish, and besides it's not my color" factor than anything wrong with the project. I also recall there being something about "this yarn is too nice and too expensive to be wasted on an ordinary Old Shale scarf" going through my mind.

What ever was I thinking??? The yarn IS beautiful and it was on the pricey side (isn't everything labeled Colinette?), but it's also the perfect yarn for a simple lace pattern like Old Shale. I plucked that fuzzy red mass up out of the basket, shook it out, sneezed and admired it! Come to Momma little froggy, you have been saved! I started knitting on the "Little Scarf that Could" using the size 6 Addi-Turbos that had been left in the project. The space-dyed colors of Colinette Parisienne are a treat to the eyes, but the stuff is murder to knit using a blunt needle-tip. Of course, the KnitPicks Options and Addi-Lace needles didn't exist back when I cast-on for this scarf. My LYS is closed on Sundays and Mondays so I would just have to wait and suffer through.

I woke up with a wicked migraine this morning and I've felt like #&@! all day. Despite the fact that I hadn't showered and i looked like He!!, I crawled in my car and drove across the street to see Sandy at the Yarn Haven. I picked up a US6/32" Addi-Lace needle and came home. Now I can knit on without losing my mind! Yeah, right... I jumped right in and knit a 4-row repeat, timing myself to see if I could knit faster with the improved needles. I probably was knitting faster, but that was before I realized that my stitch count was off on row 3. Upon further inspection, I was horrified to realize I had knit what was supposed to have been a purl row about 5 rows back. The lace needles help out with tinking too >:(

I have returned the Old Shale Scarf to it's former location on my WIP list. And I have decided that sometimes it good to let the froggy swim in the pond for awhile. You never know, you might just change your mind *again* and fish that froggy right back out again. Knit On!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The List is Shrinking...

The list of unfinished knitting projects that is. I can't believe I'm getting such a rush out of finishing things, especially since I'm such a "process" person who loves to start stuff but doesn't always feel compelled to finish everything I start.

Today's finished project is a pair of socks I'm calling the Little River Socks (LRS). I saw this lace pattern in a scarf design and I really liked it. I took a brief gander around the net looking to see if I could find a sock pattern that incorporated this lace, but I didn't see one. I had a nagging suspicion that a pattern existed somewhere, but I decided to unvent a pattern for myself using Crystal Palace Panda Cotton, one of my favorite sock yarns. I started my 1st pair of LRS using a variegated yarn and a cast-on of 64 sts. I finished the 1st sock and found the variegation obliterated the lace pattern and 64 sts was too many for a nice fit with this chubby sock yarn.

Rather than knit the 2nd sock, I decided to use a solid color Panda Cotton in blue and try again, this time knitting over 56 sts. The 56 sts proved to be just right and the 1st sock fit perfectly, so I went ahead to finish the pair. I cast-off this morning and in a few minutes I had the ends tucked away. You gotta love that star toe--no grafting! My LRS were ready for their photo shoot.

I headed out to the garden to shoot some pictures. The pictures I took of Meida's socks in the garden were such a hit I thought I'd try and replicate the experience. My garden looks quite pathetic after a summer of record heat and record drought. I find myself envying the folks who are getting all the rain, even if it's flooding. It's been so dry here in East Tennessee it feels more like the summers I spent in the Utah desert. Fortunately the lantana I planted is drought resistant and I have several "hedges" of it in my front yard. Besides being a nice backdrop for photographing knitted socks, lantana is a magnet for butterflies and bees. Just by coincidence a big, beautiful black Eastern Tiger Swallowtail happened to be dancing from blossom to blossom right where I was photographing socks. I snapped several shots of the butterfly and was delighted to find they turned out. You can't see the iridescent shimmer of the blue on the hindwings in the picture, but I think the butterfly surpassed the socks for a great garden picture.

I took more pictures of the socks which will be posted on my Flickr page here along with all the details of the project. You might want to buzz on over and feed on the eye candy there :-)

PS. After going through all the working of writing out my own pattern, I did find a published free pattern using the same lace on the SockBug's site. I don't know how I missed it! I guess that means I won't need to post my pattern after all. Cool, I prefer creating to pattern-writing any day!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Finished another one

I tell you, I'm really on a roll here. It feels *good* to finally complete all these shawls I've had laying around in their partially-knit state. The latest one to come off the needles and onto the blocking bed was the Fir Cone Triangular Shawl. I cast on for this shawl a year ago, but hit the skids when it got to the sideways knit-on edging--something I had never done before. I quickly learned that edgings of this sort are a PITA to knit and they seem to go on forever. I remember setting a daily minimum of edging repeats I had to knit each day as a way to keep myself going. It did help there for awhile, but obviously not long enough. And once it got to be spring and mohair shawls were no longer needed, this one hit the UFO basket in a big hurry.

