Thursday, August 11, 2011

Unst Stole: Inching Forward

The Unst Stole by Sharon Miller (Project #7 in Heirloom Knitting) is currently my longest-standing WIP, and after 2+ years I am eager to finish it up as soon as I possibly can. But, as Treebeard would say, Let's not be hasty... It's not really up to me anyway. This project insists on setting its own pace, because it is incredibly painstaking, and anytime I try to rush, or work on it under less-than-perfect lighting conditions, or when I am tired and/or not fully alert, I always live to regret it. So, frustrating though it may be, I have learned and must continually remind myself that slow-and-steady is the ONLY way to make any real progress. It will all be worth it in the end.

Fortunately, I have managed to devote quite a bit of time to the Unst lately, so there are some very encouraging results, although my hope (wish??) from this earlier blog post that it might actually be done by the end of summer will almost certainly prove to have been overly optimistic. By the end of the year is more like it, or maybe before the snow flies. We'll see. At any rate, the good news is that I can now report (with pictures!!) on all three sections of the pattern: center, borders, and edging.

I. Center
It took me three tries with two embarrassingly long hiatuses in between to get through the 476 rows of my modified center pattern, but on May 1st I finally reached that point. I did a total of 9 repeats, beginning and ending with a framing band of mirrored ferns and alternating in the middle between the original pattern and an adaptation of the Shetland Twins motif. Here's an old picture of the bottom frame and the first several repeats, plus a new one showing the entire center. Click on either thumbnail to get a closer look.

II. Borders
The Unst borders have always been my favorite part of Sharon Miller's design. There is something about the delicate lace trellis with its different diamond motifs, each of which is distinct and yet beautifully harmonized with the others, that I find utterly captivating. My one complaint is that the 136 rows of the original charts are over too quickly. That's not a lot of yardage, especially at the tiny gauge that I get with Gossamer CashSilk and 1.5 mm (US 000) needles. So for my stole I decided to double the length of both border panels, which should dramatically showcase the trellis/diamond pattern when the piece is worn.

Below are three photos to illustrate exactly what I did, since I did not simply repeat the charts as written. The top photo shows the frame separating the border from the center below it, and the beginning of the first border panel. In the lower left you can see how it looked when both charts were complete (June 6th). According to the original design, the body of the shawl would have stopped there. Note that there are 5 full diamonds in the trellis, each containing a different pattern (ABCDE), with half-diamonds above and below. I replaced the motif in rows 1-11 (i.e. the bottom half-diamond) with the more symmetrical/rounded one found on p. 218 of HK, and also wrote out a chart to complete the half-diamond at the top (F), which enabled me to continue the trellis with the original series of diamond motifs in reverse order: ABCDE-F-EDCBA, ending with the substituted 11 rows once again. The result is perfectly mirrored and balances nicely. I finished the 1st border panel on June 18th, and was amazed at how effortlessly my two-year-old provisional cast-on allowed itself to be unraveled so that I could start the 2nd identical panel, which I FINALLY finished on July 17th, bringing the stole to 70% completion, with only the edging left to round the whole thing off. As always, click on any of these pictures to get a closer view. I recommend this for the largest one in particular, which does not show up very well on a small scale.

III. Edging
Make no mistake: the edging may feel like an afterthought to the body of the stole, but it is a MAJOR undertaking all by itself, representing 30% (i.e. nearly 1/3!!) of the stitch-count for the project as a whole. The original Unst stole edging with its boxy squares in garter-stitch has always struck me as rather clunky, so I went hunting through Heirloom Knitting again and chose a more delicate pattern that seemed to strike just the right note. It is called the Queen’s Lace Edging (HK, p. 129) and fortunately has the same 20-row repeat as the original. It already includes a strip of faggotting along the inner edge, but I decided to incorporate the spider-hole insert from the original design as well.

A kind friend on Ravelry helped me do the math, which came out to a satisfyingly even total of 150 points: 20 across each of the short sides and 55 up/down the long sides, with sufficient ease before and after each corner to make the turns and still lie flat. The same Ravelry friend also advised me to go ahead and pick up stitches all the way around the stole on a long circular needle — 1420 of them, to be exact — to which the edging could then be attached. This took the better part of a day and was an ENORMOUS headache at the time (I won't pretend otherwise), but all that work up-front turned out to be a terrific investment. The Big Win was that it enabled me to double-check the spacing and stitch-counts and make minor adjustments in advance, rather than trying to do this on-the-fly and quite possibly having to rip out portions of the lace itself if something went awry. Now that I have all the stitches neatly held in reserve with markers at intervals to help me count, I no longer have to worry about whether the spacing will come out right and can therefore concentrate on the actual knitting, which poses enough of a challenge all by itself.

This third and final series of photos contains a close-up of the first 3 edging points, a wide shot of the entire stole, showing all the stitches bunched up on the circular needle with markers every 20 stitches along the edges and every 10 stitches near the corners, and finally my most recent picture showing the first *10* edging points (= halfway across the first short side).

The Queen's Lace is a 20-row repeat, as I mentioned, and the spider-hole insert is a 6-row repeat, so they line up together only occasionally (i.e. once after 1.5 repeats of the main pattern and again after 3 full ones). It's intricate and fiddly, with the added complication of working left-handed (chart dyslexia, anyone?). I think there's just a learning-curve and that it will speed up once I get the hang of how everything fits together. But I've been at it for several weeks now and still haven't turned the 1st corner, because I kept having to rip out bits. Two steps forward, one step back. Yesterday after yet another minor setback, I did manage to knit three or four points in a row without mishap, so maybe it will finally start to go more quickly from now on. That would certainly be nice, because at the rate I've been going so far, I estimate that it would take another 8 MONTHS or more to finish. Sigh. Clearly, no matter what, this edging is going to be with me for quite a while. Slow and steady, slow and steady, slow and steady...

No comments:

Post a Comment