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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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It’s become personal between me and my current knitting project, The Rock Island Shawl.

rock island shawl brooklyn tweed

Yes, this is the project. I’ve completed the 568 rows of knitted lace that comprise the edging. No small feat since lace is worked on both RS and WS rows. I judiciously used a life-line moving it every 8 rows and still had a number of rip-backs occur that made it feel like the edging would never get done.

I’ve picked up and knit all the edging stitches. I’ve knit somewhere around ten rows of garter stitch, obsessively counting each of the almost 300 stitches at the end of every row to make sure I had the correct number going into the next major lace portion of the shawl. I am still not completely sure that I kept the center stitch the same in each of the 10 rows. I think I messed up in one row, but I don’t know which one and I will cry if I have to rip back to the picked up edging. As of yet, I haven’t shed tears, but there were moments when I was oh so very, very close. I am hoping that if I wiggled on the center stitch in one row, blocking will take care of it.

The next portion of lace worked on both RS and WS rows totals 24 rows over some 300 stitches. Stitch count does not stay the same row to row. However, the center stitch, which is really three stitches decreased to one, does stay in the same spot…theoretically. Before I began the 24 row portion of lace I ran a nice long life-line through all the stitches.

Last night I spent 3 hours working on the shawl and I am still at the beginning of the 24 row lace work. I consistently failed to get correct stitch count at the end of the first row. I tried reading the 300 stitches to see where the mistakes were and couldn’t find them. Then I ripped back. I did this repetitively. I did this for 3 hours.

When I laid aside the shawl, I realized it had become personal. No way am I going to let these 24 rows beat me. Tonight we do battle again. My goal is to at least successfully complete the first row of the 24. If I am really on a roll I may even complete the second row correctly. I just know at some point I am going to end up in tears.

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This week’s Sunday Images are here.

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It’s Monday. Yarn Rascal had a blow out of a weekend. I don’t think he slept 15 minutes in the last 48 hours. The big finale came at 4 am when the heavy thunder storm moved through along with buckets of rain. He was totally out of his little mind.

I can forget about photographing the sweater. The light is as grey as grey can get without becoming night. Instead, I will write-up the pattern and wait for better light.

The sock I am knitting is coming along. At the risk of alerting the knitting gods, I must say it has been an uneventful knit. But never worry, there’s always the second sock that needs to be done, so the knitting gods haven’t yet lost an opportunity to torment me.

The edging for the Rock Island Shawl hit a horrendous small snag when I discovered that the lifeline I was inserting every eighth row wasn’t really inserted every eighth row. I somehow miscounted rows and a good 3″ (8) cm of lace work was no longer following the nice lace pattern. Lifelines are great as long as they are inserted on the right rows and correct row count is maintained.

I made the announcement to the house and all in it that nobody breath, move, or talk until I gave the all clear. I was removing the lifeline (gasp!). Of course Yarn Rascal was the first to bounce joyously into my lap the minute the last bit of lifeline left the naked, quivering stitches unprotected and open to chaos. Then The Skippers small grandchildren decided to surprise us and stop by, during which all becomes mayhem because everyone wants to play with Yarn Rascal, who is only too obliging. Everybody is running from room to room squealing and nothing stands a chance of not being run over or torn apart.

The edging took a hit when Yarn Rascal, in his over enthusiastic glee, tackled the youngest child who in turn grabbed onto the edging in my hand as he fell to the ground. (How terrible is it that my first thought was to save the edging and not the child?) I lost a number of rows, but it wasn’t too bad. I feared never finding out where I was in the knitting, but it forced me to get a slim handle on reading the lace. With lots of effort and the bright beginnings of a migraine I can identify row four of the eight lace rows. The other seven are still a mystery to me. Recognition must be done in a silent room where there is only me, the knitting, and a bright light. The dark royal purple yarn that looks so beautiful when knitted up is hell on the old eyes at night.

So all my quiet but fruitful plans for the weekend went unrealized. Why am I not surprised?

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A new project is on my needles. Rock Island Shawl by Brooklyn Tweed.

rock island shawl brooklyn tweed

I’ve admired it for a long time. My knitting skills are getting a real workout and I am not even beyond the 12 stitch edging. I found Madelinetosh Prairie Yarn in the Medieval colorway and decided to go for it. The shawl is a long-term project. Very long-term.

I cast on about three days ago and I’ve managed to complete only 10 of the 71 repeats of the 8 row pattern. That means I have 488 more rows of edging to knit. One would think 12 stitches per row wouldn’t be difficult to whip off the needles. In fact, when I first looked at the edging chart I thought no problem. Lace making takes place on both sides just remember to reverse the decreases, yadda, yadda, yadda. I forgot the knitting gods don’t like hubris. They really, really, really don’t like it.

To make my arrogance complete, I decided I wouldn’t work with a life line. I mean a life line for 12 stitches? I completely blew past the reality that this was complicated lace making. Thus, dear fellow knitters and crafters, I paid and paid well. How badly did I mess this up? Let’s count the ways.

Forgotten yarn overs.

Forgotten decreases.

Knitting the first stitch of a RS row as if it were a WS row.

Knitting the first stitch of a WS row as if it were a RS row.

Knitting the wrong row.

Knitting the wrong row.

Knitting the wrong row.

Mixing up the decreases. Using k2tog when it called for ssk.

Mixing up the decreases. Using ssk when it called for k2tog.

Talking while knitting a row. The result wasn’t even close to the pattern.

Moving my attention from knitting to Yarn Rascal. A disaster all around.

Suddenly putting down the knitting in the middle of a row for any crises imaginable, picking it back up hours later and knitting the wrong row ending.

Thinking it was possible to tink back a row and get it right working in lace weight yarn.

I could go on, but why torture myself? Suffice it to say, I am now working with a life line. It hasn’t stopped the ripping back, but it has contained it from going all the way back to the start every time I make a mistake. I no longer speak while knitting. I no longer respond to crises. Nothing interrupts me until I get to the end of a row and check that sucker off my little counting sheet. This is why I knit ladies and gentlemen: it’s so darn relaxing.

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I Won

I had a rather interesting weekend, aside from the ice storm. It is the absolute truth when I say I have, until this weekend, never won a thing in my life. So it was on a whim that I entered and won the Shalimar Yarn give away being run in the Shalimar group on Ravelry.

They were giving away 3 skeins of Shalimar Breathless in your choice of colors and 3 lace scarf / stole patterns by the designer Melanie Berg. Her designs are quite wonderful and worth the look.

My choice of yarn colors were Petal, Molly Coddled, and Thistle.

Shalimar Breathless Yarn

I have been dying to try this yarn for a long while. The colorways are gorgeous and quite inspiring to me as a designer. I can see a number of baby sweater designs being created specifically to show off the wonderful palette of colors Shalimar has. But first I really wanted to work with the yarn, see how it behaves before designing with it. This win allows me to do just that.

The three Melanie Berg patterns I won are these beautiful lace designs:

Stole of the Seas.

stole_of_the_seas_melaine berg

Sihaya

sihaya_2_medium2

Grand Bazaar.

grand_bazaar_4_medium2

I can’t wait to get these on my needles. A big thank you to Shalimar Yarns and Melanie Berg. I am one very happy, happy, knitter.

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