Earlier this year I fished a hat out of the front hall closet. I couldn’t remember when I’d made it --maybe 2004?-- and as much as I liked the hat I didn’t wear it. So I ripped, skeined and washed the yarn. I figured I could use it for something.
The yarn was spun by me, but I have only a vague recollection of buying the fiber and no idea when I spun it. The fibre was commercial top, a blend of merino and alpaca, possibly a now-discontinued product from Ashland Bay. As far as I can figure, it was brown merino with multi-colours of alpaca running the length of the top. The yarn was in short-ish lengths which varied in colour, so I expect I stripped the top lengthwise, spindle spun and plied the spindle-ful of singles into a 2-ply yarn. The hat had been worked with the yarn held doubled, which blended the colour variations. I didn’t even recognize the colour variations until I was well into working the scarf.
When I was going to NYC in May, inspired by the Helix Scarf in Spin-Off magazine, I cast-on Lucy Neatby’s “Sea Lettuce Scarf”. After a couple of inches, I decided I disliked the feel of the fabric. The garter stitch fabric was heavy and felt clumsy. The project sat on a table in the living room.
Back in September when my back fell apart and I was laying in bed all weekend every weekend wondering if I would get to San Francisco, I decided to cast-on a knitting project for the trip. I mean, if I were to have a project ready to go for the trip, surely I’d be going, right? (Positive thinking and all that.) The book “All New Homespun Handknit” (Interweave Press, 2009) was within reach on the floor beside the bed and, flipping through, I considered the pattern for the Prairie Scarf by Nancy Bush, made from Judith McKenzie-McCuin's handspun bison yarn and using traditional Estonian lace patterns. On a trip to the kitchen for tea I saw the abandoned Sea Lettuce Scarf...a few things added up in my mind. I worked a small sample, liked what I felt in my hands and cast on for the scarf.
Well, almost. I read the instructions through and wondered if there’d be an easier way. Nancy has you cast-on provisionally, work 3 ridges garter stitch (adding a 4th ridge when you take out the provisional cast-on edge) and then you work a couple of lace charts, finishing with an edging chart. You take out the provisional cast-on and add a fourth garter ridge and then work the edging. That’ll work, I’m sure. But I was concerned I might not have enough yarn, so I did the provisional cast-on and worked the second edging first, then took out the provisional cast-on and worked the scarf to finish. Turned out I had ample yarn, so I added a couple of extra pattern repeats and still have some yarn remaining. Here's a picture of it just started. (Lace in progress is glamourous in an ugly duckling kind of way.)
Estonian lace patterns are marvellous. Many --including the main pattern here-- are simple to work as there is a wonderfully clear, obvious logic in their design. Once you know what to look for in the fabric --and it’s pretty evident-- you can throw away your copy of the chart. Very easy to have the piece as something you can carry around to work on whenever you have a few moments. (Thanks to WonderMike for the image.)
Two small technical points. First is that I substituted “SSSK” for “slip 1, k2tog, psso” as a mirror to the “K3tog” decrease, since ““slip 1, k2tog, psso” doesn’t truly mirror “K3tog”. (Try it and see.)
Second is that I don’t slip the first stitch of all rows, as the pattern will have you do and is traditional in Estonian lace knitting. While it gives a very sharp, clean selvedge edge, it usually results in a shortening of the second-from-end stitch on alternate rows, which distorts the edge. If you think about this, you can see why. The edge stitch has to be long enough to span 2 rows -- and 2 very long rows when you consider that the piece will be stretched in blocking. Unless you take that into consideration and make the stitch extra long, it’s going to get the needed length of yarn from the stitch beside it. (When I saw the display of Estonian lace at Lacis in Berkeley during my trip, I looked very closely at the pieces to see if the Master Knitters of Estonia had this distortion in their work...and they do. I felt quite chuffed about this, actually. Here I am, just a lil ole nobody knitter in Canada, and the Master Knitters of Estonia’s work show the same technical issues that my work does. Then considered that maybe I shouldn’t be setting myself up as a Master Knitter based on a technical problem, and then also considered that maybe the Master Knitters of Estonia don’t find anything wrong with the selvedge distortion. Maybe they don’t even consider it a distortion, but just how the selvedge is.)
You can see the horizontal striping caused by the different colours of the yarn. Some people might not like that, but I do. Not sure why. The reason is not about looks; there’s something more philosophical about using beginner yarn. I really wish I could feel the original model, because I expect Judith McKenzie-McCuin’s handspun bison yarn is amazing, and would feel and perform very differently in the finished scarf than my merino/alpaca yarn does.
I have mixed feeling about the edgings. The body of the scarf is stocking stitch fabric; the ends are garter stitch. Garter stitch is a thicker, heavier fabric than stocking stitch, so, to me, the ends somehow feel out-of-place on this piece. On the other hand, their weight may help the scarf hang properly. I think that if I make this design again --a definite possibility-- I’ll work the edging in stocking stitch based fabric, ending with maybe 3 ridges garter stitch.
All in all, I think it turned out okay. The pattern is not difficult to follow; a knitter with some experience working basic lace should have no problems with it.
In Other News
There isn't any. See you later.