Knitting Too Close to the Sun

Well, I’ve done it. It took almost two years but I finally finished the Icarus Shawl yesterday. I think it came out quite well, don’t you?

Icarus Shawl, done in hand-dyed laceweight from Abstract Fiber in Portland.

I have to admit that this was at times the most frustrating and difficult knitting project I’ve ever taken on. So many things were new on this one – I had never read a chart before, and had never worked with laceweight yarn before. The whole process was a bit like alchemy because I was just following the chart and hoping that the end product would be right. With it scrunched up on the needles, I couldn’t really see whether it was right or not until after it was finished.

Then, I washed and blocked it. This was like magic. It started out as a wet wadded up ball, and as I spread it out, the beauty started to appear. Here is how it looked when blocking:

Blocking in the morning sun. Note how you pin out the points so they dry that way. It was amazing to see this develop as I spread it out.

Of course, I had to take one close-up so you could see the stitch detail in the edging.

Close-up of the stitch detail. Reading this part of the chart almost made me blind.

I learn something in pretty much every project I do, but this project taught me a lot. Here are some of the things that I learned. Hopefully it will be helpful to you, too.

1) Persistence pays off. I had six false starts on the beginning of this shawl and kept ripping back until I had the spines perfectly straight. It was painful but in the end, it was worth it, because this wouldn’t be nearly as lovely if the spines were crooked.

2) Don’t be afraid to take on something that’s above your skills. When I started this, I had never knitted lace before and I had never read a chart. In hindsight, I’d have looked up how to read charts. (That was a mistake that involved tinking almost 1600 stitches to fix). The knitting world is full of people and resources to help you if you get in over your head.

3) Be patient. This project had to go into hibernation several times when it got too frustrating for me. It took probably two years to finish, all told. One of the things I noticed was that I was learning things from my other projects that benefitted me on this one, so when I came back to it, I had new skills to help me through.

4) Have faith in yourself. This was a huge stretch for me but I figured it out. EZ is right, knitters are smart people.

5) You have to get creative sometimes to solve even basic problems. I got this all done, dragged out the blocking boards, and quickly realized that it was too big for the blocking boards to work. So, a bed sufficed, even if it did mean displacing a Westie from her favorite morning napping spot for a couple of days.

It’s been a big week around here with all this finishing going on. I’m also almost done with the Tappan Zee cardigan, which has been my take-along knitting and was a great respite from this complicated lacework. As the pile of WIPs goes down, I’ll be needing to cast on new things.

What about you? What are you planning to cast on this fall?

Credits: Icarus Shawl by Miriam L. Felton. Available here if you want to knit it yourself: Hand-dyed yarn in colorway Hepburn from Abstract Fiber in Portland, Oregon.

Later this Week: Mardee goes all geeky fan-girl over knitting celebrities Franklin Habit and Drew Emborski. Plus, a few fun stories from Stitches Midwest. Stay tuned.


5 thoughts on “Knitting Too Close to the Sun

  1. Jean says:

    Yay Mardee!!!!!! be proud of yourself, I know how vexed you were about this project… you should wear it to knitting tonight

  2. Gorgeous shawl. I love the colorway. I would never have guessed it was your first time with lace and charts, way to go!

  3. Dana says:

    Simply said, it’s beautifully done! Congrats!

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