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Gingko

Every so often, I wander into a year store and pick up a skein of cashmere thinking, “This will make a nice gift for someone.” There are so many lovely little things you can make with a skein of cashmere. However, I usually end up feeling guilty about it because of the problems associated with unsustainable cashmere production. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, run a search on cashmere and sustainability and get ready to feel really bad about that discount sweater you picked up last Christmas.) So last fall I ran across a skein of Plymouth Ecco Cashmere and bought it, hoping that I would at least go home and find that it was a tad bit more Earth-friendly than average.

Well, I never got around to looking up whether Plymouth was actually putting out a sustainable cashmere, and now the yarn is discontinued anyway. I did however make up a very nice little shawl out of the yarn.

This is the Ginkgo Shoulderette Shawl (Ravelry link) made with Plymouth Ecco Cashmere on US size 4 needles. For me, this was a simple and relaxing knit, something to work on when I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to tackle the more complex stuff that I love. It turned out rather nicely in the end. I had originally started knitting this pattern in a laceweight yarn, but I didn’t care for the pattern definition. This yarn was more of a light fingering weight and worked extremely well with the pattern. I knit a few extra rows in the stockinette section for a slightly larger shawl.

As usual, the camera won’t quite capture the color accurately. It’s an oatmeal color, the natural color of the undyed fiber.

I myself don’t really care for cashmere because I find it to be extremely itchy. Other people don’t seem to feel the same way about it, so it makes a great gift that I don’t have any trouble giving away! This shawl blocked up light as a cloud, with a soft halo and a beautiful drape. I should note that this yarn was a little more sticky to work with than other cashmeres… not that anyone’s going to need to know that, since it’s not being sold anymore. Sad.

Had a bit of an adventure blocking this shawl. I washed and blocked it in the evening and went to bed. The next morning, I didn’t quite have the time to take up the dry shawl, so I left it blocked out on the floor. When I came home that day, I was horrified to find empty blocking mats, along with an empty Roomba docking station. I had forgotten that our Roomba robotic vacuum was programmed to run that day! I found Rooma entangled with the shawl in the bedroom. Blocking wires and pins were randomly strewn all over the house. I rescued the shawl from Roomba’s loving embrace and spread it out immediately. Fortunately I found only 4 small damaged places. Of the 4, three were broken strands right on the edge, and the fourth was just a pulled strand from the lace portion that did not break. Easy enough to fix; you can’t even see the repaired spots in the photos even though they are all visible. After the repair I washed and re-blocked the shawl. It looks great.

I’m quite sure that I will never forget to disable Roomba before blocking a shawl again.

After finishing the Rhodion, I wanted to knit something little and cute. I also wanted to use up some leftover yarn from another projects. So I re-skeined about 500 yards of oyster-colored Baruffa Cashwool and broke out my blue dye.

This is Good Day Sunshine, from the Spring+Summer 2012 issue of Knitty. This issue is heavy on small shawls. I like it. I might knit a few of the others!

This shawl took a whopping 322 yards of yarn. What a nice way to use a partial skein. It might be neat to knit it using one color for the dense middle and another for the lacy border.

When I blocked this shawl, I realized that it looked like the symbol for the Romulan Star Empire. (At first I thought it looked like the Klingon symbol, but a friend corrected me. Thanks!) I have to think that Romulans would only knit very complex lace.

  Do the Romulans need a new flag?

Anyway, this was a fun little project. I highly recommend it. I knit most of it on US size 4 needles but went up to size 6 and then size 8 for the two rows preceding the row with all of the 8-into-7 and 7-into-7 as suggested in the pattern. This was a good idea and made those decreases much easier.

Rhodion Shawl

This is the Rhodion lace shawl, from the Fall 2011 issue of Knitty. I always love Elizabeth Freeman’s designs.

This is also the last of my sample knitting for Rain. This yarn is called “Marie” and the color is “Cibolo.” I’m in love with this color; the camera really doesn’t do it justice.

Can you see the nupps? They don’t exactly jump out.

This pattern was challenging to knit. The cable crossings take serious attention. I strongly recommend working them without a cable needle. Otherwise this project would take forever. If I reknit this, I might take out the nupps. They’re barely visible and don’t look their best at the gauge that works best for the cables.

This shawl was also interesting to block. I’m not entirely happy with how the ends blocked out. I was in a hurry that day and could have done them better. I think that I will re-block this shawl before I send it along to its recipient.

It’s bigger than me!

The other things about this shawl is that it is HUGE! It makes a very generous wrap. The yarn is mostly alpaca, so this will be very warm.

I was excited about knitting this project in a way that I haven’t been excited about my knitting in a long time. I think that maybe I’ve been knitting too many easy things, and that I need to push my technical skills a little more to keep myself happy.

Missed a cable crossing. Oh well.

Sneak Peak

More photos to come!

Recently I’ve been doing some sample knitting for a yarn-dyeing friend. She sent me three different kinds of lace yarns which I’m using to knit up some patterns I’ve been eyeing for quite some time.

