Posts Tagged ‘Peacock Feathers’


Pattern: Peacock Feathers shawl by Dorothy Siemens from Fiddlesticks

Made for: My Godmom

Yarn: JaggerSpun Zephyr Wool-Silk Yarn, 2/18 Lace Weight (50% Chinese Tussah silk, 50% fine grade Merino wool), Violet Colorway

Yardage: I estimate I used about 1220 yards of Zephyr. My “one-pound” cone originally weighed 17.3 oz and now weighs 13.4 oz — I used 3.9 oz of yarn — and according to Ravelry a 16.1 oz cone should yield 5040 yards of yarn)

Yarn Source: Sarah’s Yarns

Needles: US size 4 KnitPicks Options circular needles

Modifications: None


Dorothy’s reflections on her design process from Knitting Beyond the Hebrides provides wonderful insight into the design process.


This pattern is unbelievably easy to knit and work with. The hardest part for me was reading the charts both ways. Basically, since the pattern is a mirror-image of itself along the center spine of the shawl, you work the chart from right-to-left (which to me is the “normal” way) and then once you reach the end of the chart you’re at the center-point of the shawl and you work the chart backwards, mirroring exactly the work you’ve just done.

I really struggle with messing up visual things and so reversing the slip-slip-knit and knit-two-together stitches, and symbols, was a challenge. I literally had to write out a big box for myself at the top of the pattern reminding me which was which, and I constantly referred to my little diagrams.

Other than the reverses, the only other thing to keep an eye on is the double yarn-overs, which will fall apart on the wrong (all purl) side of the piece unless you purl and then knit. This was hard for me to remember as the purl rows were my space-out rows and I had to go back more than once to re-do them.

Sadly, even though this pattern was so relatively easy, I managed to lose track of my knitting twice. Once it was so bad that I had to rip back about 10 rows to my lifeline. When things went south the second time, I fought back and was actually able to rescue the lace. More details on lace resuscitation can be found in my post on the ordeal here.


One of my favorite parts of this shawl is the edging, which is actually knit back and forth as part of the shawl instead of as a later add-on that must be knit perpendicular to the shawl edge. If you’ve never worked a crochet hook before, don’t despair. All that’s required for this edging is simple single-crochet and if you mess it up the crochet is stretched out so much that it will never show up anyway. In the below photo, each pin is securing a crochet loop and you can see that the loops are pulled tight.


Right off the needles, it was clear that Peacock Feathers is a beautiful pattern. More than other lace I’ve worked, it had character beyond the mushroom-of-fiber that most lace resembles. I really got the sense of the texture and pattern of the piece from the unblocked finished product:

I don’t know why, but a photo of lace in a blocking bath just looks yummy to me! Here is Peacock Feathers resting in a bowl of warm water and a capful of Soak wool wash (the best stuff — thanks to Mick for turning me on to it!)

I really blocked the crap out of this sucker, making each feathery flourish as rounded as I could make it.  I’ve seen other shawls out there with more linear edges, but for mine I wanted a look that was as scalloped as I could get.

The shawl was so large that I blocked one whole side first, from the left tip all the way down to the central “feather” and even one feather beyond (this was necessary to make the central feather block out correctly).  Once the first half was blocked, I re-dunked the still-slightly-damp second half of the shawl and blocked it the same way.  I used blocking wires secured with T-pins to secure the top, straight edge of the shawl and I ran a second blocking wire down the center-line to help keep things even.

This isn’t the most gorgeous finished-object final shot ever, but it gives a good sense of the drape and airy lightness of the piece.  It’s as elegant and unique as it’s namesake!


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A newt on the loose

Last weekend (yes, I know, I’m behind) I had two knitting buddies over for Sunday afternoon knitting and pizza.  The Baron was quite excited that I was having people over and made quite a fuss about getting us food and making sure the fish tanks were in tip-top show-off shape.  He even offered to go out and pick up our food for us when the time came.  But.  Right before the ladies were scheduled to arrive I noticed that he seemed to be searching for something in the kitchen near the smallest of our fish tanks.   He seemed agitated and finally he confessed: he bought a newt  for the little tank and it had escaped.

Back  in the days of apartment living we had a few tank-escapees.  Once a beta fish flipped himself out of his bowl and onto the carpet, gasping in air and covering himself in dust until finally we got home and found him.  It was amazing — who knows how long he was flopping around on the floor — but once we put him back in his bowl he seemed to shake off the grit and was back to normal within a matter of minutes.  Another time a shrimp got out of the tank.  They are so small and colorless that we didn’t even notice the shrimp was missing until we found the crispy-dry, clear carcass of the shrimp under a table.

This time, with company coming, I didn’t want to wait until a guest found a sticky creature in her hair, or felt a warm squish under her shoe, to find the newt.  The Baron to the rescue: he guessed that the newt would head for the darkest, coolest place possible.  And there, behind the fridge, we found the newt.

Epilogue: I finished the Peacock Feathers shawl Sunday afternoon — it’s spread over the dining-room table, waiting to be blocked.  Photos and round-up to follow!

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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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What goes with a quiet evening at home, watching a silent, peaceful tank of fish, better thank knitting?  Nothing.  I’ve gotten increasingly excited about the knitting in the past week . . . between friends and co-workers picking up needles for the first time and yarn shopping (including a KnitPicks order that showed up today!) I’m in knitting bliss.  The only problem: there are not enough hours in the day for all the knitting I want to do.

