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).

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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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Worldwide Knit in Public Day + a little lace

World Wide Knit in Public Day
Image source: wwkipday.com

Hello. I hope the start of June finds you well! This is probably old hat to the seasoned knitters, but first things first: this Saturday, June 9th is Worldwide Knit in Public Day (WWKiP). Started in 2005, this annual event is the largest knitter-run gathering on the globe. The idea is to join up and meet your local, fellow-knitters for some quality stitching time. Given the often solitary nature of a craft that is mostly performed in (and commonly relegated to) “private” spaces and spheres, WWKiP brings fiber arts into public space and gives crafters a chance to meet/reunite with like-minded folks, share some tips, and enjoy some community-building through the fiber arts.

WWKiP has been steadily growing over the years, with 1125 public knitting events around the world in 2017. That’s a lot of public knitting. If the prospect of some quality time with yarn, sunshine, WIPs, and nice people sounds good to you, the WWKiP website has a worldwide directory of events.

I can think of no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.


Ok. Now for some lace…

I’ve been busy, this month, working my very first lace-knitting project: Reiko Kuwamura’s Leticia shawl.

© Reiko Kuwamura, Image source: Ravelry.com.

This induction into lace-knitting comes late, a little over a year into my return to knitting at the end of 2016. I can see the reasons for this. I was never a lace-wearer myself, and felt it easier to focus, at first, on the “hardy” practical knits – the mitts, the workhorse socks and scarves, a blanket here, a hat there. It has taken time to discover and appreciate this lighter side of knitting. My coming into lace, in other words, is quite like the process of lace-making itself: a little slow-going, and needing time and the right conditions to “open up” (as lace does, only after a good block).

Leticia

Folks, I love this pattern. It is worked in 2 parts: the lace border is worked first (it uses a 4-row repeat and includes a picot edge), and the body of the shawl proper is worked afterwards, by picking up border-stitches. The first step – still in progress – has been lots of fun: after about 30 repeats, I felt I had finally memorized the lace pattern and could safely turn it into TV & podcast knitting with the help of a counter (to track my place in the repeats) and good old paper and pen (to keep track of the number of repeats completed). Very analog.

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I love completing the border’s repeats. I can never quite stop at just one – the mind wants another and another, and with that, the lace lengthens.

I love the spidery feeling of working something finer and more delicate than stockinette or garter under my fingers, having the fabric coax my hands into learning a new nimbleness.

And I love the fragile architecture of lace, the way it holds together while letting the light and the air in, as if lace were meant to convey the elements. In the photo above, I’m imagining what it would be to sit underneath a huge lace rooftop or canopy and be mottled by little pools of lace-worked light.

Lacework has captured my imagination!

I hope you are making up a storm this week. Until next time!