Tag: lace

Funtimes in Babylon 10

Life has been especially lifey lately. As a consequence I’ve found it necessary to cast on many things. Well, just three things, but that’s two beyond my comfort zone, especially since I still have a couple of UFOs in the wings.

The first cast on is something I actually mentioned a couple of posts ago but haven’t really talked about. It’s Jane Sowerby’s Spider’s Web Shawl from the book Victorian Lace Today. Here is a picture, but you can’t tell much. It’s destined to look like a blob as long as it’s on the needles.

This is the most challenging lace project I’ve ever attempted. A couple of years ago, I knit Hilary Latimer’s Mystery Knit Along Shawl and loved the way the painstaking, careful work of knitting it actually turned out to be very relaxing. I had to pay attention so absolutely that when I’d come up for air it was almost like I’d spent the time taking a rejuvenating nap. My mind would be clear, and I’d be refreshed and ready for whatever was next.

I’m hoping the Spider’s Web Shawl will give me a similar experience, but I’m not quite far along enough to tell. The thing that motivated me to attempt this pattern was actually the yarn. The yarn I’m using is an airy, soft, almost luminescent, lace-weight, mostly mohair blend that came from a couple of very special goats we know.

We met Gracie and her brother Reuben when they were babies. They belonged to our dear friend Marcia who runs Good Fibrations. Somewhere I have a picture of Paul holding Gracie the day we met her. I think she was only a week or so old at that point. It’s insanely sweet, and if I ever find it, I’ll show it to you.

Anyway, Gracie and Reuben now live with our friends, Ann and Trish, over at Out in Jupiter Farm. Here’s Paul with Gracie at their place last year.

Ann and Trish took the fiber from Gracie and Reuben’s first shearing and turned it into an out-of-this-world laceweight yarn, and that is the yarn I’m using for my Spider’s Web Shawl. I’m hoping to do it justice. I’ll keep you posted.

So that was the first wild-hair cast on. Remember the Inlet cardigan? It still has no sleeves. I just wasn’t in a sleeve knitting mood, ya know? The Spider’s Web Shawl requires concentration, and it’s gotten too warm to work on the Zigzag Blanket, so there were some knitting opportunities cropping up when I didn’t have anything to knit!

And there was stress. It’s the absolute craziest time of the year for me workwise. So one night when it was very very late and I was still sitting at my desk, I decided the only sane thing to do was cast on a project I knew I’d love because I’ve knit the exact same thing in the exact same yarn once before. Martina Behm’s Hitchhiker scarf. In Malabrigo “Archangel.”

I know you understand.

Cast On #3. This one isn’t actually on the needles yet, but that could happen any second. I’ve got the yarn.


I’ve been dying to knit with some of the wonderful, speckledy Hedgehog Fibres yarn I’ve been seeing everywhere, and after I knit The Rain Outside for Cari, I knew the next one had to be for me and that I had to get myself some of that yarn. I chose “Poison” and “Ruin.” What do you think?

And just in case the cast-on frenzy isn’t over, I ordered the two skeins of “Sangria” at the top of the post. I’m so not sorry.


*Father John Misty’s Funtimes in Babylon has felt relevant lately.


The Rain Outside 10

It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed knitting something as much as I enjoyed knitting The Rain Outside. What a great pattern! I will be forever indebted to Dana over at Yards of Happiness for posting gorgeous version after gorgeous version after gorgeous version of this design until I could no longer resist casting on for one myself.

The lace short row panels provide the perfect amount of interest to keep the garter stitch from becoming monotonous.

And the shape of the shawl–slightly drawn in at the cast-on edge and stretchy and open on the outer edge–make it ideal for wrapping around your neck or shoulders and staying put.

The yarn I used for my version is Blue Moon Fiber Arts Crackpaca. It’s a blend of 45% Merino wool, 45% Alpaca, and 10% silk. It was lovely to handle while knitting, but I’ll have to wait for a report from my friend Cari to hear how it is to wear. I knit this shawl for her because sometimes life is hard, and I needed a way to remind her that I love her and am here for her even when we can’t be geographically close.

I’m going to make another one of these for myself. In fact, I went ahead and ordered the yarn–Manos Del Uruguay Silk Blend in “Wildflowers” and “Dove.” This seems like an ideal travel project, so my plan is to go ahead and wind the balls and put them in a project bag along with the pattern and needles. Then, the next time I need to grab something on the way out the door, I’ll be all set.

In the meantime I’ve cast on for my first epic lace project, Jane Sowerby’s Spider’s Web Shawl from her book Victorian Lace Today. I needed something worthy of the incredibly special yarn I’m using. More about that later . . .

