Try, try again
Tuesday March 04th 2008, 2:34 pm
Filed under: Knit

Ellen’s HalfPint Farm baby alpaca/silk laceweightLooking at someone’s very fine-weight lacework on their blog recently caused a real pang; I missed that. The fingering weight I usually work with makes lovely shawls and fairly practical ones: you can absent-mindedly throw your purse strap over your shoulder and not freak out that you just shredded a hundred hours’ worth of work. For me, the 5 to 5.5 mm needle sizes I use with those are by far the most comfortable in my hands, working them hour by hour; the smaller ones with the finer yarns require much more frequent breaks, and for my eyes, too.

And yet… There’s nothing in knitting quite as satisfying to me as creating with a very fine laceweight. Knowing how ethereal and airy it’s going to look when you’re done. Picturing the recipient looking absolutely glorious, wearing just the slightest warmth against the breeze on a spring day full of the opening-up of the earth to all its new possibilities.  (Okay, cue Bambi stepping out of the forest, turn on some Mozart…)

And so I found myself reaching for the baby alpaca/silk laceweight at Stitches at Ellen’s HalfPint Farm‘s booth. That was the light blue I wanted. Alpaca’s a bit sturdier than wool, given that the fibers are twice the length, to answer part of the practicality argument, and it was so soft. And the spinning was just right: four tiny plies rather than two, spun not so tight as to be too wiry like some alpaca laceweights are, not so loose that it would fray easily. Just the right balance.

swatchI had a stitch in mind that I’d somehow never tried before that I wanted to use it with, and I swatched it first on Amanda‘s merino I’d bought recently. I’m glad I did. I liked it enough that that swatch will keep going till it’s a scarf, but I found it fiddly enough that I don’t want to do it in the alpaca, which does have just enough energy to it that it would be hard in that stitch to see where I am in the pattern. Mismatch alert. Not those two together. Not for me, anyway, not now.

This after spending a few hours–actually, a couple of days–hashing out a whole shawl pattern, working out the details, figuring it out visually, writing the rough ideas down, working out the stitch counts. I’ll knit that one later–just not in that particular laceweight.

I had more ideas. I cast on. But it didn’t matter what plans I had, somehow I cast on the wrong number and didn’t notice till a fair bit along. (I *always* count constantly when I’m trying something new! But I did not this time.) When it hit me, I sat there going, why is this being so hard? I’ve made dozens and dozens of shawls, I don’t make silly mistakes like adding 22 with 21 and getting 53 on paper, I just don’t!

I did. Rip.

The end result is that by the time I got really going at last, I had spent enough time at it to let a different way of seeing the problem percolate through. I found, to my surprise, I was glad my other ideas hadn’t stayed on the needles. I knew exactly what I wanted, I knew exactly why it should be what it was turning into now, and I knew that nothing else would have done as good a job of conveying what I wanted the stitches to represent. I’d tell you more, but then the person it’s going to would guess, and you’re going to have to wait until they get to find out.

But I gotta tell you, it feels good to know that this time, it’s coming out exactly the way it was meant to all along.

I’m writing this on a hands-and-eyes break from it, but I can’t wait to get back to it.

11 Comments so far
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Cant wait to see it knitted up
Have A Nice Day!!

Comment by Danielle from SW MO 03.04.08 @ 4:09 pm

I’m glad you’re enjoying your yarn!

Comment by Amanda 03.04.08 @ 5:34 pm

Yes there is always a reason why this things happen. How many times do we get upset at having to rip and then feel grateful because it was actually the best thing? I am glad you are enjoying your yarn and I can’t wait to see it finished. I also look forward to hearing you describe that wonderful feeling when the laceweight shawl is finished. It is a great feeling. Enjoy.

Comment by Vicki 03.04.08 @ 6:25 pm

Uh, oh…I feel like such an enabler…..! 🙂

Still, can’t wait to see how it turns out! I agree–there is just something about knitting that really fine, ethereal lace….

Comment by Toni 03.04.08 @ 8:14 pm

I have a couple skeins of sock yarn from Ellen’s… beautiful stuff!

Comment by kristine 03.04.08 @ 9:14 pm

It sounds so lovely. :-}
I love the creative parts almost as much as the knitting parts.
I spent the other day working out a new hat design based on a Barbara Walker stitch (I want to put an honorific in front of her name, like Dame Barbara Walker or something.) Anyway, I did a swatchy thing, then wrote out the pattern and checked the math, now it’s resting until my mind is fresh enough to give it a decent test knit.

Comment by Diana Troldahl 03.05.08 @ 7:01 am

Incredible. I love the color you’re using, and I love the start – 17 rows in – of Bigfoot!

Comment by Channon 03.05.08 @ 7:47 am

Sometimes that time to let things marinate is absolutely essential! Good for you, letting that happen instead of pushing ahead. Sometimes we need that break. 🙂

Comment by Joanne 03.05.08 @ 8:09 am

How frustrating and serendipitous..all at the same time. I guess it’s true, designing is like giving birth. There is pain, but the result is sooo worth it.

Comment by Carol 03.05.08 @ 9:15 am

Love the yarn and color! Can’t wait to see the finish. 🙂

Uh oh, I see there’s another Toni who signs your blog…well, that’s what you get for being so popular. 😉

Comment by Toni 03.05.08 @ 11:39 am

It’s off to a lovely start… anything in that colour is going to be divine, no questions asked! 🙂

Comment by Susan 03.06.08 @ 6:41 am

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