14 October 2008

it ain't for sissies

Behold, my first foray into lace knitting. This is the Rivolo pattern by Anne Hanson. I could tell you that its a piece of cake, that the yarn is perfect and the finished product is simply falling off my needles without any effort.

But that would make me a rotten liar.

Truth is, what you see above is the tenth attempt at knitting this project. Yes, you read that correctly, I frogged it nine times (and cursed repeatedly) before I finally got the hang of it. But before you go thinking that its a problem with the pattern, let me assure you that it is not.

I have this habit of falling in love with knitting blogs, and it seems that each person I really dig specializes in a particular knit. The Yarn Harlot inspired me to knit socks, Yarnhog has me moving toward sweaters and Knitspot coaxed me into loving lace. So I read these blogs and see finished object after finished object of pure perfection and decide that I can do it too.

With equally impressive results.

On the first try.

Never mind the fact that I hadn't a clue how to knit socks (took a class, got that one down), I've never attempted a sweater (this is still debatable, the pattern and yarn I bought for my first one kind of scared me, I'm convinced the pattern is written in an alien language) and I've heard nasty stories about how fiddly lace can be (how hard can it be? Just read the darn pattern and have at.)

That last comment concerning the lace knitting came back to bite me in the tush - H A R D.

I've pretty much come to the conclusion that in the grand scheme of the knitting world, I am a scarf addict. I only have one neck but you wouldn't know it to look at the collection I have hanging on the back of the door in my bedroom. Most I've made but that doesn't stop me from buying them either. I totally dig scarves in a completely obsessive and unnatural way.

So when I kept drooling over the patterns over at Knitspot, I decided to give one of her scarves a go. I even emailed her and told her I'd never knitted lace before and would the pattern I chose be good for a newbie. She said yes, its a simple pattern. I was good to go. (Just for the record, I want to state that the pattern is perfect. In every way. It is clearly written, very simple and quite pretty. I highly recommend Anne's patterns. My problems stem from the fact that I am a moron.)

Several things went wrong immediately:

1) I did not own lace needles. I attempted to knit the scarf on regular wooden ones. All I did was manage to mutilate the poor yarn.

2) I decided I could knit this while resting my back (which means laying down) and watching television. Apparently lace knitting is much like Dooley, it demands your full attention at all times.

3) I got the correct needles and got all pissy at the fact that they are ciruclar needles. Circulars are not my favorites and I resented (greatly) that I had to use them, especially since I am knitting something flat. I became irrationaly angry at that cable and swore like a sailor. (If anyone knows if there is such a thing as straight lace needles, I would love to know about it. You'll be sparing poor Dooley from having to listen to his foul mouthed sister.)

4) I chose a yarn that was heavily variegated. Gorgeous colors of greens and super soft - and looked completely like crap when you try to knit a stitch pattern into it. It sucked up that stitch pattern like a black hole and even though I tried to deny it was happening, it was clear that I was going to spend a lot of time knitting a pattern no one would be able to see. &$(*@^#@^!

5) I banished the partially knitted variegated green blob for a month. Made me feel better.

6) I saw a post on Yarnhog's blog about her lace knitting torture and how she broke down the pattern to make it easier to read. I shamlessly copied her and quickly dug out my pattern and laughed gleefully as I broke the pattern down into submission.

7) I glared at the green yarn and pitiful attempt at knitting this lovely pattern. (It made me feel better, I highly recommend it for knits that don't do your bidding.)

8) I decided I need to go down one needle size and grumbled as I realized that meant I would have to buy another stinking circular needle. I procured said needle and dug around in the stash to find a more subtly variegated yarn to use. (Apparently I am completely incapable of buying solid colored yarn. I may have to remedy that.)

9) Okay, all set. Smaller needle, better yarn, pattern broken down to the point that a monkey could read it. Should be cake now.

10) Mangle pattern in every way for two repeats. Cuss. Decide that I've already ripped it out so many times that one more time won't hurt. Watch as my mother debates whether or not I've lost my mind.

