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Hole-ier than Thou

I know what I like knitting best: it's crocheted dishcloths. What, they don't count? They use yarn, they're super fast, none of them call for "cast on 162 stitches," and you can finish one in an hour or so. The fact that it's not actually knitting should be irrelevent, if you ask me. And since crochet generally creates a harder, firmer, more textured surface, it's a perfect technique for making scrubbies.

Second best? Knitted dishcloths. Most of the same advantages except just a titch longer to do.

Somewhere around my 379th favourite thing to knit would be "giant impossible lace-weight lacey shawl thingy" ... and yet my 379th favourite thing to knit would probably be my 1st favourite thing to have knit. Oh, I'd be so proud. I'd frame a photo of it. Nay, two photos: one showing the entire shawl, and another showing a close-up detail. And I'd give it a name (something fancy, like "Veronique," and in later years I'd say things like "I had such trouble with Veronique in her second year," and people would assume I had troublesome tots, not that I was reasonably slow at knitting lace-weight accessories). That's the dream, at any rate.

For years I didn't even know what lace was, not really. I mean, I'd see things. I'd think "oh, lace." But then I'd think "at least it looks like lace," because I wasn't sure what lace was. Turns out if it's made of yarn or thread, and it's got lots of holes in it, then it's lace. There's a grey area where we may not agree if there are enough holes, but other than that the definition's pretty-much set. (I don't think knitting a hitchhiker scarf and putting in a row of yarnovers counts as lace, but let's not fight over it.)

How do you make lace? You can knit it. There will be lots of yarnovers, and probably several decreases to compensate (unless you're growing a triangular piece from the point outward). You can crochet it (for years, because my grandmother had crocheted a couple of gorgeous tablecloths, I'd assumed that crocheted lace was the "real" kind of lace). You can do bobbin lace, where you impale a padded board with a zillion pins and wrap and twist thread around them, and several hours later end up with a tiny bookmark about the size of my middle finger, ironically:

The funny bit in the middle of the close-up is intentional (it's called a spider, especially if done correctly which this would not be an example of), whereas the funny bit at the edge before the tassel was not.

One can also tat, or at least I'm assuming one can, since tatting is a method for making particularly durable lace from a series of knots and loops, so it stands to reason one could tat, could have tatted, etc., however you want to conjugate the verb. (I'm assuming it's a verb, essentially). I don't know how to tat, but keep me indoors long enough and anything might happen.

Anyway, because I love my mother and want to have knit a frustratingly difficult lace-weight shawl, I've compromised (with myself) and am knitting a frustratingly difficult lace-weight scarf. Woohoo! It's called the Genghis Khan scarf, and it comes with 0 completed projects (besides the designer's own sample), and mistakes in the chart. Lucky for me I'm a seasoned-enough knitter to spot the mistakes and (after much coddling on Ravelry forums) I've figured out what it should be. So I've started! Here's what I have so far, after three nights of knitting:

To be fair, I also completed one and a half dishcloths and some stranded knitting rows on my ongoing blanket during the same time period. I find I can knit one RS row and one WS row at a time without going insane, so I'm pacing myself. Mom's grandfather lived to 105, so with luck she'll still be here to receive this present when completed.

Everyone says lace looks much better after it's been blocked. I hope that's true, and not like the remarks "he'll grow out of that phase," or "just a bit more sun and I'm sure you'll have heaps of tomatoes," or "no, she probably loves you despite all your money" or any one of a number of things we say when we want to encourage others to be unrealistically hopeful.

I've successfully made short lace projects. For my upcoming show (when? who knows. one day) I am playing a vampire, and I knit two lace cuffs and am midway through a lace jabot. I actually don't think I'm going to block these, as the goal is to have them look like they've survived two or three centuries, and the more bedraggled, the better:

Really, that's the best way to make lace: when mistakes add to, rather than detract from, the overall effect of the piece.

I also learned that I vastly prefer making what I'll call vertical lace-edging rather than horizontal lace-edging. Horizontal lace edging is "cast on a zillion stitches and keep careful track of the repeats," while vertical lace edging is "cast on 23 stitches and follow the chart and when you get to row 12 go back to row 1 and keep going," which is so much simpler, to my mind.

Because it's easy to go insane in times of confinement, I actually did knit an Estonian lace shawl, albeit out of sport-weight wool, using the classic Estonian technique as demonstrated by Nancy Bush in this Lilac Leaf Shawl:

This is just the sample for the shawl. I'm not ready for the full shawl yet!

Because it's intended as a sample, it's about the right proportions for one of those American girl dolls, or perhaps an infant who's opting for Babushka-chic as their latest look. (Hey, is Nancy Bush short for Nancy Ba-Bush-ka? It's all starting to make sense now ...), so if you have one of those, let me know.

It was challenging, I've got to admit. I popped in markers for every section, counted to make sure I began and ended each section with the right number of stitches, and I still had to fix a mistake at least once per every three or four rows. But it gave me the confidence to think I could master a real shawl one day. I get especially irked when every 10 rows or so the markers actually get in the way (when you have to SSK or K2tog across a marker), so I'm on the lookout for patterns that have definite 2 or 3 stitch breaks between lace sections, vertically on the chart, so my markers can stay in place forever!

In the meantime, I'll start small, with the Genghis Khan scarf that should only take two or three years to complete. It's possible I'll end up on-a-roll and things will move a bit faster. Today, in fact, I'm planning to shop for new needles. I'm using shiny Addi needles, and I can barely see the dark lace-weight yarn (Mom chose the colour). If I can find pointy, light-coloured needles, I'll be so happy. Wish me luck!

Off the Needles:

  • Royal Treatment: Little Crowns Dishcloth:

  • Lilac Leaf Scarf Sample

  • Spring Wash Cloth:

  • Diagonal Braid Dishcloth

  • Julee's Blue Ribbon Round Ripple Dish Cloth:

  • Sunflower Dishcloth:

  • Random crocheted dishcloth so I could practice making up crochet as I go along (and highlighting I need to better understand slip stitch and changing yarns, etc. Eventually I settled into a spiral rhythm which suited me!):

On the Needles (and actively being worked on):

  • Broken Lacy Diamonds Washcloth

  • Genghis Khan Scarf

  • Self-striping socks

  • Persian Dreams Blanket (round 9 of Hexagon 14)

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