‘Tis The Season

Yep. Hockey season is in full swing. The Pittsburgh Penguins had a rough go of it for a while, sustaining a 6-game losing streak, but stormed back with seven straight wins before the All-Star break. It’s amazing that they can play so well and win so much with all the devasting injuries the hockey gods have dealt them. Sid Crosby, the best player in all of hockey, played only a few games before suffering a recurrence of concussion symptoms, and no one knows when he will be back in the line-up. Kris Letang, the Pens all-star defenseman, was out for weeks and weeks with a concussion, but he’s finally returned to the line-up and is playing so well that he was invited to the All-Star game. But Jordan Staal is still out with a knee injury after missing half of last season with a foot injury he suffered during the playoffs of the season before that. And many other players have missed a significant number of games this season due to injuries. Injuries are a part of the game. Although the Penguins have suffered far more than their share of injuries, the team has continued to play pretty well thanks in part to all the talent they can bring up from their AHL affiliate, the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins, aka, the Baby Pens. The Baby Pens play the same system of hockey that the Pens use, so when players are called up, they fit right in.

When I watch hockey, I knit. The two go together like peanut butter and jelly, like vanilla ice cream and Hershey’s chocolate syrup, like hamburgers and French fries. Why am I suddenly hungry? LOL But knitting while watching hockey requires the knitting to be of the mindless sort, something that doesn’t require concentration or much attention. The action in hockey is pretty non-stop, which is very different from, say, football in which a play is run, then there is a break in the action before the next play. In hockey, the action stops only if the puck goes out of play, a goal is scored, a penalty occurs, the goalie loses his mask, the net is knock off its moorings, or a fight breaks out. And for those of you who think that there is a lot of fighting in hockey, um, NO. The number of fights in NHL games has been dropping dramatically and will probably continue to do so. The teams are so competitive now that they don’t have room on their rosters for fighting specialists. I am hopeful that the NHL is moving toward banning fighting. Oh, I enjoy a good hockey fight as much as the next fan, but I really don’t think fighting belongs in the sport. The “benefits” of fighting are far outweighed by the detriments, in my opinion.

So, what qualifies as mindless hockey knitting? Last year, during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I made hats. Hats are definitely mindless knitting. The year before, I made socks. For the most part socks are pretty mindless. But this season my hockey knitting has been a lace shawl. Most knitters wouldn’t consider lace to be mindless knitting, but mindless is in the eye of the beholder, and some lace patterns are simple and repetitive and thus qualify as mindless.

I would put the Sheelagh Shawl in the mindless category, even when knitting it in black, as I am. The pattern is deceptively easy, made up of lace stitches that are a snap to work if you know how to read your knitting, that is, you know where you are in the pattern by looking at the stitches from the previous pattern round. Knitting Sheelagh has been a bit of a saga. I explained how I started the shawl in a previous entry. I started out with 5 full skeins of Knit Picks Gloss Lace yarn in black, a full 2,200 yards of yarn, and didn’t even consider that wouldn’t be enough to finish the shawl. The edging used up almost all of 2 skeins, but I was still certain I had plenty of yarn. Even when I had used up the 3d and 4th skeins, I had no doubt. But when I started working with the 5th skein, I got that sinking feeling. I realized there was no way I’d be able to finish the shawl.

No problem, I thought. I’ll just order another skein from Knit Picks. Heck, it will probably be the same dye lot since it wasn’t all that long ago that I purchased the yarn. So I go to the K-P website and click on Gloss Lace and get ready to select “Black,” when my breath is taken away by the words, “Available soon.” Oh, no! I’ll have to wait a couple of weeks and the dye lot will be different.” But still, panic did not sink in. I would just keep working on Sheelagh until there was just a little bit of yarn left, enough to work several rounds so that I could alternate the new dye lot with the old so that it would blend in. Every day I would check the K-P website to see when the black Gloss Lace would be available. I mean, “soon” is relative, right? Finally, just when I had reached the point where I had to stop working on Sheelagh, I checked K-P and saw that they had a date when the black Gloss Lace would be available again–May 25. May 25?!?!?!?!?!?! I simply could not even consider waiting that long to finish Sheelagh. If I put her aside, I might lose my Sheelagh mojo, and who knows when I might regain it? What’s a knitter to do?

Running short of yarn on a project and not being able to get more is one of a knitter’s worst nightmares. But we now have a wonderful resource called Ravelry. I searched on Ravelry and found a couple dozen knitters who had black Gloss Lace yarn in their stashes. Several had the same dye lot as mine, and one knitter had finished her project and had a skein left over. I contacted her and asked whether she would be willing to sell or trade for the skein. She replied almost immediately, and she was willing to make a trade. So we made a deal, and a few days later, I had the yarn I needed to finish my shawl in my hot little hands, and she had a couple of balls of a very cushy, soft sock yarn. We are both happy, and it all happened through the magic that is Ravelry. And thanks to her, Sheelagh is now a finished object.

Sheelagh Shawl

Sheelagh Shawl completed

Sheelagh Shawl

Sheelagh Shawl edging and borders

Sheelagh Shawl

Sheelagh Shawl borders up close

Sheelagh Shawl

Sheelagh Shawl center


Bobble Bobble

When I was a very little girl, my dad asked me at Thanksgiving, “How does a turkey go?” My reply was, “Bobble bobble.” So it became a standard part of our Thanksgiving celebration that my dad would ask me how a turkey goes and I would answer, “Bobble, Bobble.” Last Thursday marked the 5th Thanksgiving that has passed since my dad died. I miss him very much. And my DH continues the tradition of asking me how a turkey goes.

