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Archive for August 23rd, 2007

Finally, the Frost Flowers & Leaves Shawl for Glamorous is finished!

VITAL STATISTICS:

Pattern: Frost Flowers & Leaves, by Eugen Beugler for A Gathering Of Lace
Made for: Glamorous, my younger sister
Yarn: JaggerSpun Zephyr Wool-Silk Yarn, 2/18 Lace Weight (50% Chinese Tussah silk, 50% fine grade Merino wool), Charcoal Colorway
Yardage: My “one-pound” cone originally weighed 17.2 oz and now weighs 11.2 oz. Some quick algebra gives me a rough estimate of 1641 yards used in the shawl and 3399 yards remaining on the cone. For visual comparison’s sake, here’s a photo of a brand-new “one pound” cone in violet (soon to be used for the Peacock Feathers shawl).

Yarn Source: Sarah’s Yarns
Needles: US size 4 KnitPicks Options needles, 32 inch cord for the body of the shawl, with Bates double pointed needles for the edging
Gauge/Final Size: I forgot to measure — but I’ll update shortly! More than a yard on each side . . .
Modifications:

  • Switched out needles (pattern suggested US 6) and yarn (pattern suggested Jamieson & Smith Laceweight Shetland)
  • Based on many comments about the unruly size of the project, and based on the repetitive exhaustion of the multiple repeats of chart two, I decided to omit two repeats, and worked five instead of the suggested seven repeats.

RESOURCES:

  • Be sure to look up pattern errata before beginning. I have the fourth printing, the 2005 edition of A Gathering of Lace and there were a few errors in the chart. You can find errata here.
  • Do yourself a favor and join the the wonderful, trailblazing knitters on the Yahoo! Groups Frost Flowers & Leaves board – many challenges and solutions, from yarn choice to technique help, can be found there.
  • A Gathering of Lace has a technique section in the back – hunt through the whole book and you’ll find a few hidden resources. Several knitters complained that techniques needed to execute the pattern were explained in greater detail elsewhere in the book, so be sure and dig through (specific examples below).

SMOOTHING OUT THE TANGLES:

Set-up and cast-on:

  • I did Emily Ocker’s circular cast-on. There are instructions for the cast-on in A Gathering of Lace on page 163. I used a very helpful tutorial at Spelling Tuesday.
  • I found the yarn to be rather slippery, and because it’s lace there are lots of yarn-overs – both problematic on double pointed needles. I worked the first chart using the magic loop method rather than trying to use dpns, where YOs can get lost and stitches can easily slide off the needle’s ends.
  • I used lots of stitch markers in different colors. For starters, I suggest marking off each of the four quadrants of the chart (three quadrant markers and one special marker to indicate the beginning/end of an entire round), and then marking off each mini-section. For example, in chart two I placed colored stitch markers at each pattern repeat and then used white markers to mark off the leaves.
  • I am a big believer in lifelines, and this piece proved no different. Lifelines were especially helpful for beginning and ending each chart repeat, and I ripped back to the lifeline several times.
  • I screwed up pretty badly early on, so I decided to cast-off and use what I’d knit as a “swatch” – it actually worked out well. If this happens to you, don’t give up – having a beautiful swatch to cuddle and love and show off was a great motivator and helped give me a feel for what the finished product would be like.

The “trick” rounds: move marker left one stitch:

There is a recurring (and confusing!) direction in this pattern: “move marker left 1 stitch before beginning round.” I made sure I had a lifeline in before attempting these “trick” rows. The first few times, I found it pretty confusing to know how to handle the direction, but here’s how it should work: Knit the entire round, all 4 repeats, then remove your beginning-of-round stitch marker, knit one more stitch, and replace the marker. You only knit that ONE extra stitch, and it happens once per ROUND, not once ever section/quarter. Once you’ve moved over, begin knitting the row as you normally would. When it gets confusing, you’ll be glad you had that lifeline in place!

A frequent complaint from other knitters about the “move left one” rows was how hard it was to “read” the stitches already on the needles. Although it’s confusing to work the “move left one” rows, there are a few things to look out for in “reading” your knitting:

  • The knit-through-the-back-loop stitches should line up. If you are working a ktbl one stitch over from the ktbl in the rows below, you’ve got a problem.
  • In chart two, the “frost flowers” each emerge from a yarn over, and the “columns” are centered over the frost flowers below, so you know you are doing well if the YO in the second column lines up with the ssk-k2tog at the tip of the frost flower.

  • Similarly, on the “leaves” that make an X through the shawl, the tips of each leaf taper from five stitches wide to three to one stitch, but it’s always an odd number. Therefore, you can check your work by making sure the leaves are centered — if you find that the second (center) stitch of the three-wide round doesn’t fall over the third (center) stitch of the five-wide round, you know you have trouble.

Chart three:

  • The first round of chart three is extra-tricky, because there are several times when two slip-slip-knits occur right next to each other (ie, two in a row, one right after the other). These happen when a ssk replaces a regular old k1 in order to reduce the number of stitches so that the repeat can be made up solely of columns instead of frost flowers separated by columns. I marked the extra ssk’s with highlighter and counted that first round carefully to insure each ssk fell in the correct spot.

