Archive for January, 2008

There comes a time (and hopefully not more than one time!) in every lace project when you just have to throw up your hands and curse your luck and rip back to your lifeline. It happened to me last week.

I am getting painfully close to the end of the Peacock Feathers shawl and perhaps getting sloppy, or maybe just lulled into a lace-coma . . . but whatever the reason, I was stumped. I occasionally come up one stitch short when working a repeat (which I note with stitch-markers) and then go looking for a missing yarn-over in the row below. With yarn-overs, it’s easy to pick them up, knit them into the next (wrong side or purl) row and just keep going.

This time, though, I was just totally stuck. I tinked back all the way to the center-point of the shawl and just couldn’t figure out where I’d gone wrong. I re-knit and still came up wrong. Finally I just pulled out the entire repeat down to the lifeline just a few rows below. Then disaster struck again — I must have missed a stitch when I put in the lifeline, because as I unraveled my work a stitch that was right on the border between the center section and the first repeat slipped out and below the lifeline. What could I do? I just snipped the first lifeline and unraveled down to the next.

But then what? This is where it gets really tricky . . . and why I feel I should share my pain . . .



– A flat work surface that will accept pins. A bulletin board would do nicely — I used a very flat, firm pillow and covered it with a sturdy dishtowel.

– Blocking pins. If you’re working lace you’ll need these later anyway.

– Good light. This is tricky stuff, so don’t torture yourself! A magnifying glass probably wouldn’t hurt either if you have one handy.

– Two DPNs in the size or a size smaller than the lace you’re working and/or a small crochet hook.

Prepare for surgery:

– Unravel down to the lifeline you feel good about.

– Pin down each side of the needle you’re working on. I’m lucky enough to have the Knitpicks Options set, so I took off the needle tips, put caps on my cables, and then just pinned the cables down by sticking a pin through the hole in the end of each cable.

– You’ll have a bunch of kinked yarn clustered up next to the lifeline. Strand by strand, pin each length of yarn up above the lifeline. This keeps it out of the way and also lets you count your strands (which I’ll get to later). Sometimes it can be hard to tell what’s what. Start from the top (the most recently worked strand) , go slowly, and if you get confused just try and spread your work out, tugging at the left and right sides to figure out where the yarn goes.

– Stick a pin through each “live” stitch you need to work from your lifeline.

In this picture you can see my needles pinned out to the sides (though I capped the cable to be sure no other stitches would fall off), the strands of yarn still-to-be-worked pinned out of the way, and a pin through each “live” stitch.

The Operation:

Once you’ve prepped the patient, you have to know where to start. The best way to figure this out is by counting your now-unraveled-and-pinned strands. Each strand represents a row you’ve worked, so count backwards. Say (for easy figuring) that I was in the middle of working row 10 when disaster struck. That means that my working yarn, the piece still attached to the ball and not pictured above, is working row 10. Therefore, the strand at the top, farthest away from the live stitches, was the yarn used to work row 9. The strand directly below that one was used to work row 8, and so on. Using this system, once you get down to the strand closest to your live stitches, you’ll know what to do with it.

If you feel confident you can put your “live” stitches onto one of your DPNs and start working, being careful to follow each row of the pattern correctly. If the pattern calls for purling on the wrong-side, be sure you’re either lifting the work up gently so you can purl from the wrong side or knitting  (from the right side) the stitches instead.

If you don’t feel confident (and this is me!) then work each row stitch by stitch using pins and a crochet hook like so:

– Stitch by stitch, using your small crochet hook, pick up the first stitch you want to work with the hook and remove the pin.

– Unpin the strand of yarn closest to the live stitches and hold it in your fingers.

– Use your crochet hook to work the stitch with the yarn you’re holding, according to pattern. (If you’re working something trickier than a knit-one, say a knit-two-together, then pick up both/all stitches with the crochet hook, just as you would do if you were using knitting needles).  Don’t forget to include yarn-overs — pin them down just as you would any other “live” stitch.

– Re-pin the new stitch and slip the crochet hook out.

Continue to work across the row. When you’re done, you can clearly see the pinned-out row and check your work against the pattern.