I hope you are enjoying the Spring weather and getting to do lots of knitting. I’ve been behind on commenting lately, but please know I’m reading and enjoying everyone’s wonderful blog posts!

Home 0


I’m back home after a longish trip to Texas. The visit with my family was really, really good, but nothing beats getting back to my guys.

I did quite a bit of knitting while I was away although I don’t have much to show for it other than the big rectangle that the Easy Folded Poncho is becoming.



My best knitting moment happened with the English Mesh Lace Scarf. On the first leg of the trip last Monday, I opened the project bag and saw that the super slick Kidsilk Haze stitches had all slid right off the needles. After a moment of mortification, I started to think my way through the issues.


I figured ripping back was out of the question because the yarn is so grippy it’s pretty much impossible to end up with anything other than a knotted mess. Since I’d only knitted a couple of inches, I could have tossed what I had in the trash and started over, but I decided to see what I could do with it. I got all but three stitches back on the needles with relatively little effort, but finding out where the missing stitches fit in was a challenge. Fixing mistakes in lace has always been hard for me, and it was evident that one of the dropped stitches extended a few rows back through at least one set of decreases.

But I did it! After about half an hour of head scratching and delicate reworking, I got everything back where it was supposed to be. I was so happy I hadn’t just started over, even though I’m sure figuring out the problem and putting everything right took me longer than re-knitting the couple of repeats would have. The whole thing was incredibly satisfying. I just can’t tell you. And it must have made the knitting gods happy because the very next day I was rewarded with the most incredible tip.

I always stop by Strings and Things when I’m in Texas for a visit. It’s my awesome hometown yarn shop. This is a picture of the “sit and knit” area.


And these are the super cute socks Ms. C was knitting.


I ooh and ahhh over the new yarns and the projects they have on display and end up spending an hour or so just soaking up the good vibes.

Well, I was telling my Kidsilk Haze scarf story, and Ms. C had the BEST suggestion. She said when she has to rip back mohair, she puts the project in the freezer first. Freezing hardens the loose haze of fibers and makes the yarn much easier to rip back. It’s genius! I wouldn’t have thought of it in a million years, but it absolutely makes sense. If you did have to rip back, this would actually give you a fighting chance of ending up with yarn you could still use afterwards.

Anyhoo, besides knitting in the airport and on the plane, I got to knit a lot while I hung out and visited with my mom.


I had the services of an excellent assistant.


When we were at my aunt’s one day, I snapped a picture of the hilarious print she has hanging in her coffee nook. It’s kind of hard to see through the reflection off the glass, but the lady being dragged out by her feet is desperately trying to knit one more stitch before her friends pull her away to something else. I love it.


I’m going to have to squeeze in my knitting where I can this week. I’ll be playing catch up with work. The Easy Folded Poncho should come in handy for conference calls, though, and hopefully I’ll get back to my Geek-A-Long square in the evenings.

Hope you have a great week!


The Travel Shawl 4

Travel Shawl 2

I might be in love with the Travel Shawl.

Folded in half it’s a cozy shoulder wrap.

Travel Shawl 6adj

Opened up, it’s a bigger wrap.

Travel Shawl 3

Or even a small blanket.

Travel Shawl 1

And it’s a fairly quick knit. I knit all but a tiny bit of the beginning and the outer edge during a few weeks in November. 

Travel Shawl 4

This turned out to be a bigger deal than I expected in the discovery department. I’ve knit enough lace to feel like I’m not a total novice, but I hadn’t ever seen a set-up like this. The pattern directions tell you to cast on, give you instructions for an increase round, and then refer you to the first chart: “Begin pattern from Chart A; work Rnds 1-28 once . . .” etc. What you’re just supposed to know is that you have to knit the chart four times to accomplish one round. 

You’re also supposed to know what to do as your stitch count increases. I did not know. 

Thank goodness for Tin Can Knits. A bit of searching brought me to their super helpful explanation of how to read lace charts. It all makes perfect sense once you get the basic idea. You knit the first section of edge stitches for each quadrant and then knit the center, stitch-repeat section as many times as you can while still having enough stitches left to knit the edge stitches at the end. In their words: “. . . you would work the edge stitches one time, then work the ‘repeat’ stitches as many times as possible (always reading the set of instructions from right to left on right side rows), before ending with the edge stitches at the end of row.” Once I understood the logic, I was off and running.

Travel Shawl 7

As I do more lace shawl knitting, I think it’ll be interesting to see how many designers assume their audience knows these things about how lace charts work. In the heat of the moment, I felt a little grumpy about having to search for the information I needed to make sense of the pattern. Now that I have a little distance, I view it more as an interesting question than anything. What basic knowledge and skills should knitters be expected to bring to the average project? It’s absurd to think that every pattern would start from square one, but if a pattern doesn’t start there, then where? 

