Friday, November 30, 2007

Lovely, Lacy Shawl

After all that dying, drying, and winding, the actual knitting seems like an anticlimax. Here's a little bit of the shawl for you to admire:

And a close-up:

The pattern is called either Lovely, Lacy Shawl or Paton's Heirloom Shawl, depending on which list you are reading, I mostly like the original design, which required only a few, minor changes--the yarn, the color, the border, and the edging. The upper part of the shawl is indeed lovely, but the finished edge, as written, doesn't do justice to the rest of the design.

Amazingly, this pattern is a freebie--you can find it here. The Web version is written out and is fraught with errors. The errata page is available here, but is depressingly incomplete. I would urge anyone who wants to actually knit this to search out the pattern book, Patons Wrap It Up (500942), which, unlike the Web version, has charts (that also sport numerous errors). There are lots of sources for this pattern book on the Web--just google Wrap It Up 500942 and pick your supplier.

Good news for intermediate lace knitters--the original was worked with fingering yarn, making the shawl an excellent, non-squinting project. The pattern is somewhat complex, but not impossible, and so far, is not the least bit tedious (unlike the Princess border). My joy in knitting this one is compounded by the luxurious yarn...I stop frequently just to pet the knitting.

Be warned that the errors are fairly serious ones, requiring you to, um, make it work. They aren't simply typos, so if you decide to tackle the piece, be prepared to wing it where the stitch counts are just plain wrong.

LLS is similar to the infamous Triinu shawl, the pattern for which is overpriced and under-explanatory. A beautiful version can be seen here. An,erm, interesting WIP (Warning! Sunglasses Alert!) can be viewed here.

Personally, I like the Paton design better, although I kinda like Triinu's border, which is similar to the Mediterrean Shawl border in Gathering of Lace. I also have my eye on the border for Marianne Kinzel's Rose of England tea cloth for the final touch on the LLS.

By the time I finish, the shawl will probably bear the same resemblance to the original as The Black Window Spider King does to The Spider Queen, but hey, that's half the fun for all of us--especially me!

Friday, November 23, 2007

I Dyed and Went to Heaven

Sometimes I start with a pattern, sometimes an idea. A few months ago, I had a picture in my mind of a warm, graceful, shawl in very pale blue, blue-green, and blue-violet. Although I shopped like a determined professional, I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for, and finally admitted failure--I would have to dye the yarn myself.

I wanted something between, say, Zephyr and fingering weight, something luxuriously soft. After rummaging through my stash, I decided on Shakun's (a.k.a.China Cashmere) 2-ply silk/cashmere, mainly because I had a lot of it in white. (The reason why I suffer from an over-abundance of 2-ply silk/cashmere was explained in the previous post.)

I hate dying yarn. I hate the smell, the mess, the drippy, stringy, floppy skeins. However, I am well-acquainted with the process, having spent years studying color and dying--both natural and unnatural. Believe it or not, I used to crawl around the woods scraping lichen off woodsy objects and grinding poisonous little insects into red powder. After several years of this silliness, I threw Nature in the trash and invested in little bottles of premixed Jacquard dyes plus a nice set of food-coloring paste.

Being now forbidden to lift anything heavier than a grape (well, a bunch of grapes), I had to design a dying system that minimized neck stress.

It occurred to me that instead of using a heavy pot that had to be shlepped to the sink, the stove, the sink, the stove, ad nauseum, I could just use my twin stainless steel sinks and heat the water with an immersion coil. This concept worked out fantastically. I didn't have to lift anything but the yarn, and it was easy to push the skeins aside to drain the sink for soaking and rinsing.

I suspended the skeins on wooden thingies (parts of a Japanese embroidery frame, actually) and rested them on stacks of cat food cans (on the left) and a small cooler (on the right). I put the dye in the sink, raising and lowering the yarn by adding cans of cat food to the stack and situating the other end of the wooden bars on parts of the cooler.

When I had enough of one color, I raised the yarn, drained the sink, refilled with clear water, and added the next bit of dye.

Towards the end, I immersed all the skeins and added vinegar as a fixative, rinsed, and dried.

