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.
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.