Monday, July 9, 2007

The Mystery Stole and Some Lace Knitting Tips

Any knitter who has had their ear to the ground in the internet world during the last month has probably heard about the Mystery Stole 3 project. It is the brainchild of Melanie Gibbons of Pink Lemon Twist, an incredibly talented young lace designer whose niche is gorgeous stoles. Melanie offered her first Mystery Stole project in the summer of 2005, and had somewhere around 650 knitters join her for the adventure. Just over 1000 knitters joined to make the 2006 MS2 stole last summer. This year's Mystery Stole has about 6700 knitters from all over the world, knitting along in harmony. I found out about last year's KAL just a little too late to join in, but have purchased the pattern from Melanie and am nearly finished with this delightful stole. So as soon as I got the notice that MS3 was in the wind, I rushed to the website and signed up.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, a mystery knit-along (KAL) starts with a designer with a whole lot of talent, courage and energy who puts out the word that they are starting a mystery KAL. They release 'clues' (pattern sections) - usually once a week - and the KAL members have a great time trying to figure out just what they are knitting as they go along. In Melanie's case, we know two things: it will be a lace stole, and it will be delicious! Her last two mystery KAL's had themes based on women in classical literature - Leda, and Scheherazade. All we know of this year's entry is that while the story does center on love, it is not a happy ending, and that black and white are the colors that best suit the theme. And - we are working with beads!

In my typical bulldozer fashion (or is it the Fox and the Grapes?), I talked our Desi into joining me on the journey. Last time I saw her before she started a bit of her summer travels, we got a chance to sit down and compare our yarns and beads, with Desi's yarn in Vanilla and mine in Charcoal. We are both working with the suggested yarn - Jaggerspun Zephyr, a 2/18 blend of wool and silk that has an incredible drape. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I'll knit with anything so long as it is merino wool, but every now and then I find something that just takes my breath away, and this Zephyr is it. Lynn has started carrying Zephyr lace-weight yarn in the shop, and currently has a beautiful array of colors for you to choose from. Drop in and give it a squeeze next time you are in the neighborhood, or stop by on Friday mornings during Knit Dr. hours between 10&12 - I'll have my MS3 in-progress with me to ooh and ahh over. I'm also working with the new Addi Turbo lace needles from Skacel, they have wonderfully pointy tips that make it easy to get into sts to work ssk's and K2tog's, and are much less slippery than regular Addis. I want them in every size! I've just completed Clue 2 of the stole and am so looking forward to the next installment this Friday, as well as catching up with Desi to see hers. You can also follow my progress at my own blog, Luna Knits.

And while you're at it, if you have a knitting mystery of your own that you just can't figure out, bring it along to Knit Dr. That's what I'm here for - every Friday morning from 10-12 - and I love to see what all of you are working on and to help you to solve your puzzles. We usually get a nice little group all knitting together around the table in the front room. The service is free to you, and it is first come, first serve. In the meantime, some


1- First Rule: Alway make a copy of your pattern and charts that you can mark up to your heart's delight. In fact, make two copies, just in case. They are a lot easier to carry with you, too.

2- As anxious as I am to dive right into a new project with yarn and needles flying - when working from a lace chart, I find it is always a good idea to 'prep' the chart first. If there will be long stretches of knit or purl sts all together in a row, I take the time to count the number of each in a run, and mark the number right on the chart in pencil. Go back and re-check those numbers before you get started. I'll do the same if the chart has a series of several yo/ssk or K2tog/yo combinations one after another in a row. Trust me, once you have slippery needles and thin yarn in hand, you don't want to take the time to count those out as you read the chart row.

3- Next, I'll rule some lines on the chart - if the pattern has several repeats of the same combination across the width, then I will rule vertical lines between each stitch repeat. I also place stitch markers in my knitting at those same places, it helps me to quickly know where I am. If there are several repeats of the pattern in rows, then I will rule a line horizontally on the chart between each of the repeats. The two stoles I am working on right now do not have stitch repeats or row repeats, so I mark the center stitch with vertical lines on my chart and stitch markers in my knitting. Same with the side edge stitches. I also rule a horizontal line every 3 or 4 rows, depending on the pattern, so that I can quickly glance down and know what row I am on as I am knitting along.