Post-op Rehab:

The biggest problem with ripping out a small lace section is that when you are finally able to re-knit all the stitches correctly, the fabric is often stretched out and misshapen. I think my pinning technique helps to moderate this somewhat, but don’t despair if your work looks as funky as mine does in the photo below. I suggest working past the repair a few rows, putting in a new lifeline, and then going back through the misshapen section with a small knitting needle (I like to use my clover yarn needle with the bent tip) and gently pull the stitches back into place. You’ll need to work past the re-knit section and into the neighboring stitches, but if you go slowly and work row-by-row to even out your gauge, you can make a big difference in the look of your lace.

Here’s what my lace looks like after some serious re-shaping efforts, with the rebuilt section highlighted by pink flags.  It’s not perfect, but it’s better than the tangled mess I started with!

And finally, when I finish the piece (hopefully soon), I expect blocking will improve the look/gauge of the repaired section even more. Stay tuned for the triumphant (!) conclusion to the Peacock Feathers shawl saga . . .


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In a gesture of love and gratitude for the gift of my engagement ring, I finally felt the curse lift and started work on a stocking cap for The Baron. I gave it to him for Christmas in the midst of a mini-hiatus from blogging, but since it’s my first knitted gift to him I want to show it off.

Here he is, modeling the hat:

Since the hat was a surprise, I made the brim of the hat extra-large by starting with a way-too-big cast on and knitted according the the pattern for a stocking cap by Nathalie Godbout. I gave him the hat before knitting on the fringe, and with one of my long Options needle cables serving as a giant stitch-holder. I had him try it on, wove in a piece of waste yarn at the spot he designated, and then ripped back to the waste yarn. I knitted on the fuzzy fringe and voila! A custom-fit hat.

My one modification: instead of alternating between tiers with and without decreases for the entire hat, once I got to a certain (arbitrary) point I decided to just do a slip-one, knit-two-together, pass-slipped-stitch-over decrease (three stitches become one) every other row. I think it worked out fairly well and produced the kind of long, smooth taper down to the pom-pom that I know The Baron was hoping for. You can see the decreases here:

A final note: The Baron picked out the novelty yarn I used in the trim of this hat for its color and softness and specifically requested a dark teal, very soft and smooth yarn for the hat itself. I like a man who knows what he’s looking for in a handknit.

Edited to add:

As Marsha pointed out, yes, this hat is made with the dreaded novelty yarn.  I was fairly horrified when The Baron picked out this yarn as the one he absolutely positively loved, because I had no idea what on earth I would do with novelty yarn (blech!).  I can report, however, that this yarn was soft and delicious to work with and has held up well (so far) to frequent wearing.  It’s Fuzz, made by the Great Adirondack Yarn Co. and purchased at Websters in Ashland, Oregon.  The body of the hat was knit with Rowan RYC Cashsoft DK.

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though probably not in my office where the heat is off in spite of the rainy weather and where I’ve been instructed not to wear my fleece jacket because it looks unprofessional.  So here I sit, shivering, in the warmest work-wear I could come up with.  Oh, yes, I could get a mini-heater, but that would be illegal, a fire-hazard, and probably blow out the circuits of  my cubicle and those around me.  Of course, it’s not illegal that our office building only heats the offices — I was told that “body heat and computers” should keep me warm enough out here in cubicleville . . . bastards!  Another example of why corporate America blows, up there with expense accounts for the highest paid people and creative manipulation of the “work week” to minimize overtime . . . but I digress . . .

Last week the bosses were out of town so I stuck it to the man by knitting almost to the end of the Peacock Feathers shawl (yay!) and even knit myself out of my blues . . . right up to the point where disaster hit and I had to rip back two sections of the shawl back to not one but two lifelines!

Thank goodness, really, for lifelines . . . they are a lace knitter’s very best friend.

Stay tuned for photos of my brilliant rescue of the shawl by pinning it out and re-working each row with pins . . . really, I was quite proud of myself by the time I’d successfully worked my way back to row 205.  But that’s the beauty of knitting . . . you can cheat if you want but for the perfectionists among us there is always a way to fight your way back to perfect.

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In life, crappy things happen and people let you down. At times like these I have a recourse: just knit through it.

The wedding knitting is on the back burner — only happy thoughts should be knit into something like that — and so I’m cranking away on Peacock Feathers which I’m going to give to my godmother when it’s done. We joked that she might have to wear it to her own funeral because it would take the rest of her lifetime for me to finish, but I am actually moving along quickly and pleased with how fast it’s going. Here’s my progress as of last night:

Of course, like all lace, it just looks like a giant blob, but I’m almost all the way through chart six. Chart seven is the giant monster chart, the final fringe that makes up the stems or stalks of the feather pattern, but once chart six is done that finish-line will be in sight and I’ll get sped up and ride the momentum to the end. Hopefully. Since I’ve already had one disaster with this piece, I’ll be putting in lots of lifelines and going as carefully as I can.

