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yarn
  1. Rowan Kidsilk Haze
  2. Shade: 3 Jelly (597)
  3. Dyelot:
  4. Content: 70% super kid mohair 30% silk
needles
  1. Addi Turbo circular 5.0
washing
  1. Hand wash warm
  2. Cool rinse
  3. Warm iron over damp cloth
  4. Flat dry out of direct sunlight

  1. date: April-June 2004
  2. size: One size
  3. made for: Me
  4. pattern: Rowan Magazine 34

This Rowan shawl has seduced and frustrated many, as many a knit blog out there shows. As an antidote for Birch-related frustration, here's "Everything I've Learned from Birch":


PART 1: PREP

  • Meet the yarn, Rowan Kidsilk Haze.A fine, inflexible silk thread with an aureole of kid mohair, Haze responds better to a loving, light touch than brute force. It does not rip out well, so proceed with caution. If you've never worked with it, acclimate yourself with these mini-projects: the lovely fluff of a bootee in Zoe Mellor's "50 Baby Bootees"; Johnstone gloves in "A Season's Tale".
  • Circular or bust. Since KH doesn't stretch, using straight needles will result in 299 stitches of vice-like grip.
  • Stitch markers will keep you on track and limit the damages of inevitable slipups to just that section. Slip one on every 10 stitches when casting on -- have you ever tried counting 299 stitches of cobweb silk obscured by light-diffusing fuzz? Once you start knitting, the marker will separate each pattern repeat, shifting one stitch over only on the first row of the 8-row pattern.

PART 2: IN THE THICK OF IT
  • No distractions. Don't work on Birch if you're rushed, high or multitasking.
  • Count the stitches. There should be 10 stitches between every set of markers, except for the end section. Check while doing the purl rows.
  • Balanced tension. The first few stitches of a row should be knit a little tighter than usual, and the last few a little looser. Do this for every row to make sure you don't end up with a lopsided triangle. The tendency is to really crank the right (on knit side) edge tight and leave the left woefully floppy.
  • Know what you're knitting. It's a lot harder to forget the pattern, mess up, or fail to notice a slipup if you know what each stitch corresponds to. This is key when you're covering for earlier errors, dealing with pesky extra/missing stitches without throwing off the entire row:
    1. k1 flanked by yfwd, or the middle k1 in an odd-number series of Ks = the center vein of a leaf. Make sure these line up if you think you're lost.
    2. any k2 tog: outline of a leaf
    3. s1, k2tog, psso: the point of a leaf

  • Don't look back or down. All I could think about for the first 40 rows was what a straggly, twisty mess it looked, which resulted in the shawl being put away for days at a time. Don't be demoralized: it won't look like anything until you have quite a few rows completed.
  • Keep going. If you put it away for more than a day or so, chances are that you'll fall out of the groove and make silly newbie mistakes again after you pick it back up. I was more POd at myself for forgetting a yfwd at row 180 than for all the messed-up stuff that went down at row 10. So trust me: knit everyday, even if it's just one row.

PART 3: Finishing up
  • Block or Bust. Going strictly by pattern, there are 34,581 stitches in Birch. If you managed to hand-knit THIRTY-FOUR THOUSAND plus stitches, you sure the hell can afford to do few simple thing to make sure that every last one of those stitches is going to look its best.
  • Use lukewarm water and mild soap. Fill a clean sink/container with lukewarm water, suds it up with a bit of soap flakes or (my favorite all-purpose) Dr.Bronner's Magic Soap. Place shawl in water and swirl for a few minutes. Beating, scrubbing, wringing not recommended unless you want a felted shawl.
  • Rinse twice at least. Remove the shawl, drain the sink, press shawl lightly to remove excess soapy water, refill sink with more lukearm water (don't pour the water onto shawl -- felting danger!), replace shawl, swirl. Let sit for a few minutes, repeat once or twice.
  • Human-powered spin. Kidsilk Haze doesn't really hold water, so just press the rolled-up shawl against the sink to get rid of excess moisture. You can also hold it by two ends and spin around like a 10-year-old to get rid of more water. Make sure you don't bag out the shawl though.
  • Wall-to-wall has to be good for something. I put down a fleece blanket, pieces of giant sketching paper on the floor and pinned the shawl right into the carpet. The paper soaks up most of what little moisture there is, and the blanket (Polarvide from IKEA) protects the shawl.

All in all, I had to restart 4 times, and had to stitch a few extra rows to balance out the mistakes I made. However, I consider my first lacework project a resounding success, and I still love Kidsilk Haze. I hope this guide prevents other beginners from making the mistakes I did—make your own instead, and tell the tale.

Comments

Thanks for the summary of your experience with the Birch shawl. This link was given in the summer of lace list by "WhiteStar Samoyeds" .

Mary



Posted by: Mary at July 13, 2005 07:04 PM
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