Thursday, December 4, 2008


This was originally supposed to be a doily blog! What is the deal with all this sock-knitting nonsense.

ericas doily

Here is a doily from an old Ericas Handarbeiten leaflet that I found. (Only a piece of it though, so alas, I don't know what leaflet exactly or when it was published.) It's Zephyr knitted up on 2.75mm needles, and it ended up being about nine inches across. (My blocking job is not as shoddy as it looks; it was a perfect octagon a few hours ago, really!) I started it with Rosemarie's circular cast-on (but with a lot less ado, I just knitted a scrap of i-cord with the same yarn in a different colour, then increased at the last to accomodate the number of stitches I wanted to begin the pattern with), and ended by crocheting off stitches in clusters of three.

I haven't decided how I feel about doilies made out of wool—I still feel a bit guilty about knitting them because of that little notice at the beginning of that Marianne Kinzel book where she says that non-cotton non-linen doilies are Just Not The Done Thing, So Don't Even. In favour of non-cotton doilies: oh man, the drape, when they stick off the edges of tables and things! The sheen, when there's silk in them! The stretchiness of wool, which takes care of a lot of binding problems in e.g. Niebling doilies without my even having to do anything! Where is the downside!

The real reason I picked this yarn is because I have almost an entire cone of it sitting around, and it is a good doily colour.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Secret knitting

Not really, although this is a gift. Another shawl:

red garter shawl

The pattern is MacGyvered from a border pattern in Heirloom Knitting (repeated forwards and backwards, from the beginning of the chart to the end back to the beginning, for end-to-end symmetry) plus a knitted-on edging invented on the fly—it's like the plainest edgings from Galina Khmeleva's shawls, but with six-hole teeth, so each repeat consumes 10 body stitches (handy, since I cast on 101). Every wrong-side row is knit plain, which means it went very fast and was also very boring. However, garter stitch has a really satisfying sponginess and solidity to it—

red garter shawl - 2

It's a very squishable shawl, even though it barely weighs anything. The yarn is Ornaghi Filati Merino Oro in a red I've used before! and I knitted it on 2.5mm needles. Its finished dimensions are about a foot and a half by five.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Everything in its place

First: Melly sent me this sweet thing:


Thank-you! :D Its rules stipulate that I should pass it on to four people whose blogs I love, but, um, I am about a month behind the curve and I cherish basically all the blogs I follow through Ravelry, so. Keep writing them, please!

Second: Look! I got a shelving unit:

everything in its place

And it's full of yarn! I'm actually pretty excited about the opportunity to organise everything: now laceweight, fingering weight, DK, and worsted-or-heavier have their own little boxes. There's also four (four!) sections of spinning stuff, organised roughly into "sheep-coloured" and "not", and a space for cones of silk and a space for knitting-in-progress and a space for odds and ends of leftovers and and and

look, books

a BOOKCASE. I can't tell you how excited I am about this; all of these books have been in teetering piles on the floor for months. I've been gleefully arranging and rearranging them all day. Alphabetically by author! No, by original language! No, by era! No, by subject! (This is a tiny Foucault joke that was hilarious in my head.) That's roughly where things have ended up so far, but it will probably change as I track down more books.

I've also been knitting! Just not talking about knitting, so I have a bit of a project backlog to work through. Here is part 1:

esther socks

Stephanie van der Linden's Esther socks, from the Socken Kreativ Liste yahoo group. I made the large size (over 70 sts) to fit over my monster heels, and worked cable crossings on the second sock in the opposite direction from the first, so that each is the mirror image of the other.

The yarn is Classic Elite Alpaca Sox, and it's so soft. I can hardly believe it, I keep putting the socks on my hands to feel them, I knitted and unknitted two halves of socks before I settled on a pattern that would do it justice. It would make the most fantastic sweater, I want to make a sweater out of it and I don't like to knit sweaters. That's about the highest praise I can come up with for a yarn.

The only (only!) thing I'm worried about is how it will wear—it's got some nylon in it, but it's still mostly alpaca, and maybe it will get felty and fuzzy faster than I'd like? I'll report back.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Warm and woolly

August suddenly turned rainy and cold, which kicked my sock-knitting instincts into high gear.

