May 19, 2005

Bobbles and smart friends

This morning I finished the alpaca dental floss shawl.


We shall not speak of the length of the cast off edge, except to say that it consists of many hundreds of stitches, each of them determined in their own alpaca dental floss way to *not* be cast off, and that they are cast off in an exceedingly clever way that creates a very stretchy and beautiful edge...but doubles the work.
Add to that the fact that the edge also has bobbles and you have a perfect set up for unladylike swearing of the highest order.
(The most profound moment was when I took a break and went to get more coffee...discovering that the stitches waiting to be bound off had somehow leapt free of the needle and were lying, chinese noodle style, tangled and unravelling on the table. I won't repeat what I said then, but it was creative, loud and unladylike. Something about the alpaca's mother may have been said. My apologies.)

I am not a bobble fan. Or, to be more precise, I sometimes like the way that bobbles look on a piece of knitting but always hate knitting them. Always. This shawl wouldn't be complete without them, so I knit them, but grudgingly. The only redeeming thing about knitting these bobbles is that part of the execution involves wrapping the yarn round their bases, thus allowing me to believe that I am strangling them. Very fulfilling tradeoff, plus it makes them look more perky.

(Tanya wanted to know what the fleece was. It's a Carol Trotter Corriedale. She has the most beautiful fleeces. Jenn asked if I worried about matching fleeces for Joe's Gansey. I would, but the gansey yarn is being spun all from this one enormous, hulking fleece currently residing in the basement. I wash and spin it a little at a time because....well. It's huge. The shawl is resting on the second of two batches washed in the last 24 hours.)

When I was done the very long but totally worth it cast off, I set about blocking it. We have discussed my approach before. I am a full immersion, hard stretch, many pin blocker. A lot of pins. Like, a hundred or so. When I do a triangular shawl, most of the pins go along the top edge in a vain attempt to keep it straight. Failure to use a hundred pins in the top edge results in the shawl "swooping" between the pins. I hate that. I've often contemplated blocking wires for this purpose, but I've never got around to buying them.
I was complaining to my very smart friend Denny this morning that my top edge was swooping and that this was making me unhappy. (Mostly because I just kept adding more pins. I'd been at it for a while when I realized that I was going to end up pinning each stitch of the edge. Not clever.)


Denny (did I mention she's clever?) suggested the solution you can sort of see above. (Sorry about that. A better blogger would block a white shawl on a dark surface for the purpose of superior blog images.) I took out all of the pins, basted a length of cotton through all of the stitches of the top, then pinned down each end of the string very tautly. Bingo. The edge is very straight, only took about 5 pins and (though I'm not sure this counts as a time saver, since I had already pinned the top of the shawl) was way, way faster than the hundred pin approach.
Clever. Denny is my smartest friend today.

Posted by Stephanie at May 19, 2005 3:14 PM