Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summertime Knitting

Since I haven't been exactly diligent in keeping my blog up to date I thought I'd start back with a progress report (or two) on what I've been doing the past 3 or so months. First I must tell you what I haven't been doing as much of....gardening. The workload is getting to be more than this old girl can handle. I did turn the big Five-0 in June you know and I guess my age is starting to show along with the limitations of fibromyalgia. I still adore flowers though so my answer is flowering trees, shrubs, bulbs, and perennials. I think this Forever Pink hydrangea is stunning, yet it requires very little care at all. That's a plant I can dig!

On the knitting front, it's been a super lacy summer. Things started out last spring when I started knitting this gorgeous shawl as a part of the Spring KAL for the Lace Knitters group that meets at my LYS, The Yarn Haven. Each person chose a project from the recently published Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush. KLE is an awesome book and this shawl, the Lilac Leaf Shawl, was perhaps my favorite design in the book. I love the leaf lace pattern and have knit it in a number of different projects, but when combined with the restrained addition of nupps (a type of cluster stitch that is characteristic of Estonian Lace) in a diamond border, it's a real winner. I knit my shawl using a luscious shade of a soft purpley pink alpaca & silk lace yarn (Classic Elite Silky Alpaca Lace) and US 5/3.75mm needles. I used a generous needle size for the yarn because this design was meant to be very open and airy. The finished shawl used ~1.5 balls of yarn and measured 20" x 66" which is just perfect. Everything about this shawl was a two thumbs up for me. WooHoo!

Braced by the positive experience of knitting the Lilac Leaf Shawl I next turned to a long-time WIP that had been hibernating in a basket for a seriously long time - Evelyn Clark's infamous Swallowtail Shawl. Zillions of knitters made this shawl, including many who had never knit lace before...or since for that matter. The original pattern was little more than a generous scarf with a pretty edging, but I wanted more. I wanted a big shawl...a BIG shawl. Why? Because I had discovered that the few little shawls sat in my closet and never got worn. Oh, OK. So I added many extra repeats to the top portion of the shawl, like 10 extra to be exact. The pattern called for 14 reps. The design demanded extra reps be added in groups of 5, but one set (19 reps total) wasn't big enough so I stuck it out (BORING) until I had 24 reps total.

I was already weary by this time, but when I hit the Lily of the Valley edging I kinda lost my love for the project. Knitting nupps was a huge pain in the you-know-what. Ugh. And so the shawl sat for more than a year while I found it in my heart to forgive it for being a pain and finish. I found a few helpful tricks for knitting good nupps and pushed my way through. The completed shawl used only one 2oz. ball of white Jaggerspun Zephyr, was knit on US 2.5/3.0mm needles (tiny!), and measured 30" x 60". So, after all that the shawl is a nice size, but it still isn't big. It is pretty though and I'm glad I stuck it out.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Book review: Knits from the North Sea

I haven't done much blogging lately but I have been doing a ton of knitting. Lace knitting. I owe many explanations and photos and I promise I will post them, but I'm a bit distracted right now by a new lace knitting book that was just released, Knits from the North Sea: Lace in the Shetland Tradition by Carol Rasmussen Noble and Margaret Leask Peterson. Sandy, my LYSO showed us a flier from the publisher at our lace knitting group a couple of months ago. From the flier the projects looked wonderful and based on the success of our spring KAL using a book group members agreed that this new book would be wonderful as the source for projects for our fall KAL. We decided to go for it, sight unseen. Note to self: never ever commit to a book or pattern for a KAL sight unseen ever again. PS. Wait to see what the real contents a book are before blowing big bucks on a copy. PPS. Don't trust that a book labeled Shetland lace will indeed contain Shetland lace projects. PPPS. Never buy a lace book authored by Carol Rasmussen Noble ever again---it is bad for one's blood pressure and quality of sleep. That woman has some mighty crazy ideas about lace knitting.

I have spent a serious amount of time over the past week trying to decipher, decode, and or otherwise make sense out of the content of this supposed Shetland lace book. It hasn't been easy. I forgot to take note of the author when making the initial decision to use this book for the LK group Fall KAL. I was reminded very fast when I turned the introductory Tips and Techniques section and saw the recommendation to only use straight needles (not circular) when knitting lace. GROAN! Oh no, that crazy lady. I didn't purchase her previous lace book as a newbie lace knitter based on that blanket statement. The consensus of the online (international) lace knitting community is that using circular needles is not only perfectly fine, but frequently necessary to accommodate the large number of stitches in a project. My current shawl project, the Aeolian Lace Shawl has ~450 sts at present. That just ain't gonna ever fit on Ms. Noble's 10" straight needles. But I digress.

I knew right away I was in for trouble upon looking at the first project, Carol's Mountain Stream Scarf. The knitter is instructed to use US1/2.25mm needles to knit a popular kid mohair/silk lace yarn, Douceur et Soie. Huh??? I have always used either a size 5 or 6 needle with the yarn as it has such a lofty halo from the mohair content. Trying to knit this stuff on a sz 1 could make a sane lace knitter suicidal, really! The whole book was filled with cra* like this. To make matters worse, very few of the designs used distinctive Shetland motifs, most were either plain vanilla, simply nice, or worse, from the Orenburg Russia lace tradition. If you can explain how that fits in a Shetland lace book I'd love to hear it. Don't tell me it's because both countries touch the North Sea cuz Orenburg is a far cry from the North the whole of the Ural Mountains away. To make maters worse, all of CRN's designs are labelled and presented in such a way as to more closely reflect her Reno, NV home--not the Shetland Isles. Go figure?

My first reaction/recommendation is to save your money and don't waste it buying this book. Nothing in it is worth even the Amazon price of ~$17. But I have already committed to using this book for my KAL and the announcements are out so I have the unpleasant task of editing the errors and just plain nonsense and turning the projects into something my newbies can manage and my intermediate knitters will enjoy. Translation: much swatching and many long conversations with my LYSO on how to guide customers who plan to knit projects from the book. Martingale Press should pay me for all the work it has been fixing this mess. Never again I tell you.

I am knitting a couple of scarves from the book just so I can know how to guide the knitters in the group. The projects will be nice once I have finished editing the patterns so all is not lost. It's just a whole lot more work than I had planned on and the projects aren't what I had hoped for. Lesson learned. SIGH!