Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Knit-in-the-Dark/Bedside/Dishcloth Shawl

I have this urge to write out some of my old patterns so I can find them in one place. Thus, this old pattern of mine for a simple triangular shawl. As far as I can tell, I first posted it to the knitted-lace list back in 1998, though it's possible it went to the old knitlist a few years before that. I've probably shared it around since then.

At the time, I needed some mindless stress relief. I had some yarn I didn't know what to do with -- maybe not quite enough for a sweater, but a pretty good pile in spite of that. I needed something soothing that could be knit in the dark if necessary. Something that could be knit while sitting with a sick relative, in a hospital, at an airport, at a boring meeting... Well, you get the idea.

Thus, the dishcloth shawl. It's not an original idea, of course. It's a very, very old concept. It is based on the classic garter-stitch dishcloth, except that one never decreases the triangle back down into a square (if you do, and you certainly can, you'll end up with a very nice square shawl). This plan for a simple triangular garter stitch shawl is published in many places, each time with a bit of a twist. One of the famous internet shawls of this type is the Truly Tasha shawl (also known as the Tasha Tudor shawl) by Nancy Bush, for example. My version of this shawl is as simple as I could make it, since I needed something as simple as possible.

I've knit many of these over the years. They're dull, which is absolutely soothing when the rest of your life is suffering from an excess of non-dullness. They're warm if you knit them from thick yarn, which I usually do.

The Dishcloth Shawl (also known as the knit-in-the-dark shawl or the bedside shawl)

Pick some likely yarn and needles. It's a shawl -- who cares about gauge? You can unravel and try again with a different yarn/needle combo after a few inches if you don't like your initial choice.

Cast on 5 stitches.

All rows: knit 2, yarnover, knit to end.

When the shawl is big enough, or you're almost out of yarn, or you're bored and can't stand it any longer, cast off.

That's it.

The only attention you need to pay to this shawl is that yarnover for the third stitch of the row. After that, you can zone out for the rest of the row. If you have enough attention to spare, you can double-check at the end of the row to make sure you're knitting into a yarnover in the third stitch from the end. If it's missing, create it on the fly by picking up the running thread between the second and third stitches and knitting that. If you miss a few yarnovers here and there, no one will notice.

I usually slip the first stitch of each row for my selvedge, but it's certainly not necessary if you don't want to.

What you end up with is a garter stitch triangle with an eyelet running up the two sides. It starts at the tip and gets bigger and bigger, deeper and wider, with each row. The first hundred or so rows go fairly quickly. After you get past about 200 rows, each row starts to seem endless. I usually call it quits well before 300 rows.

If you're feeling ambitious, you can do a row of *yo, k2tog* a few rows before you cast off in order to match the eyelets along the other sides. Or you can add fringe when you're done. Or you can add a lace edging. Or you can put in an interesting eyelet pattern as you knit the thing -- an occasional row of *yo, k2tog* would be both simple and lovely, for example. Or you can change yarns, knit colorful stripes, or anything else you can imagine.

Or you can simply knit, keeping your fingers busy while your mind is otherwise occupied. That's what I usually do.

I still have several of these around the house. The next time I drag out the camera, I'll take a photo to share.


I've finished my Orenburg honeycomb lace scarf. I'll try to get a photo at some point. I've started some fingerless mitts for my offspring using a pattern in the Fall 2010 Knitscene. It's not the most clearly-written pattern in existence, but it is attractive enough to be worth reading between the lines. I'll post my thoughts if/when they get done.

The next lace project may be a lace scarf pattern from an old issue of Interweave Knits. I'd probably use the leftovers from that long-ago cable and lace rectangular stole I did. We shall see.

I'm also starting the dithering process on the next sweater. I'm thinking a gansey. But I often think that. I'm swatching some ideas with the yarn I'm thinking of using. The yarn is handspun, brown, somewhat fuzzy. So, if it becomes a gansey, the patterns must be simple enough to show up in a somewhat fuzzy yarn. I can still use a gansey construction even if I don't include fancy texture patterns. Garter and reverse stockinette both show up well.

