Saturday, September 19, 2009

Back to the Blog, Part I: Beaded Lace Lovelies


I knew the start of classes was going to curtail my blogging activities to a significant degree. That's why I issued a warning in mid-August to the effect that soon thereafter I would have to stop posting quite so much. But I still can't get over the fact that this is really the first chance I've had in *over a month* to update my blog.

Yikes. The time REALLY got away from me, didn't it?

It's no great mystery how or why it happened, though, because the onset of a new school year is always frightfully busy for those of us in the teaching profession. The hiatus itself was perfectly natural. I just never thought it would last so long.

But I'm back now, so let's not dwell on the past. Fortunately, the fact that I haven't been blogging for the last several weeks doesn't mean that I haven't been knitting. Indeed far from it!! I've got quite a bit of progress to report — enough for at least two separate postings. So here we go with the first batch: BEADED LACE.

I currently have two quite gorgeous beaded lace projects going: the Magic Carpet Ride Scarf by Susan Pandorf of Sunflower Designs and the Ostrich Plumes Stole by Anne Hanson of KnitSpot.

I started the Magic Carpet Ride first, because it calls for both main methods of adding beads to knitting — stringing them onto the yarn in advance and using a crochet hook as you go — so that I could learn the ropes and get some practice before setting off on my own. I had already bought two skeins (= 880 yards) of KnitPicks Shimmer in the "Galaxy" colorway (now sadly no longer available), which is an entrancing mix of dark purple, lavender, and burgundy. The beads are from EarthFaire: 8/0 silver-lined extra dark smoky amethyst. They blend *perfectly* with the colors of the yarn, adding a marvelous wine-dark glimmer that catches the light with a subtle but unmistakable glow. There are quite a lot of beads in the bottom bands of the scarf (where they will show to greatest effect), with a single row running up each side edge all the way along as well, to frame the entire rectangle.

The scarf is knitted in two separate halves that will be grafted together in the center using Kitchener stitch or the 3-needle bind-off. I am currently nearing the end of the first half, which will be finished before the first skein runs out, so there is a good chance of leftovers and perhaps even a pair of fingerless mitts to match the scarf before all is said & done. The intricate Arabic or Turkish-inspired lace pattern is what first drew me to this design. It changes every few dozen rows, creating a LOT of welcome variety. Scarves can be terribly monotonous... I have tinkered with the original design a little bit here & there, by adding a couple of pattern repeats where I liked a particular motif and wanted more of it. In point of fact, I got a bit carried away in the main body of the scarf, where a lozenge motif is supposed to give way to chevrons. I kept going too far with the lozenges, and will probably have to rip back a few inches to make room for some chevrons without adding too much length to the finished object. It's a very fast knit at this point, so I won't lose much sleep — or even much time — by taking a little day-trip to the frog pond.

Here are some pictures. It can be tricky to get the lighting just right so that the beads will show up (& flash complicates matters!!), but I am pleased with how this batch of photos turned out. The first two were obviously from the early stages of the project. The second two are current, with the scarf nearly half done. As always, just click on any one of these images to get a closer look...

And now here is my "Parisian Ostrich" (what else could I call it??), using Yarn Market's Impressionist Zazu from Twisted Sisters in the "Paris Rain" colorway (see previous post for more details about the yarn). I added beads to the original bead-less lace pattern according to my own fancy, once again using a combination of the pre-strung and crochet hook techniques. The beads themselves came from EarthFaire in two different types: 6/0 sparkling celery lined crystal AB and 4x7 mm sparkling celery lined crystal long magatamas. The match between yarn and beads on this one is particularly dramatic and wonderful, especially since the yarn changes colors rather dramatically according to the lighting. Electric light (including camera flash bulbs) seems to accentuate the olive green tones, whereas natural sunlight brings out the the teal and navy blue. But the beads — with their pale green lining and shiny crystal bodies, some round with an Aurora Borealis coating and others clear with the elongated magatama shape — stand out beautifully no matter what. The first two pairs of photos were taken in natural light, and the last pair using flash, to illustrate the contrast. Of course you can click on any of them to get a closer look.

Y'know... There are so many delightful beads out there in the world, and pairing them with just the right yarn (or vice versa) reminds me of food & wine: endless possibilities for the connoisseur to savor. When I first started working with beads, my spouse expressed some very real anxiety about what would happen to my purchasing habits, and our family budget, with the addition of this new category to my list of knitting supplies for which I am continually on the lookout. But happily so far those fears have not yet materialized.

In addition to the beads currently in use, I have acquired about a half dozen different colors/sizes to have on hand: two teals (one 6/0 matte and the other 8/0 shiny), two shades of lilac/purple in the 8/0 size (one light and one medium dark), a "merlot mix" of various dark reds that I simply could not resist, and some silver-lined clear crystal magatamas that are the perfect neutral and will go with anything. These beads are all in "my" colors, so I am obviously keeping my eye out for yarns that will coordinate with them, but there's no deadline and NO HURRY, just the promise of many pleasurable hours yet to come.

Temptations are everywhere, but I am really trying to be a good girl and not spend too much money (at least not all at once). Over the summer I went on quite a little buying spree with both yarn and patterns, and what I acquired should easily hold me for QUITE a while, especially with teaching and other professional responsibilities limiting the amount of time that I can spend knitting in any given day/week. So right now the Parisian Ostrich is on hold temporarily, because I ran out of the 6/0 beads and need to order more. I wanted to work on the Magic Carpet Ride for a while anyway (eager to finish the first half of the scarf), so this seemed like a good opportunity to delay further expenditure. I am waiting until October 1st to place another EarthFaire order. :-)

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