Here is a Susan Lawrence pattern from the Vogue sock book, knitted from Socks that Rock. This is my first time! with this yarn, and I'm torn about it! I was a Socks that Rock holdout for the longest time because I think the colours are garish and I can't stand pooling and flashing because I'm basically a Type A control freak and a conservative bore who only ever wants to wear black and grey. But then! They introduced some colourways that are downright subtle, for the most part, and it was right there in front of me at the store, neatly arranged in racks, and I couldn't resist.

leaf lace sock in progress

Points in its favour: this colourway ("Thraven") looks like an oil slick, which is rad. The skein weighed 10g more than it said on the label, so I have no fear of running short (and plenty of warm fuzzy thoughts toward Blue Moon). Points against: the colours are still a bit too contrasty for my taste. And it's awfully dense and it feels a bit like knitting with spaghetti, which makes my hands ache. This is also a point in its favour because I imagine the finished socks will last a lot longer than e.g. the socks I've made out of Louet Gems Fingering, which are getting pretty felty around the edges. We'll see!

There's spinning going on, too; it's just in the background.


spinning - gotland

This is a poplar and beech and elm spindle from Kevin Rhodes. My favourite things about it are that it has a finial like a grandfather clock and that the whorl is a bit translucent. It weighs 23g and spins for a long time with nary a wobble. The browny-grey stuff on it is Louet Gotland top, which is turning into yarn fit for a hair shirt or mittens that will stand up to some abrasion and won't felt right away. We'll see?


spinning - brown shetland

A Greensleeves Vixen in tulipwood, got from Spunky Eclectic a few months ago. I'm working on some Shetland top, Louet again, and it is coming out fine enough for 2-ply laceweight. This is my "commuting" spinning: it lives in my (giant) purse in a Ziploc bag and gets busted out whenever I'm feeling too stupid to knit, which is often.


spinning - southern seas tussah

A little Butterfly Girl Designs spindle that is so so so perfect for silk I can't even believe it. For 2-ply laceweight again, only way finer than the Shetland stuff; I plied a little sample bit and it is actually the sort of yarn I would seek out to knit with. The fibre is tussah silk top from Treenway, which had apparently been in a bin in a closet for quite a while? Anyway, it's unearthed now, and I'm pretty excited about spinning the rest (and finding more silk in more colours to play with).

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hold me accountable, please

I've been thinking about Hazel Carter's square Shetland shawl in A Gathering of Lace for, oh, five years now? But the part about seams has always turned me off, and then I get distracted by something else, and then and then and then.

This time, though, I've started it and am blogging about it so that the Internet will judge me and find me wanting if I don't finish. Also: I'm knitting the central square first, then picking up stitches around it and working the trapezoid borders upside-down, then knitting on the edging. I haven't decided whether I'll do all four borders at once and purl alternate rounds to keep things in garter stitch, or do them one at a time back and forth, joining each to the one previous as I go (like you'd knit on an edging). No seams at all for me, please, is what I'm saying.

Anyway, here's what I've got so far:

hazel carter shetland shawl

This is cashmere/cotton from Colourmart, the same as I used for Lyra and this poor sad Nieblingy doily. The same cone still! I have 105g left, out of 150g to begin with. The cone was $24, I think? Which makes all of these projects so inordinately cheap I can barely believe it. The needles are 2.25mm, which means the solid areas are relatively sturdy and untransparent, so it'll even be pretty warm in the end.

The only issue: it'll look like a tablecloth, on account of the whiteness. Maybe I'll dye it black once it's finished?

Friday, July 11, 2008

I only ever make scarves, you know

I haven't been neglecting lace, either! A couple of months ago when Knitpicks introduced Gloss Lace, we ordered one hank of each colour to play with. (And one ball of each colour of Palette. The box it all came in is enormous and satisfying in the way that a new box of 64 crayons is satisfying, but more, because it's yarn.) That makes eight: Natural, Cypress, Mermaid, Port, Raisin, Sterling, Aegean, Chipotle. Whew. (They've since added four more colours, but I kind of still like the first eight best.)

