Lace lessons: the Leticia Shawl

After a month and a few days of (slow) knitting, the Leticia shawl is done!

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leticia - side.jpg
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Designed by Reiko Kuwamura, Leticia is a crescent-shaped shawl that is worked in sport weight in 2 stages: the shawl begins with a lace border, followed by the reverse stockinette ‘body,’ shaped using German short rows. The ‘sheerness’ of the shawl is achieved by a technique called ‘condo knitting,’ or working garter or stockinette using two very different sized needles on alternating rows (the mix of little loops and big loops = fun see-through fabric that is super easy to make!).

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Condo knitting (US 6 and US 11).

This marks my very first introduction to lace-knitting, and I found the pattern excellent and very straightforward. It includes a video short rows tutorial, as well as a formula-page for re-adapting Leticia to any size. If you want to liberate your inner lace-knitter, Leticia is the one (I now need to do more lace, very soon).

As seasoned lace-knitters know, lace needs to be blocked. As a lace newbie, however, I was unaware of just how huge the difference between pre-blocked FO and blocked FO can be! I thought I’d share some first-time thoughts on the lace-blocking process below.

Pre-blocked underwhelm

When the shawl first came off the needles (following a bind-off which took an hour and a half), I was a little underwhelmed. This “finished object” looked nothing like the nice Ravelry pictures. It had no drape; I couldn’t make out the crescent shape; it was puckering at the ends; and the lace edging was curled up and indiscernible. In fact, it looked so different from what was expected that I considered re-doing the shawl in a different needle size, worried as I was about that puckering (whose origins baffled me).

Leticia - unblocked.jpg

As you can see, the shawl looks about as wearable as a deflated balloon that has lost all of its air and has just hit the pavement (which was kind of the state of my heart after casting off and realizing this was the product of a month’s work).

I held off on any rash decisions, though. I could hazard a frogging, I told myself, but only after giving blocking a try. Lace teaches one to keep hope alive.

Blocking : Stitches in Suspense 

In my pre-blocked-lace dismay, I decided to use points on a rewards card to get 9 bona fide blocking boards and a set of T-pins. My usual “pin to the ironing board” methods were just not going to cut it with the Leticia shawl: it had an over 5-foot ‘wingspan’ and picot-edging with 105 ‘points’ that needed to be pinned out for shape!

I started by pinning portions of the top of the shawl in a straight line, tugging and pinning the shawl down at every other picot (not enough pins to do them all). The garment started to take shape, relaxing from its curled up state into a symmetrical, pucker-free form.

I ended up short by a single 12″ x 12″ blocking square. I blocked the rest of the shawl, left that section behind, then re-wetted and pinned it down after the first portion was dry. Having a modular board that was easily re-arrangeable was key. Apparently, this worked ok (excuse the blurry pictures):

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The difference between pre-blocked and blocked Leticia is like night and day. It was a marvelous feeling to take the fresh-blocked garment off the boards after a day or two and see it hold a completely different shape: the lacework edging had opened up, the shawl was ‘breathing’ and beautifully sheer, and instead of curled up, it was soft drape-y magic!

Learning lace, I’m realizing, is certainly a good lesson in patience–the hours of stitching are rewarded by still more days of pinning out and waiting. But, it is also a lesson in  transformation. Or, better yet, revelation, with all of the magic, surprise, and unexpected emergence of the extraordinary that the word suggests. In the realm of lace, what you see is not quite what you get!

You can read more random notes on the knitting process on my Leticia Ravelry project page. Thanks for reading!

Do you love lace? Or have any memorable lace projects? Do tell!

