Saturday, June 5, 2010

Evenstar Mystery KAL II: Patterns and Progress

Picking up with the Evenstar, right where I left off...

In Phase II, at the end of the previous post, I was getting the hang of the circular shawl business and becoming convinced that the "Blue Glass" Shimmer would indeed prove to be a worthy yarn choice. My shipment of cobalt-lined sapphire AB beads had arrived, and I started referring to the work-in-progress as "The Blue Thing" in my knitting bag. I do love the mixture of 70% baby alpaca and 30% silk. It feels marvelously loft and luxurious against the skin, and it has a subtle sheen too that really makes the colors glow.

This was my first mystery KAL, and I have enjoyed it immensely. One or two minor typos caused HUGE consternation on the Ravelry forum, especially, as near as I could tell, among relatively novice lace knitters who could not act otherwise than to do exactly as they were told and abide by all written instructions to the letter. A few individuals got extremely upset and frustrated, and were vocal about it. Yet I have to say for myself, as a veteran of decoding complex charts and "reading" my own lace fabric, that I never had the slightest trouble figuring out what the designer intended, regardless of what the pattern may have said. So I did my best to tune out all the forum drama and set myself to relax and savor the knitting process, an effort that was certainly rewarded by Susan's marvelous design. In fact, once past the initial stages, when I could (a) put away the dpn's and switch to a steady and reliable circular needle and (b) stop worrying about the color-pooling and trust my instincts in choosing the right yarn, I found the whole experience to be really and truly as uneventful and *soothing* as one could ever wish.

For purposes of the KAL, the body of the shawl was carved up into 6 incremental clues that arrived at two-week intervals from mid-February until the end of April, followed on May 7th by the final clue for the edging. Taken as a whole, however, the actual pattern consists of a two-tiered floral design (= clues #1-3), surrounded by a ring of elegant arches and filigree (= clues #4-5) and crowned by the triumphant return of the iconic Evenstar motif (= clue #6) that had appeared in two places near the center of the shawl and was first introduced in the pattern for the swatch (see previous post). The beaded edging is a straightforward example of the type, knitted perpendicular to the body of the shawl and taking up the live stitches one by one as it works its way around the circumference. So I will not belabor the blow-by-blow account from here on, concentrating instead on the main structural elements: flowers, arches, and edging.

Phase III: Stars & Flowers
As I have said, the center of the shawl was simple plain knitting between increase rounds. Then the "real" lacework began. By the end of the first clue, not only was the setup for the pi-shawl circle complete, but there were already two staggered rows of Evenstars as well, framed by simple triangles that soon blossomed, through the second and third clues, into an elaborate floral design. The outer ring of flower petals was framed by a delicate mesh pattern that Susan borrowed from the work of master lace artist Herbert Niebling. Six rounds of garter stitch at the end of clue #3 marked the boundary between this phase of the pattern and the next.

Each clue arrived on a Friday afternoon, the first at 6 PM EST and the subsequent ones at 3 PM, in deference to west-coast knitters bewailing the time difference. By the end of the second clue, the knitting really began to take on some momentum for me. I soon made up for the time that I had lost at the beginning, and I managed to stay caught up with the release of new clues all the way to the end. Indeed I finished almost all of the clues by mid-week and would turn to other projects to fill the time before the next one came.

Here are my pictures of the floral pattern as it emerged. I find that the photos of this shawl taken using flash tend to bring out the lace pattern more, because of the sharp contrast between light and dark areas, whereas those relying on natural light show off the colors of the yarn to best advantage, so the collection will include some of each type. As always, click on any of these images to get a closer look.

Phase IV: Elven Arches
After the flower petals, the fourth clue took some folks by surprise, because instead of a great big chart, this time we were given a simple pattern 20 stitches wide x 4 rows tall, to be repeated 28 times around the circumference of the shawl (now 560 stitches) and six times vertically, for a total of 24 rows. By the end there were columns of k1p1 ribbing alternating with some diagonal filigree work that was not quite the same as the Niebling mesh from the previous clue but coordinated nicely with it. The knit stitches in the ribbing were all twisted to enhance the sense of structure and depth in the columns. The designer had been broadcasting hints about the architecture of Rivendell from the LOTR movies, and I could clearly tell that we were indeed witnessing the birth of some lovely archways. Sure enough, in clue #5 the pairs of columns gracefully bent inwards toward each other to form the arches, and in clue #6 I was delighted to see the Evenstar motif come back to shine above them around the rim of the shawl, whose body was now complete.

This next series of photos will show how the pattern gradually emerged: first the columns and filigree appeared, then the pointed archways, and at last the Evenstars. As always, click on any of these images for a closer look.

At the end of clue #3 — just in time for the start of the Rivendell architecture — I went up a needle size to the 3.25 mm (US size 3), and I was soon very glad that I had done so, because the slightly looser gauge really helped to open up the arches, which would otherwise have been inclined to pull inwards as a natural effect of the k1p1 ribbing. This was quite frankly my favorite phase of the pattern. I particularly enjoyed the rhythm of the twisted ribbing and the balance of solidity and airiness in the archways. They seemed to embody Tolkien's conception of Elven artistry and the Elven character perfectly: graceful and slender, strong and noble, stalwart and elegant, and quietly, strangely, sad.

Phase V: Beaded Edging
And then it was done. All of a sudden, before I could even quite believe it or grasp hold of the fact, the seventh and final clue had arrived, and the Evenstar KAL entered its last phase, as we all began working the beaded edging around the outer rim of the shawl. I knew from previous experience that this was going to be a long haul and tried to warn some of the others that it would take time, especially for those who went along with the suggestion of placing the ~3000 beads one by one. Make no mistake: this task called for patience and perseverance above all else.

I had wondered since the beginning, both inwardly and out loud, how Susan would manage to squeeze that many beads into a mere 56 edging points. It was not hard to do the math and realize that each point had to contain ~50 beads, which seemed like an *awful lot*. But everything became crystal clear (pardon the pun!!) as soon as I saw the actual pattern, with its 5 concentric rows of beads zig-zagging around the circle. It is by no means the most complex or elaborate edging that I have ever seen, but it does an admirable job of framing the design, and the beads add an element of sparkle that is *impossible* to ignore. Click on either of these pictures to see what I mean...

Naturally, being so close to the end, I am eager to complete the shawl and especially to see how it will look after blocking, but I must admit that have not been in any great hurry to finish the edging. I did the first four points in one sitting on the same day that the clue was released, so that I could get a sense of the wave pattern and see how the beads would look in situ, but then I actually laid my Evenstar aside for a while and allowed myself to get distracted by other ongoing projects. Recent blog entries will testify to the wide variety of things that have been vying for my attention lately.

Only this past week did I get back to the business of placing all those beads. Progress is slow even now, but I have made my way about 30% of the way around the circle so far. I find that there is a limit to the pace that I can reasonably adopt, though, because I cannot stay focused for more than 3 or 4 points at a time. Those little 8/0 beads are tricky buggers to let loose on the world. If you don't watch them like a HAWK, they start bouncing around all over the place and getting into merry mischief, like the Cornish pixies in Gilderoy Lockhart's classroom. :-)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for writing this up -- and thanks for what you say in this posting especially, you know what I mean! Hope finishing it goes well, but you're certainly off to a good start.

    Best regards