The hanks are 440 yards each, which is awesome yardage for the price but not that much for a project, and it's heftier laceweight than I usually choose, so I dithered about them for a long time. Then I looked at Victorian Lace Today again.

Scarves, you guys.

raisin scarf in progress

This is the Scarf with Unwieldy Name from p. 100. When I stretch it out a bit to simulate blocking, it's two feet long; I've got 31g of yarn still to knit, out of 50g total. This means that unless I screw something up, I will have five feet of scarf at the end.

And then seven more to make!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The need for tweed

I've been knitting! Lots and lots! I've just also been distracted by delicious books, is all. Anyway. So I don't like knitting cables, right?

I asked my love interest what seasonally-inappropriate thing I could knit for him, and he suggested a scarf, black.

It took me a while to figure out how to knit a black scarf that was interesting enough to hold my attention without losing the pattern in the dark. After a couple of weeks of knitting a few inches and tearing them out and switching up the pattern and trying again unsuccessfully and casting it aside in frustration lather rinse repeat, I settled on Grumperina's "Shifting Sands" pattern. It has enough cables to be fiddly—ten on every right-side row—but is repetitive enough that I could watch Alias DVDs while knitting. The yarn is Silky Wool that's actually more charcoal than jet black, on 3.5mm needles; it took two and a half skeins to make a scarf six inches by six feet. I am ideologically opposed to fringe so I ignored that part of the pattern, and I'm pleased with the result.

look a scarf

Another thing! This is the "Tilly" scarf from A Fine Fleece, in Grignasco Tango (a.k.a. fake Felted Tweed). It's only three-quarters done, but I think it will be pretty awesome. I can't argue with anything about this pattern. Mirrored cables on either side! Little rolled edges! It's a bit wiggly and uneven because it is as yet unblocked, but I'll probably finish it soon.

green cabled scarf

Maybe I don't mind cables after all.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


I've never been able to stick to a project without getting distracted partway through. So what.

Here's a scarf to distract you!

llama scarf

It is the "Twilight" scarf from A Fine Fleece, which is a marvellous and inspiring book. It's mostly full of cables, but there are a couple of simple lacy interludes; this is one. I think it's about perfect for this yarn: laceweight llama from Americo, which is not soft exactly but kind of slippery, and with a bit of a hairy halo, and a bit stringy and not blocking out perfectly evenly (and in reality a bit more green than this). Anything complicated would've been lost in the rustic.

It reminds me of a counterpane, actually. The wavy raised shell-like lines in garter stitch.

llama scarf - 2

To make a 6"x60" scarf it took exactly one-half of a (100g) skein, the other half of which is destined for another ripply lacy scarf. But which one?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Hello, internet! I've just gotten back from a series of epic shopping excursions in Toronto. We went to Romni and Americo (halfway by accident; stopped for coffee and there it was across the street) and ended up with a daunting amount of yarn and fibre. And then my friends took me to an enormous number of bookstores where I bought an enormous number of nerd books. And then I came home and there was more fibre waiting for me, and spindles for spinning fine, and and and.

I'm actually still a bit shellshocked from SHOPPING OVERLOAD, too much to make a list of what actually got bought, so instead I'll leave you with a picture of the parts that I am most actually genuinely breathlessly excited about. A hundred thousand books to read only some of which are jokes, and a very light Butterfly Girl spindle, and some Falkland wool top from Hello Yarn that wants to be spun into yarn for a shawl.


Monday, May 12, 2008

There are no yak in the Grand Banks

It's done!

yak stole - full

Structural recap: I knitted a strip of edging and a mitred corner with wrap-and-turn style short rows for neatness, then picked up stitches along the long edge plus the stitches from the cast-on, then mitred another corner. This way I could work the edging on the long sides at the same time as the stole's body, which made me a much happier camper at the end (with no endless knitted-on edging to accomplish). The body is divided into lengthwise thirds: the first section of a pattern with "trees" and hexagons, the second section with only hexagons, and the third section as the first. Then another mitred corner, a strip of knitted-on edging, one last corner, and a lazy graft: I did it the way Galina Khmeleva describes in Gossamer Webs, pulling stitches from the opposite edges to be grafted through each other until there was only one loop left.