Up to now, I’ve thought of myself as a single-project knitter.  Sure, dragging the Frost Flowers & Leaves shawl all over creation was hardly practical, so I worked my Simple Socks over the summer too, bringing the socks along when an easy, portable, mindless project was called for.  The last time my dad visited we talked about the joy of completion — how satisfying it was to finish a project, and how that joy is something we have in common. 

If finishing a project is the best, starting a knitting project is the worst part.  There’s the picking out and purchasing of the yarn and pattern (fun), the researching for pattern errata and advice from other knitters (a good time-killer on slow days at work), the swatching (not so fun, duh) and the eventual cast-on and set-up (which can be a huge pain, though not always).  It just feels very labor-intensive, kind of a drag, and I can usually motivate myself to get started only by thinking about how cool the end-product will feel, all neat and folded up, ends woven in and ready to be gifted.

Suddenly, though, it feels like I’ve got Works-In-Progress everywhere, with no hope of finishing anything anytime soon.  Here’s how it started . . .

The Monkeys: Once the simple socks were done, I was all jazzed about getting another set of two-at-once toe-up socks started, so inspired by the internets and especially January One, I cast on for the Monkey socks (yeah, yeah, I’m a follower, what of it . . .) and got as far as the first repeat before things went south.  Yeah.  The socks are now hibernating, as Ravelry so delicately puts it . . .

Peacock Feathers: Wanting a break from lace, I got a whole bunch of cool sweaters and things together in my mind as “next” projects.  But sadly my fingers were faster than my knit-prep, and I soon realized that the only project that I a) wanted to knit and b) had pattern, needles and yarn for, close at hand, was Peacock Feathers.  So I cast on.  And then, proud of my progress and too lazy to put in a lifeline . . . disaster struck.

Charity squares & dishtowels: Since the whole Monkey thing didn’t pan out, I needed some quick, easy portable knitting.  Enter charity squares for work and dishtowels for The Baron’s sister in law, visiting shortly.  The charity squares are done, the dishtowels are coming along quickly . . . maybe too quickly . . .

Baby gifts: I am horrifyingly overdue on baby gifts . . . one child is now six months old and still has not gotten any hand-made love.  Shocking.  Another little girl was born last week, and a boy is expected in February.  To say nothing of The Baron’s little nephew, the tasty dumpling who will be visiting with his mom in the next few weeks . . . (ok, he got a blanket, but no booties!  The horror!)  To rectify this situation, I got a huge shipment of Knitpicks Swish DK (it arrived today – joy!) as well as the Blue Sky Alpacas cotton I picked up over the weekend.  Not actual, cast-on WIPs, but still . . . the prep has already begun.

Hourglass Sweater: I got a ton of Mission Falls 1824 Superwash to start this sweater for myself . . . and although I’ve been carrying a ball with me for two weeks now, I have yet to cast on for a swatch.

Tangled Yoke Sweater: What I’ve been itching to do, and the initial impulse behind the Peacock Feathers shawl, is a handknit for my stepmom.  Even though we’re both super-verbal people, I feel compelled, driven almost, to express my affection for her in the form of a hand-knit.  She signed off on the yarn (Jaggerspun Maine Line in French Blue), she likes the pattern (a simple but elegant cardigan by Eunny Jang from the latest Interweave Knits) , swatches are done, and I’m now just waiting for a final set of measurements so I can (hopefully) cast on for the correct size.

And finally, my very first non-bloggable 🙂

So looking over that list, I guess things aren’t that out of hand.  I just have so much I’m aching to knit!  Guess I should head home and get started . . .

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The Baron was hit, tragically, with food poisoning on Friday.  He even had to stay home from work.  I snuck out a little early on Friday afternoon to tend to him and spent much of Friday evening and Saturday fetching fresh glasses of water and taking his temperature.  In between my nursing duties, I worked on Peacock Feathers – with disappointing results.  I was cruising through chart three and feeling quite proud of myself when I noticed a mistake – a missing yarn-over a few rows down.  I wasn’t sure exactly which row the mistake was in, but I figured I’d unravel a small section of knitting and re-knit, thereby demonstrating my massive lace-knitting skill.  Well, a small section became a big section, and after hours of wrangling and re-knitting, I was forced to rip back to the lifeline I put in at the beginning of chart two.  I managed to re-knit chart two and put in a fresh lifeline after row 84, but it was fairly disappointing to come home Friday night with half of chart three finished, knit all day Saturday, and finish the weekend back at the end of chart two.  Ah, the pain of wounded pride!  It could be worse though, and things are now back on the upswing.  The Baron is now recovered and I have high hopes for this week’s knitting progress.

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. . . is how fast it grows in the beginning. I cast on for Peacock Feathers last Friday and already I am almost done with chart two. Yes, impressive. And even more impressive considering there is a chart 1 and a chart 1A. I’m working the shawl on US 4 needles in Zephyr — the same set-up I used for the Frost Flowers & Leaves shawl — and the soft, familiar yarn is a welcome change from the cotton dishcloth I’ve been making. I’m sure I’ll be sick of it before too long, but for the moment it’s going well and I’m happy to be working on another “big” project.

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