knitting challenges

I was a complete bum this weekend and did just about nothing except for knitting.  On Saturday I spent a couple of hours working on my Seascape Shawl and it is progressing right along.  Can’t say “nicely” just yet because I’ve had a few challenges.  This shawl is lace work and knitting lace is somewhat of a challenge for me simply because you become a slave to the directions.  This is not a pattern that repeats – on the contrary, each row is unique and directions must be attended to in order for the overall pattern to work out properly.  Here is a picture:

Notice that there are 4 pattern bands, as indicated by the arrows.  The first pattern (there are three rows of it but you can only see the third band clearly) are conc shells, the second band is for sand dollars, the third is some other aquatic thing and the last one is for starfish (obvious).  So my first challenge with this is just staying on the pattern.  There are a couple of tools that knitters can use to do this effectively.  The first one is to use stitch markers.  These little dodads slip onto your needles between stitches at strategic intervals to help you keep count.  This is the method that I am using for this shawl because there are actually 4 repeats of the pattern on each row.  This way I know that when I get to the next marker, I should be at the end of the repeat.  Here is a picture of what this type of marker looks like:

Clicking on the image should take you to Etsy and the store page for this product…but in case it doesn’t, the shop is Knitters Brewing Co. and she has sock yarn on there as well.  Anyway, this method works well, until it doesn’t.  More than a few times now I’ve been off my count and I’ve had to either compensate for the mistake (assuming that I was able to find it) or to try to knit backwards and correct the mistake (assuming that I’m still on the same line).  Overall though, you can clearly see the pattern (I’m almost done with the 2nd set of conc shells) even if it is a little messy in places.  Since the section that I’m currently knitting is going to be high up on my back (and under my hair), I’m not overly concerned.
The second method of “compensation” is to make a lifeline.  I have not actually done one of these, but I may have to resort to it before this shawl is finished.  A lifeline is simply an extra string of yarn that is inserted along the needle so that if you have to rip back the knitting, it will stop where you inserted the lifeline.  Keep in mind that all stitches in knitting are considered “live” until they are bound off, which means that if you accidentally drop a stitch off the needles, it will fall down the work of the fabric that you are knitting and you’ll have to re-weave it back in.  This becomes a challenge when you are knitting lace as there are holes and other oddities that are hard to pick up in this manner.  So by knitting a lifeline, you are, in essence, creating a temporary bound off row that you can go back to, pick up the stitches again and move on.  Here is an example of a lifeline (it is the white thread that is woven in):
My final challenge with this shawl is actually with the yarn itself.  I purchased 2 skeins of cotton yarn at the Midwest Fiber and Folk Art Fair.  This yarn is a 4-ply that is not really “plied” – they are just loosely “there”.  My problem is that my knitting appears to be a little uneven in that the yarn has developed some balance issues.  Here is a picture that I took a few weeks ago:
Notice how 2 of the strands are “longer” than the other two.  There are 2 ways that I can take care of this.  I can either carry the excess all the way to the end of the skein of yarn (which is 845 yards long, btw) or I can cut the yarn, even it out, re-join it and proceed.  I’ve carefully weighed both options and I attempted to break the yarn and re-join.  Except that it is starting to build up again.  ARG.  So I’m guessing I’ll have to carry this all the way down to the end of the skein, even though it is a llllloooooooooooooonnnnnngggggg way down.  Oh the adventures in knitting that I have!

3 thoughts on “knitting challenges

  1. You must be loving those colors, though. And the nice thing about lace knitting is that it can be quite hard to spot the mistakes once you’ve blocked the project. I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished shawl – it’s going to be something special!

  2. Since your Aug. 2 deadline has come and gone, you could think about all the stress that you were under and not WANT to knit, or you could just stick it out. It will be beautiful when it is finished!

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