All of the patterns are modified versions of things found in Heirloom Knitting. I detached the edging from the elaborate panel it was attached to:

yak stole - edging

The border trees-and-hexagons I amended so that they'd be symmetrical end-to-end (after being driven completely insane by their asymmetry when I knitted the Unst stole from the same book):

yak stole - trees and spiders

And I made the motif in the centre of each little hexagon into a spider, to more closely match the hexagons in the border (the original pattern has the middle row worked plain, so that it comes out looking more like a bead).

yak stole - hexagons

The transition between the pattern sections is not terribly elegant, and next time I knit a stole of this type I'll pay more attention to what happens there. Here I just stopped knitting one pattern and picked up the other (their repeats are the same width: 12 stitches), where I should have done an extra tree or diamond or something to make the transition smoother. Next time for sure.

yak stole - transition

The yarn is 50% yak and 50% silk, got from Twist of Fate (100g hank, of which I have 38g left—apparently there was more here than I thought?). I knitted it on 2.5mm needles. It came out to 2'x6', which is my favourite size for a stole but was also a stroke of good luck, as I was pessimistic and half-expecting it to be smaller.

I put it away for a month or so because the central section was never going to end. There are around two hundred little hexagons with spider motifs inside them, and I was bored after twenty. Someone thought they look like flowers; I think they look more like scales attached with rivets to some type of mechanical fish. It's also got fins and a wavy edging and it's a shimmery browny silvery stone colour and during the knitting I listened to this beautiful CBC Radio interview about the collapse of the cod fishery, so I've nicknamed it the Grand Banks stole.

This was the first time I'd ever blocked something with wires instead of hundreds of pins; the bits-of-string method as a middle ground has never appealed to me. Reader, my eyes were opened! It was so fast and painless!* I didn't run out of pins and I always run out of pins! (T-pins, at any rate: no matter how many I have on hand, it's always about twenty too few, and I end up sustaining many stab wounds to my fingertips trying to manoeuvre tiny steel dressmaker's pins into position.)

The floor I blocked it on is in a bit of a draft, and the shawl was bone-dry within half an hour. No kidding. I had to mist it with water halfway through stretching it out to keep it damp enough that it would hold its shape once unpinned. Drying speed might be the real reason I love knitting very fine lace.

yak stole - paper thin

Speaking of fine lace, I think I'll knit a doily or several out of the leftovers, as part three in my continuing series "Knitting Doilies from Stupid Stuff". Stay tuned.

* Except for the part where I felt cheated out of fun and defiantly pinned out one long side anyway.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

All the spinning fibre in the world

I hit up the moving sale at Twist of Fate and came out with exactly the right amount of fibre.

Left to right: Punta top in "Embers", "Smoke on the Water", and "Midnight Embrace"; superwash wool in #202 and "Aurora Borealis". There's 100g of each.

twist of fate fibre

Also, 100g more superwash in the colourway "Tradition", which is mostly dark blue plus a bit of purpley brown; I was too excited not to spin it right away. There's around 150m here:

tradition worsted

I also got 200g of Corriedale awesome in shocking bright blue, which refused to photograph well (my camera wants it to be either neon or grey, and it is neither!—my camera is weirded out by all fibre, actually, and I need to commune with it to figure out why), and a handsome new drop spindle. I'll be busy for a while.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


I haven't knitted anything that's actually germane to this blog in quite a while, and was feeling guilty about it—the idea was to keep topical here at Doilies Are Stylish HQ. So here is something small:

kalliope - 1

It's "Kalliope" from Kunstricken 2007 knitted out of almost the very last bit of my ecru Colourmart laceweight silk, which ended up yielding one enormous shawl and eight doilies of various sizes. I think there's enough left for another smallish doily and that's it (which is still an outrageous amount of knitting to have come from one cone of yarn). I'd count this doily as "smallish"—it's 11-1/2" across, 61 rounds.

