Big knotty black nightmare

Jane Sowerby describes this pattern in Victorian Lace Knitting thus:

“While intense concentration is required in knitting this piece initially, it is not difficult once the layout is understood.”

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She is not kidding.

This is knitted lace, not lace knitting. Lace knitting is patterned in one direction and then plain-knitted in the other direction. Lace knitting means if you make a mistake you can go back to the last ‘plain’ row and pick up from there. Lace knitting is easy-peasy. Knitted lace is serious business. Knitted lace is patterned in both directions. When you’re patterning (looping yarn over the needle, usually) both ways it is completely impossible to rip back – there are no ‘safe’ rows with complete stitches where you can just pop them all back on the needle and carry on. So if you make a mistake you’re faced with either having to ‘tink’ – knit backwards – to the mistake and fix it, or rip out the whole lot. What you see here is an acknowledgement that, actually, my concentration (however intense) and knitterly dedication are insufficient to the task.

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A lifeline (the stripe of yellow yarn near the top). It became an obvious necessity after three times of frogging the whole lot before I’d knit two inches. The first frog was caused by an error I noticed three rows back, the second when I apparently could no longer count to eight and the third was after an exciting bit in the film I was watching (The Punisher, to my shame) that made me jerk the needles so that three stitches fell off. They couldn’t be picked up and that was when I decided to start using a lifeline. It acts as a ‘safe’ row – any screwups can be ripped back to there and picked up again because the line holds the stitches like a spare needle. You pull it out and reinsert it as you go, so you’re never too far from a safe row.

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The thing that’s driving me really potty is that I can’t learn the pattern. I’ve got the middle section off pat, but I cannot get my head around the side diamonds – I always want to either increase or decrease in the wrong direction. Still, at least I can autopilot the middle, which is very necessary because I’ve been mainlining Gilmore Girls while I knit this. Three episodes just about equals two repeats of the centre and a whole repeat of the border. That’s sixteen rows. Yes, sixteen rows in about two hours. It’s slow work but I’m getting there – all other projects are on hold at the moment because if I don’t tackle this solidly it’ll just never get done and every time I leave it I forget the pattern all over again. The pattern specifies a certain number of repeats but I had more yarn than it called for so I bunged in an extra pattern repeat in the middle (five columns of rose-petals rather than four) and I’m just going to keep going until I’ve got just enough left for the end border. It is going to be pretty, though – lace never looks like anything special when you’re knitting it, but then you block…

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Excuse me, I have an appointment in Stars Hollow.

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And lo! out of the rain came Socks…

This is what happens when it yaks it down with rain all weekend and I have sockyarn.SONY DSCViolet Green‘s excellent Solemate yarn in Floribundissima. Which is all good! except that now I need more sockyarn. Luckily there’s a yarn store just down the road that sold me this little ball of luciousness:SONY DSCI also have this in the stashSONY DSCand I suspect that I may lose the mental battle to only cast on one pair. I have two pairs of sockneedles and I like having several things on the go. Apart from the guilt.SONY DSCAfter all, when it’s started you get to see how pretty it’s going to be 12,000 stitches later…

Il pleut

It’s raining, and the skies are black, and the weather forecast says it’s literally never going to stop, so what else is there to do on a day like this but knit a sock?SONY DSCThe pattern is my usual one – toe-up on two circular needles with a ribbed cuff, and I think these are for me. I’ve saved a fortune (she lied to herself) by filling my sock drawer with handknitted socks and the yarn-leftovers are SO useful for adding to the never-ending linen-stitch scarf that is currently sitting at the bottom of the sockyarn stash.

The yarn is from Violet Green and it’s their Solemate yarn, in Floribundissima. Let it rain, who cares!

The important of maths OR I have a bad feeling about this…

Two years ago we moved house. As part of the process obviously a certain amount of packing was involved, and as I am of a generally tidy cast of mind I didn’t want to be fiddling about with stash and lots of projects while also fighting boxes etc. So I cast on one large and complicated project – a sampler lace shawl from Victorian Lace Today in Violet Green‘s Peonies laceweight – thinking it would keep me going through the process.

Two years later, here we are.

It’s been superseded at various points by various projects (obviously) and has been in and out of hibernation like a tortoise (also very like a tortoise in its speed of progress…). Finally on the home stretch – finished the middle and am knitting on the border. So far, so good, yes?

No (as you can probably guess).

