Friday, April 14, 2006

Hyrna Herborgar KAL

Claudia and I are knitting the Hyrna Herborgar from Halldorsdottir's Three-Cornered and Long Shawls. It is an interesting book, containing a large number of thoroughly wearable and attractive shawls plus a few exquisite pieces. The photography is beautiful, and the hand-written charts are logical and the only ones I can actually see now. The patterns themselves are a bit terse, but they contain all the information you need and the latest translation is very handy.

I modified the Litla shawl I knit from this book, but I doubt I'll change the Hyrna in any way other than grading the size. We'll see how large it is when I finish the double-yo section. I like the proportions as is, but have heard it's on the small side. It is knitting up very quickly because Halldorsdottir is a knitting genius. Her use of twisted knit stitches is wickedly smart. I've been humming contentedly and smiling. The only change I've made in the pattern so far is to do a provisional cast-on so the final darning of the cast-on stitches is tidy. I rarely ever knit a pattern totally as writ, but this one is a gem.

Update: I added three repeats of the first section since it was definitely too small. I'll add a bit to the second section to make the math work. I have three balls of yarn and the photo above is the sum of ball number one (over 14,000 stitches on a 3.5 mm needle). Sorry the color isn't true -- it's actually a dark amethyst.

Claudia spun and dyed her yarn and I cheated and bought the recommended
Icelandic laceweight singles from Meg S. I've spun enough Icelandic to know it's not my favorite fleece, and the way my vision is now I would have a tough time separating the tog and thel. Plus, I was curious to see the traditional yarn.

I hate to say it, but I really do NOT like this yarn. I spin a better Icelandic singles with my eyes closed. The grist is very uneven, the staple is strong but of widely varying lengths -- the yarn drops litter in your lap as you knit. It is rough enough that all the rough spots on my hands have been worn smooth. It has an unholy fondness for itself; I have never seen a yarn with this much grab. I am being very careful not to let it tangle with itself! The dye color is glorious, but the scouring was too harsh, and the yarn is beyond scratchy. However, it also has a decent number of tpi (twists per inch) for the intended use, and the character of the yarn is going to make the shawl hold its shape perfectly when blocked. It does soften some with washing, but retains most of its rigidity.

What would I substitute? My own Icelandic would be better, which isn't saying much lately. I have just the right grist in a handspun linen singles, but not enough yardage. Coopworth would work and the luster would be a nice addition, plus it would be strong enough and have a similar drape. I don't think the soft halo of the Icelandic is necessary or even preferable for this pattern. Coopworth would also be ideal since the shawl requires a hard blocking to stretch the space between the columns of k2tog and ssk that outline the double-yo's in the first section.

Cassie's latest blog post about designing lace is yet another good one. I started to answer in comments and it got a bit ong, so I'm putting it here instead. If you haven't read Eunny's series about lace, go there first.

There's always an interesting interplay between designing on paper and designing on the needles. I prefer the latter, but will often sketch an idea to knit later. I usually write a pattern longhand, knit a bit, write what I've knit, alter it, knit some more, chart it, make a few changes, knit the changes, write it, and then start over with whichever version made the most sense visually, structurally, and in terms of knit-ability. At each stage I'll thumb through my stitch books and see if what I'm making has already been published, and I'll try a few different kinds and grists of yarn. Taking photos in progress can help me see the ratio of positive to negative space.

One of the things I enjoy most about designing is the tangential discoveries. In my recent fussing with various chevrons and arrow patterns for DD's pi, I made a mistake and ended up with a very attractive variation of BW's dainty chevron. It has a lot of k5togs which are a bother, but it looks good, and with the correct needle and yarn the k5togs are quick.

And yes, the laser surgery went pretty well, though I'm utterly exhausted from the adrenal surge. Cross your dpns that this will decrease the macular degeneration in the radiation burn.