4- Once I have done this, I laminate my chart. You can do this at home with a cheap and cheerful laminator from a craft store, or your local copy store can do it for you. Now it will go through pretty much anything you can do to it, and you can use highlighting tape, post-it's or masking tape to mark the row you are working on, if you like, and it will be easy to peel them off and move up to the next row when you are ready.

5- Most knitting patterns for lace use what I call a 'rest row' on the wrong side - either all knit or all purl sts, with the actual 'work' of the pattern done on the right side rows. I use this rest row to count my sts and make sure I have the correct number of sts between each of my markers. If, for example, there are ten sts in each repeat, on the rest row I count and make sure I really have 10 sts between each set of markers. Melanie's patterns that I am working on have 99 sts in a row - 2 edge sts on either side, one center st, and 47 sts on each side between the edge sts and the center. If I am counting along and find that I don't have the correct number of sts, I turn my knitting to the right side and first look for a missing yarn-over. For me, that is always where my mistake is. If you don't already know how to read your knitting, now is a good time to learn. Look at what is hanging directly below your needles - an ssk looks like two sts together with the right st on top, a K2tog looks like two sts together with the left st on top, yo's look like holes. Double decreases come to a center point made up of three sts together.

6- If you are new to lace knitting - and even if you are not - you might want to use a lifeline. This is either a length of thin, slippery thread or a small knitting needle strung through your sts every few rows. You can put one at the beginning of every row repeat, or before you embark on any thorny-looking section of your chart. This can be done in several ways: by threading a straight yarn needle with a length of slippery thread (some people use waxed dental floss)and running it through all the sts on your needle at the top of a row repeat. Some of the interchangeable needle sets have a small hole where the needle and the cable are joined, and you can thread your lifeline through this hole before working the last row of the repeat. As you knit, the needle pulls your life line through all the sts in the row for you. You can also use a size US 0 circular needle that is wider than your knitting, and thread that through the sts. All of these methods give you a safety net - a lifeline - that you can rip back to if disaster should occur. Then you can just pick up the sts from your lifeline onto your needles, and start that section over again.

7- Another way to salvage your project without having to rip the whole thing out if you make a mistake, is to lay your piece on a towel and pin it out as if you are going to block it. Spray it lightly with a couple of coats of spray starch and let it dry overnight. Tomorrow you can frog as many rows as you need to, and all your other sts will stay right where they belong, with no fear of unraveling.

I hope you have found some of these ideas useful in your own projects. And remember, what makes a great knitter isn't always knowledge and skills, but the bravery to dive into something new, something you haven't tried before. After all, it is just yarn and needles.

Lynda Sorenson

7/10, 1-3: Beginning Knitting Series
7/11, 1-3: Tennis Vest
7-9: Beginning Knitting Series
7/12, 10-12: Ripple Baby Blanket
1-3: Socks Your Way
7-9: Techniques Squared, Entrelac
7/13, 10-12: Knit Doctor
1-3: Triangular Lace Shawl
7/14, 9-4: Fair Isle Knitting Workshop
7/16, 10-12: Sock Project Bag
1-3: Beginning Knitting Series


Anonymous said...

Hi Lynda, What a great blog!!! I am all the way back in PA but I am happy to see that I can keep in touch through this blog. Keep up the good work. Hello to Lynn and everyone else. Myra Lesser

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for the lace tips! I've just begun working with lace, but already wishing I had done some of these things!

BTW, the link to your blog (Luna) isn't set up correctly. It's easy to edit and find, but not a direct link.

Julie said...

Oh, what a great blog! I just stumbled across it while looking at the shop website, wondering if you carried hemp yarn. I've been itching to start the MS3, but I'm commited to a couple of baby things (I think I want to take the class for the surprise jacket - baby and adult). I already have yarn and beads. Now - to find the time! I also will come in to drool over the Lorna's Laces - well, not literally I hope.