In the next post, you'll get to see this lovely stuff transforming into a warm, graceful shawl.

Monday, November 19, 2007

More Cheap Cashmere (Sorry!)

For several years, I have been buying 2-ply cashmere/silk from Shakun and for some reason, never thought to mention this company before. This particular yarn is the base for the much of the stuff you see in the US, for example, Jade Sapphire's Cashmere Silk. I've knit luxurious socks with it and just dyed some for my next project.

Shakun is also, apparently, the source for JoJoLand's lovely merino/cashmere sock yarn. Fortunately, Shakun sell it in white--the colorways are a bit unsubtle for my taste.

They has a teensy eBay store, which usually has one or two offerings a week and more recently, offer a website that struts their entire range of luxury yarns. They sell a wide variety of silks, cashmere, camel, soy, bamboo, mohair, and mixtures at very reasonable prices, but you must order a minimum of one pound of yarn. For example, two 2-ounce, 200-yard skeins of their 2-ply silk cashmere costs $12. I just checked the price of a dyed Jade Sapphire skein: those 4 ounces will set you back $33.

Buy yourself a pound of Shakun's for $48 and dye it yourself. I strongly suggest you request their catalog of knitting yarns, as well. Their 4-ply cashmere can be had in colors, most of which are, alas, rather garish.

Now, let's move on to their so-called weaving yarns. We would call them lace yarns, and I am sorry to tell you that they have every single combination of cashmere with or without silk, cotton, wool, and camel in any weight you might want. Some of them come in 72 colors. And you can create your own mixture and color to order. For example, if you just adore 65% cashmere, 25% silk, 10% camel in a 45/3 weight, you can request the mixture and have it custom-dyed, too.

The bad news is that the minimum order is 1 kilogram. I can't see that I would ever want 2.2 pounds of any of their lace yarns, but I urge those who are professional yarn dyers to check these folks out as suppliers. If there is such a thing as lace-yarn cooperative buying groups, they should also take note of Shakun's wares.

As is always the case, shipping will be expensive for small orders, so stock up!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Bit of Princess

My coral Diva cash/silk finally arrived and I managed to eke my way through two repeats. I am having difficulty memorizing the pattern, so I have to keep my nose glued to to diagram for each row. Bummer.

I was amazed to read that someone could knit a repeat in 20 minutes--it takes me about an hour to do the set of twenty rows.

Notice the green thread running up the right side of the picture--that's my vertical lifeline. No way I am going to pick up 800+ stitches. Thanks to the vertical lifeline, all I will need to do is run a needle through the bumps--no squinting and counting required. I'll add the extra 15 stitches on the next row.

The green thread at the bottom is the waste yarn for grafting. It's actually Row 20, that is, the last row of the repeat. When I get around to the other end, I'll knit Row 20 again in waste yarn, then use the live yarn to graft the two waste yarn rows together, forming a real Row 20.

Two repeats down, 82 to go...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Two Little Gifts for You

Part of the fun of blogging is finding obscure, cool knitting-related thingies and being able to tell you about them. A few years ago, I purchase some adorable stitch markers from Arlyna. I hadn't heard from her in a long time, but this morning, I got an email from her.

Please visit her shop--you will be delighted by the odd and clever straight needles, markers, counting bracelets, bags, totes, and needle pouches--all at exceptionally reasonable prices.

This year she is offering a few nice-quality yarns, as well (No, I haven't ordered any).

I love grazing around her store, and I know you will too. She also offers gift certificates, so you can send the link to your SO and then pick what you want at your leisure. Do use the coupon code f20b1d for a $5 discount at checkout (good until February 1, 2008).

The second gift is a must-have for knitters everywhere. It's an eloquent button you can place on your blog or website, or even adapt to a t-shirt. I have no idea who originated the button, but whoever you are, Kudos!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Amazing Needle?

For those of us who have bags, boxes, vases, baskets, and rolls filled with knitting needles, crochet hooks, and tatting shuttles, you can apparently toss all of them away and buy a set of these instead. With this single gizmo, you can knit, crochet, and tat, apparently al att the same time, without having the hassle of locating just the right circular, straight, dpn, crochet hook, or tatting shuttle.