A friend on a list mentioned the Elizabeth Zimmermann Adult Surprise Sweater. Hmmm.... I have a pile of yarn -- pencil roving, actually -- that might work for this. However, the yarn requirements are daunting. Do I really need 2000 yards? And, if so, do I have 2000 yards of anything? One of these years, I'd like to make one using EZ's method of using every little bit of odds and ends from the leftovers basket.

I could stand to start another dishcloth shawl. I should go stash-diving to see what I have that needs to get used up.

And that's enough dithering for me for one day!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Orenburg Honeycomb Lace Scarf

I'm not quite finished with the scarf. It's longer than I am tall, but I still have half a skein of yarn left! Soon I'll call it quits anyway, then finish it. I'll give it a bit of blocking even though it looks quite good without any at all.

My inspiration for this was a pattern in the May/June 2010 issue of Piecework. The article is called, "An Orenburg Honeycomb Lace Scarf to Knit" by Galina Khmeleva.

She writes, "I discovered a lovely Honeycomb scarf for sale that a former student had knitted; I was so impressed with it that I purchased it for display purposes. The resulting demand for the written pattern for this scarf was enormous, so I immediately got to work to produce it."

The scarf in Piecework is more of a rectangular wrap than a scarf. Its finished dimensions are approximately 20" x 70", and then fringe is added to make it even longer! It is, of course, gorgeous. The pattern is pure Orenburg honeycomb stitch, as described in the article and in her books on Orenberg lace, with a border of garter stitch. It is made from a fine merino/silk laceweight yarn. The pattern is given in chart form only.

I wanted something a bit more humble. Thus, I went back to the basic version implied by Galin Khmeleva's words -- that image of the honeycomb lace scarf knit by a student trying to understand this basic motif of the Orenburg lace-knitting vocabulary.

Here is my version. As usual, I am rather vague about many of the details. My scarf is knit in the honeycomb pattern motif with a narrow border of garter stitch. I will provide the theory; you decide how to apply it to your yarn and your own personal scarf preferences.

My yarn is a very fuzzy mohair blend, 70% kid mohair and 30% acrylic. It runs 167 meters (183 yds) per 50 grams. It's about sock weight or slightly thicker for those of you who care about these things. By the time I give up, I'll have used about one and a half balls of yarn. My scarf will be about 7.5 to 8 inches wide and probably close to 6 feet long. The stitch pattern is remarkably open -- the scarf is more air than yarn! I love the fuzz of the mohair and how it looks with the pale aura of frizziness over the holes.

So, pick your yarn. Pick a needle size that's a few sizes larger than you would normally use for that weight of yarn. I won't tell you my needle size because I am a loose knitter and my needle choice won't necessarily be the same as yours. The first few inches of the scarf can serve as your gauge swatch. If your lace is too tight or too loose, if your scarf is too narrow or too wide, then unravel and start again.

I chose garter stitch for my border. I'm using 3 stitches on each side, and 6 rows (3 ridges) at the beginning and the end. You, of course, may make your border wider or narrower, or may choose seed stitch or something else besides garter stitch. For the selvedges, I am slipping the first stitch of each row as if to purl, with the yarn in front.

The openwork portion of the scarf consists of the Orenburg version of honeycomb lace. This is a garter-based lace stitch and looks pretty much the same on both sides. I've mostly seen it charted rather than written out. That's fine. When I started knitting it, though, I realized that the written version seems so much easier to follow than the charted version!

Orenburg honeycomb lace motif (over a multiple of four stitches)

rows 1 and 2: *k2, yo, k2tog*
rows 3 and 4: k4, *yo, k2tog, k2*

That's it! Rows 3 and 4 are just like 1 and 2, except that they are offset by 2 stitches. If you'd like, you can think of rows 3 and 4 as: k2, *k2, yo, k2tog*, k2. (I don't know if that helps you understand or just confuses you. If you're confused, simply forget I mentioned it, and just do the pattern above.)

If you can count to 4, you can knit this pattern. You do need to keep track of which row you are on, which is sometimes harder than you might think.

For your scarf, you will need a multiple of four stitches, plus the border stitches on each side. For my scarf, I chose 20 stitches for the center and 3 stitches on each side, for a total of 26 stitches. Hmmm, that means I'm getting about 4 stitches per inch before any blocking, not that it matters.

