Monday, July 21, 2008

An Excursion into Lace

I've been spinning with gusto lately, enjoying the friendly camaraderie of Star Athena's Tour de Fleece. The knitting has been temporarily in the back seat, asking endlessly, "are we there yet"? But the those incredible, persevering Tour de France bicyclists are still pedaling, and so must I. Thus it was that, when I finished my version of live2knit's Mockery socks, I didn't have something else going immediately. But a trip loomed, and I had no portable knitting project underway. This state of affairs, of course, could not stand!

So, yesterday, I went browsing through my yarn stockpile and came up with a skein of Malabrigo laceweight baby merino in the Marine colorway. It's a solid blue, but it has that lovely subtle kettle-dyed variability. (Liquidgirl's picture here shows the coloration fairly accurately.) Thumbing through a few books, I lit again upon Jane Sowerby's Victorian Lace Today. It bulges with gorgeous lace patterns. I was looking for one that would be easy to wear, rather than a grand dramatic gesture. It needed to work with laceweight, and as I only have one skein, about 470 yards in all, it needed to be adaptable in size.
The one that jumped out at me is the Cherry Leaf Shoulder Shawl. A couple of photos are on teeweewonders' post here. In the book, and peeking out in the photo here, it's shown in a heavier-weight solid-colored yarn and in a hand-dyed silk, rather than a laceweight wool. But the author comments that she has knit this shawl in many different yarns and weights with good results. It also looked not inordinately challenging, thankfully, since I've never before knit with a true, delicate laceweight. (That gorgeous, sumptuous Handmaiden Sea Silk that I used for my tall elegant mom's lace scarf was actually a little heavier, really somewhere between lace and fingering weights.) And, since the shawl is triangular and knit from the point up, I can pretty much just knit until I run out of yarn, leaving a bit aside for edging. If it turns out too small for a shawl, it can be a lovely little scarf or kerchief. And probably end up being worn more often.
So off to the airport I went with my yarn, pattern, and US size 7 circular needles to have a go. I had a flight delay, so I buckled down in the gate seating area to get it going. Oh my, what a painful operation that turned out to be. It was astonishingly awkward to cast on three little stitches in microscopically skinny yarn on relatively great big needles and then wrestle that tiny little unanchored wisp of work while trying to slip a stitch and pick up a thread to make a new one. Along about the sixth time I ripped it all the way out to have another try, I was beginning to have serious doubts about the whole enterprise. I got a little perturbed about a gaggle of loud guys who took up residence in some nearby seats and settled down to joshing and guffawing boisterously at the top of their lungs. Couldn't they see I was working? (Obviously, my usual sense of proportion had fled, too.)
It took all my powers of concentration, a few more tries, a move to a quieter spot, and my tongue planted firmly in the corner of my mouth, but I finally got it going. After that, first referring to the chart, row by row, and then, once I understood the internal logic of the pattern, continuing on my own, I watched in wonder as the first couple of rows of veined leaves appeared within a garter stitch frame. I was entranced, and had no more trouble concentrating when I boarded the flight and pulled it out again.
So here am I, away from home for a couple more days -- and away from my camera, so no pictures -- but knitting away happily. As the shawl grows from the point, it widens, so the rows are getting longer and slower. But just as charming!

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