Travel Shawl 5

This Shawl! 2

Mystery KAL Shawl 4


Spring has come to the mountains! It was 85 degrees today, and the dogwoods are blooming. I need to take a picture of them to show you. They were blooming when we moved here two years ago, and it seemed like a good omen—first, because anything having to to do with dogs has to be good, and second, because my grandparents’ land in East Texas where I spent a lot of time growing up was full of dogwoods. Many happy memories there.

I took advantage of the warm, not-exactly-sunny-but-at-least-not-raining weather to take pictures of the finished Mystery Knit Along Shawl!! I’m through!! I actually finished it several weeks ago, but between lots of work and little sunshine, the pictures just didn’t happen. Until today!


Mystery KAL Shawl 5


The view above is looking out from the highest point in our area. Our house is out there on one of the smaller mountains. And the picture below shows the end point of a popular hiking spot. It’s called Black Stack and is across a steep drop from where we were standing when we took these pictures. It’s well above 4000 feet. We haven’t been there yet but hope to make it this summer. It’s not an easy hike, so we want to pick a good day for it.

Mystery KAL Shawl 2


This shawl. I absolutely loved knitting it. I seriously missed working on it after I finished.


Mystery KAL Shawl 1


Major knit potion here. It didn’t just cure whatever happened to be ailing me at the moment while I was knitting it, but every time I wear it or even see it, from now on, it will make my spirit soar.


Mystery KAL Shawl 6

This Time of Year 0

Is it always this stressful in December, or is it just 2014? Or just me?

Work is crazy busy, daylight is brief, holiday-related expectations are high. I’m knitting, knitting, knitting, every spare second, and that helps keep the demons at bay, but wow—it’ hard to breathe sometimes.

This article on BuzzFeed, “51 Books That Prove Reading Can Change Your Life,” helps. I wonder why there’s such comfort in knowing that other people love the things we love? Knowing that other people besides me knit to stay sane is right up there with knitting itself in the essential things department, and it’s the same way with books. When I came across the results of this BuzzFeed poll, I felt a huge sense of satisfaction, and relief even, something along the lines of, “oh, thank goodness—there are more of us out there.” I certainly don’t need a web poll to tell me that books (or knitting!) can change your life, but solidarity is especially welcome this time of year.

So on to knitting . . . Here’s where I am with the Mystery Knit Along Shawl.

Clue 3 Row 46 ds

I’m up to Clue 4, Row 46. It’s very hard to tell much about the pattern from this picture, but it’s turning out to be pretty. I’m still enjoying the yarn. The color progression is keeping things interesting, and the cotton is a nice deviation from wool. I’m definitely a wool girl at heart, though. I love the sproing, which the cotton lacks entirely.

The Adele’s Legacy sweater is almost finished. I’m about half way down the second sleeve, and then I’ll just need to figure out what to do about blocking. I’ve been reading about blocking acrylic, and the advice online ranges all over the place. I’m considering just throwing it in the washing machine. We’ll see.

And since I’ve gone ahead and mentioned reading, I might as well tell you that my talisman against the dark right now is Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings. I’ve just started. It’s good.

Wednesday 2

The lace bug has bitten again. It was an email from Craftsy today that did it. They were advertising Myra Wood’s “Crazy Lace” class. I’m not sure whether I’ll take the class or just buy her book, but one or the other is definitely in my future. The Amazon description says that, “Starting with a comprehensive explanation of ‘Lace Logic’ you’ll quickly learn how and why different types of lace patterns are created.” That’s what I want. I want to not just knit lace but understand the way it works, the how and why. Stay tuned for updates.

In the meantime some knitter friends and I are knitting one of Hilary Latimer’s patterns. This one is called the Mystery KAL Shawl. We missed the pattern debut knit along, but we’re doing a little cross country knit along of our own. It’s my friend Dorothea’s fault. She’s already made one, and she wore it in my presence, and that was it. Had. To. Have. One.

One of the fun things about the pattern is the yarn it calls for—Wolle’s Yarn Creations “Color Changing Cotton.” The yarn is four-ply, and the plies gradually change from four plies of one color to three plies of one color and one of a second, to two plies of each color, to three and one going the other way, to four plies of the second color. The effect is startlingly pretty. Here’s a picture I took at SAFF this year of the bins of 185g skeins:


Unique Vampire at SAFF


I got the “Unique Vampire” colorway on the top right. This was a major acquisition because, let me tell you, this yarn is very hard to come by. The Etsy shop that I linked to above is pretty much always empty. It sounds like if you can’t catch Elisabeth at a fiber show, the only way to get your hands on some of the yarn is to watch for one of her preorder offerings. These apparently come up every now and then and are announced through her Ravelry group.

