shawl nostalgia

This one’s a knitting post, looking back.

When I finished my very first lace project in 2019, I gained a new appreciation for lace-knitting. The Dinner at the Eiffel Tower Shawl is a good entry-level lace project. By that, I mean that most of the shawl’s lace panels consist of simple yarn-overs (skipped stitches that produce little holes) that repeat across the entire row. Nothing too complex.

Knit up in Berroco Folio, a blend of rayon and superfine alpaca, I remember that I completed the shawl over the course of 3 weeks. I remember that, to avoid mistakes in the lattice lace (the “diamond” areas), I pre-marked the 7-stitch repeated pattern with a piece of yarn at 7-stitch intervals before working all of the actual stitches. It was labour intensive, doing this over 200 or so stitches, row by row, but I learned that dividing my stitches in this way made trouble-shooting problems infinitely easier.

I love the flow state of “mindless knitting” — the kind of knitting that consists of rows and rows with few stops and starts. I learned that lace is quite different. It required my intense attention. The contrast is the difference between getting to cruise on the highway vs. making frequent stops and starts in city traffic. Lace absorbs you. It is a state of being.

When I completed this shawl after having worked at this turtle pace, I was incredibly proud. It marked a “level up” in my knitting skills after years of doing simple stockinette projects and some minor work in cables.

Nowadays, I don’t feel like I’m doing much “leveling up.” I am learning to be content if I feel like I am holding steady, creatively-speaking. Given the current circumstances, I find my knitting (and general creative) bandwidth narrowed. Drawing and art feel fluid, improvisational, and forgivingly open-ended; I draw a little pink cat-person in 20 minutes, and I am happy. The counting, casting on, stitching, and modifying required of garment-knitting surpasses what I feel I’m capable of these days, and I am coming to terms with that hiatus. I’m learning to see it not as a limitation, but an opening onto something new; there is value in taking a break and adapting my media to the constraints of what is possible. But how hard it can be (for myself, and others) to adapt expectations to a new set of circumstances… When these days are over, I’ll keep this wisdom of treading gently (again, on myself and others).

I guess I write this post to acknowledge my knitting nostalgia. It’s not merely nostalgia for a much-loved project, but also a remembering of the maker that I was, and had grown into over years — she had focus and capacities which, now, seem far away and unreachable given today’s atmosphere of ambient uncertainty. Maybe, one day, she’ll see lace glory again. For now, I’m okay with looking back in gratitude that something beautiful was possible.

A favourite moment after completing this project was going to the woods and filming the shawl under the sun on a breezy day. This clip makes me wistful for that summer. I hope you enjoy this moment of lace-calm, set to one of my favourite sunny day tunes. Full song below.

Until next time. ūüé∂

Toucan fiber folk

I hope you are having a restful Sunday.

This week sees a new knitting friend to add to last week’s: a toucan who is enjoying some knitting and sunlight in a purple lopapeysa sweater.

I have always loved toucans and their stunning colours — they are the opposite of camouflage, brazenly themselves. At least that’s how I think of it.

And Spring is a good time for artists (I am speaking for myself). The return of the sun makes colours extra vivid, bringing out their worlds of feeling. The surfaces and textures of stitches, fabric, and fiber become more brilliant, too. Working outdoors or with windows ajar, I feel connected to the slow sprouting of life around me. A quiet sweetness of being becomes possible.

Wishing you peace and sunny days this week. ūüôā

6 super quick (and free) mini-stocking patterns to knit

Happy Wednesday. I hope your week is going well. This is a repost from 2017 (time flies!) that is for the holiday knitters — a review of 6 different mini-stocking patterns for your holiday crafting pleasure. These patterns are all free, knit up in a pinch, and as far as I’ve checked, are still available on Ravelry (save for #6 which was taken from a book). Enjoy!


The past week has found me getting my holiday knit on, combing through Ravelry’s collection of mini-stocking patterns and trying my hand at a few. My usual writing table has been temporarily transformed into a workshop strewn with yarny bits, coloured pencils, the odd DPN, and darning needles which tend to roll into their favourite hiding place: under all of the other mess. I now appreciate the true meaning of trying to find a needle in a ribbon-paper-and-tape stack.

But. If you’re pressed for time and are looking for a last-minute holiday knit, I’ve found that mini-stockings work well. The patterns are easy and can be worked + finished up in an evening (I am a slower knitter, so the speedy-stitchers among you could zip one off in no time).

The Patterns

I worked 6 different patterns.

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1) Gemma Towns’ Mini Christmas Stockings  turned out to be my favourite pattern of the lot. Striping, a contrast colour on the cuff, heel and toe, and ample space for stuffers — what’s not to like? Worked on DPNs, the heel is shaped through a series of short rows. Quick Kitchener-stitch to graft that toe. Easy peasy.

2) Kat Mcab’s Small Holiday Stockings are a fun take on the mini-stocking, and they knit up really fast with minimal finishing. The stocking is worked in the round and is shaped with a set of increases. The simplicity of this pattern allows you to personalize or customize it easily. Only the bottom of the stocking requires a quick seam: a kitchener stitch graft or a 3-needle bind-off.

