The Swallowtail Saga

Spring has officially sprung around here! I am so excited because I can finally wear my Swallowtail Shawl that has been hibernating in my drawer all winter long.

Yes, this is a last year's knit. (You didn't think I just whipped it up real quick did you?) The pattern is from the Interweave Knits Fall 2006 issue. This was my first "real" lace project. What I mean by that is that there is quite a difference between knitting a lace pattern on a scarf using a worsted weight yarn (fake lace knitting) and knitting with a lace weight yarn on small needles (real lace). Anyone who has done both types will most likely agree.

Knitting real lace is terrifying. The tiny thread-like yarn, the endless yarn overs and ssk's. And don't forget the teeny tiny chart with the teeny tiny squares filled with what looks like hieroglyphics. It was a bit intimidating. But nothing motivates me more than a challenge. I wasn't going to give up.

So I started knitting from that ridiculous chart, marking my place with 2 sticky notes, counting every stitch, and highlighting the rows when I completed them. I was concentrating so hard, and looking back and forth between the project and chart so many times, that my head was spinning and my eyesight blurred. I stopped after a few repeats wondering how people enjoy knitting lace.

Over the next week I trudged on, obsessed with this lace shawl. After a few days of getting used to the charts my eyes stopped bleeding, and it got more and more enjoyable. I was getting the hang of it. I got into a rhythm, the rows were flying by. I grew to love my project. About halfway into it I was feeling quite smug. I could knit "real lace". I started to wonder what all of the fuss about it was. It was EASY.

I was fantasizing about my daughter wearing my lace shawl on her wedding day, and then wrapping it up in tissue paper and handing it down to her daughter. Future generations were going to treasure it as a prized family heirloom and whisper among themselves, "Can you believe that this was made by our Great-Grandmother Alana? She was such an accomplished knitter."

Before long, I was on my final row. It had been a long time since I had made any errors, but I was still putting my lifelines in with scrap yarn in case I needed to rip back. Due to my extreme over confidence and knitting smugness I got a bit lazy with the lifelines at the end. By the time I had reached my final row, my last lifeline was about 20 rows down.

So pleased with myself about being almost finished, I got up off of the couch carefully setting down my shawl, to take a bragging break. After stretching and bragging to my husband a bit about being so awesome at knitting, I then skipped off to get a glass of water and quickly use the restroom.

I then plopped my "lace knittin' genious self" back down on the couch ready to finally finish my family heirloom lace masterpiece.

I'm sure you can see where this story is headed, to nowhere good. No matter how good of a knitter you think that you are, a lace project can always put you back in your place.

When I had picked up my project to work the FINAL row, ten stitches immediately slid off of the end of the needle and unraveled about 10 rows down. There are no words to describe the terror. After taking a bit of time to have a pity party for myself, I weighed my options. Should I rip it back 20 rows? At that point in the pattern each row was 200 stitches or so across. To take it back out and reknit was going to be ALOT of work. I decided to try to weave up the stitches back into place keeping with the lace pattern. I could do that, right? I worked painstakingly for about an hour chanting the whole time to myself, "Oh no, oh no, OH NO." This is where the moral of the story comes in.

I wasn't a lace knitting genious after all.

I couldn't do it. So I faked it. It doesn't look perfect but it looks just fine. Only the people that I point it out to can tell. What is it about us knitters that we feel that we need to point out the errors in our projects to everyone we meet?

Anyways, it was finally off of my needles. I then annoyed my husband by running around the house with it fluttering behind me and asking incessantly how much he liked it.

I then proudly blocked it. For everyone who has completed a lace shawl, you know that blocking is what brings out the true beauty. It spreads out the stitches and shows off the beautiful stitch patterns.

I love my shawl so much that I've been afraid to wear it. It has only come out of its pillowcase that it lives in only a few times. What is the point of knitting something if you don't use it?

This year will be different.


sweetp said...

GORGEOUS. All your knitting is so beautiful! Loved the story...*exactly* all the reasons I havent yet attempted 'real' lace yet :) (plus toddler and baby + lace...don't think would be a good mix)

Anonymous said...

"After a few days of getting used to the charts my eyes stopped bleeding"..

i laughed so hard at this. i know exactly what you mean! your shawl came out beautifully.

i really enjoy seeing your posts when you blog.


Cathi said...

Beautiful, Alana. By now you know you can enlarge the charts, right? I made one out of Kauni yarn, which is more of a sport weight yarn, and I left off the nupps, but it turned out very pretty too.

skinner studio said...

Great story, you had me laughing out loud! The shawl turned out beautifully. Very delicate and feminine.