So far, I’m up to Row 20 in Clue #3 of the pattern, and I’m loving both pattern and yarn:


Cotton Vampire 1


You can’t tell much from this picture, but you can just start to see the first color change there at the top. Here’s a close up of that part:


Cotton Vampire 2


Pretty cool, huh?

In other news, I saw this article yesterday about an Air Force Colonel who started knitting on deployments after 9/11. He said, “I wanted to learn to make something pretty, that would outlast me.” He’s now knit 40 scarves, 68 hats, and at least 40 pairs of house shoes.



Friday Thoughts 0


Guess what. Jean Miles has started a new, once-in-a-lifetime lace shawl, the Unst Bridal Shawl. Can you believe it?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m currently following along in 2006 as Jean knits the Princess Shawl, and the whole idea of this kind of immense project has taken a mighty hold on my brain. It seems over-the-top in that scary but oh-so-tempting way that something like skydiving might. You’d have to be utterly committed before the jump. Starting and not finishing would be such a terrible let down. At the same time, part of the attraction lies in having to let go of the outcome.

At one point during the knitting of the Princess Shawl, Jean says this:

If I knew for sure what the word “Zen-like” means, I might say that this is a Zenlike experience. There is no realistic prospect of finishing in any sort of imaginable future — of finishing the edging, even, let alone the shawl. The whole pleasure resides in the process, like life itself.

Mmmmm . . .

With the fun of the finishing and wearing or finishing and gifting so remote, would you knit in a different way, with a different mindset? How about the fact that I have no imaginable use for such a thing? Does that make the whole prospect more or less outrageous? Owen Meany, anyone?

While trying to figure all of this out, I’ve signed up for Eunny Jang’s lace class on Craftsy. I’ve also been doing some reading trying to get my mind around exactly what such a large, lace shawl would entail in terms of knowledge and skills. Surely, I’d need to work up to it with some smaller projects, but which ones?

In the meantime, I’m two squares into the Lizard Ridge, and I hope to wrap up the Lin-Lin Shawl before the end of next week. That’s a picture of the Lizard Ridge squares above. The Lin-Lin will be hard to photograph until it’s off the needles, but I’ll keep you posted. There will be car travel this weekend, and you know what that means!

Lace with a Capital “L” 0

One of the great things about venturing into unknown territory is that, sometimes while you’re out there, you learn something new about the place you came from. Take my recent adventures with backwards knitting. I wanted to master this technique for the Lizard Ridge Afghan, which I’ll be starting for a knit along on December 21st. This helpful tutorial on Knitty showed me what to do.

The fun part (besides having a new trick up my sleeve) is that knitting backwards taught me something about the structure of the purl stitch that hadn’t quite clicked before. Maybe it’s that I’m not mechanically inclined, but I can’t see a thing from one angle and automatically envision the whole. I could relate an incident from my driver’s test to illustrate this, but I digress.

Watching the purl stitch happen from the back side provided one of those “Aha!” moments. It always seemed like I should be able to head the other way at the end of a row without having to turn my work. But how? Where did the yarn go? Now that I know, it’s like a really satisfying punch line. Ahhh! Of course!

It might be a desire for more of these “Aha!” moments that accounts for my recent interest in lace. I’m familiar with lace knitting in a basic way. I can YO and SSK with the best of them, and I’ve made my share of “lace” shawls. But it’s Lace with a capital “L” that I’m talking about. Orenburg. Shetland. Estonia. THAT lace. This lace:

Wedding ring shawl detail


And this:

Princess shawl

These are examples from Sharon Miller’s book, Heirloom Knitting. Actually wearing one of them is out of the question, but imagine all the things you’d learn by the time you finished knitting one! Mmmmmm!

I haven’t taken any actual steps in this direction yet, but I can feel it coming.

Okay, one step. I ordered some books.

While we’re on the topic, let me note that Jean Miles is entirely responsible for this lace thing. For the last few weeks, I’ve been reading her blog. She started blogging in 2004 and has, it appears, blogged nearly every day since. Besides that amazing accomplishment, she is knitting the shawl pictured above. (Or at least in 2006 she is. I don’t want to spoil the fun by reading ahead!) She makes the whole process sound absolutely enthralling and is therefore the one I’ve chosen to blame for thoughts of finer-than-cobweb merino and gossamer wool. Somehow, I don’t think she’d mind. If you’re into lace or anything knitting related, be sure to check her out.