Sunday, April 29, 2007

Shawl Come Back Now

My sister, Susan, is due any second. I've never known nine months to flit past so quickly in all my life.

Athough she has reassured me that the baby won't be christened for quite some time, I still feel a sense of urgency about the shawl. It seldom leaves my side these days, and I am pleased to find that a few stitches here and there does, in fact, add up.

This is it as of five minutes ago, looking crumpled and forlorn as unblocked lace will insist upon doing.

Up to the Border

The center panel, which was knitted flat is complete. I've picked up stitches all around the edge and am now working the borders round and round and round and round. And round.

The first bit of border is just a simple band of stockinette with the flower motif Sharon Miller adapted (in Heirloom Knitting) from the traditional cat's paw pattern. I wanted something to buffer the transition from the center to the borders; this seems to have done the trick.

The borders proper - of which I've worked exactly one round - will be a mesh-and-diamonds motif. It should pick up the geometry of the center panel, but instead of diagonals made from decreases, it has diagonals made from yarn-overs.

Reader Richard from DC asked about picking up stitches from the center panel. I made it easy on myself, Richard. When casting on, I added an extra stitch to either side of the pattern, then slipped the first stitch of every row as I knit. Since the standard rule for making a square is to knit twice as many rows as cast-on stitches, when it was time to pick up those edges I had the perfect number of little loops on either side waiting for me. No guesswork, no fuss. Not a revolutionary idea–it's the way Mary Thomas (and many, many others) work the edges of the heel flap on a sock.

I've also eliminated a lot of fuss by restricting myself to patterns that have a plain row every other round. Now that I'm working circularly, it means every other row is just knitting, except at the corner points where I increase by 1 yarn-over on either side of a central stitch. This is the same increase method (out of Elizabeth Zimmermann) that I used in Glencora and it reasonably approximates the look of the grafting done in traditional Shetland Shawls. (By "reasonably approximates," I mean it looks sort of the same if you have no idea what you're looking at and you squint.)

So you see, it's not much of an accomplishment to work this piece on the subway. (You want to see really impressive stuff, go here and here.) The stitch patterns are small - the largest repeat being 12 stitches wide and sixteen high - and grow so logically that after four rounds I don't need the pattern for reference.

Of course, when it's finished and everyone's getting ready for the christeninig and I unfurl it and they all say "ooh" the Official Story will be that I had to sit naked in a mountain hermitage for six months and learn Tantric breathing just to work the provisional cast-on.

38 comments:

Laiane said...

The shawl is just lovely, and will be even lovelier after blocking, I'm sure.

I have not yet attempted any lace work myself, so lace always impresses me.

Oh, and provisional cast-on's do require Tantric breathing and hermitages, I'm positive.

Best wishes to your sister.

Mel said...

Lovely. But then we wouldn't expect any less from you.

Anonymous said...

The Christening Shawl is beautiful.... btw I ordered a Dolores shirt from your store.... I LOVE IT! bjrest

Janet said...

A lovely shawl. And thanks for the detailed description of how you are knitting it.

Ted said...

I think it's going to be great! A fabulous family heirloom is in the making.

ccr in MA said...

You say "crumpled and forlorn", I say "fabulous and impressive" ... tomato, tomahto, knitting is magic! Well done, already!

Sister Sue said...

Woah. Hold the phone. Due any second? Are you trying to terrify me? I have a week of school left, a literary magazine to finish, a house to clean, and a suitcase to pack. And heck--I wanna go to prom which isn't til May 12 (I have a GREAT dress). Ok, so I know the baby is running on its own time frame and technically it could come any second--and if it does, to heck with all those chores--but around here fingers (and legs) are crossed that this baby is a bit closer to ON TIME than early!

The shawl, by the way, is GORGEOUS! I can't wait to see it, and I really can't wait to see you!!

KellyD said...

Franklin, The shawl is amazing. And as the old wives say " a baby can come any time". Slow and steady gets the shawl completed.

MonicaPDX said...

Oh my, that's gorgeous. And it doesn't look crumpled at all! Yes, yes, I know; it does to you. But it's much less like a pile of ramen, to steal from a certain Harlot, than most lace I've seen online. That's one lucky baby, and Uncle Franklin is just getting started...

(ROFL re the Tantric breathing, etc. What, no sitting on a bed of nails, in the snow, uphill both ways too?)

La Cabeza Grande said...

There's nothing crumpled about that gawgeousness, Franklin! Even unblocked, your work is mighty impressive.

All the best to you and your growing family :o)

knitnzu said...

A girl book! I got this today for my 12 yr old cousin (second cousin?, cousin once removed?). I want to read it! Did you see it in your book search? "A Northern Light" by Jennifer Donnelly. Your shawl is lovely!

Michelene said...

Franklin, are you a closet Hee Haw fan?
Beautiful design and workmanship.

Paul said...

Stunning. Absolutely stunning.

Riin said...

It's beautiful.

And you know, babies come whenever they want to.

Anonymous said...

What a blessed child. A christening shawl and a doting uncle who likes Thurber (whose Many Moons, the one with the Slobodkin illustrations, is on sale at Deadalus -- www.salebooks.com -- we just got one for a birthday gift). It's beautiful.

rosesmama

Natalie Servant said...

