Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Birthday Fiber Treat and a New WIP Plan

Sunday was my birthday, and on Saturday, I received in the mail a nice birthday check from my parents.

Naturally, my thoughts turned to my fiber plans. I've been getting seduced by the many references I read in blogs to the Summer of Lace, and I decided to take the plunge. I've worked with lace stitches before, but never have I knit with lace-weight yarn.

I studied a couple books I had, Folk Shawls and Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls, to get some idea of how much yarn I'd want. With that yardage in mind, I trotted off to The Woolery to make my choice.

I wound up getting one skein of the Merino Oro lace-weight wool, in an ecru color. Or maybe it's beige. Either way, I knew I didn't want white, and I'm not fond of colors like Navy Blue, either. So Beige it was.

This was my first experience with this thin, thin yarn. I have worked with hanks like this before in heavier yarns with no difficulty. In this case, however, winding the yarn into a ball turned out to be a fairly rigorous experience.

First, I found the string that bound the hank. This was tied in a figure-8 around two halves of the skein. When I held those two half-hanks up in my hands, I was pleased to see there was only one strand going between them. "That's as it should be," I thought. "That way, there's one end in the half in my right hand, and one end in the half in my left. I can wind this from one to the other with no hassles."

Silly me. On closer examination, I found one end on the right, as expected. But there were three ends on the half-hank on the left. Okay, that means this is all in two lengths.

I decided to warp-chain the half-hank in my right hand, and to start unwinding its thread from the left. Massive tangles began soon after I started. I worked my way through them, and eventually found myself holding...a third piece of yarn, short enough that it rolled into a large marble-sized ball.


Setting the marble aside, I continued to work with my warp-chained half-hank and unwind it from the other. Gradually, I saw the tangled portion of the left half-hank become less massive, and eventually, I even found the end of the right-hand half-hank. Finally, the two parts were separated.

I then found an end on the remaining half-hank, and began winding. I put one of my needlework floor stands into service to hold the hank in the air, making it easier to unwind.
Most Good Tools are Multi-taskers
You can see the marble-size piece right below the yarn label, and the first half hank all wound in a ball just above my toe.

In the end, I finally got one large ball of yarn.
I spliced all three pieces together, and now, I have one continuous length for whatever it is I'm going to make.

I just didn't expect to have to get there the hard way.

So, what is this going to become? Good question.

I've never knit a lace shawl before. You would think, then, that I'd go for one of the many beautiful patterns in the two books I mentioned above. Or one of the multitude of free patterns available on the web. Or wait until our meager finances allow me to purchase a pattern.

But, no. I keep looking at the patterns, and seeing that all the stitches have names, and so many of the patterns have themes, and while they're beautiful, well, if there are themes to the patterns and the stitches, they darn well better have meaning for me personally.

There are lovely shawls out there with sea themes, or autumn leaf themes, or sheep themes. But I'm not an oceanic, foresty, or sheep-y type of person.

I went back to Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls, and browsed the stitch patterns with my personality in mind. "Cat's Paw....hmmm. String of Beads - bingo! Wings of the Swan...yes!" (For those who don't know, Folkcat is a cat with wings that I drew myself to use as a logo for my recently closed bead store.)

So here's the plan - I'm going to knit a shawl from the neck down. There's going to be a rectangular section at the center back with three bands of "String of Beads" separated by two bands of "Narrow Cat's Paw". At either side, there will be triangular sections set on the diagonal, with columns of "Wings of the Swan". Finally, the hem edge will tie it all together with "Old Shale", as a rock-based pattern to represent the Granite State, New Hampshire - my home. Thus, I have the winged cat, the beads, and New Hampshire all represented in my "Wings of the Cat" shawl.

Yes, I'll post pictures and progress reports here. I'm even going to try to track the pattern so I can eventually either post or sell it. I'm looking forward to seeing how this one comes out, and if it's successful, I may want to make another one myself - without having to re-invent it!