I didn’t do my maths. Way back in the beginning, when I was looking at the pattern, I noted that it said 1650 yards required. I had a skein of laceweight that was 1500 metres and had a hazy idea that as metres were obviously miles longer than yards I would have ample and to spare. Fast-forward to Now – as I am knitting on the border it occurs to me that I’m only halfway up one side and I have only a marble-sized amount of yarn left. If I put it on my scales it doesn’t even register (admittedly they are more used to weighing kilos than fractions of grammes). So – a little late in the day – I ask Google for its opinion of 1500 metres in yards. Turns out to be 1640 yards. So there is every possibility that I will be at least ten yards short, and given the nature of lace knitting (ie the unimportance of gauge) it could well be more. A lot more.

Optimistically, to set against this, is the possibility that Violet Green doesn’t measure its skeins of yarn down to the centimetre and that its 100g/1500m might be an ‘at least 1500m’ type of measurement. So now my project has a Macbethian “returning were as tedious as go o’er.” air about it. If I want to finish the project in this yarn (and I hold out no hope of being able to buy another skein from Violet Green as I bought it about five years ago and it’s a handpainted job) and I don’t have enough then I will have to frog more than half the shawl. Because it’s a reflecting pattern and for it to match I’d have to go all the way back past the middle of the shawl and then reknit, omitting some of the patterns. But of course I don’t yet know whether I will or won’t have enough. So I have to keep knitting on the border, watching my diminishing ball of yarn with a hopeless air, waiting for it to run out. Or not. I am a glass-half-full type of person, after all.

I’ll let you know.

Happy new year – kitchens and yarns!

As I posted a picture of the kitchen without a back wall (conveniently in the hardest December for 100 years), I thought this time I’d post the progress that’s been made. One set of frozen pipes and a small flood later, I have a door. When I get round to making a garden, it’ll look nice out there. For now it’s enough just that the weather isn’t coming inside the house!

On with the knitting! My sockyarn binge gave me a delicious-looking pile of yarn, but I always hesitate before winding skeins into balls because sometimes a colour scheme looks absolutely scrummy on the skein but not so good as a ball (and sometimes not as good knitted up). These are doing me proud, though. I wound all these during our usual pre-Christmas showing of Gremlins, so they’re going to be forever associated with Mugwai in my head.

And I also broke one of my own cardinal rules – be faithful to the socks you’re knitting and do not fall into waywardness with seductive new yarn. I slipped from the path of righteousness to knit one sock of my new yarn before finishing Husband’s socks. This yarn looks just as scrumptious knitted up as it did on the skein and in the ball – makes me think of liquorice allsorts.

In fact, these socks are a present for someone, so I might get them some liquorice allsorts to go along with them! In the meantime I am back to knitting the Husband’s other sock.

Unfortunately, though, I accidentally cast something on yesterday morning when the baby woke me up…

Knitting against the cold

It’s actually so cold in the room where I’m typing that the LCD screen is running slow. It would help, of course, if the house had all its walls at the moment, but in a digression from the usual knitting-focused photos I’d like to share this view of the kitchen.

Current state of the kitchen

We’re using the flat on the top floor to live in as the rest of the house is too chilly to inhabit! God bless builders and their inability to complete a job on time.

So knitting (when my hands are warm enough) feels like a genuine attempt to provide my family with enough warm clothes to survive the next few days and weeks! The Bear’s latest sweater is finished – this is the Shawl-collar Sweater from Debbie Bliss’s Essential Baby, in RYC cashsoft aran. It looks and feels very cosy indeed. It’s about two sizes too big for her at the moment so she looks a bit like an American football player when it’s on, but it is warm!

I’ve also made inroads into a pair of socks for the Husband – photo when I can get him and the camera into the same room. And I’m suffering a small amount of retail guilt about buying several skeins of sockyarn because friends have asked for socks – handknitted socks are so much cosier than shop ones! Looking forward to getting cracking with some of the lovely Violet Green hand-dyed ones, but I have to wait for the postman to struggle to the door first.

Don’t even mention Christmas.

Bad decisions – possibly

When you’re in the throes of moving house, into what Americans call a fixer-upper and I would call a wreck, it’s possibly not the greatest time to start a lace shawl.  The realities of spending days scraping off wallpaper, filling holes in skirting board, hands rougher than sandpaper and no energy in the evenings for reading lace charts mean that progress can be slow…

However, the cosmetic stuff that I can actually do (as opposed to the structural stuff that a builder needs to do) is nearly done for the meantime, so progress on the shawl is actually being made. I’d like one of those Ravelry progress bars to show that I’m on the last foot or so! I’m really loving this colourway – sometimes you just can’t tell how a handpainted yarn is going to come out when you knit it, but this is gorgeous. Violet Green’s lovely laceweight.

I’ve also got as far as retrieving the stash from the spare room where it’s been lurking amongst boxes of books for weeks, so there’s every chance that I’ll soon have too many things on the needles again. Which makes me happy.