The Queen Is Dead; Long Live The Queen!

Get ready. Wait for it. Wait for it.

The Spider Queen Shawl stretched to dry

I stretched her hard enough that I had to use a couple of paperweights to keep the blocking boards from buckling, and she’s about 53 inches square. When I unpin her and she relaxes a little, she’ll probably lose an inch or two, but, still, she’s a nice size for a square shawl.

Here’s a closer look at the center. The difference in the color is due to some of the shawl being over the carpet while the rest is over the blocking boards.

The Spider Queen center close up

She no longer looks like something my cat horked up.

Here’s a close up of one of the corners. I’m very pleased with how my corner attachment technique turned out.

The Spider Queen Shawl corner

Oh, and here’s a picture of my newest project, a Clapotis scarf knitting in my very own handspun, Cool Madras BFL from Corgi Hill Farm.

Cool Madras Clapotis Scarf

I’m using a 4mm Aero circular and it’s knitting up really quickly. The pattern is very simple and easy to memorize, and the yarn is heavenly. I can’t believe I made the yarn myself. 🙂


A Weekend of Knitting And Football

So, the mighty Mountaineers of West Virginia University beat the Maryland Terps on Saturday. And on Sunday, my beloved Buffalo Bills managed to win over the hapless Pumpkin Heads Cleveland Browns. But, sadly, the Stillers managed to give away their game to the Raiders.

All that football means a lot of knitting, and a lot of knitting means that the knitting is done.

The Spider Queen knitted but not blocked

I used six balls of Jamieson & Smith Cobweb with just a little to spare.

I hope to dress The Spider Queen later this week. I can hardly wait to see her stretched out in all her glory.

After finishing the arachnid on Saturday, I went to work on the Show-Off Stranded sock #2.

As you can see, the heel has been turned, the gussets worked, and the foot is progressing nicely. There is no stranded knitting whatsoever in this pattern, so I really don’t get the name. The pattern really should be called the Show-Off Passed-Over Socks because the pattern consists of doing a yarnover, knitting two stitches, and passing the yarnover over the two stitches that were just knitted. 🙂

Time for a new project. Maybe I’ll knit up some of my handspun.

Football Means Knitting!

College football has completed week two, and the NFL season is now underway. And that means I have been knitting my ass off. Okay, it really means that I have spent a lot of time sitting on my ass knitting and watching football. 🙂

I’m way proud of my progress. The Spider Queen is nearing completion. The last border is nearly done, and the edging is coming up.

The Spider Queen still in the yarn vomit stage, but nearing completion

The regal arachnid should be finished before October arrives.

The Show-Off Stranded Socks are coming along. Sock # 1 is finished and sock #2 is underway.

And, the pièce de résistance, the Mystery Cable Socks are done.

What’s that you say, dear reader? You’ve never heard of these socks of mystery cables? That’s hardly surprising. These socks are kit from the sock-of-the-month club at, a kit that I got in December of 2004, nearly 8 years ago. I have big feet, and I ran out of yarn. Since the yarn was Cascade 220 Superwash, I wasn’t concerned. Even though I hadn’t gotten around to starting these socks until quite a while after I had received the kit, Cascade 220 is a very popular yarn that is readily available, so I could order more, right? Wrong! When I tried to order more, I discovered that this particular color of Cascade 220 was no longer available. Anywhere. And this was before Raverly, so I couldn’t search stashes or do an ISO (In Search Of). So I did what any self-respecting knitter would do. I stuffed the project bag into the back of my yarn closet and forgot about it.

Fast forward a few years, actually more than a few years. I’m cleaning out my yarn closet and find these unfinished socks. Just for the hell of it, I checked on the intertubes to see if maybe by chance this color of Cascade 220 Superwash was available again. Guess what? It was! So I ordered a ball figuring that the dye lot wouldn’t even be close. But it’s a pair of socks. It’s no big deal to rip back part of the foot and reknit it, alternating the old yarn and the new. But when the yarn arrived, I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the new yarn matched the old exactly. EXACTLY!

Sometimes the knitting goddesses are on my side. 🙂

The Royal Arachnid

Lately I’ve been blogging so endlessly about spinning, one might think I have been neglecting my knitting. One would be incorrect. I most definitely have not been neglecting my knitting.

I have finished the Brown Garter Rib Socks.

Brown Garter Rib Socks knitted for my DH from Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Kindling

My sock blockers are too small for socks I knit for the DH, but I think you get a pretty good idea of how great these socks turned out. And the most important thing is that the DH loves them. That’s really all that matters. 🙂

I’ve also started a new pair of socks that will probably be a gift for someone who is sock-worthy.

