Thursday, June 23, 2011


Rene Jules Lalique was an Art Nouveau jewelry designer and glassmaker. With a name like that, how could he have become anything else?  For some of us, a name is more than simply a moniker; it's destiny.  A rose may smell as sweet by any other name to Juliet but in this I disagree with the Bard.  Chilean Sea Bass is far more appealing than Patagonian Toothfish.  Names are important.  Ask any ad exec or new parent-to-be.

This is Lalique.  I suppose Lalique would be just as pretty if it were named something else, say,  Sarkozy.  On second thought, I don't think so.

In the pictures that come along with the pattern, there is a button fastening at the front of the neck.  But no instructions for a buttonhole.  When I asked the designer about this, she said that the front button/pin had been an afterthought added on by The Sanguine Gryphon, who commissioned the design.  I tried on my finished cardigan and found that I much preferred a fastening of some sort.  The above pin is lovely but too heavy for the delicate cardigan. 

For the modeled pictures, I settled on this little crescent moon pin.  It will suffice until I find an appropriate lightweight button, and then I might add on an i-cord loop in lieu of a buttonhole.

Some things I've learned about lace knitting:

1. I have to knit much looser than usual.  Maybe it's the delicate nature of the yarn.  More likely it's the impossibility of manipulating tiny stitches wound tightly around tiny needles.  Ease up, girl!

2. Blocking is absolutely necessary.  See previous post.

3. Blocking is magical.  See previous post.

4. Lifelines are for sissies.  Just kidding.  Despite the intricacy of the lace, all those feather and fan repeats made the body relatively straight-forward and I found I didn't need one.  A good thing because the Tess' Designer Yarn Superwash Merino Lace felts at the slightest notice.  Ripping out my mistakes was an exercise in patience.

5. I really like the way the edging at the bottom hem and sleeves is constructed.  It's the first time I've encountered a vertically constructed edging.  For instance most knitting starts at either the top or bottom and grows up or down.  In this edging, one starts from one side picking up a live stitch from the hem on every other row.  I know that probably sounds confusing - I was certainly puzzled but the end result was well worth all the head-scratching.

It's a lovely garment - as lovely as its name.  The lace was just what I needed after my stockinette overdose and happily, it turned out to be one of those projects that I couldn't put down.  I'm very pleased  with it.  I've worn it once so far (aside from modeling the pictures).  It's really hot outside right now and wool lace is surprisingly warm but just the thing for overly air-conditioned coffee shops.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From one extreme to the other

I made a lace cardigan.  First I bought the pattern and thought about it.  Don't bother me, I'm counting thinking about knitting!

Then I joined a KAL (Knit-A-Long) on Ravelry.

And then I swatched.

Pattern: Lalique by Laura Patterson
for The Sanguine Gryphon yarn company

Yarn: Tess' Designer Yarns Superwash Merino Lace (100% merino)
1.25 skeins or approximately 625 yards
colorway not specified but I would describe it as a pale golden brown
 I picked up this yarn a few years ago at Maryland Sheep & Wool. A fine souvenir from a memorable day.

Needle size: US5
Actually, the above swatch is done in US4 and the gauge is just a wee bit too small.  Instead of knitting a new swatch with a larger size needle, I just guessed and dove right in.   I know!  Knitting without getting gauge - gasp! I'm so reckless!

Here's a close-up of what will be the front edge of the cardigan.  The bellflowers totally make the garment for me.  So pretty. Some folks are beading their cardigans.  But after some experimentation, I decided against it.  Delicate lace is already a stretch for post-modernist stockinette-loving me.  I'm not quite ready for beading just yet.

The body is feather-and-fan repeats.

After admiring my swatch for a bit, I cast on and knitted and knitted and knitted.  Then I knitted and knitted and knitted some more (I can be quite obsessive.)

The result: the body of the cardigan in all its knitted glory.  Pre-blocking, it's just a hot mess.  But I had faith in the blocking process.


A few wires and a plethora of pins later!  One great tip that I got from the KAL, block the garment in half so that each side matches.  If you look closely, you can see the wire that bisects the body.  I didn't thread it through the lace - I just simply folded the lace over the wire.  I did thread the front of the cardigan through a wire and used a flexible wire for the armhole.  Everything else was pinned in place (including every single point of the hem which gave it a nice scalloped edge where the feather-and-fan meets the bottom edging.)

Another tip to anyone knitting this pattern: Specifically for the edging, ignore the charts at first and just follow the written directions exactly. In my opinion, the charts for the edging are too confusing since they don’t follow traditional charting conventions (i.e. there is no RS or WS). 

Next up: sleeves and finishing!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Love Letter and a Song of Despair

Dear Stockinette,

You know I love you.  I will always love you.  You are elegant in your simplicity.  You comfort me.  You entrance me.  There is no other stitch pattern quite like you.

You and me - we had a really good thing going.

But we need a break from each other.  And here's the reason why:

Pattern:  Jill's Dress by Kristina McGowan
from Modern Top-Down Knitting

Yarn: Knit Picks Simply Cotton Sport (100% cotton) in colorway Bittersweet Heather
11 skeins or approx 1804 yards

Needle size: US 4

This dress.  It nearly broke me.  Two straight months of stockinette.  Let's just say it was too much of a good thing.

Please don't be upset with me.  You are my first love and I will always come back to you.  I just need some time.

Surely you, too, must feel the effects of all that prolonged time together.  I know I can be difficult and demanding at times.  Forgive me.  Maybe I want too much...

But for now, I need some time to explore and figure things out.  I know I will return to you.  I can't say when and I can't say how.  But believe me when I say I will always come back to you.



Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My stars!

So I knit this top.

And at first, I got really excited because of its unique construction.  It's made from the center of the star outwards.

Pattern: #02 Star Camisole by Mary Lynn Patrick
Vogue Knitting Spring/Summer 2009

Yarn: Be Sweet Bamboo DK - 100% bamboo
7.5 skeins or approx 825 yards

Needle Size: US 5 for the center of the star and the ribbing
US 6 for the rest of the body

But then, it wasn't so great.  When I followed the pattern as written, the armholes hung down to my lower ribs.  After a few days of experimentation, I managed to engineer something.  Now that I look at other people's versions of this top, I  realize that perhaps the neckline should have been much higher and that would have helped my problem with the armholes. 

I ended up crocheting the edges of the straps to counteract the drapiness of the bamboo.  

It was interesting to knit but I'm not sure how much I'll wear it.  For whatever reason, I just don't feel all that comfortable in it.  I like how it looks on other people but I'm not so sure if I like how it looks on me.  I suppose that's one big problem about knitting a garment.  With store-bought items, you can always try things on before purchasing.  But with most hand knits, I'm never quite sure how the end product is going to look and feel before I commit to it.  C'est la vie. I can always frog it, n'est-ce pas?