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.

Until next time. ūüé∂

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!

leticia - back.jpg

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).

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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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