Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Grading Hyrna

I asked my daughter last night how large is too large for a shawl, and she laughed and said, "When I step on the ends or when it wraps around me three times!" I'm over 5'10" and she is rapidly passing me by -- feet and arms are already bigger -- so I figure I can keep knitting for a while. The classic maximum is the wingspan of the recipient, a bit over six feet in this household. The classic minimum is just above the elbows when the arms are hanging, relaxed. A shrug can be 2/3rds the distance from the top of the shoulder to the bend in the elbow, but it has to have enough drape either from fabric density or shoulder shaping to hang well.

The easiest way to make Hyrna larger is to use a heavier grist of yarn and larger needles. However, there is a structural reason lace is traditionally knit from very fine yarn: all those decreases are lumpy! There is also a key visual reason: to maximize the visual contrast of the positive-negative space in a lace pattern, one needs to be able to see at least a few repeats of the pattern in one glance. Most people have a comfortable focal area of 8" for this form of vision at, oh, a few feet away. From across a room (ten to twelve feet), you should still be able to see the general form of the stitch patterns and how they work together, thus the yarnovers need to be large enough to hold their own against any solid/stockinette portions of the lace.

I pondered making section A the breadth of DD's shoulders, section B down to her elbows, and the fans hanging below that, but she's growing so fast I've learned simply to make everything BIG and not use her dimensions as a guide.

The Icelandic laceweight I'm using is definitely the maximum grist for a singles that I would use for knitting lace, especially something like HH with all her double yarnovers. At 225 m per 50 g, the grist is about 2234 ypp. As I wrote before, it's really uneven so that is an average number. It appears to be worsted spun from what I would call semi-worsted preparation, sort of a shoddy combing? There's a bit of VM and enough short bits that Alden would give me that look and send me back to the combs to start over... The thin parts have just a bit too much twist and the thick parts have a tad too little but the staples are mostly long and forgiving. There is, since it is a singles, a bit of bias which works well with the way the decreases are knit. Even after washing the fabric is stiff and dense -- before washing I feared the shawl would be more appropriate as an architectural display, but my daughter grabbed the washed sample and said she liked it. Those early years on the homestead in Montana taught her the value of wool. She knows the difference between Sharlea and Lincoln, but adores all wool.

Another standard method for enlarging a shawl is to add repeats within a section. Hyrna is well-suited to this because the transition from section A (double yo's) to section B (bead lace) is 1:1. If you've ever done unit origami you'll really appreciate this pattern. I cannot tell you how many months of my life I've spent tweaking lace patterns to design a fluid visual transition between two seemingly compatible stitch patterns!

Hyrna begins with a cast-on and a handful of set-up rows that segue neatly into the body of section A, where the only change in stitch pattern repeats is the addition of two units per side per repeat. Lovely, tidy math, and VERY quick to knit. The end of section A introduces the fan motif in the center and terminates the double-yo pattern. I added three stitch pattern repeats *before* the fan motif, for an additional twelve units. As I posted, this enlarged version of section A took just under 225 m of yarn.

Section B is a classic 4-row pattern with expansion in the center and at the edges. More tidy math. I really like the proportions of the original shawl and will see how it looks as I go. The only restrictions are the chance of running out of yarn (slight -- I have two balls at >14k st each, and I have the entire pattern written out plus row stitch counts tabulated so I can see when I'm getting into the risky area) and the need for a correct array to set up section C's fans. Back to it!