Show-Off Stranded Socks in Cherry Tree Hill Supersock in Birches

Yeah, that’s just the cuff in the picture, two inches of 2 x 2 ribbing instead of the one inch of 1 x 1 ribbing called for in the pattern. I prefer 2 x 2 ribbing on my socks, and I have settled on 20 rounds as being my perfect number. I actually have a couple of inches of the leg pattern finished, but I’m too lazy to take a picture of it right now, so you will just have to wait for an update from me. 🙂

Two great sock reports should be plenty of knitting content for one blog post, but I have more. Yes, MORE! The real star of my recent knitting is herself, The Spider Queen. The 3rd border is finished and the 4th begun.

The Spider Queen with three borders done

At this point, she looks like something the cat horked up. That is just the nature of lace knitting. It looks like a puddle of yarn vomit until it is washed and stretched to dry. That’s when the knitting gods and goddesses step in and, using a magic formula that I cannot begin to fathom, transform the knitting into something beautiful.

Of course, while I give the knitting gods and goddesses credit for the beauty of my knitted lace, it is I who does all the work, who puts in all the effort, who actually does all the stretching and pinning that makes the transformation happen. It’s my back and my knees that hurt during and after the process. Come to think of it, the knitting gods or goddesses don’t do jack. Everything that happens is the result of the metaphorical and sometimes literal sweat of my brow. Ha! All the credit goes to me, the knitter, the person who washes and stretches the lace! No gods or goddess are involved, no magic, either.

If you recall, I didn’t want to seam up the corners per the instructions for the shawl because I think the sewn seam looks, um, less than lovely, so I adapted a technique from EZ’s Stonington Shawl. I was a little worried that the corner wasn’t going to be stretchy enough, but those fears turned out to be groundless. Once the borders were joined, the corners stretched like crazy. All in all, I’m very pleased with the results.

The corner join unstretched


The corner join dry stretched

I don’t know whether I will have Her Royal Highness finished by the end of the month, but I should be darned close. I am enjoying making this shawl. I have yet to get bored with it, and that is unusual for such a large project. I think that working on borders individually and adding the edging as each border is completed breaks up the monotony of knitting seemingly endless rounds of border and rows of edging.

The Jamieson & Smith Shetland cobweb-weight yarn is wonderful to work with. It is very strong for such a thin single. My yarn has broken only four or five times so far, and only because I yanked on it way too hard. The knitted shawl is very, very, very stretchy. (Am I allowed to use that many verys in one sentence?) I am dying to get this shawl finished just so that I can see the magic transformation from hairball to lace happen. It should be a spectacular sight.

The Spider Queen Progresses

I’ve been spending so much time lately knitting, learning to spin, and reading, that I have neglected to keep you, my dear reader, up to date. Well, that changes today.

I haven’t written much about my Spider Queen Shawl lately, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been neglecting her. To the contrary, I’ve been making steady progress on her. I decided to just plunge ahead and cross my fingers trust that my not-very-stretchy  yarn-over corner edges would be fine once they are joined to the other borders. I am not doing this entirely on blind faith and wishful thinking. I borrowed this technique from EZ’s Stonington Shawl and it seems to have worked just fine in my still-unfinished version of said shawl which resides somewhere in my knitting pile. (Let’s not go there.)

The first two borders of The Spider Queen are completed, and border #3 is under way.

The Spider Queen, unstretched, with borders 1 and 2 completed and border 3 started

The Spider Queen, unstretched, with borders 1 and 2 completed and border 3 started

Border #3 is on the right. You can see the line of holes that is the Dewdrops band. Doesn’t the unstretched lace look a total mess? When the knitting is completed, the shawl will look like something the cat threw up. But when I wash and block it, magic will happen. Just wait and see.

Before I started working on the third border, I had to decide how to join border #3 to the other two borders. After giving it considerable thought, I decided that when I get to the end of the row, I would knit the last stitch of the row, knit up a stitch in the loop of the other border without twisting it, then slip the last stitch of the row over the knit-up stitch. I’ve only done a few joins, but I’m pleased with the results so far.

The join between the borders


The join close up

Once the yarn over has been joined, the corner edge is stretchier, so I’m hopeful this technique will work because I really don’t want to have to rip out and reknit three borders. But, mind you, I will if I have to.