This Thanksgiving was one of the best ever. The boy and his sock-worthy GF drove in from the Burgh on Wednesday and didn’t leave until Sunday, although they did go with the DH to Morgantown on Friday to watch the Mighty Mountaineers of WVU beat the Pitt Panthers in the Backyard Brawl. The GF is currently a grad student at Pitt, but she’s a WVU fan all the way, which is just one of the many reasons why I love her so much.

I didn’t go to the game. There was just too much football to watch on TV, and hockey, too. And you know what watching football and hockey on TV means. That’s right. KNITTING!

I have some progress to report. First, I finished the Froot Loop Socks. This is a great pattern that is a lot of fun to knit. It never gets boring; at least, I never got bored with it. YMMV. I did adjust the pattern to suit me and knitted it on 84 stitches with 2.5mm needles. When I was ready to start the toes, I decreased to 80 stitches by leaving out 4 of the increases in the close loop toe pattern. Then I worked a round toe. The yarn is Sparkle from Draygone Yarnes in the Prom Dress color way. Unfortunately for us sock knitters, Draygone Yarnes is on hiatus at the moment.

Froot Loop Socks

Froot Loop Socks

The pictures always make the socks look redder than they are. They are pink. Very, very pink.

I have been trying to finish up some WIP, but I’m an abject failure at this point. I just cannot motivate myself to start working on St. Moritz again or to restart the knitted-on edging of my Stonington Shawl. I managed to work a couple of rounds on St. Moritz before setting it aside. I guess I have to be in the proper mood to do stranded color work from complicated charts. For the St. Moritz, I have to work from two different charts, and it’s a royal pain in the you-know-what.  And I’m just not in the mood for knitting that’s complicated.

As for the Stonington, I have tried two different edging patterns so far, and I don’t like either of them. So I have been searching for just the right pattern. I don’t know whether I’ll find it. I’m not very enamored of the Stonington technique. My shawl is going to be really small, and because of the way the borders are knitted, I cannot enlarge it by simply continuing to knit the borders. I’m considering ripping the borders back and reknitting them in the round, but that might be a little too drastic. Besides, the yarn I’m using is very sticky and ripping out is an even bigger pain than the St. Moritz charts. I’m mulling over the idea of picking up stitches around the edge of the shawl and knitting a second border, then doing an edging. But to be honest, I’m just not feeling this yarn or this shawl. At this point, I’m perfectly happy to let it marinate in its project bag and hope it improves with age.

But I do have the lace shawl itch, and it’s an itch I just have to scratch. I haven’t made a lace shawl in a while (Stonington doesn’t count), so I decided to start one. In black. Much to my surprise, I’m not finding the black yarn difficult to work with, even at night. Having settled on a yarn, Knit Picks Gloss in lace weight, I had to find a pattern. After searching through dozens of shawl patterns, I decided to try the Magickal Earth Shawl from A Gathering of Lace. I planned to substitute a different pattern for the unicorn section. I’m not a big fan of unicorns. I charted out my substitute pattern and even bought beads for it. I got out the yarn and needle and went to work.

The Magickal Earth Shawl is a square shawl that is is knitted from the outside in, that is, you knit the edging first, then pick up stitches along the edging and knit the rest of the shawl towards the center, decreasing as you go along. I’ve never knitted a square shawl this way; I have always started in the center or with a center square. It’s fun to try new-to-me techniques; this technique is actually an old one that was and still is used by knitters of traditional Shetland shawls.

I started to work on the edging, but I was having a difficult time following the chart. Normally I prefer knitting lace from charts, but this chart was giving me fits for some reason. The edging consists of two separate patterns, one of which is repeated four time, the other three times, combined into one chart. And maybe that’s what was throwing me off. But I think the main problem is that the chart is in really small type, and I was too lazy to scan it and enlarge it. Instead, I got out Gladys Amedro’s book Shetland Lace

Shetland Lace by Gladys Amedro

Shetland Lace by Gladys Amedro

because I knew she used the same edging on one of the shawls in that book. No, I don’t have a super-great memory. Shetland Lace was one of the books I looked through when I was trying to decided on a lace shawl to start. The directions in Shetland Lace are written, not charted, but they are written in a type of knitter’s shorthand that is very similar to how I break down row repeats in lace patterns. I have found Amedro’s pattern much easier to follow than the chart in AGOL.

The Magikal Earth Shawl edging happens to be identical to Amedro’s Sheelagh Shawl. And the Sheelagh Shawl

Sheelagh Shawl

Sheelagh Shawl

is one that I have been wanting to knit for many years. So my Magickal Earth Shawl has morphed into Sheelagh.

I am close to having 3/4s of the edging done.

Sheelagh edging

It’s always surprising how long it takes to knit the edging of a shawl, whether it is the first part knitted or the last, but I have been progressing rapidly. Once the edging is done and I have picked up all the stitches, the rest of the shawl will go quickly because it will be getting smaller and smaller.

Sheelagh edging up close

Sheelagh edging up close

So far I am loving the Knit Picks Gloss lace weight yarn. I made a sweater in Gloss fingering weight a couple of years ago and liked working with it. The sweater still looks good although the yarn has fuzzed a little. The Gloss is not quite as nice as Zephyr, but it’s definitely one of the better yarns in Knit Picks’ arsenal. The pattern calls for cobweb yarn on 3.0mm needles. I’m using 3.0mm needles, but my yarn is lace weight. This size needle results in a solid-looking stocking stitch, which is what I prefer. If the pattern were garter-stitch, I would use a larger needle. But only a small part of the edging is garter stitch. The rest of the pattern is stocking stitch. The edging is very stretchy, so I think I will end up with a large shawl even though I’m using lace weight yarn instead of cobweb. When I get the edging finished, I will definitely do the happy dance, but knitting it is quite enjoyable.

There’s a lot more going on, both in knitting and in football and hockey, so stay tuned. 🙂