Monday, June 04, 2007

Knitting a Shawl

Approaching the home stretch, I almost feel like I could see myself knitting another shawl one day soon. I know, I know: I asked for input on wedding shawl suggestions some time ago - I'm sure that implied that I was ready to knit one for myself. But right in the middle of this mystery shawl the idea of starting another one was the furthest thing from my mind. Hopefully I've learned a few things that will help me as I think about the next one.

Shawls are big. I haven't much experience with big knitting; a couple modest sweaters, some big footed socks, but that's about it. What I've learned about myself is that I need little accomplishments with big knitting. With sweaters there are so many milestones: I finished a sleeve! I finished a back! With shawls...not so much. There's the "I finished row 137!" milestone, but it isn't very exciting, since it looks a lot like row 135. Therefore - knitting shawls from the long edge to the tip are the only way to go for me. Miles and miles of a square/rectangular shawl, or (horrors) knitting from the point up are just not going to do it for me. And keeping a spreadsheet to update my progress? Loving it. (I've completed 82.7% so far)

Needles matter. I bought some nice slippery needles from KnitPicks for this project. They have a very smooth join, making it easy to slip the hundreds (and hundreds) of stitches along, but I have two complaints: 1) they are not nearly sharp enough. I'm constantly splitting stitches and fighting to get the needle between multiple K2togs. I almost quit in disgust in row 9 when I had to knit 13 stitches together. 2) slippery, slppery, slippery. I'm not thrilled with how tight the stitches are between the design. I'd love to see tighter stitches, but I think my knitting was really loose due to how slippery the needles are. When I'm ready, I'm definitely investing in special lace needles.

Guage matters. Since this isn't meant to fit anyone, it's only qualification is that it be big. Result? No guage checking. As I near the end, I'm a bit disappointed in my decision (seriously, passing up knitting a 20 minute swatch before commencing knitting on a project that will take 60-80 hours??). Had I swatched, I would almost definitely have gone down a needle size. I know blocking will help things, but it's still going to be more airy than I'd envisioned.
Shawls aren't as pointless as I'd thought. As this shawl unfolds across my lap, I realize how lovely it would be to have one of my own...or to wrap one around my mother...or my babe. The gauzy lacy goodness feels delicate and wonderful. Bunched up it will make a wonderful winter scarf, spread out it will make for a dressy wardrobe addition, and just thrown across the shoulders it will keep a chill away. I'm not quite a convert, but I'm starting to understand the appeal.


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