September 16, 2020. It's been ages and ages since I've last put my knitting thoughts to 'paper'. I've been knitting nearly every day, don't get me wrong. In fact, during these interesting and often unstable times, knitting has been my therapy, my comfort, and often times my lifeline to normalcy. When I feel like screaming in frustration or crying in despair and anguish, it's been knitting that I've turned to time and again. I've been, (as Elizabeth ZImmermann once advised) knitting on with confidence and hope through all crises.
Normally I'm a one and done knitter. I knit a project and that's that. I don't generally repeat a project. After all, there are so many phenomenal designs out there, it doesn't make much sense to get stuck on just one, right? Except, somehow, in these crazy uncertain times, re-knitting a familiar design is akin to slipping on a favorite pair of jeans and old worn flannel shirt, It's the equivalent to homemade macaroni & cheese -- pure knitting comfort for the soul.
In July, I cast on a Night Shift shawl (designed by Andrea Mowry). It's a very straightforward slipped stitch shawl with an asymmetrical triangular shape. It's well written and soothing to knit. So soothing in fact, that I somehow got stuck in this time loop and knit it again....and again....and again. Four times. Four times! I can't believe I knit this shawl FOUR TIMES' Holy moly! I don't think I've ever knit something more than twice and even then I've only done that one time. But, the heart wants what the heart wants and, as soon as I cast off one Night Shift shawl, my heart wanted to cast on another Night Shift shawl before the day ran out. I have to tell you, I was a little concerned that this might be the end for me. That for the remainder of my days, I would be forever knitting this pattern, never venturing forth to cast on anything else...ever. Sort of like the dancing blue shoes fable only with yarn. And then, a couple of days ago...just like that....poof! that overwhelming craving to knit Night Shift shawls was satiated. I don't know why. It's not like I'm somehow coping with everything better now - I still feel like I'm holding it together most days by the thinnest of threads. I still crave that lovely comfort and security with the desperation of a drowning man for a life preserver. But now I also crave something else as well. Something fresh and brand spanking new, Something filled with hope and possibility.
I can't explain why I feel this way now, but I'm totally going with this feeling, though, and not looking a gift horse in the mouth! Yesterday, I cast on the Pressed Flowers shawl (designed by Amy Christoffers) using a muted dusty violet solid called 'Shadow' and a pale sage green and lavender colorway called 'White Sage', both on our Heaven sport weight yarn. The pattern calls for 2 skeins of each color. I know the astute among you will notice a few similarities between this design and Night Shift...it's another triangular shaped shawl designed with a gorgeous slipped stitch pattern. So what if it feels just a little bit similar to knitting the aforementioned Night Shift shawl? I'm sure this is going to be a one-time deal, right? It doesn't mean a thing that I'm already fantasizing about two additional color possiblilities for this design, right? Or that we are busy dyeing up those color possibilities on Heaven Sport, even as I type...right? Sigh...I have a feeling I may be caught in another knitting loop with this project. But, can you blame me? Just take a look how charmingly all the pretty flowers line up in the shawl!
September 18, 2020. Two days into this shawl and I have to tell you, it's such an utterly delightful design!! It's every bit as wonderful as I imagined! And that almost never happens with a knitting project; reality always rears it's ugly head somehow. Usually by now I've misinterpreted the directions (or found errors)...or failed to repeat an element the correct number of times...or I'm off on the gauge (this is a big one for me!)...you name it and I've probably done it! But this? This pattern is almost too good to be true! I'm in love. This Pressed Flowers shawl is the most well-behaved project and such a totally engaging way to spend a few minutes of relaxation and sanity in an often best-described tumultuous world happening right outside my window... a cup of tea, some quite music, and this shawl...best therapy ever!
What exactly makes it such an incredible knit? Well, the designer has a fabulous sense of design for one thing. Then she couples this with an extremely well-written and clear pattern. Directions are provided both line-by-line AND charted so whether you prefer one way or the other (I'm a chart knitter, myself), you get an invitation to the party. Both types of knitters are included. I have to tell you, though, that I was a little worried when I first saw this shawl because the slipped stitch flowers looked complicated. I loved the design right from the first moment I saw it, but I wondered how much effort I would need to put into it and how many times I would need to rip it back before I got it right. Well, the pattern is so clearly written and easy to understand that (and I know I'm sorely tempting the knitting fates in saying this) that I haven't had to rip back at all. I'm just sweetly turning out row after row of these charming little blossoms and adding inch after inch to the wonderfully squishy fabric produced by the slipped stitches. Knitting bliss!
There are 5 repeats in the main body of the shawl and then the sweetest flower border along the bottom edge. Well, I'm almost through with the 4th repeat and I've only been working on it a few days. It's charming really, and only becomes more so with each new row of flowers that are worked. I'm hoping to finish the last repeat of the body this weekend and then dive into the border next week. If everything goes according to plan, I should have this just in time as summer begins to slip away towards autumn.
September 20, 2020. Right on schedule (not that there is really any sort of schedule), the 5th repeat of the main body design was finished this afternoon. I used the entire first skein (of two) of the main dusty violet 'Shadow' a few rows before the end of the last repeat. There is still a small amount remaining of the contrasting color, 'White Sage'.
