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I assure you, knitting is taking place. I am working on the Cameron Shetland Shawl by Susan Miller.

the-cameron-shawl

I am working from the center out, which means I only need navigate 125 stitches at a time. The stitch repeat is only 10 or 12 stitches. Oh the numerous ways a 10 to 12 stitch repeat can go wrong. Let’s count them, shall we?

1) Knit the wrong row entirely. Repeat this periodically throughout the 242 row process.
2) Knit while someone is talking to you.
3) Knit while watching television.
4) Dog steals knitting and dismantles it to his liking. Dismantle what dog has dismantled and try to pick up stitches from life line.
5) Realize you can’t see life line because it is a very pale lavender and fades away completely against the white frothy-ness of the Shetland yarn. Starting from the beginning is the only answer. Do not cry. It is too early in the process for crying.
6) Toss stash for a darker life line yarn. Come up empty. Have an argument with yourself over whether to shelve the knitting until you go to the store and get a darker yarn or to continue with the very pale lavender because you’re afraid a darker cotton yarn might unintentionally stain the white Shetland yarn. When the migraine appears, knitting is done for the night effectively ending the debate. Take two headache pills. Go to bed.
7) Memorize the repeat of a row, only memorize it wrong. When you get to the end of the row notice the stitch count is off. Rip back to the very pale lavender life line and try to pick up the tiny white stitches. Make a cup of Chamomile tea, drink it slowly while repeating the words “It’s okay. Everything will be fine.” Put the knitting away for the night.
8) Memorize repeat of row, memorize it correctly. At end of row stitch count is off. Carefully review row. Repeat the review at least 3 more times. Fail to see where the mistake is. Rip back to the very pale lavender life line. Crying is now allowed.

Of the 242 rows I managed to knit 60 rows successfully.

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I say this, not to antagonize the knitting-gods-that-be, but my current lace shawl project is not as masochistic as it could be and I am instead constantly thinking about undertaking a real Shetland Shawl project. Hence the next debacle project on my needles will be the Cameron Shawl by Susan Miller created on US 3 needles in lace weight Shetland yarn. It’s the kind of yarn that doesn’t rip back at all.

the-cameron-shawl

Let me clarify what I mean by “not as masochistic as it could be”. I still have three full lace charts to work in which anything that can go wrong probably will go wrong. I have, for instance, ripped out the current row of 500 plus stitches three times, only to make yet another mistake so it’s up to four rip backs. I have been so tense relaxed while knitting this particular chart that I have gotten lymphedema in my left arm (the mastectomy side) which has made me lose three days of knitting in order to lessen the swelling. Those days were given over to specific arm exercises, lymphedema massage to help drain the fluid, and wearing a lymphedema sleeve that fits so tight that it activates my claustrophobia and sends me into a panic state. Still, I am determined to take on the Cameron Shawl.

Why? Because I want to move out of my comfort zone in knitting. I want to test and expand my lace knitting skills and I have always thought a Shetland Lace Shawl is a true test of one’s knitting prowess. The only way for me to grow as a knitter is to keep moving beyond what I am comfortable with and know about. Yes there will be mistakes, perhaps even tears and a lot of frustration, but I think it will all be worth it (in a kind of nervous breakdown way) to learn something new and challenge my skills to step it up a notch.

I don’t knit to be bored. I like to be excited with what is being produced by my yarn and needles. I think this Cameron Shawl will shake things up a bit. For now, the work is on the current shawl which needs a few rows ripped back because I really don’t know what happened on the left hand side of the spine but it doesn’t look like the right hand side. After I get that figured out, I’ll be rolling like a steamboat on a river.

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What are nupps? Nupps are a group of knit ones and yarnovers made into a single stitch. On the wrong side row these knit ones and yarnovers are purled together in groups of 5 or 7 stitches and made into one. When done properly they form a neat stitch cluster. In reality they are not hard to produce, though their reputation is one of difficulty. A relaxed tension and a focused mind is all you really need.

However, relaxed and focused are not natural to masochistic knitting. Before knitting a 100 plus stitch row that includes nupps, central decreases and lace be sure you are thoroughly distracted. It can’t be emphasized enough that the distraction level must be so great that when you look at what you’re knitting you don’t have a clue as to where you are in the row or for that matter what row you’re even on. In short, the knitting looks alien to you.

Such a preoccupied state of mind can be achieved in many ways. Having someone dear to you ailing while you await a call back from the doctor is a strong mental distraction. At the same time, your adorable fur baby suddenly develops a limp which you are sure means he’s going to loose one leg.  You are now in a holding pattern waiting for doctors and vet to call back, running through your mind again and again what you are going to say to them. For the coupe de grace turn on the television to the news channel.

