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Posts Tagged ‘Frost Flowers & Leaves Shawl’

Yes, I’ve finished my Trellis Baby Sweater (now in the possession of one very tired mom and one very new baby) and I’m making progress on my Oriel Lace Socks and the Goddess Knits Anniversary Mystery Shawl. More on all of that later.

For now, I’m excited to show off my knitting in action. Not being modeled for photos for the blog, not on display right off the needles — these are bona fide action shots of Glamorous wearing the Frost Flowers & Leaves shawl. Here’s the side view:

LT-185 crop

And the view from the front:

LT-183 crop

I think I am a process knitter as much as I am a product knitter . . . so far I’ve been able to let my finished pieces go happily off into the world . . . but it really made me happy to see this particular labor of love actually being used.

And of course, who can resist a glam shot . . .

LT-168

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Today is turning out to be a really great day.  First and foremost, the response to yesterday’s Frost Flowers & Leaves round-up post has been overwhelming and positive – I hope that my experience working the shawl will prove helpful to future knitters – I was glad for a chance to give back and participate in the online knitting community. Plus, today I am going to actually give the thing to Glamorous, so that is pretty exciting. Here’s hoping she’ll love it as much as I loved making it for her.

Some other reasons today rocks:

  • It’s Friday. Enough said.
  • I’m wearing (for the first time ever outside the house) the socks that I made for myself. Every step I take in these socks is a happy step. I just feel good knowing that I did something so small but so indulgent for myself. I’m also reminded of all the good things that happened while I knit the socks: my trip to Tahoe, Adorable’s graduation, the discovery of audiobooks. It’s a great feeling – a little accomplishment that goes a long way toward inner peace.
  • Speaking of Adorable, tonight Glamorous is going to meet her at home and they’re driving to LA together – soon we’ll be three sisters all in the same place.
  • Last night I had a visit from my college friend, Mrs. N. It was the first time I’d seen her since our early-summer Tahoe trip and the first time she’d been to The Baron’s house. We lit the tikis and sat by the pool chatting the evening away. Such a nice treat for a weeknight!
  • On Saturday morning The Baron’s leather chair arrives – we’ve been waiting for it since May but I’m feeling confident that it will be well worth the wait. It’s arriving between 6 and 9 am (boo!) but hopefully I can sneak downstairs when the delivery arrives and get the chair set up for him so he can settle in and make himself comfy right away.
  • On Sunday morning The Baron is taking me to Dim Sum (yummy!) and to see butterflies (pretty!) and then I’ll have the rest of the day to knit. The perfect Sunday.

And finally, ‘cause I just can’t help myself . . .

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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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Yesterday my friend Little Miss Law talked about what’s on her nightstand: The Man of My Dreams, the latest book by Curtis Sittenfeld. LML talked me into reading Sittenfeld’s first novel, Prep, a few months ago. It’s a thinking-girl’s chick-lit novel about an awkward girl who feels like a misfit at an elite boarding school. I am, currently, completely awash in listening to The Corrections as I knit (it’s so insanely wonderful that I don’t think I can even talk about it until I’ve finished) but I read the cloth-and-paper version of Prep at the beginning of the summer, devouring it almost in a single sitting.

I read the book months ago, but it is still haunting me, and that’s always a sure sign of a great book and of trouble. It made me horribly uncomfortable because it felt so shamefully familiar, peeling back ancient scar tissue and poking at the still-sore places underneath. Most of my boarding-school girlfriends read the book too. Although there is some variation among those of us who “liked” the novel and those who didn’t, we all agree that it was fairly affecting and somewhat difficult to read. The hardest part for me about the book was the sad stubbornness of the main character, Lee. She’s so afraid of herself, so rigid about not wanting to stand out, and it reminded me too dearly of my own flaws.

I have a brittle lack of confidence that I cling to, almost as a security blanket. I’m terrified of being disappointed and as a result I’m fairly risk-averse and I steel myself against the let-down feeling by trying to never want, hope for or expect anything. Even waiting for news about my super-stressful, super-scary work project, I knew in my gut that it would be ok, but I was too scared to believe it. I kept telling myself what my contingency plan would be, in case of failure. The Baron and I had a little bit of trouble yesterday because even though I know what his feelings are for me, I have a hard time really believing and trusting – I keep making my secret preparations for that moment that I’ll be disappointed. Even worse, I keep my expectations at a bare minimum – without expectation there can be no disappointment. It’s a hard way to live, and I credit Sittenfeld’s incredible writing for bringing this painful side of myself out of the darkness where it huddles, feeding on me.

Tomorrow: Back to knitting with the long-awaited Frost Flowers & Leaves round-up post, complete with photos.

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It’s been a very big few days.

Saturday night, 11:18 pm, I completed the Frost Flowers and Leaves shawl. Edging grafted (badly), ends woven in, shawl completely off the needles, date with boyfriend cancelled to achieve these ends (though I don’t think he minded, he was happily ensconced in his cave, watching a movie while I stitched away in the other room).

Sunday night, 10:07 pm, the completed Frost Flowers and Leaves shawl was fully stretched out on the blocking wires and left to dry.

This sucker is DONE! All that’s left now is presenting it to Glamorous — just in time for the hottest month of the year. Oh well, soon the weather will be getting chilly. I had a good time knitting the shawl, and of course the most important thing is that she knows she’s loved!

Monday afternoon, 2:19 pm, extremely positive “official” news about the big work project that had me so crazy last month.

Yup, I am exhausted but happy at the moment.

I also managed to squeeze in a baby shower and a visit to the beach with a friend from out of town and her adorable two-year-old daughter. The extra-cool added bonus of this trip (in addition to hanging out with a wonderful old friend and an absurdly cute toddler) was seeing my very first (and only) sweater in action!

