Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Getting back on the horse that threw you

The attentive amongst you may have noticed that I haven't said much about Mrs Trellis since I showed you the wobbly beginnings that I had made on my first grown up lace project using genuine lace weight, Jaggerspun Zephyr wool silk in a lovely sophisticated shade called Suede.

I can assure that I have been doggedly trudging on with this project but couldn't shake off the feeling that something was wrong. I know that everyone says that lace always looks like a dismal pile until it is blocked but even when I stretched this out it just wasn't looking like I thought it should.

The chart in the book is quite small so I photographed it and blew it up on my computer screen so I wasn't referring back to the book much but last night I got the book out again to check the dimensions as I wasn't convinced that even with the most ferocious of blocking that it would be as long as I thought it was.

Then I noticed the recommended needle size...

Then I looked at mine. Why can you never find a needle gauge when you want one? When I finally cornered one of the good half dozen of the beasties that live in my house somewhere it quite implacably pointed out that I am an idiot. The needle I should have been using is a 4.5mm.

'You,' the gauge announced, 'Have been using a 3.5mm'.

'Did you not do a tension square?' it rather unhelpfully added.

For one moment I contemplated carrying on regardless. I had ground out three and a half 16 row repeats after all. Thankfully I came to my senses but I couldn't face the immediate prospect of ripping it all out so I started again with the second ball.

I'm not sure how clearly the pictures show how much difference 1mm of needle diameter makes.

Here is my first attempt;


As you can see, even when the fabric is stretched out it is cramped and dense -not like lace at all.

Here is a small portion of the shawl knitted on the 4.5mm needle.


You can see how much more airy and open it is but equally important, the texture of the fabric feels completely different and the yarn has started to shimmer.

This rather unattractive photograph shows the difference best of all;




The top portion is three and a half pattern repeats of bad lace. The lower part is just over one repeat of good lace.

I am thoroughly chastened.

Mind you, it's not only the change of needle size which has made my second attempt a much more pleasurable knitting experience. If you look closely at the bottom edge of each piece you will see that I did a rather ham fisted knitted cast on for the first one, but thanks to this video by Lucy Neatby I have finally got to grips with the crochet provisional cast on which I am much more pleased with.

Secondly, while I was in hot pursuit of my needle gauge I came across these lovely notions that I brought back from Maryland. I do love a good notion. T pins for blocking which are reassuringly sturdy for the wrestling match yet to come. Flexible rubber stitch markers and dinky little removable markers.


Much more satisfying than this Heath Robinson arrangement;

I also decided that pulling yarn from the centre doesn't make for a happy ball.

Look at this sad sick specimen with its attendant pile of yarn vomit.

Compare it to this sleek, happy sight.

Now I have stopped trying to think how I could have been quite so dim witted as to have got myself in this pickle and almost throttled my love for lace knitting before it had even started the project is flying along and becoming a really enjoyable knit. Mrs Trellis and I are reconciled.

The most important lesson that I have learned, however, is that lace is not just about the knitting, it's also about the space in between.

10 comments:

celadon2 said...

My first proper shawl was Icarus and I found it really good for a first lace project. Also the Swallowtail Shawl from Interweave Knits.

Posh Yarns on Ravelry have been doing a Swallowtail kal and the results are stunning. It shows what a difference there is with yarn and needle size.

picperfic said...

my first lace project came out like a tiny little hanky and not very soft and flowy at all! I have recently finished a delicious swallowtail and now i am hooked on lace although my blocking leaves a lot to be desired!

Auntie Noo said...

I admire your tenacity!!! - I started my first laceweight project in Cherry Tree Hill Merino - and frogged it after about 40 rows...... it's sitting in a corner now winking at me as it knows I failed!!!! :)

LittleBerry said...

The lace is looking good.. just remember lace is subjective and it can be as dense or airy as you like :o)

Of course it all depends upon your tension but I like 3.75mm and at a push 4.0mm for Zephyrspun I wouldn't dream of using 4.5mm I like to have holes but equally reasonable stitch definition BUT that is my preference....

As long as you're enjoying the knitting and the fabric that it is producing that's all that matters :o))

LittleBerry said...

The lace is looking good.. just remember lace is subjective and it can be as dense or airy as you like :o)

Of course it all depends upon your tension but I like 3.75mm and at a push 4.0mm for Zephyrspun I wouldn't dream of using 4.5mm I like to have holes but equally reasonable stitch definition BUT that is my preference....

As long as you're enjoying the knitting and the fabric that it is producing that's all that matters :o))

Mandella said...

That parting shot is truly wise, O Sage One. I will try to remember it.

Of course, if you'd been happy with the result it wouldn't have mattered one iota that you were using the wrong size needle. But as it is, you weren't happy so I would say you've done the right thing.

Anni said...

Yourlace is looking gorgeous. Good luck now you're on the right track. Needle size makes a huge differnce in lace.

You'll be hooked on lace now. I spent yesterday teachign a lace workshop. Several new converts by the end of the day.

Suse-the-slow-knitta said...

I think you were jetlagged coming back from Maryland!
I wouldn't have spotted the difference until you showed it, and I can see that the 2nd version is better, so that proves you were right to restart it.
The "Used the wrong needle size" Club is enormous so you know you are among friends!!

knittingtastic said...

Balls!

I was chatting to Gerard in IKnit about lace during the week and I have a theory that the first third of any lace project is always going to 'test' you, after that it should be plain sailing?!

It looks gorgeous though regardless of needle size and you have the patience of a saint to re-work it.

I love the 'yarn vomit' expression and do you mind if I adopt it into my knitting vocab? I might even blog it!!

Knit Nurse said...

Your remarks are all very useful for someone contemplating lace knitting in the same way I contemplate a visit to the dentist. I know it's inevitable and will do me good in the long run, but I keep putting it off and off.....!