Sunday, June 15, 2008

Swan Lake

Last fall at Three Bags Full I saw and fell in love with the Swan Lake stole by Melanie Gibbons of Pink Lemon Twist. My Hanging Garden stole was a great knitting experience so I knew I wanted to knit lace again. And I had a hank of wonderful lace weight yarn, Baruffa Cashwool, which I had purchased at Close Knit in Portland when I was there for the Knit Camp West event our knit list celebrated. If you are a Ravelry member, you can see the yarn in my stash at knitknigel.

While I was visiting Three Bags Full, I met Christa Giles who just happened to have the pattern unknit. So she gave it to me. That made me happy. And I was ready to knit.

A little background about this stole. It was the third in Melanie's series of Mystery Stoles which are knit from clues provided weekly via the Internet. Now I had the whole thing at hand so didn't have to wait for each week's post before I could go on. But of course I had to follow the pattern which was broken into weeks anyway. I began by printing out the charts for the shawl and then started knitting.

The stole is knit beginning from a point so the knitting certainly zooms along at the beginning. From three stitches to 98 stitches happens fairly quickly. I discovered after knitting the first week's chart that the charts for subsequent weeks didn't fit on one sheet, so I had to attach them so I could knit a complete row. I used Scotch Tape.

The stole is also knit with beads and unlike the beading on the Hanging Garden, after the very first one, the beads are inserted using a crochet hook. I loved learning this technique. When you arrive at a place where a bead needs to be inserted the first thing you do is ready the crochet hook by threading a bead on it. Then you slip the stitch off the left hand needle using the crochet hook, slide the bead down the hook and off onto the stitch itself, then pop the stitch back on the left hand needle and it's ready to be knit. Simple and worth the trouble.

I found quickly that if I wanted to knit this stole without disaster, I had to find a method to tell me where I was in the pattern. At the end I found I was knitting sitting at my dining room table, with a heavy metal ruler marking the line of the chart I was knitting. That worked really well, although my back complained some. I also found that I couldn't knit many rows in a sitting - I needed a break after a couple of rows so I could maintain my sanity.

One of the amazing things was that I made very few mistakes - a good thing, since tinking the work was challenging. I even got brave enough to fix a few of my errors by going down to the row below where I'd made it. I certainly had much more success in keeping the errors to a minimum and as far as I'm concerned, every stitch in the stole is where it is supposed to be, because I fixed any errors I found.

As I mentioned, I began this stole in early November, 2007. On November 13 I left for a four month trip to India. So my stole sat at home waiting patiently for me to come back. I arrived home on March 5 and it took me more than a week to get back to knitting it. But I finally got it out and began to knit again. It didn't take me long to get back into the swing of things, so I was moving along really well, very soon.

I needed to get the stole done. I had plans to take it to the West Coast Knitting Guild meeting at the beginning of April to unveil it, and then deliver it to its proper recipient, my very good friend Midge King who lives in Kamloops, BC, Canada.

The stole was a great success at the guild meeting, and then it was off to Kamloops to give it to Midge. Being the kind of guy who likes an audience, I waited to give it to her when she had her sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew-in-law and her great nephew over for dinner. It felt so good to give the stole its new home. The stole was really a pleasure to knit, I loved the challenge, I loved seeing what was coming next, I loved placing the beads, and I loved giving it away.

I can't leave without showing off a picture of the stole as it was being blocked. The blocking did make a difference, of course. But being down on my hands and knees using every single blocking pin I owned was a labour of love. My back is not as young as it once. I also want you to see the beads I used, so there are two pictures here. The picture with the beads is before the stole was blocked. It also gives a nice idea of the detailing in the point of the stole.

I will leave you with a final photo. Midge is a crossword aficionado and in this photo she is comfortably wrapped up while she searches for a word. I am imagining her this coming winter using the stole as she relaxes at home, or maybe at the theatre some times. She just has to make sure she keeps it away from her cat.


Awntie Spyder said...

so beautiful. you inspire me.

Vtknitboy said...

awesome work nigel, my man! see you soon. too bad i won't get to see it in person as you gave it away...unless you want to borrow it and bring it to victoria! congrats. chris, aka

Anonymous said...

Hi Nigel, I was at the Knitting Guild meeting when you unveiled the shawl. It was love at first sight. You inspired me to knit my own and I've just got the first twenty rows done. My first impression is burned in my memory but it's a little lacking in detail so I appreciate your close-up photos. I'll let you know how mine turns out.
Your friend looks awesome in the finished product. Very pretty.Great work! Inspiring as always. Thanks.