Sunday, December 30, 2007

In which I discover that I need pointier pointy sticks

I like metal needles. I know lots of people that swear by bamboo, but they're too sticky for me. I tried Addi turbos once, but they slip too much and I nearly went crazy making Branden's sweater with them. I know, it's akin to heresy to loathe Addi Turbos. But what can I say? They slip (and yes, I know...that's the point...they say it right on the package)! I just stick with the plain old grey metal needles for just about everything. This morning, I decided that I was going to start swatching Irtfa'a. I got out the skein and sat down to check my gauge. And I realized that my needles that work for everything just don't work with this yarn.

This is probably largely because I need to use big needles to get a reasonable gauge. The pattern says to use 4's, which automatically means that I need 5's or 6's. It doesn't matter what yarn I'm using, I am always a size or two bigger than the published one. I've always wondered why this is, because I don't really seem to knit very tightly. The loops are always loose on my needle, and they just don't look like they're tight to me. I think that I have finally figured out why this might be.

I have never actually known what method of knitting I use. I've looked in several books, and I never really see the method that I use for making my stitches. I know I hold my needles the German way, but I don't form my knits and purls like most books recommend. While reading the Stanley book, I finally discovered that I use plaited knit and purl stitches. This method apparently adds and extra twist to the yarn, and makes for a tighter gauge. So, two questions were answered at once. I use plaited stitches, and therefore I have tight knitting, even with a fairly loose tension. Huh. What you can learn from reading a good book.

So anyway. Back to swatching. It took me about 2 rows to realize that my needles just weren't going to work. It was like trying to use my elbow to type. I could manage knits, but it literally took me two or three tries to get the needle into the loops for purling. Crazy. So, I needed new needles. My pointy sticks of choice are just not pointy enough. Thankfully, my LYS had Addi lace needles, and I have now managed to create a swatch.

Note that the gauge is different at the bottom than it is in the rest of the swatch. The crochet hook marks the point where I switched from my metal Pryms to the Addis. Did you know that switching needle types (and keeping the same size, mind you) could change your gauge on a 5 inch swatch by an inch? The reason that I swatched enough to tell if my gauge was close was that I needed to buy the right size of needle. Based on my Pryms, I bought a 5 and a 4, just in case I needed to step down a size. And then my gauge shrunk. I probably should have run out again and gotten a size 6, but I decided that the gauge is pretty darned close after giving the swatch a chance to stretch a little off of the needles (read: tugging and tugging to make it be the right gauge), and it's lace, and it's a shawl. So I'm going with 4 for the small needle and 5 for the big one. If I have to, I'll rip later. I was really surprised at what a difference the needles made, though. And it's not just that the tips are more tapered; the loops fit on the thickest part of the needle about the same. But there is definitely a difference. Again, huh.

I have been going back and forth on whether or not I'm brave enough to open-skein this project. I can handle a 400 yd tangle of sock yarn if it happens, but contemplating 1600 yds of knotted laceweight does give one pause. It is a risk, and I'm not sure how brave (stupid?) I am. I am trying it open for now, and we'll see how it goes. I am a bit paranoid, however, so there will be no kitties cuddling in this yarn as I knit. They tell me that this is highly unfair, and I have to say that I agree with them. However, 1600 yards of laceweight is enough answer to that complaint, in my mind. To make extra sure that there is no room for tangles, I needed a holder. I don't own a swift, and I don't think that I really need to buy one just so that I can defy caution and use open skeins. Hmmm...

Fortunately, a light bulb went on above my head. Literally.

(Ok, ok, I know...I'm sorry. I couldn't resist. Light bulb, light serving as knitting could I let that corny joke pass?)

I have now turned my knitting lamp into a knitting lamp that doubles as a yarn holder for open skeins that should be kept out of the way of feline affection. Perfect.

After all of these adjustments, I did actually manage to make a somewhat interesting swatch. I bet you didn't know I could talk this long about silly little things, did you? Well, I'll stop rambling now and show you the goods:

That, ladies and gentlemen, is my first swatch for Irtfa'a. It's not much; just a few repeats of the edging lace, and then one 28 row pattern of the shoulder shaping, but there it is. I'm so excited!!! It's on its way to being a WIP! I have a few more swatches to do, but I should be starting for real in the next few days. Yay!

It's funny that I am so excited about starting this project, because I can already tell that it's going to take me forever to do, and it's going to require that I actually pay attention the whole time. Yes, the whole time. Every single stitch will require just a little bit of thought, and between that my recently glacial knitting speed it should take me just about 'til the end of time to finish. This, of course, means that I will be wanting it to be done in no time. I am really going to enjoy it, I think, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this is one of those projects where you have to measure the length every few rows to convince yourself that it isn't getting shorter as you knit. So, don't get your hopes up about seeing the finished project on this blog anytime soon. But, if you're a progress knitter, you can celebrate, since this will be a work in progress for quite some time, and I will probably talk endlessly about it while I'm at it. =)

Speaking of talking endlessly, I think I had better go before I lose you all forever with my chattering. See you tomorrow!