It isn't in the Niebling style of extreme fiddliness, which came as something of a relief after lots of fiddly doilies all in a row. I'm impressed by the fiddly doilies, of course, and I like to knit them, but sometimes you need something easy and intuitive and with no "hex mesh" to knit in between. Like a palate cleanser!

This was the only slightly fiddly part: a round with six three-over-three cable crossings. I wanted to work them without a cable needle because that's how I roll, but slippery silk covered in slippery coning oil doesn't take kindly to that type of manhandling and. Well. I had to reconstruct about six rounds of knitting underneath where one cable was supposed to be. I used an extra DPN to cable the rest of them.

kalliope - 2

There should be a quiz on the internets where you answer personality-test questions and it responds by telling you which famous doily designer you are most like.

You scored as Christine Duchrow!

Your patterns are heavily stylised and geometric. You like to combine the same small motifs in different ways to make different designs, instead of coming up with something new each time. That's okay—the simplicity you prefer means knitting is relaxing!

You are organised, even though your patterns are quirky sometimes—you like to work from charts and think everyone else should, too. This way all your missteps are easy to find.

You aren't fussed about which way your decreases slant, because with thread this fine it's impossible to tell either way.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sock blog

Apparently all you need to escape from a Sock Rut is some interesting new yarn!


These socks are in Schaefer "Heather", which is superwash wool and nylon and silk (I can't stay away from silk), in their Dian Fossey colourway. The pattern is "Firestarter" by Yarnissima. I'm a bit wary of this irony, especially as fire season has just begun and I don't want to tempt fate, so in my head I've christened the socks "Smokey the Bear".

I made a couple of small modifications. I don't like the look of short-row toes, so used a figure-8 cast-on at the tip of the toe and increased with lifted increases to 56 stitches, which is four fewer than the pattern calls for, because a 60-stitch sock in this yarn is too big for me. I increased to 60 at the ankle to accomodate the 1x2 ribbing, then didn't have to switch to bigger needles to shape the calf because it was already big enough around. At the very end I increased three stitches in each side cable so that it would resolve into the same ribbing, like so:

firestarter cuff

The yarn is really soft, you guys, and really smooth and really round. Knitting with it feels decadent, wearing the finished socks even more so. I'm not completely sold on the colours, however. I never know what to do with variegated yarn; I don't trust it not to pool in flashy splotchy spirals, and I'm never sure how to work with whatever pooling tendencies it has without straying too far away from the thing that I wanted to make. In this case I decided to trust the yarn, and it resolved into camouflage tiger stripes. I don't think I mind, but I wish it came in solid colours—I want to pick this colourway apart into its component greens and knit with them one at a time.

In the spirit of Messy Tuesdays, I was going to offer you a mistake—there's a cable crossing in one sock that goes the wrong way, which happened while I was knitting and carrying on a conversation simultaneously and didn't want to disrupt the flow of either by stopping to fix it. I looked for several minutes just now but couldn't find it, so I suppose it is not too egregious. Hmph.

Have a WIP instead:

sorbet socks

These socks may also be a mistake, and are certainly a mess! The yarn is Fleece Artist Woolie Silk (I don't know why it gets an -ie instead of a -y; to differentiate it from Silky Wool maybe?), and the pattern is slightly modified from the Gentlemen's Half-Hose in Ringwood Pattern from Knitting Vintage Socks. I'm appalled but secretly delighted by how garish they are (it's fine, because they'll be hidden underneath boots for the most part and only I will know they're there) and I'm really enjoying the Ringwood pattern—it's plain enough to go very fast but patterned enough that progress is obvious, and you can count repeats to make the second sock match the first.

I also made some yarn:

lite-brite handspun

Gosh, I really am bringing the garish, aren't I? It's about the same colour as the little pegs in a Lite-Brite when the light behind them is turned on. So: like a neon rainbow. There's 2oz here spun into around 100m, with 2oz left to spin, and I think that it will become Lite-Brite mittens.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Nice Weather for Silk

I made a scarf: Laminaria by Elizabeth Freeman, from the Spring '08 Knitty.

laminaria blossom

Estonian lace is new to me, so this scarf was interesting to knit (and now I desperately need the book these stitch patterns came from, of course!). The best part is that each chart grows out of the previous one, so that you can work as many repeats as you'd like before moving on, no fudging required. The pattern author has written out numbers for two sizes, and I made one in between. It measures 23" from the centre to the bottom point and 44" across the hypotenuse, which is curvaceous enough that it seems much bigger than that.

