Sunday, July 26, 2009

Second Shawl Syndrome

Did you notice that I only gave you progress on Fenna up to our departure from Peoria? What, I'm sure you're wondering, did I do for the 3 and a half hours it took us to get home? That, my friends, is a sad story. A testimony to the importance of Myrna Stahman's clever stitch-marker trick. (Can you tell I am completely enamored of my Shawls and Scarves book? The woman is a great unventer. The Elizabeth Zimmerman of shawls.)

First up. The trick itself. She recommends a fine thread. I kind of lazied it and stole some of Marco's sock yarn - it was handy.

See how it anchors the stitch marker in place and keeps it lined up with the yarn overs? Big deal, you may be thinking. You may have noticed that I don't seem to have any problem keeping my yarn-overs in line for the Barn Raising quilt squares. What's so important about attaching a tail to your stitch-marker when you knit a shawl?

Did you ever notice how you can get along just fine doing something until someone points out that it really is, not wrong so much as risky. You may think you like living on the knitting edge, but once you know, once you've been warned, ignore the warning at your peril.

There I was, happily knitting away on my green shawl as we wended our way Chicago-ward. Anticipating showing off all my progress. Idly thinking how amazing it is that different yarns and garter stitch could still be so engaging. Fondly smoothing my knitting out on my lap. And seeing this.

I really haven't even had the heart to repair it. It's going to be ugly. Those are, after all, increases on either side of the crooked spine of my shawl. Three stitches at the top row are going to increase to 5 stitches, then 7, then 9, and so on, and so on, and so on. Insert heavy sigh.

So, is the lesson here a polemic against greed? Unlike socks, mittens and sweater sleeves, is the rule one shawl at a time, madam, one shawl at a time? Or (more likely to my mind) have I stumbled across a corollary to Second Shipwreck Syndrome?

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Has it really been almost a month? How did that happen? Where have I been? For that matter, what could I possibly have been doing that would take me away from The Blog for this long?

Okay. Well there was the parade. Then there was Peoria, which we missed most of and I never did find a yarn store, although the kids had a couple of nice walks along the river.

There were hawks.

And I've kind of been in a seminar for the past week (where Diane and I have unearthed another knitter!) and it goes on into next week and the week after, so there was preparing for that. A lot of preparing for that. Reams of it. Stacks of it. My dining room table and parts of the floor are missing and I keep losing things. Like Clare's current reading which disappeared Thursday and that I released uncovered today.

But I digress. You want knitting, don't you? I considered having Clare pinch hit, but I think her knitting is not ready for Prime Time and I do have two knitting stories I can tell you. How about one tonight and then let's see if I can get back here at some point tomorrow (before I have to finish prepping for next week) and tell you the second.

When last seen, I was setting myself up for Myrna Stahman's Fenna shawl, yes? Ah, yes (I checked the Blog). When we left for Peoria -- in the dark and into a steady downpour that devolved into a thunderstorm (not conducive to travel knitting, garter-stitch or no garter stitch) -- I had only knit the back neck-band. Note the cleverness of the construction implicit in that statement.

This is a faroese shawl from the top down. After a short provisional cast-on, she has you knit the border that will rest at the back of your neck, pick up those stitches, release the provisional cast-on and then start knitting the body of the shawl. The border stitches of the shawl carry on from that neckband. The first 15 to 20 rows are filled with excitement. Yarn-overs and mirror-image make-1 increases a la Elizabeth Zimmermann while you shape the shoulders. Then everything settles down into lovely swaths of garter stitch.

Lovely, of course, if you have the right yarn. Which the Fleece Artist Blue Face Leicester most decidedly is. Despite a day spent in fruitless searches for a yarn store and having to attend Functions as a Lawyer's Spouse, this is what I had when we left Peoria.

I tell you, nothing like a good minor league baseball game (the home team won) to help you churn through garter stitch. Or is it, nothing like a bout of garter stitch to get you through a minor league baseball game?