Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Candle Flame Shawl

So, as promised, here’s the public showing of the Candle Flame Shawl I’m working on.

I downloaded the free pattern after seeing it in a Knit Picks e-mail, but I didn’t care too much for the variegated yarn used in the model. The colors seemed too busy for the lace, not to mention I had just finished up a ginormous feather and fan scarf using nearly the same colors.

I wanted to make it for my mother, so I dragged her over to my computer, plunked her down in front of the Knit Picks site and had her pick out the yarn. After much dithering (which is a family characteristic, by the way), she settled on Alpaca Cloud in Iris Heather:

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Hmmm… I was just about to go into my usual song and dance about fighting my camera and how the colors are a little more one thing and a lot less another, but it appears that the lighting gods were smiling on me… this is actually what the yarn looks like.

This is just lovely yarn, but the extra-super-itty-bitty-ness of it was seriously intimidating. I stuck it in the stash… for a long time.

When I was finally ready to begin to try the pattern, I busted out some baby yarn I had and practiced on size 8 needles. The first thing I figured out was that there was no way I was going to be able to use the chart that was printed on the pattern download. It showed all 80-plus stitches of the pattern, and I kept getting lost. So I re-charted it to show a single repeat, with some off-the-top-of-my-head ways to remember that the edges were worked slightly differently.

This worked much better, although my husband had some tense moments sitting next to me on the couch while I practiced two skills: lace knitting and throwing lace knitting across the room. I’m not sure he appreciates just how important the latter is to the former…

Finally I wound a skein of the project yarn into a ball, took a deep breath and re-read the first line on the pattern
Cast on 92 stitches.
That took three tries and about an hour…
Knit 18 rows of garter stitch.
That took a couple of evenings, including frogging and starting over…

Eventually I got the hang of the tiny yarn, figured out how often I needed lifelines (every twelve rows, I’m paranoid) and bought some lobster-claw clasps to use as stitch markers. I’ve gotten more confident and I’ve made decent progress.

Here’s what the shawl looks like today, with about four pattern repeats completed, and with a few lifelines in place.

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As I was laying it out for these shots, I fell in love with the yarn all over again. It’s very soft, 100% baby alpaca, and it’s fairly forgiving about being ripped back occasionally. What’s not to love, especially when it does this?

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Here’s my goal:

Our local symphony’s season opening is on 18 September. One of the pieces they’re performing that night is Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, which is very appropriate for this project. I want this shawl knit, blocked and presented to my mother so she can wear it to that show.

I can do this. Wanna watch?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Springtime: Flowers for Anna

Despite the fact that I woke up to snow (!) this morning, it really is springtime where I live.

My husband and I went for a 200 mile motorcycle ride last weekend, and not only was the scenery incredible, but the scents in the air were amazing as well.

Things are bursting into bloom, and I thought I’d share some of it with you (with apologies to anyone with a slow-ish connection, there are a ton of pictures this time...)

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This is the ornamental plum out front of our house. These trees are everywhere in the neighborhood; when the wind blows there are drifts of pale pink petals all over the place. It may not be the cherry blossoms in Japan, but it’s one of the first signs of spring we get, and I love it.

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Then come the Grape Hyacinths. They’re incredibly hardy, blooming early and sticking around for a very long time. They’ll grow anywhere... which may not be a good thing for everybody. If you’re a gardener who wants plants to stay where they’re put, I would recommend putting this in pots and keeping a sharp eye out for colonists.

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And of course the daffodils. They come around the same time as the hyacinth, often punching up through very cold soil as if it weren’t really all that bad. They give me hope.

My friend Anna loves tulips, so the rest of this post is especially dedicated to her:

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Here they are, marching along the fence in the front yard. The tiny purple flowers at their feet are wild violets, another plant which never met a patch of dirt it didn’t like.

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Yes, my house is on the migratory route of the plastic pink flamingo. My mother, bless her, snuck a mating pair of them into my back yard one day while I was at work. They seem to have taken up permanent residence. What’s a girl to do?

I have red tulips...

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And yellow tulips...

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And pink tulips...

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...and they all make me think of Anna.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In Need Of Direction

I find myself adrift in a sea of yarn, lacking any real direction in the midst of it all. I just looked at my stash on Ravelry… 10,962 yards of various lace yarns… that’s 32,886 feet, which is about 6.23 miles.

I think that bears repeating: I have 6.23 miles of lace-weight yarn.

What the heck?

OK then, let’s take a look at my library, shall we? Ah, three books dedicated to lace knitting, along with lace patterns in several other books. We’re not even going to talk about all the lace projects in my queue. Clearly I am obsessed.

But when I look at my projects I see one single lace shawl, which has been stalled two or three times.

I feel stuck, somehow swamped with all the potential and incapable of starting anything. I want to knit lace. I keep buying the yarns and the books, keep queue-stalking my friends and keep saying “someday.”

I’m thinking it may be time to stop talking about “someday” and start talking about actual knitting projects on my actual needles. Time to stop sighing and mooning and actually make things with my hands.

First things first, I’m going to rescue my mother’s Candle Flame Shawl from the zip lock bag, tink back that row I screwed up so badly about a month ago, take some pictures of it and actually finish the darned thing. It’d sure be nice for mom to be able to wear it to the opening night of the symphony, wouldn’t it?

Then I’m going to tackle the patterns in Victorian Lace Today. It’s a wonderful book, given to my as a birthday gift by the sublime essjay. High time I started using it instead of dreaming over it.

I think that by the time I work my way through the projects Jane Sowerby collected, I’ll either be a reasonably accomplished journeyman lace-knitter or I’ll know that lace just isn’t for me.

Will you come with me? Will you encourage me when I get stuck and laugh with me over the inevitable disasters? Will you hold your breath with me while I try some crazy new technique and marvel with me when I block things? Will you poke at me when I’m trying to pretend I don’t have anything interesting to knit?

Come watch me tangle myself in lace yarn, it should be fun.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

From Sepia to Technicolor

Remember that trip I was packing for? The quest to be an ├╝ber-geek?

Yeah... wow...

I'm having a tough time putting together more than the simplest declarative sentences. My favorite at the moment is "Beer now," but I know better than to drink and blog. I don't have a huge readership, but they'd never ever ever let me forget it.

This class has been amazing, and I've learned a lot, but I'm worried that if I shake my head too hard, all the information's going to get mixed up in there.

So, this is what I looked like around 3:15 this afternoon.


Tired, brain whirling, absolutely spent.

Clearly something had to be done. I needed to get some color back in my life! Off to the yarn store with me.

I visited Weaving Works this afternoon. It was lovely, the perfect antidote to four days of file sharing, permissions, group ownership and ACL's. (You know what's cool... I actually know what those mean now!)

It's a wonderful store; I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Seattle. Friendly staff and simply tons of yarn. They have so much stock, and yet it doesn't feel crowded. I made two full rounds of the floor; stroking, sniffing, patting, and crooning... it was lovely.

In the end, I came away with these:


Claudia Handpainted


Sunrise... how perfect

I promised a pair of socks to a colleague who retired recently. I think this colorway will suit her perfectly.


Paris Night


Is it blue or grey?

I haven't the slightest idea what this will be, but I've got 1400 yards of it...

I picked up something else as well, but I dasn't show photos of it yet... it's for a swap pal and I don't want them guessing!

Mom, you were right, my color's back!