So, the question becomes, 'Is there enough yarn to work another repeat and still have enough for the border?' About half the yarn remains. This seems like a lot of yarn for just a border on a shawl. On the other hand, I've learned from knitting these triangular top down shawls, that the border rows take an unbelievable number of yards (and hours!) to knit. Despite thumbing my nose at the knitting fates now and then, I'm not really a big risk-taker. However, I really don't care to have a significant amount of yarn left over from a project. By this, you should understand that I mean I loathe and despise leftover yarn. It just seems to add to the clutter, you know. All those little bits of leftover yarn. I can hear you thinking to yourself that I should start a 'leftovers' project, like a blanket or something that uses all these little pieces. The idea being that when I finish a project and have some leftover yarn, I work on this project until I've used up the leftovers. That sounds like a fine idea but more like work than pleasure to me. I've always thought knitting in this day and age should be about the pleasure and the happiness. These days, there isn't a whole lot of free time for anyone and using some of this precious free time on anything that doesn't bring joy can be soul-crushing. So, when my choices, upon finishing a knitting project, are to work on a 'leftovers' project or cast on something new, bright, and shiny, guess which project wins? So it's probably no surprise, then, that my favorite projects are the ones that take up nearly the entire skein with little left over.
Which is why I'm worried that, with nearly half the yarn remaining to knit just the border, I'm going to be stuck with a lot of yarn leftovers. So, tonight I sit at a crossroads, with one path being to knit the shawl as the pattern states, with only 5 repeats. The other, riskier, path is to knit a 6th repeat and then the border. The latter option is more appealing but I don't really want to run out of yarn so I thought I would try and reason it out a bit.
So far I've knit 132 little blossoms on this shawl. The border is 40 rows wide and each main body pattern repeat is 32 rows wide, making the border the equivalent of 1.25 main body pattern repeats. With me so far?
Option 1: Knit the border after 5 main body pattern repeats, as the pattern states. The border would require 1.25 x (yarn for the next main body pattern repeat). The next main body pattern repeat would knit 50 blossoms. Therefore, the border would be the yarn equivalent of 1.25 (50 blossoms) = 62.5 blossoms. So if a skein of yarn was enough (almost) to knit 132 blossoms, then the border would take 62.5/132 or about 0.47 skeins -- close enough to half a skein for our rough estimates. This option means I will have half a skein of each color left. Bleh. That's a lot of yarn wasted in my book.
Option 2: Knit the border after 6 main body pattern repeats, one more than the pattern specifies. The additional repeat would knit 50 blossoms. The border would be knit AFTER this and would be the equivalent of 1.25 x (the blossom count for the repeat following the 6 main body repeat). That is, 1.25 x 58 = 72.5, making the total blossom count for option 2 equal to 50 + 72.5 = 122.5; ten blossom units less than the 132 blossoms I've knit out of a single skein so far! So, it looks like I'm going with option 2,
I know this is a crazy amount of numbers for those of you that don't like math and I get that, truly. But there is something unbelievably fun about stacking the odds in my favor when sitting down with the knitting fates to a solid game of yarn chicken. Let the games begin!
September 27, 2020 -- A lot has happened on this project in the past week. I breezed through the extra repeat number 6. By the time I finished, there were enough stitches on the 32-inch circular needle to choke a horse...or in this case to break a cable. I knew better. It wasn't like there were a few extra stitches on that knitting needle. No. There were hundreds too many stitches. But I was having such an enjoyable time blithely knitting along pretending everything was going to be ok...until it wasn't. It happened rather quickly and part-way through a row. All of a sudden I found myself holding a needle tip in my right hand, the cable attached to only the other needle in my left hand, and roughly 200 stitches (give or take a few dozen) in my lap. A giant puddle of stitches; really more of a lake of stitches truth be told. Sigh...I knew better. This wasn't my first waltz around the dancefloor by any means. In fact, I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I've had this very thing happen more than a few times previously. Nearly every time it was because there were oodles of too many stitches crammed on a too short needle. I'm not sure what this says about my soundness of mind that I keep repeating this but expecting a different outcome. But there you have it, one of my many dirty little knitting secrets. Another dirty little knitting secret of mine? I have a knitting needle addiction that far outweighs my yarn addiction (and THAT is saying something!). So there was no excuse not to switch over to a 40 inch needle before that poor overtaxed 32-inch needle snapped and those lovely stiches jumped off into my lap.
At this point, I'm sorry to say, the project went into time out. But it really is a lovely project and I was have such a fabulous time knitting it. So, as irritated as I was about the serious injury to my Pressed Flowers shawl, I poured myself a little cocktail (St. Germain and Tonic with lime), pulled out a 40 inch circular knitting needle and got all those stitches picked up and back where they belonged.
Remember last week's post about challenging the knitting fates? Well, I would have to say it ended up in a tie. Going into the border, I had 1.8 ounces left of the second 4 ounce skein. I calculated that I needed 2.1 ounces if the same amount of main color is required for the border as in the body of the shawl. But the border has a higher density of flowers (contrast color) and not as much background (main color). I honestly didn't know who was going to win...the knitting fates and I were in a dead heat. Row for row, I worked through the border chart and weighed the yarn after each row and still wasn't sure until I finished the last row of that chart with only 6 yards left. Then I did a little victory dance, talked a bit of smack at the knitting fates, picked up the pattern to read how to work the sewn bind off and...read that there were 2 rows of garter stich in the main color to be worked after the border chart! Um...no. Sorry, fates, that is not going to happen. Not on 6 yards of yarn anyhow. I made the executive decision to forego the two rows of garter stitch and bind off instead. So, while I can't really accept this as a win, I don't think it's a lose either. More of a tie really and I'm more than a little ok with that. If you happen to stop by the shop or catch us at a festival (if and when those ever happen again), be sure to check out the missing rows along the edge of this shawl!!!
Would I recommend this pattern? Well, I'm going to cast on another if that's any indication...this time maybe in fingering weight. Not sure which colors yet...maybe a speckled colorway for the flowers and a deeper color for the main color. We'll just have to see...