Now you are sufficiently prepared to pick up your knitting and tackle those nupps, lace and central decreases. When something goes wrong, as it certainly will, it is not a matter of simply tinking back a few stitches. If it is a right side row tinking back a central decrease almost always causes a dropped stitch that you can never find until you rip back to your lifeline. If it is a wrong side row, the chance of successfully picking up the group of five knit ones and yarnovers is about the same as you winning the total jackpot at powerball. Again, ripping back to the lifeline becomes a necessity.

At the end of the evening, exhausted and spent, you have knit only one row successfully. But the fur baby isn’t going to lose his leg. In fact, after the vet called he stopped limping altogether. The ailing loved one is still ailing but now has the proper medication to remedy the situation. And you still have 15 more rows of nupps, central decreases and yarnovers awaiting you tomorrow.

 

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In The Meantime…

In the true spirit of masochistic knitting, the Pothos shawl shown in the last blog has…well…gone to shawl heaven. It was a very painful passing for me. I had made a mistake that couldn’t stay and when I went to rip it back very bad things happened. I have more yarn, but since part of the problem is the yarn, I am not sure I will use it for this project even though it is the perfect weight. The truth is not all lace weight yarns are the same weight. I need to be able to work this on a US size 6 (4 mm) UK 8 needle at least. What I ended up ordering is MadTosh Merino Light. Not a lace weight, but more of a fingering. I’m hoping that if I bump the needle size up to a US 7 I’ll get the kind of fabric I want.

Yarn Rascal senses yarn is on the way and sits in the window watching for the mail truck to arrive down the road. When it comes he’s like a siren that can’t be ignored. On goes the leash and down we walk to get the mail.

In the meantime, I’ve started The Skipper’s mother’s stole with MadelineTosh Prairie and there is no way Prairie can be worked with a US 6 needle. In fact, I tried to get away with a US 5 (3.75) UK 9 and had to drop down one size to a US 4. The insane part of me believes that I will finish this stole before the yarn arrives for Pothos. I am not a speed knitter, so this is delusional at best.

The stole I am making is Evelyn Clark’s Estonian Garden Wrap.

1251233270_e1dc44a181_z

I made it a long time ago for me and used a fingering weight yarn in a wool and cotton mix. For the life of me I can’t remember the name because I wanted to use the same yarn for the current one. I will have to take a picture of mine and post it. It was one of the first lace projects I knit and I remember the nupps were just killers. But I love my stole and wear it a lot, so I thought it would be great for The Skipper’s mother.

This time around I am using a true lace weight yarn. The pattern is perfect for the novice lace knitter. The nupps are kept to a minimum and can be altered if the knitter doesn’t want to tackle them.

Knitting is what I will be doing this weekend. I hope to make progress, though the middle finger on my right hand has developed what feels like arthritis. I’d go to the doctor about it but I just don’t want any more radiation. Besides, with the way things are going in the world having a stiff middle finger in the air all the time seems to sum up my internal sentiment. It does, however, interfere with the amount of knitting I can get done so I will have to ask the good doctor about it the next time I see him.

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Masochistic knitting and lace are a match made in heaven. All those yarn overs, decreases, increases, double decreases, double yarn overs, either written out or charted over squares so small that even a dust mite looks huge, these are the elements that could bring a lesser knitter to his / her knees, but not the masochistic knitter. No, the masochistic knitter peruses the chart through a magnifying glass and thinks, “Oh yeah, I got this. No problem.” Add the correct size of circular needles and lace weight yarn that likes to adhere to itself and one is very close to the fine art of masochistic lace knitting.

Purists will say that not all lace knitting is knitted lace. One way  lace knitting takes place is only on right side rows. Wrong side rows, considered “rest” rows, are worked in purls. The other way lace knitting takes place is on all rows, no “rest”. Both qualify as masochistic knitting, though the latter kind will get you into a nicely padded “rest” room in a quiet, calming color faster.

Pothos knit lace shawl 1

This is the Pothos shawl I am knitting for my sister-in-law. When a shawl is unblocked and still on the needles I call it the mouse nest stage. The yarn is  Miss Babbs lace weight yarn called Isadora. The colorway may be Rainforest.