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. . . as I slam on the breaks for the Forest Path Stole.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Last night my two knitting protégés, Miss V and my friend R, joined me at a local cafe for some knitting. They’d never met each other but they’re both awesome and I had a fantastic time. Hopefully we’ll get our little knitting group off the ground and start meeting up regularly — there’s just something about knitting with other knitters that’s fun and relaxing but in a way that’s different from knitting alone.

I was full of energy and enthusiastic about starting the Forest Path Stole and quickly cast on to swatch a Fern panel, the simplest of the three repeating motifs that make up the entrelac panels in the shawl. Little more than repeating rows of stockinette with the occasional YO-K1-YO increase followed shortly by a 3-into-1 decrease, the fern panel was quickly finished, which was good. The problem: I hate the way the color pools.

I started out with my skein of KnitPicks Shimmer in Turquoise Splendor . . . here it is all wound up into a tidy ball.

Instead of putting the yarn directly on the winder to make a center-pull ball (which can produce disastrous results when the delicate filaments get tangled en route out of the center of the ball), I cut a toilet paper tube down to size, fitted it over the winder, and wound the yarn directly onto the tube. Working the ball from the outside in, the tube will keep the yarn tidy and at a consistent tension all the way to the last yard.

I’ve been completely in love with the yarn for weeks now, admiring the tiny, colorful ball every day and waiting for the happy moment when I’d decide on a pattern and cast on. Sure, I had a few worries about the brightness of the yarn color, but I’ve wanted to be bold and veer away from bridal tradition and so I was determined to plow ahead.

Here’s what I ended up with:

Although it’s hard to judge what a huge shawl would look like from a single swatch, it’s pretty clear that there are distinct swaths of color cutting horizontally through the swatch in a pattern that’s clearly reminiscent of tie-dye.

Nothing could be further from what I would want to wear at my wedding, especially since the entrelac would make the stripes of color alternate directionally between horizontal and vertical. In a single word, blech.

So now I’m back to the beginning. Do I try and wrangle my current yarn into a round or triangular shawl and hope for a more speckled, heathery look (which I think will emerge) or do I send this yarn back to the stash and look for a new yarn?

Close at hand are three cones of Jaggerspun Zephyr 2/18: Pewter, which is a very light, silvery gray color, Sage, which is a light, subtle gray-green, and Charcoal, which is a deep gray (the yarn I used to knit up my Frost Flowers and Leaves shawl).

I am really against using the Pewter. Having a white shawl to match my white dress would not be my first choice. I don’t think I’d ever wear a white shawl again and I’d hate to spend months of work on yet another thing that would only be used once. I also think knitting myself a shawl is a cool and unusual way for me to personalize the wedding and I want to run beyond boring white with that uniqueness.

So although I’m not dead-set against white, I am dead-set against whites that don’t match (ie, white-on-ivory or cream-on-silver) and I doubt that I’ll end up with a dress that matches the Pewter yarn, beautiful as it is.

The Charcoal yarn is just too dark and I’m a little bored with it after using it for a massive lace project.

That leaves me with the Sage yarn, which might work well with the shawl’s leafy pattern. I’m a bit concerned that the color is too minty-green and/or too pastel and won’t fit in well with what I hope will be deep, rich summer colors.

So my wedding shawl knitting is decidedly stalled. It’s back to Peacock Feathers for me while I wait for Glamorous and Little Miss Law to weigh in . . .

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Not much knitting happened this weekend, but lots of business and preparation helped get me exited for my next project.  Since the guest room, home to all of my knitting supplies, was taken over by holiday present-wrapping, there was a significant cleanup and organization task to be undertaken.  Once I got everything put away/recycled/tidied up, I felt full of energy to get started on my wedding shawl.

Last week I taught myself the basic idea behind entrelac by working through this tutorial that I found through Ravelry.  Why entrelac? Because I think I’d like to take a shot at the Forest Path Stole, which brings lace panels together with entrelac.  Of course, the pattern is available online here, but it was a great excuse to pick up a new knitting book: The Best of Interweave Knits.  I’ll admit, Forest Path is a big project to tackle in just six months, but I think a little deadline pressure on a knitting project will actually help me to draw focus away from wedding planning stress.