Somebody has to order one and make a report. I, erm, am frantically busy searching for that 14" size 2 circular with the pointy tips.

p.s. Still looking for Yarnival submissions! Click here and send me something fascinating or educational so everyone can share.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

fleegle's Yarnival

Yarnival is, for want of a better description, a floating magazine. Originated by Eve at The Needle Exchange, it is hosted and posted once a month by different guest editors. Each Issue is composed of editorial bits that stitch together cool, diverse blog post submissions. Yarnvals are fun to browse and will introduce you to new blogs and fresh ideas--good for both instruction and entertainment.

You can google Yarnival, or browse through a few back issues such as these:

The Very First Yarnival
January, 15 2007 Yarnival
May 15, 2007 Yarnival

As you might suspect (if you've read this far) fleegle will be hosting Yarnival for the month of January, 08. And she is groveling for submissions to make this issue an unforgettable experience that thousands will cherish for years to come. (I have a bit of over-achiever in me somewhere...)

So what I would like all you lovely readers to do is submit links to nifty, interesting, clever, hilarious, and unique blog posts so my Yarnival will have some interesting, clever, hilarious, and unique content (besides my pithy and elegant editorializing, that is). Swooningly beautiful is good, too.

To submit, go to this address...

...and just fill in the blanks. It will only take a few minutes and is really painless. Honest.

Many Yarnivals have themes (Valentine's Day Knitting, Sock Knitting, etc)., but I couldn't think of any dazzling themic concept. Do keep the submissions yarn-esque, with an emphasis on (surprise!) knitting.


Friday, November 2, 2007

Current and Future Knitting

What with all the swatching and illuminated yarn posts, I'll bet you guys thought I wasn't actually doing any knitting-related work. Well I have, and I also spent three days dying yarn for another project that I will talk about in another post.

Panache Sweater
I was rootling around in my yarn stash the other day and ran across 14 balls of KnitPicks Panache. It's a bulky yarn (40% baby alpaca, 20% cashmere, 20% silk, 20% extrafine merino) that they no longer carry. Too bad--it has a fabulously soft hand and excellent stitch definition.

It felt so nice that I yanked it out of my stash drawer (leaving a nice big hole to fill) and made this, with the design help of my KnitWare program:

The sweater is patterned after an old Annie Blatt design that I made 30 years ago. I never wore it--they yarn turned out to be too itchy for me--and I had to give it away. I made quite a few changes from the original--different gauge, yarn, ribbing, collar...but it's the same color and the puffed moss-stitch sleeves follow the original concept.

At 4.5 spi, it only took a week of pickup knitting to finish. I loved everything about the yarn except the quality control. Each ball of 68 yards had at least two knots. And these weren't your common tied variety either--the ends were glued together. Never encountered glue globs in yarn before.

I reserve the early mornings for complicated knitting, and for the past month or so, have been working on Niebling's Lyra. This morning, I hit row 113. Of course, you can't see anything pretty in this red blob, but I assure you that it looks really cool when I hold it up to the light!

As always, I have a pair of plain socks for car knitting. These will be dress socks for Roy, which will go nicely with his tuxedo, assuming he gets around to buying one. The yarn is Adirondack Soxie--I don't remember what colorway.

Never Enough Nieblings
Finally, I started thinking about my next Niebling. Unfortunately, Harry is thinking about his next Niebling. This means that all the patterns are in a drawer under the waterbed, which Harry has fitted out as a luxury apartment, complete with an electronic lock that only responds to his legprint.

He emailed me a short list of choices and a long list of yarn that he wanted. As always, his choices are impeccable.

Lotus Flower


Pomegranate and Palm

Harry told me that he gets first choice, but I am welcome to choose one of his rejects and any yarn that he has tossed out of his apartment. How did this happen to me, reduced to groveling for patterns and knitting leftovers?

Fortunately, Harry knows nothing about the Princess shawl, as he has been immersed in decorating his apartment, ordering expensive food items from Balducci's, and scaring the figlets out of the UPS guy. Princess is mine, all mine!