It's out of yarn I hadn't seen before: Handmaiden Tussah Sea, which is a variation on Sea Silk—it's a bit thicker, it's not as tightly spun so it's a bit softer, and it's also not quite as shiny. Also the yardage per hank is generous—600m to 100g— and this colourway has stolen my heart, as many not-quite-solids do. It is markedly different colours in different lighting. Direct sunlight: lavender! Indirect inside light: fuchsia almost! Twilight: royal purple! Dude.

laminaria altogether

I'm insecure about using needles that are too large, and I may have erred on the side of too small in this case (3mm). But the fabric still drapes wonderfully and its texture is fascinating, so I'm not too fussed about it. I am also at peace with the asymmetry of the star section; it could be fixed by working sssk instead of k3tog in the second half, but sssk is uncomfortable enough to work that I like to avoid it whenever possible.

laminaria asymmetry

I also appropriated a tiny bit of silk/merino roving and spun it as fine as I could, just to test the water.

miniscule laceweight

The water is fine, I think. I included nothing for scale, so you can use your imaginations! There's a bit less than twenty yards here and it hardly weighs anything and I never want to spin anything out of non-silk ever again (except maybe sock yarn, which is also proceeding apace).

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I haven't been knitting as much as I should because of this:


From right to left: 100g each of Blue-Faced Leicester, merino, Wensleydale, merino/silk, and Blue-Faced Leicester again, all of them from Fleece Artist.

I played around a bit with handspinning some years ago, before I became single-mindedly obsessive about fibre, but never in earnest. Now I am spinning like a madwoman.

First goal: to spin yarn for a shawl! Emily is willing to exchange patterns for words; she sent me a shawl pattern in exchange for some stories about birds and my grandmother, for whom I would have made such an item. It doesn't require a truly immense amount of yarn, and I figure that just over 1000m of even laceweight is an excellent lofty goal to bear in mind.

Second goal: to spin yarn for socks! This one is actually within the realm of possibility, and is important. For the last few months I've been in a Sock Rut. I need new socks because my old ones are beginning to wear out, but I can't muster the enthusiasm to knit any, even though there is all kinds of tempting sock yarn sitting around taunting me. Maybe if I spin the yarn myself it will be exciting enough to knit.


This is the beach-coloured Blue-Faced Leicester roving from the far left. There's 25g of it spun up here into around 100m, Navajo-plied to make longer colour runs because I was worried (rightly!) that baby blue plied together with rust or greeny bronze would look like mud. There's 75g more where that came from so there is a lot more distraction in my immediate future, but my cold feet will thank me for it in the end.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Proportions, at length

One of my favourite things is mixing up sources and seeing what happens. In "real life" that means that I always want to talk about tracking paths of influence and genealogies of items and ideas; in knitting it means I've been thinking a lot about different lace-knitting styles and how to combine them, or at least how to arrange pattern elements from one in the style of another.

Last year I knitted some Orenburg shawls all in a row, so now I feel comfortable assembling shawls in that style: knit a strip of edging long enough to accomodate the main body pattern, then mitre a corner, pick up stitches along the long edge, pick up the cast-on stitches, mitre another corner, and work the body of the shawl and two sides of edging at the same time; then mitre the third corner, knit another strip of edging attaching it to the shawl body as you go, mitre the last corner, and graft the corner stitches together with the leftover edging stitches left in reserve.

There are some advantages to this method. My favourite part is that you don't have to estimate how much yarn you'll need to knit the edging, because all that's left at the end is one side to finish. (If you're keen you can even weigh the first strip of edging after you knit it, make a note of the weight, and knit the shawl's body and side edgings until you have just over that amount left, then knit the top edge. It doesn't work if the whole thing is extensively patterned in an elaborate and carefully thought-out way, but it's dope for plain shawls or ones with a small allover repeating pattern.) My second-favourite part is that you don't have to spend a jillion hours kniting interminable boring edging all the way around after finishing the fun central area. Third-favourite is that edging looks much tidier to me if it is knitted at the same time as the shawl it's attached to.