The shawl is coming along great. Just got the Margaret Stove book this week (do you know how much money reading your blog is costing me?) and spent a few hours fiddling around with some ideas last night. Thanks for the tip on the book. I hope the new baby (T-10 weeks) will allow me to retain enough brain cells to continue to play with lace.

Angie said...

That is a beautiful shawl. What a luck baby. Someday, shim will hold it and say, 'Look at how much my Uncle loves me!'

Kristen said...

I have to say that the shawl already looks gorgeous--I can't even imagine how gorgeous it will be when it is blocked!!

Angela said...

You are already a most excellent uncle to that very lucky baby! Gorgeous work, Franklin.

Cherice said...

Beautifulshawl, lucky sister and lucky baby! And as the mother of four I can say that babies seem to have their own time table. 2 of mine came late, # 3 we coaxed out a week early and the last one was the most impatient, she appeared two weeks early!

Cherice said...

That should read beautiful shawl, two words not one.

Rabbitch said...

I'm afraid I have to disagree with everyone. It looks like a bucket of boiled ass (tm).

(please tell your readers I am joking and that they should not come kill me now because I'm too busy to die, okthanks).

Barb B. said...

As far as the grafting on the corners goes...it seems that it was traditional from all my reading. However, my great-granny was from Shetland, and she knit the borders exactly as you are doing, using a whole whack of long dpns. She knit most things so there was no sewing up to do, off the needles, check for ends, wash, block and on the body. (none of her shawls have lived this long, but some of her sweaters have)
So there....tradition lives on!
Barb B.

Deborah C. said...

The shawl is lovely, crumpled or no. I can't wait to see it blocked! I like the yarn over every other row construction, I've made several shawls that way and it works beautifully.

Lucky baby and lucky sister to have such a doting uncle/brother!

v.j. kohout said...

I feel like shit, Franklin.
I have knitted for a long long time and have not done anything as beautiful as your shawl. Even in it's crumpled stage.
Boring little sweaters is all I knit for babies.
Best wishes to Susan.

Yvonne said...

Ooooooh. Beautiful. I am inspired and next time I do a shawl will try my own design, too. Right now I'm working on the Tina shawl from Fiddlesticks. I'm on the outside border. . . . back & forth sixteen rows of pattern attached allllllll the way around, and so far have resisted the temptation to hurl it into the driveway & run over it repeatedly with the car. Maybe I'd better try some of that naked tantric breathing.

Anna-Liza said...

Tantric breathing! Of course! Why didn't I think of that?

(Very beautiful work. I hope someday I will knit lace so beautiful).

Linda said...

Dear Franklin, I thought I'd breeze in and out of your blog today, little realizing that I'd become caught up in the beauty of the work you do, to say nothing of the knowledge you so generously impart ABOUT the craft of knitting AND that your links would provide a tantalizing tutorial on lace shawl knitting. Result? I'm having an envious, Tantric tantrum!

Paper said...

A propos de nothing, I was thinking o you this weekend as I made my first-ever visit to Chicago! I think the only stop I shared with Stephanie was The Bean, but it was a fun one, and I envied her the tour guide. (No knitting stores, I was there with my squib parents.)

And them my Mom mentioned that a cousin by marriage is a state rep in Maine, too--John Piotti, a dem. (Yes, this is among the most tenuous of "I have a friend who knows your friend" internet connections, but still.) And the weather was glorious!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on becoming an uncle and on the lovely shawl!
We wish Susan a safe delievery and a healthy little baby. I'm keeping both of you in my thoughts.

Keep up the great work!

sahara said...

Franklin, that is a "true heirloom, that gives me a museum quality feeling; kinda what you'd see at the Merchant House Museum.

Thanks for the tip on tantric breathing. Provisional cast on's, make me stop breathing altogether. Additionally, your posts have been very helpful. Might you be channeling Mary T.'s spirit?

Romi said...

Gorgeous shawl. And, btw, I doubt very much your sister agrees with you that those nine months went by quickly! ;)

kalkette said...

Wow, the shall looks fabulous, even unblocked. I hope they really appreciate all your hard work.
I noticed it's sitting on a pile of books and that one is by James Thurber. He's one of my favorites. Out of curiosity, which book is that?

JoVE said...

My experience of pregnancy is that the first 7 months or so do go by remarkably quickly but the last 2 weeks are so interminable that it all balances out in the end :-)

The shawl is lovely. And your description should encourage more people to just try knitting lace.

Rachael said...

Franklin,
The shawl is, of course, lovely. Your readers expect nothing less than gorgeous from you...

I have a question, a few questions...I am coming to chicago in June for a wedding & I was wondering if you could tell me what yarn store(s) are most worth my time to check out. I am currently lace & sock obsessed, so anything with a good selection of either would make me quite happy. My LYSs here in NC are...lacking. Also - if you have any tips on 'things to do' in chicago that aren't obvious to the random tourist I would appreciate it. We are displaced from Philly at the moment for a job opportunity & are sorely missing city life & activities.

Thank you!
Rachael
cattywampusblog AT gmail DOT com

David said...

Hopefully the cave had comfy cushions and an espresso machine.

Knitting Granny said...

The shawl is achingly beautiful! I mean it. Thanks for the tip about using selvage stitches to pick up stitches for the knitted-on border. I'm goin to use that for the shawl I'm going to start just as soon as the yarn arrives. How's Doris?

Sandy said...

oh thats how you do provisonal cast on...