Kuusk cowl

The first project I did was the Kuusk cowl, which was published in Knitty last year. I knit it up in Amanda (Ravelry link) which is a 100% merino lace yarn from Rain’s Obsessive Stitchery. I seem to recall that the yarn is superwash, not that it really matters for lace. When are you ever going to throw a lace shawl in the washing machine? (If you do, please don’t tell me. I don’t want to hear about it.) The yarn is roughly the same weight as Zephyr and a bit springier, so it was very nice on my hands. Nice enough that I knit the whole cowl up in one day. Just a nice, quick little project.

The Kuusk pattern is knit in the round and has nupps. I’ve knit many, many nupps prior to this, but not in the round. I can’t say I enjoyed closing the nupps from the knit side. They don’t look as neat to me and didn’t plump up as nicely as they usually do. If I re-knit this pattern I’ll either sub out the nupps for some beads or simply leave them out altogether.

Can you see the nupps? Nope, I can't, either. I promise they're there.

The second project I knit up with Rain’s yarn was the Triinu scarf, from Nancy Bush’s Knitted Lace of Estonia. This is the fourth project I’ve knit from that book. I can see myself doing everything in in eventually because the patterns are so nice. Nothing super complicated, just nice, well-written patterns that tend to be easy to memorize. The big lace scarves are possibly a little too big and airy to use as a conventional keep-the-weather out scarves, but they are just right for a dressy stole or for pinning over a blouse on a cool day.

I knit the Triinu in Eleanor yarn, from the same shop that I linked to above. This yarn has just a little bit of sparkle. In the skein it looked too sparkly to me (I’m not wild about bling in general) but once it was knit up the sparkle toned down and was just right. Everyone that sees it loves it. The silver fibers didn’t make the yarn scratchy or hard to work with.

The third yarn Rain sent me is called “Marie” and is a different animal altogether. It’s an alpaca/silk/cashmere blend and while I knew in my head that it would feel differently than the all-wool or wool/silk blends, my fingers kinda forgot about just how slippery alpaca could be. This yarn blooms a bit after washing and blocks well, and I’m super excited about the project I’m using it for: Rhodion, from last year’s fall issue of Knitty. I’ve knit two other fabulous patterns by Elizabeth Freeman and  been wanting to knit this one since the day it was published. The lace-and-cables are absolute magic. They are also absolutely no fun at all to pick out if I make a mistake, so yeah, I’ll be staying out of the beer while I’m working on this one!

Rhodion swatch.

The photo I’ve posted is of my Rhodion swatch (yes, I swatch my lace, and you should too). The cables look like little double helixes before blocking, and after the block relaxed a bit the swatch retained a nice three-dimensional texture. The really cool thing about this swatch is that I cast it on right in the middle, with a provisional crochet-chain cast on. I knit two repeats of the cable pattern, cast off, turned around and picked up from the provisional cast on, and knit two more repeats. I love everything about this swatch: the helixes, the texture, and how the subtle color changes work with the whole thing. I’m working on the shawl now and every time I pick it up, I’m excited to work on it.

I’ve been wanting to knit Anne Hanson’s Alhambra Scarf for some time. This winter, I cracked open a skein of cashmere and silk, and finally got around to it.

 What a fun little pattern. Just enough to be interesting without taking up too much mental capacity.

Except that, when I went to take it off of the blocking wires, an extra hole opened up. Must’ve dropped a stitch somewhere.

No, it’s not supposed to look like this.

I could just go in and do the repair, but it’s in a really obvious spot near the end. So, now I’m going to rip out the last couple of repeats and re-do that section. Not a big deal – maybe three hours of work – but annoying, because I thought that I was done with this project.

 

9/7/12: Edited to add some photos of the finished scarf.

All fixed!

I always love blocking out lace.

Lisianthus

This is the Lisianthus shawl. The pattern was written by Rosemary Hill, who also makes fabulous shawl pins.

This pattern was a real treat to knit. Just challenging enough to engage my attention, but not so difficult that I couldn’t have the TV on. Actually, I watched a lot of Battlestar Galactica on Hulu while knitting this, at least 20 episodes. I feel like I should name the shawl after one of the characters at this point.

The yarn is Love Potion No. 3 from TheGossamerWeb, on Etsy. I got two shawls out of this skein! Although, I did run out of yarn while binding off this one. I had to pick out 3/4 of the bindoff, tink back two rows, and then bind off after the next-to-last purl side row. I did a little rewriting of the chart in order to do this, but it worked out just fine. If anyone reading this has the same issue, leave a comment and I’ll scan and email my revised chart to you.

Because I knew that yarn would be tight, I subbed size 6 silver-blue beads for the nupps called for in the pattern. In addition to saving on yarn (nupps use a ton of yarn, beads do not) the beads also weigh down the shawl a bit. This is a good thing. This yarn is so light and airy that it doesn’t really want to drape; it floats around in the slightest puff of air. The beads give it just enough weight to drape nicely without stretching out the pattern, and as you can see from the photos the shawl still flutters nicely in a good breeze.

This was my 27th lace shawl. It’s been a while since I kept one for myself. This one is staying with me. I love it!