Monday, July 18, 2011

The Birthing of a Prayer Shawl...

I'm sad to report that my friend's son died last week. It's been a horrible week, with 2 wakes, 2 funerals and then finding out that a friend of mine - my LYS owner(!) has a spot on her lung and a 3 cm. tumor in her brain. She's a smoker -- or shall I say "former smoker" since the doctor in the ICU slapped a nicotine patch on her and said, "Your puffing days are over!"

So. I finished the prayer shawl, and I figured I'd set out a little "life cycle" on this one since it did take me the entire 18 months of Mark's illness to get this done.

Cascade Pima Cotton, garnet color
Here are the statistics: 1,100 yards of yarn. Cascade Pima Cotton, voted "yarn of the year" on a bunch of websites and in a flock of knitting magazines. Here's what it looked like pre-balling and pre-knitting. This has turned out to be the most popular yarn in my LYS. The shawl is actually my second project in this fiber, and it won't be my last. This yarn washes beautifully, holds color, stitches pop like crazy, and it drapes like a dream.

Shawl Version #1
So I started this and my initial idea was to do lace. I've always wanted to do lace; the baby car seat blanket was a simple lace, and I found what I thought was the perfect pattern. And I started. Here's the first go-round. It was a take on a "Little Arrowhead" pattern with a border of knit stitch to give it some stability.

Well. That didn't work out. I tried. Seriously tried. But I kept screwing it up and getting more and more frustrated. So I know that doing a prayer shawl is supposed to be a "meditative" experience, and it's hard to meditate when you are pitching a hissy fit because, for the 6th time, you missed a yarnover, or you have 3 extra stitches on your needle, and your written pattern says "...end with K1." This was about April, 2010. I remember blogging about how excited I was because as you can see with this yarn, the lace would have been fantastic.

Shawl Version #2
I frogged. Then I came up with this version, in June 2010... You can see that I took the border off. I rejiggered the pattern and I got this lovely rippled edge, and I was swimming along nicely.

But then, it screwed up again. Or actually, I  screwed up because when I went to the LYS to knit, all I needed to do was move my eyes off the directions or the knitting just once and it was toast.

I even had my LYS owner help me when I got so totally messed up that I was considering chucking the whole thing and not doing the project. Which I felt would've been a real let-down.

Pipes pattern. The other 2 were done in Stockinette Stitch. The first
I frogged. So I did more research on patterns. I looked at non-lace patterns, and I wanted stuff that I could do kind of robotically so that I could finally reach Knitting Zen and do this pattern for my friend.

Organ Pipes w/Stockinette Intervals
This is what I came up with. It's off a "Knit Stitch A Day" calendar, and it's called "Organ Pipes" which is appropriate since my friend is an organist.

I decided to alternate the pattern. This shawl took 5 balls of yarn, and I did 3 of them in the Organ StSt part went quickly, but the last one seemed. To. Take. For.....e....ver....

The Organ Pipes sections were 70 rows each, and the StSt parts were roughly the same - about a ball's worth of that stitch.

Organ Pipes close-up
This close-up was about June, 2011. I washed the complete shawl in my front-loading Maytag, on "delicate," in Ivory Snow baby wash, rinsed it and blocked it. Here's my blocking board - actually "playroom floor tiles" set on my office floor, with the door closed so Tippi didn't have access.

Blocked Shawl Overview
I have seen blocking board sets in catalogs that were hugely expensive. I know it's all in what you can afford, but to me, going to Menards or Home Depot to get these multi-colored tiles made more sense. They're interlocking, they're rubber, the colors don't run, and they're pretty much the same thing as the $80 ones I can buy. I can tailor these to the size I need, too, which is helpful. For the baby car seat blanket, I only needed 4. As you can see for this, I needed more!

Blocking Pins
You can see where I added the new balls; I need to work on how I do these transitions in a more effective way. Here's a close-up of how I pinned it. I went through 3 boxes of pins! I had a knitted edge on the StSt part, to keep it from rolling, so I needed to make sure that knitted edge was nice and straight. If you double-click on the picture, you can see the transition and the pins I used.

It was easy to lay out and gently tug into place. It took 3 days to dry, even though I did use the spin cycle on the Maytag. I tossed a clean bath towel (not a new one) in there, too. Both to grab the inevitable dog hair that all my projects collect, and to give the shawl something to bounce off. I didn't use a new one because I didn't want terry cloth fuzzies on the shawl! Enough that the dog hair was there!

Finished shawl
Here's the finished shawl, with the shawl pin I got. My friend is a very simple person. She likes straightforward speech, appreciates quality, but prefers plain styles with her clothes or jewelry. I think this fits the bill nicely. Again, double-click on the picture to see it in a larger size.

The Yarn Harlot says, in her book Knitting Rules, that knitters should keep notebooks or journals. Well, I've combined a notebook with a journal, and I have several going, depending on the projects I have. I will literally re-write the instructions to a pattern, and use the journal/notebook to make notes on how many rows it took me to get to "X" inches, any pattern changes, any techniques I acquired while doing the project. All that stuff that comes in handy when you do these kinds of projects. Because I agree with her: I'll never remember this stuff!! So when I knit my second sweater, I'll drag out the notebook I used, and check the notes I made, because I know what I would do differently now that I've done one sweater already. And the green t-shirt I'm knitting will get the same treatment. I'll know that I kind of "fudged" the first 3" before the waist decreases, and I have to do the same on the right side, since the left is slightly more than 3"... you can bet that I will NOT remember that.

My notes
So here's a shot of my current notebook... Kind of a peek inside my knitterly mind; notes on what I did and the date the shawl was finished. The date the shawl was finished was about 2 days after Mark died.

You can see my scribbles and see that at first, I was only going to do 2 panels of the Organ Pipes pattern. I'm glad I didn't; all that Stockinette would've driven me round the bend. Mindless knitting to be sure, but good vibes don't come from mindless, dull, boring stretches of knitting!

I still haven't given it to her; we haven't caught up with each other yet. I have several copies of the DVD of the Mass that my Hubby did for her. She had elderly relatives who couldn't be at the service, and since we've done this before, it was no great shakes, though Hubby really did want to join us in the funeral choir.

Finishing this shawl is kind of bittersweet. My LYS owner will not see it, since she's still in the hospital and I'm hoping to get it to my friend sooner rather than later. But I can print up a nice picture of it. I'm thinking now of what else I'd like to do with that yarn. I can see another quick summer tank top or maybe a 3/4 sleeve plain top with a nice bottom band. I know my Knit Pattern A Day calendar will have plenty of ideas for me for the bottom band of a sweater. Just have to finish a few more WIPs and then on to something new.

I would love to hear from people who've received prayer shawls. What did you like? What would you have liked on them? (Ability to tie it; ability to button; a pocket??) I don't have any other shawls planned yet. But you never know.

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