Having already completed a stockinette wool shawl with some nifty lace edging, as well as a shawlette with a small lace pattern in the body of the piece, I had just started my third lace project, a pattern entitled Estonian Flamingo Knitted Lace Stole or Scarf by Melanie VerMeer, knit entirely in lace patterning.
I had chosen a lovely white mohair laceweight yarn for this project; and in spite of having to tink more often than I wanted to, I had gotten far enough along to actually begin to see the lace pattern forming.
It was so pretty!
Of course, I discovered almost immediately that knitting lace in mohair yarn isn’t an easy task if you’re anything like me and tend to make mistakes…lots of ‘em. At the time, the concept of lifelines wasn’t part of my lace-knitting vocabulary, so each time I discovered a mistake – which was frequently – I had to laboriously tink back to where I had goofed, sometimes rows and rows of stitches.
Anyone who has tried to tink mohair yarn, which has the annoying habit of fusing to itself at the slightest provocation, will probably agree with me that tinking mohair isn’t something they would choose to do if they could possibly avoid it. Nothing can break your heart faster than realizing that you’ve got to get to work (again) and try to extricate row after row of knitted mohair from its mates, one sticky stitch at a time, because you’ve goofed an inch back, and IT SHOWS!
However, stubborn is my middle name, and I had persevered to the point where I could finally see what the pattern was going to look like. And that was enough to keep me going.
My only daughter was planning to be married in August of that year. I had bought my outfit, which just needed a few adjustments before it would be wearable; but as Mother of the Bride for the first time and last time, I wanted to wear something that was specially made for the occasion and could perhaps become an heirloom for my daughter one day. Inspiration hit: I wanted a stole – the perfect accessory for an outdoor wedding that would likely extend from late afternoon into the wee hours of an unusually cool August.
The pattern would, of course, be the Estonian Flamingo Lace Stole, because I actually had some idea of how to knit the thing. But mohair? Not in August, cool weather or no. No problem; I would start from scratch with the same pattern and a different yarn. What to use? Ahh, silk, of course!
I scoured the Internet for silk yarn, and finally decided on Claudia Handpainted Silk Lace yarn in a yummy combination of shades of soft coral to a light red, called MiMi Melon. Isn’t it beautiful?
On July 26, I ordered the yarn, opting to pay a chunk more money than usual for shipping so that I could get it as fast as possible, because ordering yarn delivered from the US to Canada can, for cross-border reasons, take up to a month (not to mention that I normally choose the cheapest shipping option, which is always slower). This time, however, I wasn’t taking any chances.
The wedding was set for August 23, and I needed to be finished by August 21st so that I could get the thing washed and blocked before we left on our trip to the wedding site.
By the time it showed up, I had two weeks remaining before the wedding and was practically living at the front door with my knitting needles poised for action, like a racer at the start line – having realized, perhaps just a titch late, that I had set myself quite a deadline: two weeks to knit the thing, from start to completed wrap, for really only the third time in my life, and using a complicated (for me) pattern.
Oy vey, what had I gotten myself into now?
You know those famous bricks that people tend to evacuate under stress? Yeah, well, that was me….
It never once occurred to me that I could possibly rethink the whole accessory thing and simply buy a stole. No siree, not me. When this gal makes up her mind, she goes for it!
I had already calculated the number of row repeats I would need to complete the stole, and divided this number by the number of days available to knit, so I knew about how much had to be completed each day before I could stop until tomorrow. I had also cleared the decks, told my wonderful, patient husband the plan, and gratefully accepted his offer to leave meals and the like in his capable hands.
Because I like to spread out when I work, a bed is the very best place of all to knit. I usually sit tailor-fashion, surrounded by all my accoutrements, graphs, pens, spare yarn, and instructions, and away I go. So, arranging everything around me as usual and taking a deep breath, I launched into the project.
False start. Five hours later, I had to rip it out and begin again. The second time things went more smoothly and I began to get into the rhythm of it. Basically, I knitted; I ate; I slept; I knitted. For fifteen days I knitted an average of eight hours daily. And along the way, I made the following discoveries:
- Knitting eight hours a day, even with breaks, is hard on the neck and shoulders.
- Silk is slippery!
- Wooden needles are a blessing and a joy to use, especially with slippery yarn.
- Using stitch markers to separate pattern repeats, and counting stitches RELIGIOUSLY, saves much tinking – and time.
- Never pay attention to the way unblocked lace looks. It’s a dog’s breakfast until it’s blocked.
- It is possible to be a little too picky about your knitting. Try working to strict deadlines to solve this problem.
- The human brain can concentrate far longer than it’s given credit for.
- It’s possible to begin knitting again – coherently – twenty seconds after opening your eyes in the morning.
- Do not try to knit lace with your eyes closed.
Finally, on the evening of Day 15, I kitchenered the one edging bit that needed to be attached to the body of the stole, soaked it in Eucalan, spread it on the floor on blankets, blocked it, and left it to dry.
I could hardly believe it – the project was done! I felt like dancing, but I was too tired. I don’t know how professional knitters do it – this stuff is exhausting!
Anyway, it turns out I had knit 57,798 stitches over 121 hours. That’s no speed record, I know. I’m just not that fast a knitter, especially when I spend a healthy part of that time tinking back stitches. But the important thing was, I was DONE!
[By the way, just so you know, I don't ordinarily count the number of stitches in a project. This is not to say that I'm not anal, because I am pretty persnickity - but even I haven't reached that point quite yet.
No, I actually started logging my times because I had to find out how many hours it would take me to knit x number of rows so I could calculate whether or not I'd be able to complete the project on time; and I just kept on logging out of curiosity to see just how many hours it would actually take to knit the thing from start to finish.]
Here are two photos of my FO, which I now call my Wedding Wrap, and which I wore with great pride at my daughter’s storybook wedding:
To be honest, I’m not sure how soon I’ll be undertaking another knitting project with silk yarn, much as I adore the look and feel of it. You see, I’d completely forgotten having read that silk has no memory; and for someone who’s accustomed to working with merino wool, which immediately jumps back into shape after being stretched, it was a surprise for me to see how silk lace stretches….and stays there until you stretch it in the other direction.
Nowadays my Wedding Wrap is serving as a scarf, which will likely remain its role until I pass it on to my girl. I’m not much of a stole person, really - it doesn’t exactly go with a t-shirt lifestyle….
And that’s the story of my 57,798 stitches and what they became.