Knitting a Shawl

Shawl beginnings

Shawl beginnings

This once-a-month blogging thing has got to stop. Yes, I miss it. But, I have no idea why I haven’t been blogging. Lately, though, it has seemed overwhelming to do. Yet, here I am… I have a lot to tell you about my knitting world lately.

For some reason, I got it in my head a couple of weeks ago that I want to make a shawl. I’ve been wearing wide scarves over my shoulders all winter. They all have been store-bought, and I have had a bit of knitter’s shame in that none of what I have worn has been anything I’ve made. You wanna know why that is? There IS nothing I have made. A few hats, an i-cord scarf, and lots of unfinished objects. I am the true embodiment of a process knitter; I start a project, eager to learn something new, and then once I get the concept, I quickly get bored. So, there’s not a lot to show for my “career” as a knitter.

But, back in November, when I visited Woolstock, I discovered the wonder that is Koigu. I bought 8 skeins, intent on making a shawl. Of course, it can’t be just ANY shawl. It had to be the PERFECT shawl. And so, the agonizing began.

Agonizing, because… here’s the thing. I love the idea of lace, but I really don’t like “old lady” lace. I’m 45 with purple hair for gosh sakes, I’m fighting my age tooth and nail. So, I had to find the right stitch patterns, and style and shape of shawl.

Enter the book, Crazy Lace:an artistic approach to Creative Lace Knitting by Myra Wood. (Whoa! Check out the CRAZY price on that thing! I swear, I paid less than 20 a few months ago. Is it out of print already?) This book is a really cool concept, and explains that lace can be whatever you want it to be, symmetrical, or not, orderly, or not… that as long as you understand some basic concepts for the shape you want, you can do anything you want with the holes and the decreases. Really. ANYTHING.

The thing is, I’m not quite that brave. Not yet. I want to be, but I’m not there. Still, the book was a great read and I will refer to it often every time I need a knitting confidence booster.

Then I thought I would love to try knitting a Faroese Shawl. The concept of this shawl appealed to me because as a person in a wheelchair, I have trouble keeping shawls in place on my shoulders. And the shaping looked like just the thing that would make this shawl easy to wear. I looked at some basic shaping instructions from this site. I understand the concepts laid out in this site, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Not yet. It was making my brain hurt, so I ripped it out after only the first few rows. I tried again and again, but the confusion never lifted. So there went that idea.

Then I looked around Ravelry, and there it was: The Pi Are Square shawl. (There’s a good example of one in this photo on Flickr.) Put simply, it’s round in the back, and square in the front. with shoulder shaping. This seemed perfect. Of course the creator of this beautiful design was none other than my knitting herone, Elizabeth Zimmermann. I have most of her books so I pulled my copy of Knitting Around off the shelf, and luckily, it made perfect sense! And off I went. I am enjoying looking at all sorts of lace books, coming up with patterns and ideas. Maybe I’ll even get a little crazy.

If I’m brave enough. We’ll see.

Blog Week Day 3: Elizabeth (Who Else?)

Elizabeth Zimmermann knits on the sleeves of the sweater she is wearing.

Elizabeth Zimmermann knits on the sleeves of the sweater she is wearing. (Photo by Walter Scheffer; photo provided by Meg Swansen)

When I first read on Eskimimi’s Blog about Blog Week, and saw her proposed topic for Day 3, “One Great Knitter,” my mind gave me the answer in just one word.

Elizabeth.

Even when I wasn’t yet a knitter, when I would crochet from a pattern with a specific gauge as for a baby sweater, I was always dismayed at no matter how I tried, I couldn’t achieve the stated gauge in the pattern. Because of the way I held the yarn, my stitches were even and well formed, but short and squatty, as opposed to the same stitches that my grandmother would make. (Now, I’m smarter than I was then and I realize I might have been able to compensate by adding extra rows here and there, but then…)

So, when I started knitting, I discovered a similar phenomenon. It’s hard today for me to “get gauge” for a stated pattern. I thought this would limit my abilities as a knitter. But then, I read Knitting Without Tears. I learned that even I could knit anything I want to knit… that what is important is knowing my gauge, whatever it is, and then I can make practically anything, in any yarn, without following a step by step pattern.

So many of Elizabeth’s ideas are timeless, and pure genius. Who would have thought that a wonky parallelogram folded just so, would make one of the most often knitted garments in knitting history?

A couple of years ago, I attempted my first-ever sweater. It was a baby sweater, but a sweater nonetheless.

