A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
-Lao Tzu, 600-531 BC
The shropshire laceweight has spoken, and it is talking about an opus. A wonderful big work, an heirloom piece of lace, a real sort of undertaking. Clearly, this is where my knitting heart is right now, as I embark on the gansey and a big shawl all at the same time. My love for things that are challenging and huge has reared it’s head, perhaps as some sort of response to writing so much right now, perhaps as a response to the kids being away and me being able to devote some clear thought to my goals, whatever the reason, the 3000m of Shropshire thread-like yarn suddenly seems like a really good plan. (You may feel free to guess how long this mood lasts. I suspect that Rams and Rachel H. will be running a pool by now.)
(Icarus is fine by the way. Miriam had a look and we exchanged photos and it’s totally fine. I am a simple neurotic. I’ll keep going.)
I started winding the wool yesterday, and I’m here to tell you that winding 3000m of laceweight takes a good long time. Hours. You can’t go too fast or the wool is stretched as it comes off of the swift and into the ball. I experimented with speed a little and only discovered that winding quickly meant that I had stressed out tight little balls of yarn. That seemed an insult to the fibre, so those fast ones were re-wound. (That took longer than just winding them right the first time.) Wool that has been wound into balls that are too tight is stretched, particularly if it sits around for a while in those tight balls. Since wool has memory, this can mean that if you knit this stretched wool, that when you wash it after it’s knit and the wool returns to it’s original size, that you can have some gauge issues. Since I have enough gauge issues without being sabotaged by my own inferior winding, I decided not to wimp out.
I wound for so long that by the end of it my whole arm ached and I was inventing stories in my head that began with the immortal lines “It was in the days of the winding-time, and the moon rose and set over the whirling swift…”
As I wound I took breaks and consulted the Oracle, and he helped me to find exactly the pattern that I could see in my mind, as well as talking through some technical stuff. (Dude is a walking lace dictionary. Befriend him at your earliest opportunity.)
On the right is sample one, two sections of a square tablecloth in Marianne Kinzels First Book of Modern Lace Knitting. By only knitting two of the four triangles that make it a square, it’s pretty easily converted into a triangular shawl.
On the left is sample two, same exact pattern, but instead of increasing two stitches in the centre leaf by way of a M3 (Knit into the front, knit into the back, knit into the front again – two stitches increased, which naturally begs the question of why this is called a Make three when it clearly only Makes two.) I’ve increased two by doing a paired set of yarn overs around the increase stitch. (YO, Knit one, YO). It makes it much more open, and I may prefer it. ( I may actually love it with the burning fire of a thousand suns, but the jury is still totally out about which one I’ll choose.
When I’ve worked enough of the whole thing to have a shawl, I’ve got a border that I’ve chosen to whack on there, and Bob’s yer uncle, I’ve got a shawl. (I am making this sound unreasonably simple when the issue of how to affix the border to the shawl in the proper mathematical way while still observing the balance of the thing has me a little freaked out. I went to sleep thinking about it last night. When I woke up this morning I decided to have faith. I’ll work it out when I get there.)
The astute among you will have noted that both swatches are “live” meaning that all I did was start the shawl twice, then put the live stitches onto a length of yarn (Note to self: cotton or silk would have been better than wool, getting them off of the sticky wool is proving harder than it needs to be.) and wet block them as is. This way, when I choose between them I don’t need to start over again, I’ll just pick up the stitches and keep knitting. Total cheat way around a swatch. I am feeling pretty freaking lucky that I’m loving the gauge and don’t need to change needle size, since choosing the wrong needle is really the only way I’d have to start over again. )
I love both of them and I am torn.