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34 thoughts on “Lace lessons: the Leticia Shawl

  1. I love knitting lace because it is interesting, but you’re so right- you just finish all that knitting and then you have to wait through the blocking process too!!! Your shawl is gorgeous!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your shawl is beautiful, simple, and stylish. You picked a great pattern to try out lace. Lace knitting is one of my favorite things to do. The border on this one is really beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks! I’m going through one of those moments in life where the crafting with the hands is not as prolific as I would like. I always have plans, though, which will become reality once I have time to actually be at home for more than a couple of days!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, it happens. 🙂 The summer can be a busier time in general, too. I hope you’re enjoying the weather and travel. As sweltering as the heatwave sounds, I would love at some point to experience summer in Madrid. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, Mandy! I’m glad for that as well. Thanks for the marvelous reminder, too – I’ll remember your words next time a lace project feels out of sorts. Blocking is really king (queen!). 🙂

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  3. What a wonderful experience! It’s the quintessential knitting lesson as I have learned it–have faith, keep going, don’t expect to know everything about the end from the beginning . . . and you may very well be surprised and pleased beyond your expectations. Your shawl is stunningly pretty and looks beautiful on you. Amazing work! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading, Melinda. 🙂 Yes – that’s exactly it in a nutshell, especially the element of surprise beyond expectations. Thanks for articulating it in a way I can remember! Now, I just need to learn to apply this wisdom-from-the-needles to ….the rest of my life. 🙂 Cheers and hope you’re enjoying your TDF spinnings!

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  4. Oh wow, that’s so delicate and pretty! And if ever there was an example of the near-magic powers of blocking, this is it! I also absolutely love the colour, and the condo knitting is a brilliant effect, too. Here’s hoping you get plenty of nice cool summer evenings to show it off!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, Helen. 🙂 Yes, I was maybe the most surprised by the condo knitting – I’d never have thought that 2 different needles worked as usual could produce an interesting effect, blocked out. I’m a little bit addicted to blocking now, lol. Thanks, and hoping that the Dublin heatwave has let up a bit in the past while. I love summer but.. ouf!

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      1. I’m not surprised… Normal blocking is pretty awesome. Lace blocking seems to be borderline magical! As for that heatwave, either it’s cooling off a bit or I’m finally getting used to it! 😎 (Sort of!)

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This is one beautiful shawl! So beautifully made 🙂 Lace knitting is really really fun, especially when it comes to the blocking part. It’s like you said, it’s a magical revelation!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading, Tess. 🙂 I can’t agree more; lace-knitting delivers so much fun, and I’m learning to enjoy blocking as the last, dramatic step in the lace transformation. I hope you’ve been enjoying your knitting, too – your current WIP (on instagram) is breathtaking!

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    1. Thanks for reading, Weekes. Yes, the back of my neck couldn’t stand the heat and had to get out of the kitchen! I also felt it was time to shed the slightly bedraggled winter locks / ‘Asian Gandalf’ look and start anew. Let’s see if the hair can make a proper shape for a photo in the coming time (this humidity though!)… Cheers. 🙂

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  6. Knitting with two different sized needles must feel strange!
    I’m a total convert to blocking, although I’ve not made a big lace project yet. The biggest difference I’ve seen was when I made some snowflake decorations at Christmas. When they first came off the hook every last one looked like a dead spider they were so crinkled up. One blocking later and they were beautiful 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, Hannah. 🙂 It definitely does feel strange at first, especially when knitting off the smaller to the bigger needle, but the size difference becomes ‘normal’ after a few rows; it’s a great way to make lace without all the yarn overs and such (and the risk of dropping stitches, which I often do!). And yes, isn’t blocking an amazing process, transforming crinkled things into beautiful shapes? I liked your description of the pre-blocked spiders, lol (I can see them!). Those snowflake decorations sound lovely!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You have taken my breath away. Your Leticia Shawl is exquisite and your description of the making of it beautifully worded. Well done on getting past your “pre-blocked-lace dismay” . And I thought quilting was delicate and time consuming!

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    1. Thank you for reading, Mariss, and your thoughtful comments! 🙂 This was one of those projects that had so much to teach about the craft! My mind is blown by quilts, quilters, and quilting, by the way. Looking forward to more textile musings!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What an amazing story!! Love that you tried blocking, and that lace gave you hope to keep going. I so acknowledge you for staying with it. It’s beautiful.

    A spiritual mentor of mine says, “She wins who endures to the end.” 🙂 🙂

    Sending you blessings. I love your blog!
    Debbie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Debbie! I try to learn as much as I can from my knitting craft…hope, especially. 🙂 And, thank you for sharing that quote from your mentor. I love the truth of it: yes, living is an endurance run! 🙂

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