I learned several lessons from knitting this shawl. First of all, I discovered that knitting lace with fine, fuzzy mohair yarns is a lot more challenging than knitting with smooth lace yarns. I started out knitting with mohairs so I really didn't fully appreciate this aspect until later when I'd used Zephyr and merino and cashmere yarns. I also learned about the edging challenge (as mentioned above). Another lesson learned: when you get too bored with the lace you're knitting, go find another lace pattern that is compatible that you can insert so as to not go cuckoo crazy. Then call it your own adaptation and think cool thoughts about your designing abilities. Well, not too cool ;o) And I guess last, but not least, if you are going to abandon a fuzzy lace shawl into a basket for many months--put it into a sealed plastic storage bag first. The dust bunnies liked to have killed me finishing that edging and you should have seen the bath water---yikes! Pass the Allegra &/or Benedryl...quick!

So here's the scoop:
Pattern: Fir Cone Triangular Shawl
Designer: My adaptation of an original design by Fruitcake Knits
Yarn: Madil Kid Seta (70% Super Kid Mohair/30% Silk, 25g=210m/230 yds.) color 631 - 3 balls
Needles: Addi-Turbo US5 (3.75mm)
Finished Size: 66" x 33" after blocking
Details: I inserted a diamond motif border before the knit-on edging in my adaptation of the original pattern (sorry, the border pattern is not available)
There are more pictures of this and my other recent shawl completions on my Flickr page

Monday, September 03, 2007

MS3: Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary Mom

I finished the splish splash party Saturday night by blocking a 3rd shawl--the MS3 or Swan Lake Stole. Melanie really threw a curve ball to this summer's mystery knitalong group by designing the 2nd half of the stole in a distinctly different manner from the 1st half. Known affectionately (or not!) as the "wing", this surprise ending was the hot topic on the knitting boards for weeks. Some loved it, many hated it, most were somewhere in between. To my surprise (and perhaps Melanie's too) many couldn't stand the idea of a stole that didn't look the same on both ends. Yes, we MUST have SYMMETRY! In this era where there is so much asymmetry in contemporary fashion and in the knitting magazines, the strong objection of many KAL members was a bit fascinating. The debate was heated (not flaming, though) although I confess I skipped most of it by subscribing only to the "special notices" mail from Melanie. This year's group was just too big and the inexperienced knitter chat too overwhelming for me to enjoy reading the digests this time. Heck, the volume of mail was so much I wouldn't have had any time to knit if I read it all!

I started 2 stoles since I couldn't decide between 2 yarns/colors. Once the mystery clue with the wing was revealed, though, I focused solely on knitting the natural colored one. I plan to resume knitting the blue version (without the wing) now that the natural one is finished.

I opted to go ahead and knit the natural-colored stole as written, wing and all, but I had misgivings about how it looked. The first picture above shows the completed stole before blocking. Looking at the 2 ends side by side I just wasn't thrilled with it. I know what Melanie's intention was, but I just couldn't convince my gut to like it. Nevertheless, I reserved final judgment until after blocking. After all, blocking can do magical things for a shawl. While I didn't like the finished stole at this point, my mother thought it was wonderful. OK Mom, I know what to do with it once I finish blocking. Aren't Moms just the best thing ever? Even now, she still loves everything I make :-) BTW, Mom is modeling the stole. You wouldn't believe how old she really is...she sure doesn't look it! She didn't acquire her 1st wrinkles until after she turned 70...I'm sure glad for that gene pool!

Enough about Mom... back to the story of the stole. I soaked the shawl in my usual warm soapy water (it was filthy--as bad as ColourMart cones--go figure?), rinsed it well, and headed to the bed. My pre-bath calculations said the stole would fit on the bed, but I was wrong and the wing took a strange curve down the side of the mattress--oh well (sigh). I was trying to hurry and get her stretched because my Father was having a little cardiac episode upstairs and mother was panicking (unnecessarily, but that another story). I had a sopping wet shawl that I really didn't want to abandon lest I run the risk of ruining it, so I moved quickly. Once I got the point of the 1st end perfectly even, stretching the rest wasn't all that bad. Since it was my 3rd shawl of the day, I was pretty quick threading the wires by now. My Swan Lake Stole turned out to be bigger than Melanie's version, but I used fatter lace yarn and bigger needles so I expected this. The wing really wanted to stretch out more than both my bed and the straight line across the top would allow, so there was a spot near the join at the bottom that wasn't stretched quite as much as the rest of the piece. But in the end, the interesting blocking of the wing didn't matter at all.