How do you knit on an edging? My shawls tend to be garter stitch and I worry about binding edges, so I don't slip the selvage stitches. When I'm picking up stitches I pick them up in the "bar", not the "knot", and work shawl body stitches together with the last edging stitch on incoming rows by knitting them together. This is what it looks like:


Which is awfully insubstantial and uneven to boot! I've gotten a better result by picking up stitches all the way around and knitting them through their back loops to yield a crossed pattern, then knitting the edging onto that, but that's an entire shawl circumference's worth of stitches crammed onto a circular needle. Do you know a better way?

Anyway, what I mean all of this to say is that I started a new thing. It will be a stole, constructed inna Orenburg stylee but to look like a Shetland shawl, out of patterns from Heirloom Knitting. The Unst stole made me contemplate wide borders, so this one will be divided into thirds (exclusive of edging), border-centre-border again; all I really have to do is make sure that each pattern element is symmetrical end-to-end. I thought you might want to see a corner:

yak - corner

The trouble with Orenburg shawl construction is that you have to pick up stitches from the edging's starting point, then proceed in the opposite direction. Gossamer Webs suggests beginning with a backward-loop or long-tail cast-on over two needles and slipping a stitch holder or thread through, to work back the other way when you arrive at that point. I wasn't sure about that, because all the edgings in Gossamer Webs aren't patterned at all on even rows, and maybe this type of beginning only looks decent in edgings of this type?

Maybe. I initially thought about casting on invisibly, but doing that means that the edging (1) has a plain row in it, which is obvious and obtrusive in an edging that's otherwise patterned every row; and (2) is offset by half a stitch at that point, which is an occupational hazard of working a piece in two directions. (It doesn't show at all in e.g. stocking stitch, but it's glaring in rib.) I ended up just following Galina Khmeleva's instructions, and it totally worked—there's just an extra thread running through it, but you can't really tell if you're not looking for it, and it takes emphasis away from the offset. Best of all, this method is almost completely hassle-free. I give it my seal of approval.

The yarn is silk and yak, so it is very crisp but with a lovely hairiness that softens the edges of things, so it ends up looking less severe than a silk lace shawl with pointy edging. It's also a funny colour—brown in indirect light but silvery in the sun. All of these are excellent qualities.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


It feels excellent to have finished this:

lyra - 4

It's "Lyra" by Herbert Niebling, from a twenty-year-old Anna magazine, knit as a circle (blocked to a kind of curvaceous octagon), worked in Colourmart 2/65 cashmere/cotton on 2.5mm needles. It was entertaining to knit even though it was a slog at the end, when each round took the better part of an hour. I'm still partial to Niebling's smaller doilies (<100 rounds) that feature more aggressively floral areas and less background mesh, but finishing this I feel like I have arrived as a lace knitter, or something.

lyra - 3

I'm not sure what it's for. It's not quite big enough to be a functional shawl (for me, standing 5'5"; it's about 42" across) and there aren't many things stupider than a cashmere tablecloth, so. Someone suggested making coordinating booties and turning it into an extravagant baby shawl type present, which may well end up happening. It would come with orders to give it back when it got grimy so that I could launder it, because blocking is my favourite part and also I want new parents and babies to be comfortable and warm, not frazzled by demanding washing instructions.

I'll likely end up knitting at least part of this again; the centre flower thing + first tier of leaves would make a fine small doily.

lyra - 2

Half the Internet was working on this pattern a while ago, and some of them suggested going up a needle size about halfway through to prevent binding issues (that seem to be somewhat typical of Niebling patterns). Of course I didn't read this advice until twenty rounds too late, so I kept on keeping on. And it doesn't bind as much as I was worried it might! The hex mesh is a bit distorted immediately below the big flowers (are they tulips?), but whatever, it's not glaring. Blocking it wasn't a problem. It's a bit reluctant to lay flat now that it's been paraded around, but that's the yarn's fault again (and also my fault for failing to learn my lesson after this).

