Saturday, July 5, 2008

Circular Shawl Knit Along and News From the Farm

I've been working on a circular shawl this summer. To be honest, I just started last week, but it's coming along nicely and will be done by the end of the summer. I attended a conference for 4 days and had lots and lots of time to work on it during the break out sessions, so it's further along than I anticipated. I did my first one three years ago and it's by far my favorite knitting project. I knit a lot in the car, at swim meets, and such, and a circular shawl is so convenient to take along. You can't lose your a needle because you use a circular needle for most of the work, the knitting forms a nice little sack for the ball of yarn and the project offers a nice balance between mindless knitting and mild challenge. I learned this pattern from Elizabeth Zimmermann's book, A Knitter's Almanac. For anyone who would like to knit along, I'll give some detail of how it progresses.

The pattern is based on the principle that the diameter of a circle doubles as the circumference doubles. If you're not mathematically inclined, don't be intimidated. It's very simple once you've been through the first few increases. In fact, it's so simple that I think it's a much better beginner's project than the scores of cell phone covers and fingerless mitts that are seen in the beginner's pattern books.

You'll need a set of 5 dpn's, although you'll start on 4, increase to 5 dpn's and then transfer to a circular. It sounds complicated, but it's really not at all.

I cast on 9 sts. and joined them on 3 dp needles, 3 sts. on each needle. Be careful not to twist the sts. Knit one round. This first round is frustrating, what with the needles sliding around and only a few stitches. It can be the undoing of a new or easily frustrated knitter, but stick with it and the rewards will be worth it. I had to start over twice myself. Just be sure to rest the needles on your lap while you get through this first round so your needles don't drop to the floor and roll under the table or slide down the couch cushions. (The voice of experience...)

After knitting the first round, the stitches should be firmer on the needles. Double your sts. by (yo, k1) around - 18 sts., 6 on each needle. Don't forget that yo at the beginning of each dpn. It's easy to forget, so keep that in your mind as you increase. That's the first increase round and this is where we begin the geometry of the thing.

Knit 3 rounds straight and then double your sts. again by (yo, k1) around - 36 sts. Arrange the sts. on 4 dpn's so that you have 9 sts. on each needle. Knit 6 rounds straight and double your sts. again to 72 sts. Do you see the increasing pattern? Double your sts. and double the number of knit rounds. You'll go on to double your sts. to 144 and knit 12 rounds, 288 sts. and 24 rounds, and 576 sts. and 48 rounds. You shouldn't need to knit more than these 48 rounds, which would mean increasing to 1152 sts. and 96 rounds, but I suppose it's possible. You're creating a perfect circle and I suppose the size of that circle is only limited by the supply of yarn and patience. When the shawl is the size you want it to be, stop.

Transfer your work to a circular needle whenever it gets big enough. I transferred mine onto a 12 inch circular at 72 sts.

About the time you are knitting the 12 rounds you'll be thinking how plain the knitting looks, unless you've chosen an interesting novelty or painted yarn, of course. This is the time to start a stitch pattern. Any stitch pattern that is divisible by 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, 18 or 24 will do. Look in your stitch pattern books or look online at some of the stitch libraries. Most will give directions for flat knitting and will say that a pattern is worked over a certain number of stitches + 1, or +2. When knitting in the round, you can eliminate those extra stitches (+1, +2) and just concentrate on the main pattern. The repeats will follow one another very neatly as you go around. As a challenge, choose more than one pattern and place a different pattern in each space between the increase rows.

You may also choose to play with color during the knitting. Again, look at some resources or come up with your own patterns and choose something that will fit into the stitch count with no stitches left over.

If you like, choose no patterns at all and knit calmly along in stocking st. until the very end. You will have a lovely piece when you finish with concentric circles of yo's that will make it look lacy and beautiful. If you don't like the look of yo's, you can double your stitches by (m1, k1) or by (kfb, k1). However you choose to do it, just remember to double your sts. and then double the rounds beginning on the very next round.

For my piece I chose a raspberry alpaca in sport weight. I tried a lace weight, but it was much too flimsy for me, as I'm a little heavy handed. Best to know your limitations, I think. I'm using size 6 needles and a 12 inch circular. I'll have to move up to a 16 inch circular as the thing grows, but I don't think I'll need more than that. You may want to use a longer circular so you can see your pattern more clearly as it grows. I'm estimating that I'll use between 1000 and 1250 yards of yarn so I have five 250 yd. balls of the same dye lot.

After I had 36 sts., 9 on each dp, I started a variation of a simple razor shell lace pattern. I adjusted the pattern to fit one repeat on each needle. [ k3, yo, slip 1, k2tog, psso, yo, k3] This gives 6 sts. of plain stocking stitch between the yo's, which is not ideal, but it worked for me. It's a 2 round repeat, with the second round being plain knit. I continued the same pattern after the next increase round and the transfer to the circular needle. I adjusted the placement of the pattern to line up with the previous yo's. You don't have to do that. You can just begin knitting the pattern as you did before the increase round, but know that the yo's will be offset, rather than in a neat column.

After the increase to 144 sts., I started the Old Shale pattern. Since it's an 18 st. and 4 round repeat, it fit in perfectly. Keep in mind that if a pattern doesn't fit you can adjust it to fit or increase one or two sts. in each pattern repeat to accommodate it and no one's the wiser. This shawl pattern is very forgiving and blocking works absolute wonders in the end.

So here I am, at the end of my 24 rounds and right at the point of increasing to 288 stitches. And here it is again after the increase to 576 stitches and things are moving along really well.

After the final rounds, we'll be putting on a sideways edge so that we don't have to cast off all of those stitches. I'll wait to post about that as we get to that point. So get busy on that circular shawl and we'll compare notes soon. You have some sticky bits to get through and then the knitting just sails along.

As a side note, Bethy is working on her next doll. She chose Jean Greenhowe's most famous doll, Sam Scarecrow, to go with her baby scarecrow. I'm also working on writing down my pattern for the amigurumi alpaca. There've been lots of requests for that.

I've just acquired a new book featuring toy designer Alan Dart. I stumbled across the one and only copy at the local Borders store by accident. I'd never heard of him before, but his knitted toys are to die for. It's such a great book that I searched the internet for another to give as a gift, and it's quite hard to get a copy of. Hopefully, we'll be turning out some of his designs soon.

Finally, this is my latest teddy bear. He's kind of a "bear in the buff" for now, as I've not gotten around knitting him, or her, some clothes. Good thing it's summer. We've been planning a teddy bear knit along and I think we'll do one of these little guys.

Finally, more cupcakes are appearing almost daily. Abigail made these little gems in honor of her sister's return from a week at camp. I think she missed her just a little bit...


Kathleen said...

Argh! Those cupcakes look so YUMMY!!! Abby, you're such an icing artist!

The teddy bear is cute! Different, though, than the traditional chubby teddy.

The shawl! Hmm...You're right, it forms a little bag right there inside the needles. I'd like to see more pictures as the piece progresses. It looks interesting!

Debra in France said...

Hi Wooly. Glad that you have got some time to do something nice for yourself.

I started reading the knitting instructions enthusiastically, but got lost very quickly! I all sounds like another language - I am used to knit 1 purl 1! Although I did knit an arran jumper many years ago, I haven't done anything for about 10 years.

I can't wait to see how your shawl develops.