11) Decide that I am far more stubborn then this yarn and pattern. People have been knitting lace for centuries, surely I can tackle this simple pretty pattern. I am not a moron, I am not a moron, I am not a moron...

12) Cast on fifty stitches - again. Begin knitting, laugh hysterically when I get to the end of the row and have the correct number of stitches. Success! Success is mine! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

And that's about where I'm at right now. I've got almost ten repeats on it and the pattern calls for thirty. Since I like my scarves to be on the longer side, I'll probably end up adding on at least ten extra repeats. The yarn is my absolute favorite color, a mix of rust orange and brown.

Now that it is behaving, I'm totally loving it. So much in fact that I went back to Anne's shop and bought two more scarf patterns.

I'm afraid to tempt the knitting fates, but it appears that I may be a lace knitter after all. But let me tell you, it ain't for sissies.

Of course, I have to block this thing after I'm done with it. I had decided when I started it that I would do it without blocking wires but I'm beginning to wonder if that might be the final push over the edge to insanity. I would appreciate any blocking advice anyone has to offer. Otherwise you'll be able to hear the weeping from Michigan clear across the country.


Yarnhog said...

I laughed, hard and repeatedly, though not without sympathy, all the way through this post. I actually own a shawl kit from Anne Hanson--pattern, yarn, the whole nine yards--which I fear is doomed to perpetual obscurity in the stash closet.

Not to fear. There's plenty of sweater yarn in there, too.

Anonymous said...

no.. you can't make me want to knit... no no no.. I wont conform! I will not be assimilated!

Gisela Towner said...

OMG -- too funny!
I too, seem to have a scarf fetish. Probably because that's the only thing I know how to knit... Since I can't resist buying yarn, scarves it is!

I did buy some beautiful sock yarns and a set of sock needles. (under the influence of your blog)My Mom's best friend said she would teach me -- one of these days. :)

teri springer said...

Don't feel bad, Lynn....I have a lovely lacy shawl I was going to make for my sister for Christmas....LAST year. It's in my basket. It was a kit- the yarn was supposed to be rose, it's wine. The pattern has a rib down the middle back and the pattern angles off from there. I did great for about 6-8 inches then it all went blurp! I frogged. I started over. Frogged again....and again and again. The yarn is looking a little ratty so I started over with a different skein. There it sits. In the meantime the sweater back in the Noro is almost a foot long.....should have it done by the 4th of July.



Virginia from Oregon said...

Why do we all expect to be experts with our first tries? It looks to me like you are doing well. The knit lace reminds me of a piece I saw when I went with a friend to the Portland, Oregon knitting guild. A man showed his lace piece and I think it was one of the most beautiful pieces of handwork that I have ever seen. I remember that his needles looked to be about the diameter of toothpicks. He had the luxury of travelling the world to find people with original designs. It is great that you are finding new ideas to make your down time as pleasant as possible.

SplendiferousFiber said...

Hey, Lynn,
Are you using stitch markers? You know, the little plastic rings that slip over the needle? If you put one between every pattern repeat, or every other one if they are small, it can really help keep track of how many stitches you have. I do this every 10 or 20 stitches even in stockinette when making sweaters (yeah, I make them.. I'm always cold and always looking for ways to not be cold). They are also really helpful for any kind of fuzzy or furry stuff that makes it hard to see a dropped stitch. I know that the repeats can change placement with each row, but it does make it easy to keep up once you get the pattern going. (And I have learned how to knit tubularly in a series with 2 circular needles. Both sleeves at the same time and lots less sewing. I hate sewing the pieces together.) Good luck with the scarf. How about pinning it to a padded surface to block? Use lots of pins so the edges don't ripple. Or maybe weave heavy plastic fishing line (The stiff stuff, maybe it's weedwhacker line) into the edges (somehow, have not tried this) and then pin just past the line, which would help keep the edges straight.