Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Spiral Shawl of Insanity and Blindness; the Wonder of Blocking, Part 2

Way back in August of last year, I started a shawl project.  The shawl of insanity and blindness, as my friends called it.

I'd fallen in love with the Spiral Shawl in Meg Swansen's "A Gathering of Lace" the moment I laid eyes on it.  When I needed a travel project last summer, it seemed like just the thing.

And naturally, because I'm crazy, I chose a black yarn.  Malabrigo Sock, specifically. I may be crazy, but I'm not insane... if I'm knitting a lace project in black, I figured I'd give myself a slight break and not use a laceweight.

Malabrigo Sock is one of my favourite lace yarns: the colours are gorgeous, it's soft and drapey, and it's smooth and easy to work with.  (Less keen on it for socks, I'll be honest: the softness and drapey-ness that make it so good for lace make it too fragile for socks.)

Bets were taken on which I'd lose first: my eyesight, or my sanity.  I had nearly 900 yards of sock yarn in black, and I was proposing an enormous lace project.

I worked on the shawl on and off throughout the fall, as travel permitted: it went with me to the UK, I took it to Rhinebeck, and it spent a fair bit of time travelling around Toronto with me.

I tried not to set myself a deadline, because I knew it was going to take a while... as it got bigger, the rounds got longer, and by the time October arrived, each round was taking me about 15 minutes.  And that was only about half the size I wanted.

But I kept working on it, between other projects.  Trying not to count, trying not to set expectations about when it would be done.

And then one day, it was done... about one and three quarter skeins of the yarn, and a huge crumpled mess!

Well, not that huge, actually.  I'd done some math (as is my way), and I knew that I'd had to stop where I did to make the edging pattern work out evenly... but unblocked it was about 36 inches in diameter.

And then I blocked it.  It was a time-consuming thing... after a long soak and a quick roll in a towel to get most of the water out, I had to pin out every one of the edge points, nearly 100 of them.  (And then keep the dog off it, but that's a separate issue...)

And it went from a crumpled 36 inches in diameter to 54 inches!  And it's fabulous.

Keen eyes will notice that it's not perfectly round - I had a heck of a time with that, so one side is a bit wonky. Even keener eyes will notice a few dark spots - these are where I made corrections to mistakes - specifically picking up extra stitches where I missed yarnovers, and so the fabric looks darker because I've got an area of tighter stitches.

But I love it to bits, and these imperfections aren't noticeable in the final project.

I am pleased to report to the doubters that I finished it within 6 months of start, and my sanity remained intact.  But I did recently have to get new glasses...



Catherine said...

Wow that's really stunning - it would be lovely if you (rather than a chair back) modelled it

Annie in the Round said...

The shawl came out great.
If you use blocking wires in the spots where you put the pins you can stretch out the piece more uniformly. I use the wires with circular shawls and just bend them and pin the wires into a curve. I also put a pin right in the middle so that i can measure out from the center. It comes out great.

Fiona said...

It is beautiful!

Barb said...

OMG Kate, that's stunning!! I've long admired that shawl but my lace knitting skills aren't quite up to it yet. But one day I really want to try this one. :-)

julia in KW said...

Looks lovely and your post is timely as I will be blocking my Elektra shawl today - looks really small and I plan to block it like crazy to make it bigger and not just a scarf! (Shawl is very eye catching in black!)

Bonnie said...

Wow. Wow wow wow! It's really stunning. Congratulations on such a beautiful piece!