Orenburg Honeycomb Lace Scarf Pattern

Cast on 26 stitches. Knit 6 rows then start the pattern.

Rows 1 and 2: slip first stitch as if to purl with yarn in front, k2, *k2, yo, k2tog*, end k3.
Rows 3 and 4: slip first stitch as if to purl with yarn in front, k2, k4, *yo, k2tog, k2*, end k3.

When your scarf is long enough or you're just about out of yarn, k 6 rows and bind off. Block it if you'd like, then wear it.

I'll probably add a photo of the finished scarf after it's completed and blocked.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Another decade, another sweater

Well, maybe not quite that bad. But I am not a very prolific sweater knitter.

This is the sweater I've been mumbling about for a while. I've done several rounds of rip-and-redo. Finally, I figured out exactly what I wanted to do. And then the knitting went smoothly.

The entire sweater is knit from spindle-spun yarn. I dyed the colored yarn; the gray and white are natural.

The body of the sweater is from a friend's Icelandic sheep. She had sent the fleece to a new processor and didn't like the results, so I ended up with it. It wasn't the easiest thing to spin. But it was fun anyway. The yarn is mostly bulky, thick and thin with slubs. I actually do like it a lot. It's white with some black hairs.

The rest of the sweater yarn is from commercial roving, though I'm not sure exactly what. Some of it was used two-stranded, since my normal spinning is quite a bit thinner than the Icelandic yarn is. It's from my Yarn Library, which is what I call all those small amounts of hand-spun and hand-dyed yarn I've accumulated over the years.

The yoke pattern is adapted from a pattern I found on the Istex website's free pattern page.

The sweater style is the typical Icelandic round-yoke pattern. I made it up as I went along, though it is mostly based on Elizabeth Zimmermann's percentage system.

I finished it just in time for today's very cold weather. I'm wearing it now as I type this.

I think I might have enough of the Icelandic left for a second sweater, especially if I add even more color-patterning. This was fun to knit and I like the results, so.... Check back in a few years to see if it ever happens. I also have a couple of other batches of yarn in quantities sufficient for a sweater.

In the last post, so many months ago, I wrote about Opal socks I was starting to knit. Here's a photo of what they looked like back then. As you can see, it's a simple toe-knit plain sock.

The socks were finished soon after that post. I don't have a photo of the finished socks. Since then, I've knit a few other pairs. One sock was highly annoying. I knit it two-stranded. When it was done, I discovered that it was too tight! That's not very common for me. Usually, I know my gauge, I measure as I go, and I try on socks as I go. Oh, well. I unraveled it for future socks. Unraveling and re-winding a ball of yarn that has been knit two-stranded is Not Fun. But it is done.

My latest travel-knitting project is yet another scarf. It is based on a pattern from the May/June 2010 issue of Piecework by Galina Khmeleva. The original pattern is a very lovely and elegant wrap, a large rectangular scarf with fringe on both ends knit from laceweight merino/silk. Mine is a humble scarf knit in a thicker (and very fuzzy) mohair blend yarn. I took the honeycomb lace stitch pattern and went from there.

An open stitch pattern such as this really makes the yarn go a long way! The scarf is getting longer and longer and longer. I still have plenty of yarn left. Soon I will decide that it is Long Enough and that will be that. I'm not sure what I'll do with the leftover mohair. Will there be enough left for a cowl or neck-warmer? I can combine it with the leftover mohair from the other mohair scarf I did, the dark blue one with a cable and lace design.

The photo below is a close-up of the lace pattern. It's garter-based. It's very easy to knit -- two rows of one kind of knitting followed by two rows of another. The only stitches are knit, yarnover, and knit two together. The lace is quite open with no blocking whatsoever. There is a slight bias, though. I'll probably give it the usual minor wet-blocking treatment after it's done.

I might write out the pattern for others to use. If you like it, I urge you to check out Piecework. Galina Khmeleva has been publishing beautiful patterns there for a while.

There's been more knitting and spinning and crocheting and what-not since my last post. But it's all pretty boring, nothing worth going into unless/until I have photos. I don't even have any good doily-knitting photos to share.

I'm not sure what I'll be making next. Hats. Mittens. Scarves. Shawls. Another sweater, perhaps. Maybe a doily. In other words, the usual.