The shawl has “rest” rows. I say this with a insane giggle immediately following my words. Yes, they are all purl stitches, and no they are not restful. In true masochistic knitting nothing is restful. There are just so many ways to mess up that it is hard to get through any row with ease. Yarnovers, double decreases, directional decreases, double yarn overs provide an abundance of opportunities for a mis-knit. On the rest rows yarnovers hide beneath a stitch making two stitches look like one. Knit it that way and there goes the row count. Another masochistic beauty of knitting lace is that being one little stitch off  there goes the whole row of 300 plus stitches down the drain. Holes in lace are strategically positioned. When they are not in their proper places it is noticeable.

pothosh lace knit shawl 3

I know what you are thinking: This is what a life line is for. The knitting gets ripped back to where the life line is technically holding the correct amount of stitches in their correct order. In true masochistic knitting this is a theory that doesn’t always hold true. In masochistic knitting many bad things can happen to a life line.

The most masochistic of all those things is thinking the count on the life line is correct only to realize it isn’t. There are so many ways this can happen but here are just a few: 1) The life line count is really correct but you’ve miss counted that count twice and are now slowly removing the life line and trying to catch all the teeny crazy stitches knowing if you do it successfully you’ll just have to rip out the next row too to get back to a correct count. 2) You missed a stitch when you inserted the life line and said stitch is now obscenely dangling unhinged five rows below. 3) When you pulled the knitting off the needles to rip it back to the life line you somehow also removed the life line from most of the 300 plus stitches.

This is only an introduction to the art of masochistic knitting and lace. There is so much more to share with you.

 

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The art of masochistic knitting starts with selecting the right pattern, needles and yarn.

What is the “right” pattern? The right pattern contains predominately lace that is created on both wrong side and right side rows and therefore does not provide any rest rows of purl or knit. Decreases with slants that are inherent to the look of the pattern, yarn overs that are distant from their balancing decreases and central double decreases that must specifically occur in specified spots repeatedly in order to ensure proper shaping make up the “right” pattern. You know you are practicing the art of masochistic knitting when the possibilities of an errant stitch are many: failure to use the correct slanted decrease or missing the decrease altogether, omitting yarn overs due to confusion, adding yarn overs due to confusion, losing the specific spot for the central double decrease when the stitch marker either A) falls from the needle, or B) just doesn’t match where you think you are in the chart.

Speaking about charts. The “right” pattern will contain a chart that is so small you need reading glasses and a magnifying glass to see one square. The chart, though tiny, covers an entire page. You are truly practicing the art of masochistic knitting when you have no idea how to use your copier to enlarge the chart and therefore must work from the teeny-tiny version.

The “right” pattern will also call for working an intricate lace pattern over no less than 300-500 stitches in one consecutive go-round. If the pattern requires continuous working of 500 to over 1,000 stitches you are into the Fine Art of Masochistic Knitting, and that’s a whole other category.

The “right” needles are the next tool in the art box. Any needles that have a super fine, slick, metal surface are the “right” needles. To test whether they are slippery enough, cast on 30 stitches and knit one row. Then hold the needle with the tip pointed downward. If all the stitches slip from the needle faster than a seal on ice slips into the sea, you have the “right” needles.

Next is the “right” yarn. It must be lace weight or finer. Gossamer is ideal. Thin and wispy, a yarn that won’t tolerate any ripping back is key. This increases the pressure to get the knitting right the first time. Pressure is as important to masochistic knitting as air is to human beings. If you can only knit at night, choose a dark, dark yarn. It will be harder to see and along with the ethereal quality of the yarn reading your stitches will be impossible.

Remember, in masochistic knitting where you think you are in the chart and where you truly are will not coincide. The number of stitches you need on your needles to complete the pattern will not be the number of stitches you actually have on your needles. But don’t fret. It is too dark, the yarn too thin, the needles too slippery, the number of stitches too many to make an exact count of what is really on the needles.

Happy Masochistic Knitting.

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Last month I finished the Lace Leaf Shawl by Mary Henderson.

shawl 1

It started out as a KAL with Claire and a few friends back in April. I love the way it turned out.

shawl 3

The yarn is Schachenmayr Select in Tahiti. One ball is all you need to create the shawl.

shawl 2

Clair had a drawing to see who among the KALers was lucky enough to receive two skeins of lovely merino yarn. I never win a thing so I was surprised when I was picked! The yarn was lovely and I knew immediately upon seeing it what I wanted to make.

socks

I’d love to be able to tell you the yarn and colorway, but Yarn Rascal ate the labels before I could jot down the information. Both with the holidays and the full moon he was a little besides himself when he ransacked the craft room and broke into the yarn vault. He did receive an end of year Golden Paw Award for his effort.

Picture2

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