My version of the baby sweater

My version of the baby sweater

I loved this pattern immediately (commonly called the “February Baby Sweater,” from Knitter’s Almanac) because it said this: “Gauge: About 5 sts to 1 in. But babies come in various sizes.”

There she was, not “trapping” me with a pattern, but freeing with me with her thoughts on how this baby sweater could be made. I did mine with sock yarn, and instead of using the lace stitch I opted for stockinette with a cable and eyelet panel on the fronts. With a few calculations based on my gauge, I was free to take her idea with my yarn and my thoughts, and just go.

Elizabeth Zimmermann taught me to think as a knitter, and to find my own way. Instead of feeling limited by my dexterity disabilities that cause me to hold my yarn differently and maybe not get gauge (ever! I am the loosest knitter I know), I know that instead I can accomplish anything when it comes to knitting. I still have a fear of sweaters, and someday soon I hope to be over it. I know Elizabeth would tell me I can do it.

There are other knitters whose work really inspires me and keeps me moving forward in my quest to master our craft:

  • Kristen Nicholas–whose color sense is something I find to be nothing short of amazing,
  • Janet Szabo–whose understanding of cables is completely amazing. (She even took the time to help me fix a dropped cable on my baby sweater project once),
  • Bev Galeskas–whose felted hat pattern (OMG it’s downloadable now?) is the first knitting pattern I ever bought, and it’s still my favorite,
  • Stephanie Pearl-McPhee–who always tells the truth about knitting and helps me to laugh about it, and
  • Nora Gaughan, whose amazing sense of shape and form take knitting in some pretty amazing directions.

As I was saying yesterday, though, inspiration comes from so many sources I could not possibly list all of the knitters and designers who have given me so much inspiration. But Elizabeth? Thanks to her videos, I can hear her voice in my head. She is my knitting guide, telling me to trust myself, and helping me believe that I can do it.

Special Note: I’d like to thank Meg Swansen for providing the photo of Elizabeth Zimmermann that accompanies this blog post. I sent an e-mail and she responded so quickly. Thanks, Meg, for sharing such a great photo!

Knit Valentine and a Birthday

Yay! I figured it out!

red knit heart on card

red knit heart on card

Actually, I feel pretty stupid. Elizabeth Zimmermann is always right, and I should just trust her, that even though her patterns aren’t always the most specific, hand-holding things in the world, I should just trust that they’re right.

It’s all about the short rows. Most of the time, a pattern will specifically say when you are short rowing and turning before the end of the row, and then they specifically say when you will begin picking the unknit stitches back up and knitting them again. This pattern didn’t specifically include those little notes, so it was hard for me to figure out where in the directions to begin picking the unknit stitches back up again. Ok, the pattern didn’t specifically point it out, but if I had just had faith and followed along just as written without second-guessing, then I would be doing it anyway. It all worked beautifully of course. It was Elizabeth Zimmermann, after all.

To see the pattern, it’s on page 155 of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Workshop. I’m definitely going to make a bunch of smaller hearts starting tomorrow.

Birthday Boy

Today is Steven’s 7th birthday! I am so proud of my little boy, who is growing up so fast. His big party is still a week or so away, but my mom and Tony came for dinner tonight and brought an ice cream cake. Here are a few photos from the evening:

Getting ready to blow out candles

Getting ready to blow out candles

Blowing out candles

Blowing out candles

Steven and Nonna cut the cake

Steven and Nonna cut the cake

Steven, with sister being goofy

Steven, with sister being goofy

Diana

Diana

Nonno

Nonno

Daddy

Daddy

Happy Birthday, Steven! I am so proud of you.

Love,
Mommy.

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Knitting Weather

Today we had to leave work early because our kids’ school closed early. Why? Because of this:

snow in the bushes

snow in the bushes

snow in the yard

snow in the yard

It started snowing a little late this morning for schools to be closed for the day, but by the time we were ready to leave for school and work the driveway had to be shoveled first. So we kinda figured we wouldn’t be there the whole day. In fact, we had only been there for a few minutes when we heard the news that we would be leaving early. So the kids got a little outdoor playtime this afternoon and I got to spend some time knitting.

After yesterday’s heart turning out wonky, I did a Ravelry search and found a cute knitted heart by Elizabeth Zimmermann. It’s part of the Heart Hat pattern, but the heart itself can be knit as a standalone object.

Problem is I don’t understand the pattern. Obviously there is some short-rowing going on, but I can tell already that I’m missing something and my counts are weird. Has anybody out there made this? Are there short rows on both ends, or one end only? Help?

Thanks in advance….

Trish, the Heart-Obsessed Totally Confused Knitter

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