The binding becomes less of an issue if it's spread out on a smaller table. This way the yarn also gets to act out some of its desire to sproing, and everyone gets to admire the drape. Maybe a cashmere tablecloth is not that stupid an idea.

lyra - 1

Monday, February 25, 2008


Shawls are stylish, too! Here's one in the semidark, pretending to be worn:

unst stole - drape

This is the Unst Stole from Sharon Miller's Heirloom Knitting, knit in 2/28 laceweight silk from Colourmart on 2.25mm needles. I started it at the end of December and finished it today, not quite two months later; I would've finished it earlier if I hadn't set it aside for a month in the middle after getting bored of the edging (which is interminable).

I only made a small change, which was omitting the narrow insertion on the straight side of the edging. I'd already dipped into the yarn for a different project and wasn't sure if I would have enough to complete the pattern as written, so erred on the side of caution. This turns out to have been an excellent idea, because there are only about ten metres of yarn left over.

unst stole - edging

Given more yarn (or forethought), I'd have been tempted to copy missalicefaye's modification: she added extra repeats of the border grid and filled them with new motifs, to gain a few extra inches of length. Her stole is beautifully proportioned and I think better for having longer borders. (The borders on this stole are each about a quarter of the total length, exclusive of edging, with the centre making up the other half; better proportions might have the stole divided into thirds, so that when you wear it the borders go from fingertips to the edge of the shoulder and the centre is the width of your back. Or my back. I will have to experiment.)

unst stole - border

I find that this particular central pattern is a bit irritating to block, because it tends to "pull in" more than the border pattern, which is worked over the same number of stitches. I've knitted a couple other stoles with a similar central pattern and noticed the same annoyance, but didn't think to do anything about it this time; next time I would work the borders over fewer stitches than the centre (not many fewer, just six or eight), and then it wouldn't be a fight to block the long edges straight.

unst stole - centre

I could also invest in a set of blocking wires to reach the same end, but I kind of enjoy crawling around on the floor with a handful of pins and a measuring tape.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A candidate for re-knitting

lily of the valley

There is a sentence in Marianne Kinzel's First Book of Modern Lace Knitting that made me angst-ridden and filled with guilt for weeks about the type of doily I tend to knit:

"Do not use silks, rayon, or any other yarn with a highly polished surface, or of conspicuous colour, as this is not in the lace-making tradition."

This doily is not made from yarn with a highly polished surface and it's about as inconspicuous a colour as you can get, but it's still completely against the rules because it's cashmere. (Cashmere and cotton, actually). I knew it was a stupid idea—I wanted to knit this pattern and I wanted to knit with this yarn and I wanted to do both right now, consequences be damned—but didn't know quite how stupid until very recently: the yarn has so much bounce to it that it's dead set against laying flat. Even if I block it severely and don't unpin it until it's already been completely dry for hours, just in case, you know, and pick it up carefully without stretching it and lay it on a table and leave it alone in a bone-dry environment. Nope.

I just unpinned it after reblocking right now, and the fans around the edges are already starting to ruffle. It doesn't pucker or bind when it's pinned flat, and it's also flat in the picture that accompanies the pattern (it's from an excellent Russian lace-knitting magazine), which leads me to blame the yarn alone.

But man, is it pretty!

lily of the valley - 2

This is what I mean about increasing to make a large eyelet by working k-yo-k-etc instead of k-p-k-etc: see how nicely the increased stitches sit beside each other? My feeling is that knitting and purling up all the necessary stitches stretches out the yarnover or double-yarnover or whichever and makes it tend to curl up a bit. That's not happening here even though the yarn really wants to sproing into a different configuration.

The main floraly part is excellent, too:

lily of the valley - 3

I don't think it's intended to be lilies of the valley, but that's what it looks like to me. The motif is very simple—you increase four stitches from one so you have five altogether, work plain for a few rounds, then decrease the extra stitches away—and if I knit this again I might dress it up a bit with some purled stitches down the middle. We'll see!