Tuesday, August 31, 2010

bride comes before a shawl

the request
[WARNING: long, picture heavy post. This one has an actual story. Make brew now.]

The mind of a knitter, I have long suspected, works in a different sort of way to that of a normal person.

So a very lovely friend of mine got married a couple of weekends ago. It was a few days before the hen do, approximately 10 days before the happy event, that I received an email from the bride to be, containing the excerpt shown here.

Now to the ear of a non-knitter, this is a fairly innocuous enquiry. You might have a quick look in your wardrobe, realise you don't have a lot in the shrug department, and leave it to a better dressed friend to sort out. This would have been the sensible way to take it, and I'm sure how the email was intended.

To a knitter? This is nothing short of a call to arms. It's like someone has blown the Horn of Gondor. Before I'd even finished reading the email, I'd unplugged the laptop, raced to the yarn cupboard and starting rummaging in the posh yarn section with one hand, whilst scrolling down reading the rest of the email with the other. I sent a quick reply to ask what shade of red, because i was already stroking some beautiful pillar box red merino laceweight. This, it turned out, was the required colour exactly.

So many things were whizzing around in my brain at this point. Should I just come clean and say to the bride, look, I could make you something, you can give me exact specifications if you like? But then it wouldn't be a surprise, and it's the week before her wedding, she probably has a billion other more important things to worry about. Also, and rather more worryingly, what if I can't actually do this in 10 days?!?

I am a novice lace knitter, and don't think I would have attempted it except that:

a) I was going to the hen do in London, this meant a 4 hour train journey of valuable uninterrupted knitting time

b) Thanks to a random act of kindness from Kate B, I knew I had a skein of the perfect yarn already and

c) Said yarn was already wound into a ball and ready to go

It just felt like the gods of knitting were on my side, and I knew I had to at least attempt it. So evening 1 was spent looking for a pattern. I looked at shrugs and boleros for a while, but just couldn't find anything that looked sufficiently weddingy. A shawl seemed like the ideal use of this yarn, and there are so many beautiful shawl patterns out there to choose from, so in the end I went for Annis. It seemed sufficiently intricate for a wedding day and yet there are people on Ravelry who have knitted this in 3 days. It must be easy! (Or, as it turned out, they are a bit quicker at lace knitting than I am.)

So I printed out the pattern, made extra sure I had all the right needles, yarn and notions, and set off for my journey to London. I'd probably have it half finished on the way down. Line one: cast on 363 stitches. Blimey, that's a lot. OK, let's try. No wait, that yarn tail isn't long enough. Oh no, now it's all got really tangled up. Let me just recount that: oh, I missed a stitch. AARGH! Really, Stoke already?! Blood pressure rising... RISING! On the fourth cast on attempt, I managed it, and as the train pulled into Euston I was just about to finish Row 1. Gulp. Maybe this was foolishness of the highest order...

During the hen weekend I asked a couple of discreet, carefully chosen questions. Is red your favourite colour? Do you like surprises? What if the surprise is a bit rubbish? Do you know what a nupp is, and are you able to spot a poorly executed one? The responses were all encouraging. So I got leathered and had a lovely time, then knitted like a demon on the way home.
shawl detail 3
shawl detail
And for the whole of the following week, I went to Knitting DefCon One. Flies buzzed around the towering stacks of laundry and dirty dishes in my kitchen. My hair was so greasy it crunched. The child took to playing trains with the dog, after the dog had got back from walking himself. I got the bus into work instead of cycling and knitted in my lunch hour. I even marginally reduced the time I spent arsing around on Ravelry and Twitter. And I am really glad I did, because in the end, I cast off the shawl at 10pm the night before the wedding.
finished shawl on line

Hastily washed and blocked it, and thanks to the fineness of the laceweight, it dried overnight. I exhaled deeply. I even had time to snap a couple of photos before I wrapped it up. Result!

shawl detail

So, er... would the blushing bride like it? I felt a little foolish going up to see her on the morning of her wedding, clutching my homemade offering. I mean, you know, whether you like surprises or not, your wedding day is quite a big occasion, and you're fairly likely to have already decided what you're going to wear by, like, the morning of the actual day. Deep down I suspected that I had got ridiculously carried away with this little adventure. A normal person would probably just say thanks, put the shawl in the pile of other presents, and that would be that.