Photos of the sweater (and of course the shawl!) will be forthcoming – sadly I was too overwhelmed this morning to remember to grab my full-of-photos camera on the way out the door this morning.

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This weekend I was in a blissful book cocoon, curled up with The Corrections and the Frost Flowers & Leaves edging. The border edging has been a grind, but I’m in the home stretch now for sure. The best part was when I decided to take the lifelines out of the interior of the piece, and suddenly it stopped being an oddly-shaped tube and started to resemble the finished object. Glamorous visited over the weekend (she loves to come over and “use the pool,” which means spraying herself with oil and laying out in the sun reading, napping and listening to her iPod) and although she flatly refused to have anything at all to do with the ball-winder, she was gratifyingly excited to see my progress on the shawl. I have to admit, I loved the shawl design at first but it’s starting to seem stale and old, the yarn has a beautiful hand and is still a pleasure to work with but the color looks drab to me. The final lengths of this piece have been grueling.

So it was a pleasure to wrap myself up in something completely indulgent and fresh as I worked the endless twelve-stitch rows: Jonathan Franzen’s novel The Corrections. When I was a little girl I used to stay up late-nights reading until the early morning, hiding my light under the covers. I burned holes in several pillowcases and sheets on hot lightbulbs at three or four in the morning. Friday night I got home from work exhausted – the guy I share a cubicle and a massive job with went on vacation to Canada and I’d been doing the heavy lifting by myself all week – and I thought I’d spend an hour knitting before passing out. I put in The Corrections and ended up knitting for almost five hours, until it was dark and the late-night humidity fell still and heavy over the house. I’m only half-way through, but this is the best book I’ve read (ok, heard) in a long, long time. The reading, by George Guidall, is fantastic – the words read aloud seem to find a resonant frequency that glides along above the rich cadence. And it’s funny too – my favorite passage thus far involves a man shoplifting fancy salmon from a designer grocery store by hiding it under his sweater and then agonizing as it slides down into the crotch of his pants.

I want to completely immerse myself in the novel but at the same time ration it out to myself in small doses to make sure it lasts. I reassured myself today by updating my Audiobooks Page with a list of books, in no particular order, that I want to listen to. Please, please, please, if you have a book you love, let me know! I’m going to be heartbroken when The Corrections finally comes to a close, so I want to have good stuff waiting in the wings. The best news: there’s plenty of knitting to be done, which means lots of listening time ahead.

And finally, from a town in Ontario, Canada that my co-worker passed through on his way home from vacation:

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This weekend was very busy, in the quiet, restorative kind of way. As of Thursday I had no plans at all. On Friday night The Baron invited some friends over to watch weird boy movies. One of the boys brought his girlfriend and she brought her knitting. So while the boys had a male-bonding night, I hosted my own mini-stitch-n-bitch. It was pretty exciting.

With some knitterly company in the house, I set aside work on the never-ending-edging for the Frost Flowers & Leaves shawl and started playing with a few yarns, thinking in the back of my mind about the knock-off sweater I want to make. I created two little swatches:

This one, out of Knit Picks’ Andean Treasure, which is 100% delicious baby alpaca fiber, and super-soft to work with. I have 4 balls in this color, Wild Rose, and I created this swatch on size 4 needles.

And this one, out of Jaeger Matchmaker, which is a slightly scratchy but very elegant and sturdy-feeling merino. I bought 5 balls of this yarn at John Lewis, in London, in a color that looks slightly drab in the photo above but is really a rich grey-green. The swatch is on size 6 needles.

Like that little sheep? A very special shout-out to the Baron, who provided me with my favorite knitting notion, the sheep tape-measure. He bought it for me in Ashland, Oregon, where we were visiting with my mom (thanks for that too honey). We found the most extraordinary yarn store there – Websters – I would say it’s my favorite LYS, except it’s nowhere near me – and to commemorate the amazing place and a fun day, he got me one of these little sheep from Lantern Moon. Baaaaa.

But anyway, all these swatches, and a few more fiddly things as well, were really just procrastination. I want to cast on for my next Clapotis, for a pair of Monkey socks (two at a time, of course) and maybe even a baby sweater. But all the yarn I need is in skein form. Poo. I was pretty ecstatic when my ball-winder showed up in the mail at work today, but I’m still glad I got a chance to fool around with a few different fibers this weekend. I learned quite a bit, actually: mainly that I don’t know what I’m doing yet and I don’t know enough to just make up patterns all footloose and fancy-free, expecting a good result. There’s no way that just making a tiny swatch, doing some quick multiplying (and let’s face it, I never really learned my times tables, so there’s nothing “quick” about it) and then casting on is going to get me where I want to be.

Yeah, there’s a bit of math involved in knitting, but really it’s more than that. I don’t have the design gene that Glamorous does. I think it’s time I plan and make a real, grown-up sweater. I’m thinking something really simple, in an easy, superwash yarn . . . suggestions welcome!

And finally, I finished up the weekend with lace edging and the end of The Knitting Circle, by Ann Hood. Although this book was strikingly similar to The Jane Austen Book Club (a central character learns about the various women in her book/knitting group and their stories reveal an interconnectedness among them all, blah, blah, blah) I actually liked The Knitting Circle – it’s pretty simple: A woman’s young daughter dies, and as part of her grieving process, she takes up knitting. Of course, everyone in the group has a similarly grim tragedy in their lives, but knitting brings them all together and keeps them alive. I really liked the reader of The Knitting Circle, and although it was more melodramatic than The Jane Austen Book Club, it seemed more real somehow, more grounded, not trying so hard. If you’re not into knitting or chick lit, skip it, otherwise, it’s a quick, easy listen.

Here’s a last peek at my frosty beauty . . . hopefully the last cocoon-photo before I rip her off the needles and block her into a butterfly:

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