I’m very much enjoying working the borders individually. The knitting seems to go faster than when knitting the borders all at the same time in the round. I know that this is an illusion because the number of stitches being knitted is the same regardless of the technique used. But, still, when you come to the end of the row after having knitted, say, 5 repeats of the pattern instead of 20 repeats, when a row is only 210 stitches, not 840 stitches, the knitting seems to go faster. And since the knitted-on edging is added as you go, the shawl seems to go even quicker. Normally, once all the borders are finished, there’s still the edging to do, and the edging always takes longer than you think it will.

I’m enjoying making this shawl so much that I haven’t even been thinking about my next shawl. And that has never happened. On lace shawl leads to another, and another, but right now, I’m just enjoying the knitting pleasure that is The Spider Queen.

In A Quandry

I’ve been making good progress on The Spider Queen Shawl. I finished the first border. I dry stretched the border and edging and took pictures. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out,

Close-up of border #1

so I started border #2. I have completed 8 rows of the second border, and I’m suddenly plagued with doubts.

I didn’t want to have seams at the corners of the borders, so I decided to adapt a technique used in Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Stonington Shawl. For the Stonington, increases are made at the beginning of each row by doing a yarn over before knitting the first stitch. This creates loops through which stitches are later picked up and knitted together with a stitch from the adjoining border, eliminating the need to sew the borders together later.

This technique worked very well on my still unfinished Stonington, but I’m terrified that it’s not going to work so well on The Spider Queen. The corners of my Stonington are very stretchy and I have no doubt that I will be able to block Stonington with no difficulty when it is completed.

But the corner edges of my Spider Queen are not nearly as stretchy as I would like them to be. I didn’t really notice this when I was dry stretching and pinning the border for the pictures.

Border # 1 dry-stretched and pinned

But I did notice it last night when I gave the corner a tug.

Now I don’t know what to do. Should I just keep on working border # 2, then knit and attach the other two borders, trusting that I’m just being paranoid about the corner edges?

Or do I start border #2 over again using a different (and as of yet “un-unvented” technique), then rip out border #1 and reknit it using the “new” technique? I won’t know whether the edge is stretchy enough as is until I finished border # 3 and dry-stretch the shawl.

I’d hate to do all that work only to have to rip it all out and start over. But I sure don’t want to rip the first border out and reknit it needlessly.

What to do?!?!?!?!?

Spider Queen Continued

I’ve been working a lot on The Spider Queen. Last night I started working on the second border chart.

The Spider Queen in progress

I figure it will take me another 10 days or so to finish the first border and edging. I rather like the way the crowns look.

The crown pattern in the border

Some knitters have made fun of the crown pattern, saying that it looked like Space Invaders, but I just don’t see it.

The Spider Queen Part 3

Shortly after I started work on The Spider Queen, I searched on Ravelry and Google to see whether I could find any information on how knitters who had knitted this shawl had handled the borders. I found photographs of some very lovely completed Spider Queens, and several unfinished projects on Ravelry. But the most interesting finding was the blog of a woman who is fairly well known in knitting circles. Her blog includes a lot of very good technical advice, and she is quite inventive. I was excited to see that she had tackled The Spider Queen back in 2007 because I thought that she had perhaps devised a way to knit the borders without having the ugly seams.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this knitter seemed to hate this shawl. Not only did she think the border patterns were so ill-chosen that she designed her own borders using different patterns, she claimed that the instructions given by Hazel Carter, the shawl’s designer, are wrong, wrong, wrong. She had worked a gauge swatch using the spider pattern from the center of the shawl and following Hazel Carter’s instructions to the letter. She posted a picture of the swatch, and it looks pretty awful. The reason for this, she claims, is that she followed the instructions to always read the center chart from right to left. Now, normally a chart written for back-and-forth knitting, as opposed to knitting in the round, is read from right to left on the right-side rows and left to right on the wrong-side rows. So she knitted another swatch reading the charts in the standard way and got much better results. You can see the pictures of her two swatches by clicking here.

When I found this blog entry, I was quite taken aback because I had already completed most of the first spider section of the shawl center. I had followed the instructions to always read the chart from right to left, and my results were exactly as intended.

The “spider” pattern in my Spider Queen center reading the chart from right to left on every row.

I don’t know where the other knitter went wrong, but it wasn’t the fault of Hazel Carter or the pattern. In fact, the pattern is totally symmetrical, and every row (except 3, 9, and 15) actually reads the same whether one goes from right to left or left to right. If a knitter failed to read the instructions carefully and missed the part where Carter says to read the center chart from right to left on every row and simply knitted the chart in the usual manner, the pattern would work just the same.