– I’m nervous I won’t like the look of the pattern in the variegated yarn.

– Not sure I’ll have enough yarn.  I’m going to order more right away, but at the moment I only have two skeins for a total of 880 yards and the pattern calls for up to 2625 yards.  Since I’ve been working from the pound cones of Jaggerspun Zephyr, I’m a little nervous to start in on a shawl that will require multiple splices.

– Because the yarn is variegated, not sure if there will be a dye lot problem or if I’ll need to buy all-new yarn.

– How on earth do you put a lifeline into entrelac lace?

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New York, New Yarn

One of the things that I love most about The Baron is that when he’s in the right mood he can make fun out of anything. Most especially this is true of birthdays, holidays and other gift-giving occasions, because he insists that giving yourself presents is a critical component of holiday happiness. In the old days, when he was a lone wolf he used to buy and wrap his own presents, but for the past few years he’s purchased the gifts for himself and then had me wrap them. This year he encouraged me to do the same, and so when I went to New York in early December and came back with an armful of yarn he snatched it away from me and wrapped it up. In fact, I’d almost completely forgotten the trip, the yarn (my name . . . it’s been a little crazy . . .) and the whole idea of giving myself gifts. On Christmas morning I got a wonderful surprise as I opened skeins of Koigu Cashmere, KPPPM and KPM and beautiful yarns from Habu Textiles.

All of this is by way of explanation for why, nearly a month later, I have yet to crow about my GORGEOUS new yarns or talk at all about my whirlwind tour of New York yarn shops.

Since my last trip to New York, over a year ago now, I’ve cultivated the knitting skills and the friendship of Miss V, who joined me this trip. We checked out Purl Soho briefly (10 minutes before closing) and tried to go to School Products but found it closed. With a few knitting projects under her belt and eager to really explore the possibilities of fiber, and with the help of (WARNING: Approaching today’s I-HEART-RAVELRY moment) Ravelry’s awesome New York City Knitters group, we made a plan to visit a few special stores. There are lots of great but basic yarn stores in LA, so we particularly wanted to visit places that had special inventory or were otherwise unique in some way. I also wanted to get the “full” shopping experience so I set aside a little yarn-fund and gave myself permission to make a purchase (here and there) if any special yarns caught my eye.

First stop on the list:

String, 130 East 82nd Street

A few short blocks from Central Park between Park and Lexington, String is a tiny shop on the first floor of a classic brownstone. The shop is basically two small rooms with yarn displayed on the walls and with a large round worktable where a customer was getting a lesson and where another knitter, perhaps an employee, sat working quietly on a project. The staff was friendly and helpful and not at all pushy or intrusive (a sales quality I loathe) but their customer, getting a lesson, took many loud cell phone calls in the 15 minutes I was in the store. She seemed to be oblivious to the fact that she was filling the cozy space with her imposing voice. I found her irritatingly jarring after a few minutes, so I quickly selected my purchases and checked out.

The highlight of the store, for me at least, was the wall of Koigu. Fans of KPPPM (after this trip I count myself as an enthusiastic Koigu-er) may be aware that String exclusively carries a cashmere version of KPPPM (perhaps it should be called KPPPC?) and there were beautiful skeins of the cashmere in a rainbow of colors. A word to the browser: String keeps most of their yarns in the back, leaving just one or two skeins of each colorway out for display. When I asked about multiple skeins, they produced several from the back. Being a bit of a Koigu newbie, I held back . . . sort of . . .

I selected only one colorway of the Koigu Cashmere, a beautiful, rich mid-summer mix of colors that struck me as a more saturated version of the Phoenix colorway of Mountain Colors Bearfoot that I used to make my Mom’s Icarus Shawl:

At String I also selected one colorway from the large wall of Koigu KPPPM, an easygoing pink interlaced with brownish/grey . . . I know it sounds strange, but check it out, I think it’s beautiful:

After String I wandered, somewhat haphazardly and certainly yarn-drunk, around the Upper East Side. In my roaming I found, totally by accident, store number two on the NYC yarn tour:

The Woolgathering, 318 East 84th Street

A really amazing full-window display full of sparkles and sculpture led in to a somewhat lackluster shop. The narrow, one-room store was lined from floor to high ceiling with yarn — a great visual but frustrating to the average browser because I couldn’t reach a good portion of the yarn and I always have a hard time browsing through yarn that’s at foot level. The shopkeeper had stepped out and left the store in the care of someone who was up on a ladder fixing a light fixture, so I didn’t get the chance to mingle with any of the staff. Overall, though, a cute store with a reasonable selection (I did spot/cuddle a few skeins of really pricey but soft cashmere) if not anything spectacular to recommend it. Not sure where a person would take a class or even sit down in the shop, but still clean and nice and cozy.

