Monday, October 4, 2010

A Little Bird Told Me

Some time ago, I bought some Shaefer Trenna in Indigo from Little Knits without really any idea of what I was going to make with it.

Knitting - 061

Then I was browsing through Romi's designs the other day and found the Bluebird stole. Normally, I kind of avoid things that require me to repeat patterns over and over and over again, but the shawl is so perfect for the yarn that I decided I could suck it up. It's only the middle section that's repetitive.

This shawl held several surprises for me. The construction was somewhat different than I expected. I had seen that it started with a provisional cast-on and just kind of assumed this would be knit the same way Scheherazade was knit - cast on in the middle, knit to the end, and then pick up the provisional cast-on* and knit to the other end. Bluebird is done similarly, but instead of casting on in the middle, you cast on for one end, and then pick up the cast on, knit the entire middle section (which is like 36 repeats of four or six rows or something like that), and then knit the other end. Makes perfect sense. Totally flabbergasted me. It took me a while to work my head around to what I was doing (in fact, it only just now occured to me as I am putting this post together that my pictures are all technically upside down - the cast on edge should be at the top for the pattern to appear correctly). Fortunately conceptual understanding is not required, and I had only to follow directions, so no time was wasted with these discoveries.

The other slightly surprising thing for me is that the edging areas of this shawl are knit mostly on a reverse stockinette field. I found this a little confusing at first (" mean I actually have to THINK on my wrong side rows?") but the effect is really quite beautiful, making the lines of the lace really pop.

Still, I completed chart A with some grumbling.

Bluebird - 002

I should probably note that I nearly had a fatal error at cast-on which was narrowly avoided through the assitance of my back up stitch counter. I have the SO recount every cast on for me so I don't, say, randomly choose to ignore the existence of the ten numbers between 79 and 90.

Chart A complete, Chart B, which is to be repeated 4 times. I completed 2 before I had to quit for the night.

Bluebird - 010

What happened to the Phoenix shawl, I hear you (all three of you) asking? The answer is that I did, in fact, work on my Phoenix shawl all day long on Saturday. I completed one 16-row chart.


Now, it is a fundamental fact of knitting that when you knit a triangular shawl that begins at the center back, you are essentially knitting along the longest possible line that you could knit. It's not so bad when you first get started, which is what makes, for me, the instructions "Repeat Main Body Chart 5 times" bearable. When you are first starting out there aren't that many stitches on the needles so that first three repeats are pretty much a walk in the park. Around repeat 4 it starts to get a little tougher, but you're past the halfway point and that keeps you going. Then you're like, sweet, I'm at the edging set-up, I only have to do the set-up and the edging and then the ending chart and I'm good! And in the back of your mind you kind of know that's a lot but you tell yourself that those charts are much shorter than the body charts anyway so you really think things are going awesome until you realize that the instructions say that you are to complete the edging chart 3 times (it's actually two times and then one more without doing the last couple of rows, but I'm rounding). And you think about how it took you ALL DAY to knit that one repeat of the edging set-up chart, which has the same number of rows as the edging chart, and you die a little inside, and you think about stopping to photograph your progress just to make yourself feel better, and you realize that there's no point because the shawl is so big at this point that it's scrunched up on the needles and it's just going to look like a pile of yarn anyway.

What's a knitter to do? For me, the answer is, start a new project. One that will fly by. One that will go really fast. One that DOESN'T GET BIGGER AS YOU KEEP KNITTING IT. One that's only 103 stitches wide and will only ever be 103 stitches wide, so that when you sit down to knit a soul-sucking 400+ stitches on your big project, you can take a break and zip out a few quick easy chart repeats that make you feel good inside before you go back to the never-ending toil of the Shawl That Would Not Die.

Please note that none of the ire that may be evidenced in the above paragraphs has anything to do with how much I like the shawl or how I feel about the pattern. The pattern is brilliant, the shawl is beautiful, and I like them both very much. All blame for this frustration must be laid at the feet of my most persistent lifelong foe, mathematics.

I do have some concerns that, as mentioned before, the number of repeats for the middle section of the Bluebird shawl might get to me eventually, but I'm hoping that the zippyness of the rows will enable me to get through that part. Besides, because of the way this is constructed, I can pretty much quit whenever it gets to be too much for me (but I won't, because I would like my shawl to be bigger than a post-it).

*I cannot seem to figure out the proper usage of "bind off" and "cast on." I tend to use the words seperately when using them as a verb - "to bind off" and "to cast on," and then hyphenate them when using them as a noun - "the bind-off" or "the cast-on." Also, I type yarnover as a single word when using it as a noun, and seperately when using it as a verb "to yarn over." I think we all need to agree on a standard - preferably, we need to all agree that my way is correct.

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