Edging:

Once the shawl itself is done, the joy of the edging begins. The edging is a drag because you have to knit 28 12-stitch rows for every 18 stitches that get bound off – about 18 stitches of edging, in pattern, for every one stitch bound-off from the shawl body.

My instinct was to start the edging right at the end of the shawl body, but I read somewhere that it was a good idea to start in the middle of a shawl edge. I ended up breaking the yarn and weaving in the end, then starting the edging about halfway down one side of the shawl. I think doing it this way makes any mistakes made in finishing the edging harder to detect.

I wish I could find the blog on which I found UPDATE: Check out this great post from Knit the Knits, which has photos of the edging technique – basically you take your dpns and some waste yarn and work an entire chart repeat, then use that “sample” repeat as a base for starting to attach the edging to the live stitches that make up the body of the shawl. I cast on 12 stitches (working a few rows of garter stitch to get me started) and I was happy to have the practice – after slaving away for months on the body of the shawl, I was nervous about the learning curve on the edging.

Here’s the key: to make the edging seamless, you have to graft the first row of edging to the last row. Yes. Terrifying. But, if you knit the last row (row 28) of the sample edging repeat in a contrasting waste yarn (I used yellow crochet cotton for the bulk of that first repeat and blue crochet cotton for the final row), the contrasting yarn provides you with a guide for doing the grafting. It’s not easy (I’m fairly sure I botched it mildly) but at least with that final contrasting-color row, you have a fighting chance. When you’ve knit the contrasting-color row, repeat the chart, starting with row one, but this time use the real yarn and begin attaching the edging to the lace. You’ll end up with a little “sample” tag hanging off the edge. There are almost-totally-hidden instructions for this technique in A Gathering of Lace on pages 160-161, intended for the A Rose is a Rose shawl, but workable for Frost Flowers & Leaves as well.

One last tip about the grafting: It took me about an hour, and halfway through I got up to do something else. Near-fatal mistake. At all costs, try to do the grafting in one sitting!

Now to the actual edging pattern: the edging is basically a column, like those that fall in between the frost flowers in chart two, except the column is worked horizontally instead of vertically. I didn’t understand the twisting stitch at first, but I was able to work it out. Here’s how I did it:

  • Knit the first three stitches (YO, k2tog, p1) so that there are three stitches on the right needle and nine on the left needle.
  • On the left needle, count off four stitches (from right to left) and stick your needle between the fourth and fifth stitch. Not under any stitches, not through anything, just between the two stitches.
  • Grab onto the working yarn, and pull a loop through (I used a crochet hook the first few times until I got the hang of the process).
  • Slip this loop onto the tip of the left needle – you’ll essentially be covering those first four stitches on the needle with two strands of yarn.
  • Then, following the directions, you’ll knit the just-picked-up loop together with the first stitch on the left needle.

What you’ve just done is “wrap” four stitches together. Working the last three stitches can be tricky, but work your needle in there and continue in pattern, knitting one stitch, working a YO and then a SSK. If you have trouble, try making the wrapping loop very loose to help you see what’s going on. Again, I was glad I tried this the first few times with waste yarn. A final note: if you just can’t figure it out, skip the wrapping. I saw a few knitters out there who decided they either didn’t like working the technique or didn’t like how it looked and simply omitted it.

Blocking:

Here’s what the shawl looked like right off the needles:

Blocking the huge thing was a bit of a challenge. I didn’t end up getting it completely square, and I may end up re-blocking after Glamorous has a chance to try it out. I followed the basic blocking suggestions that are found all over the internet. First I washed and rinsed the shawl in lukewarm water.

Then I took the sopping-wet shawl and spread it out on the queen-sized mattress in The Baron’s spare bedroom. I used blocking wires (two per side) and ran them through the yarn-overs at the outer edge of the shawl. I might’ve run the wires along the hem of the shawl where the edging began, but I wanted a flatter, lacier look to the edging. I expected the wires to be firmer, but they were actually pretty bendy. I ended up sticking four pins around the edge of each wire and then wrapping waste yarn around the pins to hold each wire in place. Then I pinned along the edge of each wire to keep the wires straight.

The final product, drying:

My sister actually modeling the shawl — I am so excited to see it being used!

Finally, a round-up of FF&L blog highlights from other knitters:

  • Designer Eugene Bugeler shows off his FF&L here.
  • Eunny Jang shares the details of her “Fire Flowers & Leaves” shawl here.
  • Clickety-Clack Ewe has some great tips and suggestions from her FF&L on her blog.
  • The FF&L Yahoo! Group can be found here. There are some great photos of the shawl in progress and FO’s in the group’s photo folder.
  • You can also see more beautiful finished FF&L photos here, here and here (scroll down a bit on that last one).
  • UPDATE: The FF&L shawl converted (beautifully!) to a cardigan by Jeri here.

Edited to add: Here is a photo of my sister actually wearing her shawl . . . squeeee!

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