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Archive for April 28th, 2010

This may not look like much, but these 18 grams of emergency yarn saved my Kosher-bacon-equivalent, and my shawl from utter disaster. Imagine, if you will, embarking on a project of – for you – daring complexity. Challenges abound, both obvious and hidden. Reward, if it comes at all, is likely to be relative, and rather modest. In my case, the challenge was lace, and the ostensible reward was to be warm shoulders and a fine glow of achievement.

Well, not so much, it turned out. Firstly, it has to be said, I learned a couple of less-than-palatable things about myself. Namely (but in no particular order), I bore more easily than I like to think; I am willing to accept desperately low standards of finishing and also, I can’t count to ten. Or four, actually. Possibly even to two, but my ability to count is so compromised, and my counting-confidence so damaged that I’m no longer sure how many I can’t count to. I am trying to get reconciled to being one of those (along with millennia of hunter-gatherers) who apparently count, one; two; many. I have news: this is not good for lace knitting.

So, I worked my way through interminable – well, a fair few – in fact, frankly many – rows of the Echo Flower shawl pattern. It has repeats ten stitches, and eight rows long. After about ten repeats of this I got very bored indeed. It turns out that while I can do endless stockinette without minding, once I have to pay attention (in my case, a sort of tongue-between-the-teeth level of attention), my boredom threshold is embarrassingly low. It’s close to vanishingly small, in fact, but I am also tenacious, and it turns out that I’m marginally more tenacious than I was bored.

I was proud of managing the two-into-nine and three-into-nine stitches without fuss, and rightly so, I still think. I was, and am, less proud of the fact that any indication that I had added a stitch, or dropped one, or done the wrong kind of decrease, or lost or gained a yarnover was dealt with by resolutely fudging. I tinked back from time to time, but as often as not, I’m ashamed to say, I made do and mended. And this, in spite of the keen awareness that if a lace pattern doesn’t line up, you might as well not bother knitting it. Hell, as long as I got more or less to the end of the row with approximately the right number of stitches, I was willing to let it go. What’s an SSK or a S2K2P2SSO (or whatever) between friends?

OK: I admit it: I was wrong. What’s an SSK or a S2K2P2SSO (or whatever) between friends? The difference between lace and a dog’s dinner. But what of it?

I digress. Let us just say that eventually I was rid of the blasted blossom repeats and then I made what may have been my fatal error. I switched to the border charts for the Laminaria shawl. In theory, this should have worked just fine, because the blossom repeats are common to both shawls, and the Laminaria pattern clearly indicates what percentage of the yardage is taken up by the border. I weighed, I measured, I cogitated, and I steamed ahead.

Alright, not steamed exactly, but still. I thought I was going to be fine, and then one day, I realised I was decidedly not fine. In fact, somehow, it seemed that about 20g of yarn had evaporated (who knew yarn could evaporate?). Somehow I was nine rows from the end, and rapidly running out of yarn. How in the name of all that is holy did that happen? I still don’t know. I went on Ravelry and bleated in distress. I begged and pleaded, and wrung my hands, and a kind soul generously offered to supply me with the necessary extra yards of the precious (irreplaceable, unmatchable) yarn I was using.

Post haste, it came. Cue the Seventh Cavalry. Bugles! Everything! Here it is. All 78.3 yards of it. Saved! Saved, in the nick of time.

Well, nearly.

Because it turned out that the Shawl that Refused to Die wasn’t finished with me yet. I can report without exaggeration or embellishment that I had very carefully weighed the the last row before I ran out (eight rows from the end), and calculated I was using two grams per row. I calculated (one, two, many – I really thought I was within my comfort zone here) what I would need to finish. And the dispatcher of cavalry sent more than I asked for (I think 18g of a 100g skein of yarn is a pretty generous donation, myself), and I got to two rows from the end and saw, most clearly that I wasn’t going to make it after all. My shawl was Scott of the Antarctic, struggling back towards basecamp, and expiring twelve miles from safety. I was that close. I tinked (again); I bound off a row before the end (really, it’s a dog’s dinner: why did I even think this mattered?) and …

I can barely bring myself to admit it, I ran out again. Yes, the third time, I ran out of yarn twenty stitches from the end. At this point I capitulated, and went to find the best match I had on hand. A very non-identical undyed BFL in about the right weight and approximately (I think two, but now I’ve lost my confidence) similar number of plies.

And I soaked it, and blocked it, and the miracle of lace happened. Yes, by any real lace knitter’s standards, it’s still crap. But it went from this:

to this:

And that’s enough of a miracle to ensure I’m willing to go through all this again. But this time, I really will try to make sure I have enough yarn to finish the job.

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