I have a lot to say about this knit. For just the stats, see below the next picture, and then just scroll through for the photos [clicking on any of the photos will take you to flickr for the full photo shoot, which was done in 40-degree weather at a monastery, and I still wonder what the nuns who could see me in the courtyard from their windows must've thought....]. Otherwise, grab a cup of joe and settle in. This will be lengthy. Consider yourself warned.
yarn: Handmaiden Sea Silk, “Straw,” roughly 880 yds.
needles: Addi Lace, size 3
notions: 4mm silver-lined crystal megatamas, from Earth Faire
size: 22″ x 73″
started: 1 August
finished: 6 November
verdict: my masterpiece so far. I have never made anything so beautiful. I love it.
While I was there, a yarn I had seen online but never in person caught my eye – it was Handmaiden Sea Silk. And the colorway that really beckoned to me was “straw” – a lovely, shimmery, perfectly variegated golden. It reminded me of Little Buddha’s hair.
I had no need for a megahank (600m) of silk yarn. It was pricey. Extravagant. Not sensible.
I bought it.
It felt like a very celebratory, life-affirming kind of thing to do. But I still didn’t know what I was going to do with the yarn. Enter Ravelry. A search for what others had done with Sea Silk turned up many lovely options. But it was Sivia Harding’s Gothic Leaf Stole that really got in my head. Blackbun was working it in Sea Silk with 4 mm megatama beads. That sealed it – I would make this stole, with beads, and would wear it with my bridemaid’s dress at our niece’s wedding in November.
I cast on at the beginning of August, and would have coasted to the finish had I not allowed myself to be sidetracked by several other knits along the way. In the end, I had to practice an uncharacteristic knitterly monogamy, as well as a characteristic panic and last-minute finish.
The pattern is simple yet elegant. It was exactly what I was looking for – something that would be lacey while still allowing the yarn to shine. I really wanted to highlight the subtle variations of the Sea Silk, which I thought a lacier shawl might not do. This was the perfect pattern for this yarn. And the beads kicked it up another notch. They also added considerably to the amount of time it took to knit, but it was WELL worth it.
I joined Sivia Harding’s yahoo list (and the Gothic Leaf KAL there), and I would highly recommend this to anyone knitting any of Sivia’s designs. She is so accessible, and very quickly responds to any questions anyone has about any of her designs.
In addition to learning how to knit with beads, I learned a few new techniques with this knit, all of them Russian.
- Russian join. This was the join Sivia recommended on the yahoo list. It took me a few tries to really get it, but I was so pleased when I did. A great, invisible join, with no ends to weave in.
- Russian bind-off. Also recommended by Sivia. There are a few different ways to execute this – you can knit it, purl it, or knit through the back loop. After experimenting with the options, I chose to knit through the back loop. It gave a great finish to the stole, and I thought it most closely mimicked the cast-on edge.
- Russian wire-blocking (links to KP blocking wires which includes a link to a pdf tutorial). This was the biggest surprise of my experience – how easy and quick it is to block lace this way, and how superior the results are. I spent a ridiculous amount of time my first go-round, blocking with pins like I usually do, trying to get everything just right, only to discover I still had tiny scallops around the edges. Then I ran out and bought blocking wires at my LYS (they had one set in stock – the same set that KnitPicks sells). I had always been daunted by the idea of blocking with wires or string. I was truly surprised by how simple it was. And the results were perfect.
This knit was an exercise in “doing it right” – a new thing for me, honestly. As I’ve mentioned before, My Old Man calls me Miss Approximate. I’d usually rather do something fast than perfectly (this sometimes includes approximating facts, in which case perhaps my nickname would better be Miss Exaggeration). But this time, my investment was too large to consider cutting any corners. The money, the time, the event – all of these merited my listening to the little voice in my head that cautioned me to “do it right” anytime I considered letting a mistake go.
Which is not to say there are no mistakes. There is one pattern repeat where I inadvertently skipped a row and didn’t realize it until much later. It made one set of beads one row closer to another set of beads than anywhere else in the stole, so I definitely can spot the error anytime I look for it. But it was too far back (and I should admit here that I did not use a lifeline) for me to tink back. Also, the saga of running out of yarn did not end as perfectly as my previous post might’ve indicated. Though I did purchase the second megahank from Knit Nouveau (yes, that sound you hear is my wallet screaming), and though it did match more closely than the hank I had ordered online in hopes of matching “well enough,” it definitely was not an absolute match. In the end, one third of the stole is, to my eyes, a lighter gold with browner notes than the other third. My Old Man did not find it nearly as noticeable as I did. And in the end, there wasn’t anything I could do about it. “Doing it right” ended up meaning “doing my best” not “doing it perfectly.”
That was good enough for me. I adore it, and am rather proud of it, and will always have happy associations with it – affirmation of life after near-disaster, celebration of love and marriage and family, and a personal challenge to do my best. Thanks for enjoying the ride with me!