Friday, March 19, 2010

The Evenstar Shawl

There is one thing you will learn about me by reading my blog - I tend to cannonball into a project.  I don't spend a lot of time sitting around thinking, "Hmmmmm...can I do that?  Am I ready for that?  Would I fall flat on my face if I tried that?"  No...I go charging in, full of confidence and enthusiasm and probably more than a little stupidity.  It makes for a fun life and fewer face-fallings than you would expect.

Maybe I just have a natural instinct for picking things I have a good chance of doing well.  After all, it would never cross my mind to wake up one morning and say, "Hey!  I think I'm going to go out and teach myself to do brain surgery today!"  Nah, I know that even if I do have the requisite eye-hand coordination (which is a possibility), I'd throw right up at the first sight of blood and my neurosurgery hobby/career would be toast.  So I pick knitting my first serious lace shawl ("serious" meaning using cobwebby-fine lace yarn and itty-bitty needles) as part of a mystery KAL. "Mystery" meaning "got no clue what this puppy's supposed to look like or if I'm anywhere close to following this pattern".  And there is that little issue of the...what...4,000 beads to be knitted into it at some point... 

I had some nice lace yarn, Knit Picks Shimmer, on hand.

Lace knitting was in my "someday" private...with a clearly photographed pattern.  But, I stumbled upon Susan Pandorf's awesome blog "A Few Stitches Short of a Full Row" and fell in love with her patterns.  Then I read that she was doing this mystery KAL to benefit earthquake victims in Haiti, and I was totally sucked in.  Heck, I didn't even have to go out and buy yarn!

As you know, however, I did have to purchase needles, and that turned into a major fiasco about which I posted here and here.  But I persevered and ended up with a truly impressive array of #3 circs and dpns.  And...a couple weeks or so behind my fellow KALers, I cast on.  I figured knitting the shawl couldn't be half as difficult as buying the needles had been, right?

I started using these cute little 5" Hiya Hiya dpns, and they were a dream to work with.  I'd really rather chew tinfoil than knit the first few rows of a circular project on dpns...9 stitches of pure hell.  I know you all understand.  The slippage is more than maddening.  But the stitches really hung in on those Hiya Hiyas - I didn't drop one!  I didn't even have a problem with the circular cast on (which looked really intimidating until I did it).  Before long, I had this:

At about 72 stitches, I switched up to the 8" Crystal Palace dpns.  They were just as dreamy to knit with.
All continued to go well.  When I started working on the pattern, I switched to my 16" Addi Turbo Lace circs and really took off.  By the end of the evening, I had this, and I was feeling cocky:
The next night, I was determined to get caught up.  I knit feverishly, but silly girl...I didn't use lifelines, and I wasn't marking my pattern repeats.  I'd think I was confused, then think I wasn't.  I counted my stitches on each even row, and they all came out even, so I thought I was doing well.  I finished Clue #1 late in the evening and went to bed a happy woman.

Next morning, I was excited to take pictures of my masterpiece-in-progress.  When I pinned out the shawl, this is what I saw:
Even though my stitch count had been right, those triangles were a travesty!  And since I had no lifelines nor patience for tinking all the way back to row whoknowswhat, I frogged the whole thing and started over.

This ended up being a blessing, believe it or not.  As I'd been reading the posts on Ravelry, one of the little tricks I'd learned but not practiced (kind of like those lifelines...) was not using the pull center with lace yarn.  Since one of the minuses of Shimmer, IMO, is its fondness to knot up whenever it touches itself (that isn't nearly as dirty as it sounds, believe me), I knew I'd have a knotty (but not naughty...) mess when the center eventually collapsed.  So...having to start again allowed me to do three very smart things:
  1. Start the new ball from the outside so it doesn't knot.
  2. Use stitch markers for each pattern repeat.
  3. Use lifelines!!!
I grabbed another ball of Shimmer and my cute little Hiya Hiyas and cast on again.  All went wonderfully, and I was about a quarter of the way through Clue #1 when...I fell asleep while knitting.  I can't believe I did this.  More was about 2pm on a Saturday -  not late, not early...just a typical afternoon.  Luckily, I was on an even (knit every stitch) row, so I was able to figure it out pretty quickly, finish the row...and put the needles down, Laurie...step away from the need a nap!

There were a few days when no work was done on the Evenstar because I felt too crappy to concentrate.  Then Clue #3 came out, and I was still only slightly through Clue #1.  So last week, after the antibiotics kicked in, I went into Evenstar Overdrive and finished Clue #1.  You'll notice the very liberal use of lifelines in the picture below.  I decided to put in a lifeline every sixth row and the row before a pattern row that I think is particularly dicey. In Clue #1 there were a bunch of kfb7-k3togs that caused me no end of misery.  I ran a lifeline through the row before every row that had those boogers.  It truly did save me on more than one occasion.

When I finished Clue #1, I figured I had enough stitches to switch up to 24" circs.  It was then I discovered that, in my hypoglycemic hysterical needle buying misadventure, I had accidentally bought two pair of 32" Addi Turbo Lace needles and zero pair of 24".  Curses!  Where is that 24-hour LYS when you need it?  I had a some Pryms in #3, but the points looked downright thick as a brick.  And I had an old OLD Susan Bates plastic #3 24" circ.  How old?  I'd wager at least 20 cost $  piece, translucent molded plastic.  Who'd try to knit lace with that, right?  The points looked pointy enough for lace, so I decided to give them a try...and they were a dream to knit with.  Whodathunkit?  I don't think I lost a single stitch in Clue #2, not even those pesky SSKs that were killing me in Clue #1, literally jumping off the needles.  When I got to the end of Clue #2 and switched up to 32" Addi Turbo Laces, I sighed wistfully, not wanting to give up the ease of those old Susan Bates needles.

Here's my work through Clue #2 with the lifelines still in place (there are ten of them, though they're hard to see in this pic):
Here it is pinned out, with the multitude of lifelines removed:

I'll probably start Clue #3 this evening...more lifelines, I'm sure.  Wish me luck!  This is fun!


  1. I love your determination. You go girl!

  2. Wow! You are making great progress. Such a pretty color too.

    I'm another one of those that just jumps into projects. Hey it's just knit and purl, right??? We can DO this!

  3. Have you ever read Eunny Jang's lace section on her old blog? Great stuff, but one of the bombshells she dropped was that her favorite lace knitting needles were...Inox. Yup. Those grey, ubiquitous, everybody-carries-'em Inox needles. So I tried them out, and yeah, I like 'em. Not as much as I like my Addi Clicks or my KP Options. But I like 'em.

    Taught me a lot about assuming that "cheap" or "old" automatically means "bad."

    Mind you, sometimes it does. But not always. :)