I unpinned the stole on Sunday morning, still not feeling the love for the thing, and took it upstairs to my mother. She carefully put the stole on, making sure the join between the wing and the rest of the shawl was positioned on her shoulder just right. Then something magical happened. She tossed the Wing over her shoulder, just as she would with any scarf. The feather points danced around her arm creating a perfect frame for the lace of the other end of the stole. At that moment I saw what Melanie had been trying to convey to thousands of doubting knitters for weeks. The beautiful white Swan had triumphed. The stole looked fabulous and my mother was completely smitten by it. Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary Mom, it's yours!

So, the final story is:
Pattern: Swan Lake Stole (MS3)
Designer: Melanie Gibbons
Source: Pink Lemon Twist
Yarn: KnitPicks Bare Laceweight (91g used)
Needles: Addi-Lace US 5 (3.75mm)
Dimensions: 81" x 21"
Details: Knit as written, with the "Wing", beads omitted;
Time: started July 8th, finished August 24th, 21 days of actual knitting

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Splish Splash

My lace shawls have been taking a nice warm sudsy water...before being stabbed with long skinny wires and stretched to the limit. And since it's been so hot and dry around here lately, the stoles were bone dry in record time. The end result: 2 shawls (Coral Lace, Hanami) are already finished and a third one is soaking even as I write (MS3-Natural). Oh boy! I had to block the shawls one at a time because I don't have enough blocking wires to do 2 at the same time. I probably would have done them individually anyway since these projects fit on my guest bed and it's so much easier on the creaky old body to use the bead instead of the floor in the family room.

First up is a Coral Lace Shawl that I started last year sometime and cast-off earlier this summer. For some reason I just didn't get around to blocking this shawl which is kind of sad because it turned out beautifully and is the perfect summer accessory. The pattern is the Lavender Linen Lace Shawl out of Nancie Wiseman's "Knitted Shawls, Stoles, & Scarves" book (pp.62-64). I used one 2 oz. ball of Jaggerspun Zephyr 2/18 laceweight yarn (50% wool/50% tussah silk) in the coral colorway and US 4 (3.5mm) Addi-turbo needles. My final dimensions after blocking were 64" x 30" (published dimensions were 61" x 28").

The finished Coral Lace Shawl is very light and airy. You would hardly know you had it on it's so light! I think if I were to knit this again I would go down a needle size as I think the YO holes are a bit too large. The simple leaf motif and bottom-up construction would make this a wonderful 1st shawl pattern for someone wanting to venture into lace knitting. It would be just as wonderful knit from a fingering or DK weight yarn too, for those not quite ready to try their hand with the skinny stuff.

The next shawl up for the swish and stretch treatment was the Hanami Stole. Knitting this stole was challenging because of the fine silk yarn I chose and blocking proved to be equally as challenging. Threading the blocking wires proved to be difficult as I had no eyelet row separating the body of the stole from the edging. Even though I picked up very small bites, the finished stole ended up having a lacy loopy look to the edges. The looseness of the edge was exacerbated by the fact that I did not employ a slip stitch on the 1st stitch of each row. I usually knit the 1st stitch on garter band so as to maximize the stretch of the final shawl and it works well with stretchy fibers. With silk...not so much. Ah, another lesson learned.

So here's the scoop on this shawl: The pattern is the Hanami Stole by Melanie Gibbons of Pink Lemon Twist. It was knit out of 2 strands of 2/28 smooth silk in the Melissa green colorway from using US 2 (3.0mm) KnitPicks Classic Circular needles. I knew this yarn was much finer than the Alpaca Cloud used by the designer and that I would need to add extra repeats to make sure my stole was long enough. Her final dimensions were 19" x 70". Mine turned out to be 19" x 58"-- a little short despite the extra repeats of the basketweave section plus a bunch of extra rows I added after the transition chart.

After blocking I could see that length wasn't the only "special feature" of my silk Hanami. The final ruffle never did ruffle with this fiber. The center portion of the stole, which is stockinette with very few eyelets, wants to curl at the edges already. Not that I'm surprised-- you should have seen the whole stole curled in from end to end before it's swish and stretch session. It looked more like a stalk of celery than a lace stole! The bottom line: A lovely lace stole pattern, not my favorite mind you, but still a good knit. One thing is for sure-- next time I'll stick to merino or baby alpaca when knitting this stole and save the silk for something else. Live and learn >:-(

P.S. I'll upload more photos to my Flickr site tomorrow