Thursday, November 29, 2012

Blocked and ready to give...

Front view - Annis shawlette for Mom
Mom's shawlette is done and ready to give for Christmas.  This was a relatively quick knit.  I loved working with the Malabrigo yarn, beautiful color and wonderfully soft!  Way out of my price range, so I really enjoyed working with this fancy yarn.
I've done this shawlette before, and so I was familiar with the pattern.  That certainly helped me get through the nupps - which are not my favorite things to do - but the effect is very nice.  The method I use is not the knitting purist way of doing things.  The nupps on this shawlette are one stitch to seven stitches on the first row and then back to one stitch on the next row. I use a tiny latch hook, I got mine from a knitting machine supplier a long time ago.  Not entirely sure if they are still available, but it is about half the size of the standard rug making latch hooks I've seen in craft stores. The way I use it goes like this: the first row I do on the knitting needles in the normal way, knit one stitch without removing it from the left needle, go back into the stitch and do a yarn over. Repeat until the required number of loops are on the needle. Knit on in the pattern to the end of the row.  When I get back to the nupp on the next row, I slip the loops onto the latch hook and lay the working yarn in the hook, close the latch and draw it through all the loops and re-hang the yarn I drew through onto the right needle.  Then I tighten it up to match the gauge of the rest of the knitting.  Works better for me than trying to use a knitting needle or a crochet hook to capture the yarn without losing all the loops.
Back view - Annis shawlette for Mom
This shawlette has the lace done first and then short rows of stockinette to the top edge.  It is crescent shaped, and was a very different looking thing on the needles as it was being worked.  This particular piece didn't get quite as large as the pattern suggested for blocking.  The pattern suggested fifty six inches in width, I got about fifty two inches, and I blocked it out about as far as I could.  The yarn was beautiful, but it did lose some color in the wash water, but the finished piece doesn't look any lighter, so the color was probably excess dye on the fiber of the yarn.  I put it through several hot water rinses to be certain I got all the detergent out of the fiber, and to rinse out as much of the dye as would come out so that the shawlette wouldn't lose color onto any garment it would come in contact with when worn.

I do have a set of blocking mats from Knit Picks that I shot a picture of this piece on before washing so that you can see how much knitted lace changes from the needles to the shawl.

Before blocking - notice the size

This picture gives an idea of the size before blocking.  The tape measure shows about twenty eight inches, I thought I'd have plenty of space on these nice blocking squares. Not in real life though... I blocked the wet knitting out to the fifty two inches and it took my other set of squares, an alphabet play set that I bought at Walmart for about twenty bucks a few months back.  I knew I'd need them for the Shipwreck shawl I'm planning - I'm sure glad I had them for this!  Hideous colors, so I won't blind you with a photo of the lace being blocked, but they worked very well to hold the pins in the points of the lace.  I do have blocking wires, but they are not the super flexible ones, so I only used them for the ends of the lace where it is flat.  I used extra fine sewing pins for the points of the lace, being sure to catch at least two strands of yarn in each point.
Close up of lace before blocking
The process of blocking is pretty simple.  Take the wet knitting and stretch it out, using pins at all the points of the lace to pull them out and lay the knitting very flat and allow it to dry in that state.
The reality is a little more involved. 
1. Take the sloppy looking mess of knitting and soak it for a half hour in hot, soapy water remembering not to agitate it at all. 
2. Become horrified by the dark purple water under the suds.
3. Bundle up the knitting and squeeze out still more dark purple water and suds.
4. Remind myself to relax - there is still purple yarn in there.
5. Refill the bucket with more hot water and push the tiny bundle back into the water.
6. Become alarmed again by the dark purple water.
7. Repeat the hot rinse a couple more times, carefully watching to see if a white shawl will remain at the end of this process.
8. Relax a little when the color bleed slows down after the fifth rinse.
9. Take the little bundle out of the water, squeeze out most of the water and carry the tiny bundle down to the blocking board.
10. Start pinning it out after threading the two straight edge bits onto blocking wires.
11. Discover that the fancy branded knitting blocking squares are not even close to being big enough to do the job, no matter how cleverly configured.
12. Move the whole shebang to the kitchen counter and retrieve the other set of mats - the hideous bright colored alphabet set mentioned earlier.  I am NOT shooting a picture of lovely lace on those ugly things!
13. Start over, pinning the knitting out and re-pinning as it grows, and grows, and grows!  This piece more than doubled in size from the needles to the blocking.  I was amazed!
14. Wait for the thing to dry, finding somewhere else to prepare and eat my meals so I don't have to disturb what now looks very fragile, airy and light.
15. Remove a couple of pins after about 12 hours, gasp with delight that the lace holds the shape.  Then remove the rest of the pins and wires and let the knitting rest for a couple hours.
16. Prepare the dress form and shoot some pictures!
Even though I did this before with my first shawlette, I didn't use such fine yarn and didn't block it out as far.  I really was not prepared for the beauty and diaphanous quality of the finer yarn made into knitted lace.  I can hardly wait to begin the Shipwreck shawl.  That pattern is a very large circular shawl - almost six feet across when blocked!  Glad I had this experience first to prepare myself for that, although I love to be surprised by beauty like this.  I think Mom will be delighted with her pretty shawlette, and I hope she gets a lot of use out of it.
Next on the needles is a heavily cabled sweater for myself.  I'm already started on it and I'm enjoying this knit a great deal.  I like to keep one project in heavier yarn in progress for when I just want to knit something that I can really see progress on. Finer yarns are great, but the projects seem to go so much more slowly...
Still spinning on the singles for the Shipwreck shawl.  I've got about 600 yards of the sequined yarn and over 400 yards of the yarn without sequins.  I'm into the last ball of the Louet Northern Lights pencil roving in the Violets colorway and I've got a full bobbin of the purple recycled yarn ready for plying when I'm done with the LNL singles.  I'll probably cast on the shawl and get started on it so that I'll have some idea of how much more of the yarn I'll need of each style.  The sequins are in the netted part out toward the edge, so I expect that I'll need more of that.  The total shawl takes about 1600 yards, so I'll have plenty of knitting to do.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Knitting lace for Christmas...

