Like many of Sharon Miller's exquisite designs, the Princess Shawl was inspired by a museum piece: to wit, a wedding gift made for Alexandra, Princess of Wales, in 1863. On her website, Sharon dubs it "one of the most complex Shetland lace patterns ever offered." This project therefore enjoys a certain notoriety in the lace knitting world, and one can safely regard the process of completing it as a rite of passage. That is certainly how it felt for me.
I finished the first row on Pearl Harbor Day (December 7th), 2007, and the last row on May 9th, 2009 — almost exactly 17 months later. Through the seamless, organic design of the pattern, the penultimate step before washing and blocking the fabric was to graft together those same two rows, the first and the last, as invisibly as possible. There's poetry in that, yes?
By my calculations, the shawl contains 698,888 stitches, not counting any of the tinking and reworking that inevitably became necessary from time to time along the way. Those periods of retrenchment (for lack of a better word) would no doubt place the total number of knitted stitches at well over 700,000.
The yarn that I used was Gossamer CashSilk, with Addi Turbo circular needles in US size 000 (1.5 mm). This buttery soft and mind-bogglingly fine-spun fiber (70% cashmere, 30% silk) can be purchased direct from the designer's website in an ever expanding range of light and dark colors. I am HOOKED on it, and have turned to it for several of Sharon's designs. This time I chose the yummy rich shade of dark red called Burgundy. Photographs just don't do it justice.
Each demure little 25 g skein of the CashSilk contains 725 m. I used up 7 of these, and it was my brother who pointed out to me that we are talking about OVER THREE MILES of yarn in a single piece of lace fabric.
But enough statistics. This shawl was a grand adventure and no mistake. My various milestones, as well as the trials and tribulations, were amply documented by the messages and WIP photos posted by me to the Heirloom Knitting Yahoo Group. I go by "Miriam in S Indiana" on that forum, for readers who may be curious and find that they can spare the diligence and effort required to investigate further, but I would not even want to try to recreate the whole saga in detail.
Instead, I will give the Princess her due in this venue by recapping a few particularly choice excerpts from the final stages and the aftermath of completing this vast project. Perhaps they should each have a separate post.