My mate Debs isn't normal though, she's really pretty amazing.
She opened the present, looking rather pleased with the contents...

Debs opens present

... tried it on with her dress...

... and then actually wore my knitting, on her wedding day, for reals!
bridal shawl outdoors

And looked ruddy bloody beautiful in it.
on the moor

It all made me a very, very happy knitter indeed. *Dabs eyes with hanky*

(PS. Pretty wedding photos courtesy of Mr Rubbish, who would like to add that he is currently available for all your wedding / civil ceremony / bar mitzvah / funeral photog needs for a very reasonable fee. He stipulates that I add the slogan 'Putting the fun into funerals')


Sunday, August 15, 2010

the shawl of indecision

lovely shawliness
No, it's not a bad folk band, or a new Harry Potter book. It's my first Proper Lace shawl! I finished it! I've been wanting to have a go at something like this for ages, but hadn't quite worked up the nerve until now.

I got this gorgeous hand-dyed purple merino sock yarn from Wild Fire fibres at Woolfest. Which I just realised I completely failed to post about when I went in June. So if you'll bear with me a minute, I'll just backtrack a little bit to set the scene. Yes, Woolfest was as awesome as it sounds!!!1! A day out in the Lake District, with a busload of lovely people from Bolton Knitting Noras, fluffy rabbits, scenic mountains, delicious Jennings beer and SO MUCH beautiful yarn. The combination of the last two things caused me to get a little bit carried away. I bought this yarn, borrowed a swift to wind it immediately, then cast on in the Woolfest cafe tent. (Don't believe anyone who tries to tell you knitters are patient people. I needed to start NAAAOOO.)
Thinking I'd make a shawl, I initially went for Aestlight, because it's a nice easy garter stitch thing, with low ballsup potential for social knitting, and more importantly because the pattern printout was still at the bottom of my knitting bag from the first one I made. After a very pleasant day of sitting around and chatting, and a bus journey back, I'd got quite a lot done.

But it was not to be. I think after finishing Tempest, with its acres of stocking stitch, my fingers were itching for something a bit more intricate. Aestlight's also a pattern I'd done quite recently, and while I enjoyed the first one I'm not a big repeat knitter of patterns unless a fair amount of time has elapsed (apart from that one time I went a bit mad and knitted three pirate hats in a row). I just feel that variety is the spice of yarny life, and if you aren't feeling it with a particular pattern, and there are so many fun ones out there to choose from, why persevere?
lacy close up 1lacy close up 2lacy close up 3
It was in this frame of mind that I saw that Marina had just been published. It was perfect! Beautiful, but not too difficult looking, it could be my stepping stone into the world of Proper Lace. So after a bit of unravelling, I was off again. And this time the whole process was twenty times more fun. The yarn withstood the frogging and reknitting admirably, I think it maybe even enjoyed getting into some new shapes. I love the way you can extend the pattern easily to suit the amount of yarn you have. I did 7 pattern repeats out of one skein so it's more of a shawlette / pointy scarf really. It's going to be a birthday present for my sis. Who doesn't read this blog so I am safe. But she does like purple a lot.
washing day? shawly knot
At the risk of sounding obvious (I am a lace n00b) I love the way the beauty in the finished product comes from the bits missing. It's like the best parts of it are where you didn't do anything. HOLES IN STUFF FTW. *Dons string vest, eats swiss cheese*.
(PS. I enjoyed this shawl so much, the reason it took me so long to blog about it is because I knitted another more elaborate one immediately afterwards, barely pausing for breath... this really was a gateway drug for me! Lock up your laceweight!)