Stops three and four were right next to each other:

School Products, 1201 Broadway, Suite 301

The crushing disappointment of my last trip to New York was looking for School Products on the last day of the trip, then finding the place closed and pressing my sad, cold little nose up to the glass, silently thinking “open, open, open” and looking miserably at all the cones of yarn I would never be able to touch. This trip it was my first stop, and having found it once, I beelined to it on our second day of yarn-touring. The address, 1201, is on the corner of Broadway and 29th but you have to walk south on Broadway past several cheap-stuff storefronts, go into the unmarked and mysterious lobby, and take the elevator (which smelled like Uruguay, according to Miss V) to the third floor. They don’t make it easy.

I don’t know exactly what the story is with the place, but I think it’s an outlet for a particular yarn line (Karabella maybe?) and it certainly has a no-frills outlet feel. It’s a big, square room with cubbies for yarn on the walls and big tables of unmarked, off-brand yarn marking off aisles. The huge cones of cashmere, silk, merino and so on usually came in single colors with enough yarn to make a full project. Demarcated with handwritten signs, the yarn appeared to be of high quality and exceptional value, with large cones (some looked as big as 5 lbs) in the $40-70 range. They also had smaller skeins of high-end fibers and oddball colors in the $7-20 range. Not everything was a steal, but if I lived in New York School Products would be on my short list for yarn-bargain hunting.

Not everything in the place was off-brand. They had a whole wall of Koigu KPPPM and I was tempted by a skein in hues of blue. I also picked up some KPM (the solid version of KPPPM) in a teal/jade color:

Although the man working the register was friendly, he wasn’t particularly helpful as far as knitting goes, and I heard him suggest to another customer that she come back another day when a more knowledgeable knitter would be in the store. On the whole it was a cool place to visit, and nothing at all like the upscale, boutique yarn stores I’m used to visiting at home.

Habu Textiles, 135 West 29th Street

Just a short walk from School Products, the Habu Textiles showroom is a different universe. Although it’s also in a virtually unmarked building and an elevator ride up from the street, Habu feels more like an Asian-inspired art gallery than a store. A large white room is hung with beautiful fabrics, and when we visited a large number of “sale” yarns were spread out in baskets and boxes on the floor. In a small hallway behind the showroom, every Habu fiber hung in skeins from a dowel rod. Behind another wall must be an office and warehouse of some kind, because we could hear several employees enjoying their lunch (some kind of yummy-smelling curry) and a very helpful woman emerged to wait on us briefly before letting us browse in the serene space. Honestly, I felt creative and elegant just hanging out there, even though we were tired and hungry and ready for lunch as we made our final selections.

I picked out a red silk, labeled “Item A-1, 2/17 tsumugi” and an incredibly soft lilac Bamboo:

I was thinking of some small but delicate lacework for each of the two yarns and decided to limit myself to one skein each.

From the garment district we walked south through Washington Square park to a highly recommended yarn store:

The Point, 37 Bedford Street

The Point is a clean, bright cafe with a unique yarn display: baskets of yarn that hang from the walls, invitingly colorful. The majority of the shop is taken up with aluminum-topped tables of various sizes, and half of one wall is dedicated to their coffee/sweets bar. We wandered around touching all the yarns and hoping that a table would open up, but the place was quite busy so after a few minutes we headed off to our final yarny stop . . .

Purl, 137 Sullivan Street

Purl is a small shop but somehow manages to feel jam-packed and spacious all at the same time. Both long walls of the store are lined with floor-to-ceiling yarn in cubbies and, my favorite part, there are piles of swatches on the long table that dominates the room. A small corner for needles and notions and a neighboring shop, Purl Patchwork (at 147 Sullivan Street) full of beautiful fabrics make Purl a fun stop for color and inspiration.

The best part? We stopped in at the next-door bakery, Once Upon a Tart (135 Sullivan Street), and finished off our day of yarn and city exploration with hot chocolate and biscotti.

All in all, a great day in the city.

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