3) Jean Greenhowe’s pattern for Mini Christmas Stockings is worked flat. The stocking is shaped through increases, and the seam is sewn up the ‘back’ (the right side of the ornament in the picture). I thought that this pattern made for the most traditional ‘stocking’ shape, but am discovering that I’m a bigger fan of DPNs than I am of seams! This pattern walks you through different variations for colours and striping.

4) Juliet Bernard’s Christmas Stockings are quite special: worked on DPNs, they feature a ribbed cuff, some variations of easy colour work to choose from, and a full slip-stitched heel and gusset. If you’re looking to bring some 3-D sock-realism to your holiday decor, this pattern is it!

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Gusset realness!

5) Beverly Leestma’s Mini Knit Stockings are worked flat, include short-rows for heel-shaping, and are seamed along the front of the stocking. This pattern produced the tiniest of the stockings (a mere 2.5″ from heel to cuff when using worsted weight and size 6 US needles). The pattern has variations for striping and working heel & toe contrast colours.

…and 6) comes from the pages of Joelle Hoverson’s Last-Minute Knitted Gifts(2004) – the Sweater and Stocking Minis pattern. True to its word, the book provides a range of 11th-hour knits. This one is under the category of “2-hour projects.” It knit up so fast, I was able to finish the stocking in the library and did not need to bring the pattern book home with me (there is a lovely room in the library with a high, domed ceiling, a real fireplace, and huge windows that let all the light in. It is perfection for knitting). This one knit up the lumpiest, though – my mistake: the heel uses a few yarn-overs during the short-rows and my attempt to close up all the holes while finishing up left some bumps in the fabric. Lesson learned.

…and I-Cord Hangers

When attaching hangers to the stockings, I first tried a crochet slip-stitch chain, but found this flimsy and shapeless (see stocking #2 above). What my heart desired (and what it got) was an i-cord loop. I-cords are so much fun to make! They make for a very sturdy hanging loop for heavier things, too (if you’re interested, you’ll find a tutorial for making a 2-colour i-cord at the end of the post).

For each ornament, I worked a 2-colour 4-stitch i-cord on size 2 DPNs, then sewed the ends together to make a loop.

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Making an I-cord: just 4-stitches slid along a DPN produces a sturdy column of stockinette.

I attached the loops to the stocking corners, and with that, a first batch of stockings was ready!

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What do you think of these different patterns? Are you putting in the last stitches on a project or two? I hope that this week finds you warm and well, and recharging your holiday energies wherever and whenever you can.

The road lace traveled

Hello friends, makers, and creators of WordPress. After a 3 month hiatus from blogging, I’m hoping to get a semi-regular posting habit going again. Although I haven’t been as active blog-wise this year, I have been reading and enjoying your posts. Your collective creativity sustained my imagination during my own blogging dry spell, and reading your stories and updates inspires me to come back to making, reflecting, and writing again — the lather, rinse, repeat of creativity (like, in a good way).

One happy update: earlier this summer, I tied the knot with my partner and best friend of 9 years! We enjoyed a sunny day and a simple, symbolic ceremony outside of Chicago on a grassy patch by a lake. We were grateful for fluffy clouds across a blue Midwestern sky and the loving company of close friends and family.

So. While planning, one thing I definitely wanted to do for the day was to wear a handmade garment. Having read about traditions of lace-making in The Book of Haps a year ago, my mind was full of lace-shaped dreams. I love the way lace catches light and drapes and moves and makes shadows. I was also resolved to take my lace skills to the next level. I decided, last Spring, that I’d make myself a shawl.

I chose a sport weight baby blue alpaca (as my LYS-lady said, alpaca’s got a natural “glow”) and selected a pattern that looked challenging but also possible for me: Jessie Dodington’s Dinner in the Eiffel Tower shawl. It’s a beautiful crescent-shaped cover, inspired by the famous tower’s criss-cross lattice structure. I was excited, enthused, pumped on wedding-planning adrenaline, and on my way…

© Jessie Dodington

But, because mistakes are inevitable…

I realized, early on, that I needed to devise my own way of dealing with lace-making mistakes in order to avoid past (disappointing) experiences of frogging-the-whole-darn-thing. With the later rows reaching 265 stitches, this became all the more important! Since the lattice section of the shawl relied on a pattern that repeated every 7 stitches, I “pre-knit” each row by weaving a line of yarn in between stitches to mark every 7-stitch repeat. This marking method helped me to “see” where each repeat was going to occur before physically knitting the row out. When I did, inevitably, make a mistake, this method also helped me to see where in the knitting the mistake happened, making correcting it 1000 times easier. It was time-consuming, yes, but this method was my own little eureka! moment of lace-knitting; it got me through the project and showed me that, with a little extra planning, more lace-making is possible in the foreseeable future.

As usual, when the shawl first comes off the needles, it’s a crumpled up, non-shawl-looking thing. The structures of lace come alive on the blocking board.

Pictures!

On the blocking board.
Out where lace loves to live: under the sun.

Just revisiting these pictures from earlier this summer fills me with a sense of lace-lover’s magic all over again.

Ok. That is all the news for now. Wishing you a restful weekend and an exciting, productive week!

Lace lessons: the Leticia Shawl

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

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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).

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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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