On Friday night, without fanfare (except the one playing in my head) I finished my Orenberg Barbie Shawl and therefore my participation in the Knitting Olympics.
I was not one of the participants who picked a project as a speed challenge. After the ruana, I don't ever want to be the in the position of having to knit a large project on a tight schedule ever again, even if the result is satisfactory.
Instead, I went for learning a new technique as my challenge. Or rather, two of them.
The first was the creation of a shawl in the Orenberg manner, which differs greatly from the traditional Shetland in that it is knitted all in one piece from the lower borders to the top. There are no seams.
The second was the blocking of lace. I'd never done it, and trying it for the first time on a very small piece seemed the ideal way to get my feet (or rather, hands) wet.
Here's the finished bit o' lace unblocked and looking forlorn.
My intent was to block this using the method described in Gossamer Webs, which makes use of two pieces of nylon cord and far fewer pins than are normally required in lace blocking. However, after three tries, I gave it up. In practice, the description of blocking in the book was woefully sparse (which is surprising, given the thoroughness of the book as a whole), and the notes I took during my class with Galina Khmeleva didn't help.
So I wound up blocking according to the more common million-and-one pins method. Marilyn's advice to begin by shaping the inner square first was key. Once the center was firmly in place, pinning out the simple edging wasn't difficult at all.
I adjusted and re-adjusted the pins all around many times until I had it looking the way I felt it should look. Since the sample shawl is so small, instead of taking the featherbed off my mattress and so forth I just used a sofa cushion.
Sorry about the busy chintz. Mr. Ex picked it out and I have to live with it for the time being.
Once the pinning was done, I tipped the cushion upright on the floor and put a small fan in front of it, set on gentle/no heat. About two hours later, I unpinned it. I fully expected it to snap back into its original amoeboid shape.
But it didn't. It didn't!
The next day I pressed it into temporary service as an antimacassar on my reading chair. It won't stay there, as I'm just not a doily person. Old-fashioned in many ways I may be, but as none of my friends is given to dressing his hair with macassar oil, I don't see the need for this.
To sum up:
Pattern: Orenberg Sample Shawl from Gossamer Webs by Galina Khmeleva and Carol Noble
Changes: Added partial repeat of "bow tie" stitch pattern, plus two small strawberries, to center (pattern calls for plain garter stitch)
Yarn/Needles: Nature Spun sock yarn, colorway not noted; US 2 10" aluminum straight needles that belonged to my great-grandmother
Notes: Fun as all get-out to knit. If you have any inclination to try an Orenberg shawl or stole, do knit the sample shawl first. It will give you hands-on experience of the construction techniques. The Orenberg method of turning corners is ingenious and any knitter with a curiosity about process should try it. Ditto the extremely clever grafting technique that takes place at the very end of the shawl.
Also a fantastic way to introduce oneself to lace blocking. A small piece is easily encompassed by eye, hand, and mind, and allows one to get a feel for stretching and arranging without the palpitations that would probably accompany blocking a full-sized shawl with no prior experience.
Am I Glad I Did It: Hell yeah.
A Note About the Medal
I've sent the finished Olympics Gold Medal to Stephanie and am certain it will be available soon. There will be three versions: two sizes for Web display, and one for printing out.