Annis shawlette in Wiggly handspun
on the needles
As time goes on, I find that I enjoy the challenge of lace.  This lace shawlette is one I've done before - in my own handspun.  I showed you a picture of it in progress, at about the point where the current shawlette is on my needles now.  This is the Annis pattern from Susanna IC.  Granted that my handspun is a heavier weight than the yarn I'm using now - but the shawlette really turned out well.  Looking back, I never showed you the finished project, so here is a shot of it on the blocking board.  It is pinned out while still wet from its bath so that it will dry with all the gorgeous lace pulled out flat.  As you can see from the "before" shot on the needles, it isn't impressive as it is in progress.
Annis shawlette in Wiggly handspun
 on the blocking board
This is a relatively simple pattern, and I love the striping that happens in the stockinette section on the shawlette.  I blocked it into a crescent shape, thinking that the tails would stay in place better.  The nice thing is that I can change my mind and reblock it in a different shape when I wash it next time.

I took a couple shots on the dress form to show it on a person-shaped form.  I like the way it turned out.  I pinned it in place fully open, but in reality, I'd probably put the ends over my shoulders for the warmth of double thickness on my neck and shoulders.
Annis shawlette - back view
Annis shawlette - front view
Another way I could wear this is with the wide part across the front and the pointed ends pulled to the front as well.  Didn't take a picture that way though.  I guess I didn't think of that while I had the dress form out. 

Mom's Annis shawlette in Malabrigo
In any event, I'm working this one again in Malabrigo that I bought for my Mom about a year ago.  We were planning to knit this together and the lace was a bit too intimidating for her.  I'm doing it for her Christmas present this year.  I'm ten rows into the lace pattern, and the yarn is far different and quite a bit finer than my handspun.  I don't have the ball band from this lovely yarn, but it is mostly a lovely grape color with some blue shading.  Since it is still on the needles, I've pinned it out to show off the lace patterning.  The first set of nupps is done... not my favorite, but once I started using a small latch hook to finish the second row I was much happier with the outcome.  The nupps take two rows, the first row is to create seven stitches from one and the second row takes the seven stitches back to a single stitch.  This leaves a small bubble of yarn on that spot in the pattern.  There will be a chevron of five nupps that follows the points in the lacework.  Nice effect, so I'll do them for Mom's shawlette.
Here's the fun part.  I found some interesting soft laceweight yarn in a pleasant variegated gray to black.  This is Patons Lace in the Patina colorway.  Slightly fuzzy and mostly acrylic (80% acrylic, 10% mohair, 10% wool), so I was worried about how it would hold up to blocking.  I knitted up a swatch of the lace pattern and used beads in place of the nupps.  I just did a loop around the needle tip as a place holder of sorts where the nupp would appear.  That loop was unwound and I threaded a relatively large round bead onto the loop.  I like the result, and it gives a pleasant weight to the edge of the sample.  These beads are 6mm size and are just a bit larger than I really want unless I find some that really speak to me.  I was sampling to find the largest beads I'd use in this pattern and I think I found this to be about the maximum size.  I washed and blocked the swatch and it seems to be holding its shape relatively well.  The photo was shot with the swatch loose on a smooth surface, and it hasn't pulled back much so I'm calling it a success.