i have been planning this post for a while, and now that i am ready, i am oddly scared. i am scared you will think i am silly, if not slightly obsessive compulsive. but its time i got my blog back on track, in terms of blogging about knitting, (sorry, i have not been a very good blogger lately), and its time i got my lace knitting on track.
that, after all, is what this project is about. i am relatively new to lace knitting, my first project was The Shetland Triangle, knitted in 2008, and that remains one of my favourite patterns. my large red 8ply shetland triangle is one of my favourite knitted items. i have no doubt i will go back and make another one of these at some point.
i tried to broaden my lace knitting horizons with projects from books like ‘victorian lace today’ and ‘knitted lace of estonia’ but i always struggled. i made mistakes, forgot where i was in charts, frogged more than i finished. now of course, i knit lace with a lifeline, and that helps, but i feel like my lace knitting, as a potential area for much Growth As A Knitter, needed some coherency. some structure. i felt like i was just mucking around, and i wanted to get serious.
because i am a book worm, and a historian by training, i couldnt help but be interested in the background to the lace i was knitting. when i went to england and saw some in the victoria and albert museum, i realised what a long tradition i was unwittingly part of, and how i really should be trying to do it justice. and after my few lace experiments, i realised it was particularly shetland lace i was most interested in. im not sure why, something about its simplicity, that it was practical but also beautiful, that it had a particular set of skills and techniques, that it had a history. so i set out on some research. i bought and borrowed books, and i read, and thought and daydreamed, and have finally come up with a plan.
first, i had to get the right materials. (i think most of us can relate to that no?!). when i had done enough reading, and knew what i wanted to do, i rushed out of the house in the middle of a conversation to pick up a special shetland lace project book:
i wanted to document every part of this process, not for any real reason other than i wanted to it BE a process. to not be about that incessant rush we have as knitters sometimes to get things finished, but to go slow, and learn along the way. so i am putting in the book all the tips and techniques i find useful, and have set out my goals and plans, and made a list of the projects i really want to do, and ideas about the yarn that will go with them. i think there are quite a few years worth of knitting here!
the overall plan is to start simple and build up, and to use as many traditional patterns and construction techniques as i can. i have plans for mostly square and round shawls, no triangles here (mostly because i already have two, and there are modern patterns in triangles i still want to try). i have categorised the patterns according to level of difficulty, and am building up to something on cobweb yarn (that i am going to get proper shetland wool for) and possibly, one day, something of my own design. im hoping along the way that one of these might be good enough to enter a show, but i dont have any expectations, the plan is just to get better and learn more. other patterns (all ravelry links) include miss lamberts shetland pattern, the shetland tea shawl, a cap or circular shawl, and the christening chrysalis.
my first project, at missfee’s suggestion, is elizabeth zimmerman’s stonington shawl. it has no cast on or off edges, starts with a garter stitch increasing square, and a simple lace border. i have the perfect yarn for it, also courtesy of missfee, this lovely plain white 3 ply pure wool.
i had a bit of an anxiety attack when i realised that all of this wool is one big bundle that has come apart into three sections:
and i sought some advice about how to handle it. i decided to cut it into the three distinct parts and wind them each separately, and use spit splices to rejoin them along the way:
the smallest bundle made a lovely little ball that is for swatches:
oh yes, i am swatching. i am not known for my swatching practices, and oddly, i know with lace its probably far less important than with most other kinds of knitting, but again, its about the process. my first swatch was on 4.5mm needles and i got 21 stitches to 10 cm rather than the required 20:
i think i will do another one on 4mm needles just to make sure, although this is a smaller needle than the pattern suggests. EZ also gives a tip about knitting a whole shawl in miniature as a swatch, and i am going to do this because i know when i first knitted socks, a baby sock was a great way to introduce quickly all the required technical elements. and if EZ says to do it, its probably a good idea.
so i will be blogging all the details here as i go, and i hope that you enjoy the process as much as i will.
let the journey begin!