Sunday, February 26, 2006

Morgan is blocked

Frankly, this felt so good unblocked, I was sorely tempted to leave it as is and just steam the points. But, it did need a wash since it has already had an interesting life, so into the sink it went. Finished dimensions are 24" deep at the center back, 42" across the shoulder axis, and the neck hole measures 42" along the garter edge. I didn't give it a hard stretch, just tugged it until the yo's looked good and the stockinette sections still had a cohesive profile. I put in a quarter and the Altoids tin (filled with pins) for scale. DH and DD have not been fond of the shawl since they have been living on leftovers for the duration, but when they saw it blocked they both went "Ooooh!" so I don't have to worry about finding it in the rag bag...

The yarn was six balls of Endless Summer Collection Luna from in a deep olive green, 57% viscose/43% cotton, a splitty, fussy yarn made of fine 2-ply strands of cotton and an under-twisted strand of viscose. In six balls, there were two knots and one damaged spot where half the strands were cut (I ran another strand through there when working in ends, bridging it). If the yarn were just the cotton elements without the nasty viscose, it would be a pleasure to knit, but that viscose gave me fits. The resulting fabric is gorgeous, elastic, cushy, warm without being hot, and a nice balance of drape and density without being too heavy. The viscose does add a pretty glimmer.

I used a 4.5 mm (US size 7) needle throughout, starting with a pointy aluminum and switching to an Addi 60" sixty-six rows in, more to loosen my gauge and make my hands relax than out of necessity. I did a modified 3-stitch Kiri start with the edge stitch slipped and 9 ridges, mirrored traveling vine with the pivot at the center back. As you can see in the photo above, I flared the solid portions of the vines, then branched the eyelet portions twice. When I got the size I wanted, I worked the standard seven stitch pattern until I finished the fifth ball of yarn. According to my calculations I was getting around 5000 stitches per ball, and with 56 points and a fluctuating 450 to 500 stitches per row, I knew I couldn't do another repeat so commenced the edging. I cut two rows of depth from the way I had pictured the lattice, just in case, but think I might just have had enough yardage to keep them in.

If you count the 9 ridges times 3 stitches for the cast-on base as one row, and then the 56 points as one row, it's 117 rows from start to finish. Around 3:00 this morning in a haze of chocolate-covered crunchy espresso beans and a splendid trashy novel, I realized I really should break the yarn at the center and knit the other half of the points from the purl side to get proper symmetry, but by doing some elegant maneuvers with rather elaborate decreases, I was able to get an equivalent stretched mirror profile. I didn't think I could bend my brain into backwards plus reverse and keep up the pace I'd set.

I actually could have finished this early in the week except I stumbled last week and landed hard on my right wrist. Because I've been doing piecework as a business since 4th grade and I practiced piano and cello an average aggregate of forty hours per week all during my school years, I'm always hovering on the edge of CTS and other delightful wrist and digit afflictions. I've managed it very carefully, taking breaks, being conscious of hand position, etc., but I have the unfortunate instinct of reaching out with my hands when I fall...

As I knit, I had my laptop open with a text document on the left and a spreadsheet on the right, and I entered each row as I figured it out. I know there are a few mistakes in there, but I'm not planning on knitting this particular shawl again and really just used the pattern as reference. It was a wonderful moment when I realized that I was into a 30-row repeat in the branching sections; that sped things up considerably! All I had to modify was the number of repeats and the continued increasing at the edge to curve the wings around. I played with the center back line a bit, too, one day when I was bored. I was careful to avoid adding a centered point to the edging because I didn't want to disrupt the flow with too much order.

Traveling vine is a fun stitch pattern composed of a decrease vine in a field of stockinette that zig zags in opposition to a ladder of paired yo's. It's a form of distortion lace in that the vine eats the field stitches and thus cants the solid portions of the lace back and forth. Because of the stitch architecture, this lace cannot be flipped upside-down to appear right-side up when knit top down. However, it is simple to modify the width of the repeat by skipping some of the decreases. Branching the paired yo's takes more planning because the new pair won't be moving in opposition correctly, but if you look at the photo above you can see that it does work.

It grows a stitch per repeat on the right side, then decreases back to the original number in the next purl row, so on my spreadsheet I had a running calculation of the percentage of gain/loss each row and also over a span of five rows. This made figuring out the increases to make a smooth curve around the shoulders easy. One of the goals in this project was to avoid ripping, and the spreadsheet was a great help. I did rip one purl row because I got distracted and worked too far and needed to flare. Aside from that, I had three times when I forgot the second yo in the oft-repeated yo, k1b, yo sequence, but those were easily caught in the next purl row.

Since this was, for all practical purposes, a giant swatch, I took some shortcuts I wouldn't do in a commission. For instance, I didn't fuss with the direction of the stitches in the p2tb's, especially once I saw that the twisted stitches raised and defined the vine, which was in danger of being indistinct in the marled yarn. I had gotten some interesting answers to my query on the EZasPi group about split circle shawls, and this was a fun experiment in that. I will change the curvature at the back neck just a bit and start the shoulder curve sooner to fit normal shoulders. I do like useful swatches.

I will probably return to my FLAK next since that bag of Cascade 220 is hogging some serious space in the closet and Sweater wants a friend. I just wound a ball of Claudia handpainted Merino from
Nathania at Communknity to try to the fingerless mitt pattern at a lighter gauge.