Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Throw Me a Lifeline

“With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown.”
                                          -Chinese Proverb


Objective:  Create a Downton Abbey inspired piece of knitting for an exchange sponsored by Subway Knits.

Recently, through Ravelry, I signed on to take part in a knitting exchange.  This podcast event pairs two of my favorite things:  knitting and the  BBC costume drama, Downton Abbey.  After much rumination about what to create, I decided to take on an ambitious “expert” pattern from a holiday 2009 issue of Vogue Knitting magazine.  The pattern, despite including circular lace medallions, really didn’t seem to be look too difficult.  It asks the knitter to create two large medallions and two small, join each small round to a large one at several points, fold the joined pieces in half and sew together. 


Image of lace medallion mitts
from Vogue Knitting Holiday 2009.  I
will attempt to tackle this project again
this summer, when I'm well-rested. 


The problem arose when I tried to cast on this piece on a Friday night, after a typically busy school week, a week which included teaching full time every day and running around to my children’s extra-curricular activities in the evenings.  I had some Debbie Bliss Cashmerino in my stash and a set of double-pointed needles.  As I cast on I wondered what cruel taskmistress didn’t include at least one row of knitting or purling before asking me to do increases using four or five needles and starting with only five tiny stitches.  After a couple of glasses of red wine (obviously not a good idea) I made some progress, but basically spent three hours struggling and ripping out.

This diagram shows how the medallions are joined. 

I dug in my heels.  I would prevail against this test.  I would prove myself able to tackle an expert knitting pattern.  At around midnight, with a sharp cramp running down my sciatic nerve and aching fingers, and experiencing a fugue, I had completed 17 rounds of a 21 row medallion. Overwhelmed with fatigue, I crawled into bed.  When I woke at around 5:30 the next morning, I still felt tired and hurting, not recovered from the physical and mental exhaustion of the night before.  I knew that I should do something else, housework maybe?  But contradicting my instincts (of course, I can’t say that doing housework is ever an “instinct”), I picked up my knitting bag, containing the ill-fated project, knit a round or two and realized that my count was off. 

I won’t repeat the words that exploded from my mouth at this time.  Since I’d been impatient and perhaps a bit too self-assured, I hadn’t used a lifeline.  After a couple of hours of attempting to rework the medallion, I ended up with a pile of squiggly Cashmerino all over the bed.  Even though I’m a huge Debbie Bliss fan and have made several items with Baby Cashmerino, after this turn of events, I needed to step away from this yarn for a while.  I decided I’d been conquered and contrived Plan B.




I love this yarn, but have to put it away for awhile. 

As I’d just made a huge purchase last week at Cottage Yarn, a wonderful knitting shop about eight miles from my house, and didn’t want Sara, the owner, to think that I’m obsessed (a ridiculous notion, of course), I decided to take a longer drive to The Yarn Shop by Rainy Day Creations, a large store with knitting and spinning supplies in Pineville, NC.  The woman who helped me was very kind, probably sensing my desperation as  I burst into the shop, pouring out the account of my traumatic experience.  She helped me to look for some yarn to attempt the project again, but, ultimately, relieved and happy, I exited the store with yarn, beads, and a package of special needles (to make threading beads easier) to make another project, one that definitely evokes a Downton Abbey feel with its lovely color and beadwork. 




 

The beads on sale at Rainy Day Creations inspired me to use some materials I had at home to make these stitch markers. 

I was really tired by the time I returned home after doing some other errands, including a stop at Tuesday Morning where I found some great bamboo knitting needles and felting templates dirt cheap (around $1.99).  I sat down and happily strung the beads after a frustrating few minutes trying to find the “eye” discussed on the needle package.  (I’d never used beading in my knitting before, so this special needle the shop owner recommended presented a conundrum to me.)  The needle had two points on either end, but no visible eye.  In the manner of Ada Doom in Cold Comfort Farm (a great BBC film based on a humorous novel by Stella Gibbons), I screamed, “I shall go mad,” as I tried to “twist” the needle per the package instructions or “insert fingernail” into the nonexistent eye.  Finally, I realized that there was indeed a slit in the middle of the needle.  The middle! 

I happily knit and beaded and ended up with several rounds of a beautiful leafy lace pattern banded by a row of beads.  I can’t say what the project is here, however, in case my Downton Abbey knitting partner is one of the five or so people who happen upon this blog each week.

I was using size 5 double-pointed needles.  After I’d knitted an inch or so, I noticed that my project looked large.  Really large.  I had arrived at the circle of hell where Dante sends wayward knitters.  I looked back at the pattern, which read,  “Size 1 (2.25 mm):  set of 5 double-pointed needles (dpn).”  Size 1!  Size 1!  Five size 1 needles, not 1 set of size 5!!!! 

Fortuitously, I did have a set of size 1 circular needles with a long cord.  I decided to forgo double-pointed needles and use the magic loop technique.  Ultimately, after what amounted to at least 10 hours of toil over two days, I had nearly a half an inch of a beautiful, delicate, very Edwardian project.  Whew!

Today, I have several inches.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll slow down and thread a lifeline through a round.  For right now, I’ve got to keep knitting.



Hint:  The item I'm making would match Maggie Smith's outfit perfectly.  I found this picture on a great Jane Austen
blog that also includes lots of Downton Abbey information.  Click here to go there. 

























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