I suspect the reason Carter instructs the knitter to always read the chart from right to left is because there are a couple of rows that begin and end with a single decrease (k2tog), but the pattern repeats are separated with a double decrease (sl1, k2tog, psso), so she uses a different symbol for the last stitch of the repeat.

Anyhow, regardless of the complaints of other knitters, I have been happily knitting away on The Spider Queen and after completing two repeats of the center

Two repeats of The Spider Queen center dry-streched.

I’m very happy with how my always-right-to-left spiders look.

The Spider Queen “spiders” knitted according to the designer’s directions.

The Spider Queen Part 1

Many years ago, I bought a kit for Hazel Carter’s The Cat’s Day Shawl from Blackberry Ridge.  Like many of Carter’s designs, this shawl tells a story, the story of the a day in the life of a Shetland cat. The lace patterns used in the shawl all represent elements of the story. A Cat’s Day was the first Shetland-type shawl I ever made, and much to my surprise, it was not at all difficult.

The Cat’s Day Shawl

The yarn is a nice heavy-laceweight wool-silk blend that feels good against the skin and that wears very nicely. I’ve used the shawl a lot, mostly as a coverlet. It is lightweight and  perfect to use when napping in air conditioning or for layering with other covers when it is cold.

I love this shawl so much that I bought several other Hazel Carter kits from Blackberry Ridge, including The Spider Queen Shawl, which I think is dramatic-looking.

The Spider Queen Shawl by Hazel Carter

The Spider Queen kit includes Blackberry Ridge’s Thistledown yarn, a cobweb-weight single. The kit marinated in my stash for a long time because I thought it would be difficult to knit. You see, the lace patterns used for the shawl are the type that have pattern stitches every row. A lot of lace patterns alternate a pattern row with a row that is plain knit (or purl), and I have little difficulty with this type of lace knitting. But the few times I have attempted patterns that include pattern stitches on every row, I have given up in despair. My Melanie Shawl has sat untouched for years because I found the going incredibly slow due to the difficulty I had getting the pattern correct. So I guess it’s understandable that it has taken me a long time to work up the courage to tackle The Spider Queen.

But the lace patterns aren’t the only difficulty I had with starting The Spider Queen. Another reason I avoided The Spider Queen was because the borders are knitted individually, then sewn up. The seams look awful in the picture on the pattern, and I know that mine would probably look much, much worse, being that I really hate sewing up knitted pieces. I have to come up with a way to knit the borders without having those ugly, ugly, ugly seams.

But in spite of these obstacles, I had an overwhelming desire to knit The Spider Queen, so I took the plunge. The kit includes Blackberry Ridge’s Thistledown yarn, a cobweb-weight single. I cast on in Thistledown and started knitting away. I got this far before I stopped.

Thistledown is a yarn with great variation in its thickness (or thinness, depending on how you look at it), and I was not pleased with how the thick sections looked.

The Spider Queen in Thistledown. The fuzzy thick sections of the yarn ruin the appearance of the pattern.

There was no way I was going to put so much work into this shawl using this yarn. I wasn’t about to end up with bunch of fuzzy places ruining the ethereal appearance of my shawl. So I decided to order some Jamieson & Smith cobweb in natural and start over. The Thistledown will be used for some other project somewhere down the road.

When the J & S arrived, I realized it was even finer than the Thistledown, so when I cast on The Spider Queen for the second time, I went down a needle size. The J & S cobweb is also a single that has variation in its thickness, but the variation is considerably less than the Thistledown. In comparison to Thistledown, the J & S is nearly uniform in thickness, and it knits up beautifully without the difference in thickness being noticeable.

The Spider Queen in Jamieson & Smith’s cobweb. No fuzzy thick spots.

I’ve knitted one-and-a-half repeats of the center pattern so far, and I’m amazed at how quickly it has gone. Even though nearly every row includes pattern stitches, the pattern is easy to follow and the knitting is easy to read. I’ve had no difficulty whatsoever.

The Spider Queen 1.5 repeats of center

The Spider Queen dry stretched.

I have even been working on this shawl while watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s my lucky knitting, bringing good fortune to the Los Angeles Kings, who beat the Phoenix Coyotes last night to win the Western Conference championship, the Campbell Cup, and the right to face the Eastern Conference champion (either the Devils or the Rangers) in the Stanley Cup finals. Go, Kings!