Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Swallowtail Shawl -- much enlarged and almost complete

Elly asked me a few weeks ago what I'd decided to do with my 'Swallowtail Shawl'. Well, at the time she asked the truth was that I still wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do, which is why I'd already started to put in lifelines at strategic points.

The good news is that things have progressed since then, and my Swallowtail Shawl is now almost complete. :)

So... What did I decide to do in order to turn the original scarf-sized shawl into the huge, wrap myself in 'Sea Silk' shawl I was sure was hiding inside the original pattern, just waiting to be set free?

Firstly... As I wanted a shawl which would appear to have a similar stitch density to that of the original shawl when it is blocked -- I definitely didn't want an ethereal, barely there version of it knit on huge needles -- I decided I would knit my shawl on 4.00 mm needles (I actually used my US 6 KnitPicks Options circular needles) and would work on it with the idea that the finished shawl would require around two hanks of the 'Sea Silk' yarn (a total of 200g and 800m), which is double the amount of yarn the original shawl required.

As I mentioned in my earlier posting, I did the calculations and discovered that if the 'Budding Lace' section of the shawl is made bigger by working multiples of 5 extra repeats of the 'Budding Lace 2' chart (30 rows), then the stitch count will still work perfectly for the start of the 'Lily of the Valley Border 1' chart. At that time, I had just finished 19 repeats of the 'Budding Lace 2' chart (5 more repeats than are required in the pattern), and had threaded a lifeline through the stitches at that point as it still didn't look to me like the finished shawl would be quite big enough and I wanted to see how another 5 repeats of the 'Budding Lace 2' chart would look. (255 stitches)

After I completed those 5 extra repeats (24 repeats of the 'Budding Lace 2' chart in total), I was a lot happier with the way things were looking for the finished shawl, so I threaded a second lifeline through at that point and moved on to the 'Lily of the Valley Border' at last. (315 stitches)

More decisions needed to be made at this point.

I decided that I would work 3 of the 'Lily of the Valley Border' 10 row blocks.

There were a few reasons for this decision. Despite the fact that my calculations showed that working 4 blocks would have made the stitch count exactly right for the start of the 'Peaked Edging' chart, I felt that 4 blocks would have made the 'Lily of the Valley Border' too wide for the rest of the shawl, and that it would also have resulted in the shawl using more than two hanks of 'Sea Silk'. Aside from that, aesthetically I thought 3 blocks would look good, and superstitiously I don't like building the number 4 unnecessarily into the things I knit. So 3 blocks of the 'Lily of the Valley Border' it was, and I left the problem of finding the extra 4 stitches I'd need to start work on the 'Peaked Edging' chart as something to be dealt with later.

Speaking of aesthetics... I realized at this point that the 'Lily of the Valley Border 1' chart would not provide as attractive a lead in at the centre spine of the shawl to the 'Peaked Edging' as the 'Lily of the Valley Border 2' chart did in the original shawl. So instead of just working Rows 3-12 of the 'Lily of the Valley Border 1' chart a second time after the completion of the 'Lily of the Valley Border 2' chart as I'd originally planned, I decided to do this instead...

Work Rows 1-2 of the 'Lily of the Valley Border 1' chart.

Work the 'Lily of the Valley Border 2' chart.

Work Rows 3-12 of the 'Lily of the Valley Border 1' chart.

Work the 'Lily of the Valley Border 2' chart a second time.

Despite its cobbled together appearance, I did do all the maths and had proved to myself that everything would still line up perfectly with the border worked this way before I started work on the 'Lily of the Valley Border'. :)

For what it's worth, I finally had to join in the second hank of yarn at the start of Row 2 of the 'Lily of the Valley Border 1' chart.

Apologies in advance for the next two photographs -- it turns out that not everything photographs well using my really weathered, just about to fall apart, 20+ years old, jarrah wood table as a background after all ;) -- if you click on the photos though, things should be a little clearer at least in the larger versions of the photographs.


And here is a close up of the centre edge of the shawl...


I think this photo is just good enough to be able to make out the first few nupps of the 'Lily of the Valley Border' -- my very first nupps! :) The black threads are the lifelines, by the way.

The next three photographs were taken using a couple of sheets of white cardboard I found lying around the house as a background. The shawl is a little cramped on them -- which is why I'd originally chosen to take the previous two photographs using my weathered, outdoor table as a background -- and none of the cables available for my KnitPicks 'Options' circular needles were long enough at this point to spread the shawl out to its full glory anyway, but at least the stitch patterns are showing up clearer here than they did in those previous two photographs.

At the time these three photographs were taken, I'd just started on the final repeat of the 'Lily of the Valley Border 2' chart...


Zooming in closer to reveal a bit more detail...


And closer still...


Once I had finished working the final block of the 'Lily of the Valley Border', I threaded a third lifeline through the stitches of the shawl as I knew I'd be doing quite a lot of experimentation on the next section. (379 stitches)

As I said earlier, I really needed to make a decision at this point as to where the extra 4 stitches I would need to work the 'Peaked Edging' chart would come from.

My original thought was that it might be possible to gain those additional 4 stitches by adding an extra 2 rows to the 'Peaked Edging' itself between the essentially pattern-free original Rows 1-2 of the chart and where the actual lace pattern starts in Row 3.

The first thing I tried was this...


... which basically just completes the second arch over the scallops of the edging, and seemed like it would be the least intrusive thing to try. The reality, though, was that it created very obvious triangles of knitted fabric above where the points of the scallops would eventually be, which were made all the more stark by the sloped stitches which bounded their lower edges.

In an attempt to break up the appearance of these triangles, I unravelled the shawl back to my lifeline and gave this a try...


While this did indeed break up the appearance of triangles, it also had the undesirable side effect of producing too solid a row of holes, which made a very obvious break between the 'Lily of the Valley Border' and the 'Peaked Edging', and in my opinion really disturbed the way the stitch patterns all work together in the shawl.

So... I unravelled the shawl back to my lifeline once again. As a final attempt, and to satisfy myself that I really had exhausted all the obvious possibilities here, I gave this a try...


Although this was probably the best of the three -- certainly, I worked more rows of the edging for this one than I did for the other two before I finally abandoned it -- I really didn't think it looked as good against the rest of the shawl as the original edging did.

So I unravelled my shawl back to the lifeline one last time, and finally gave up on this idea.

Even though I worked them on rows that were around 400 stitches long at the time, I don't regret for a moment spending the time trying out these three possibilities on my actual shawl rather than on a small swatch. Seeing them against the whole shawl really made it clear to me that even though there was nothing wrong with any of them as strategies for leading into the edging and getting the stitch count to the right number to work the remaining rows of the edging, they just weren't going to suit the finished shawl as well as the original edging on its own would.

(For anyone who is wondering... I didn't take any photographs of these three versions of the edging as basically I ripped them back to the lifeline as soon as it became clear to me that each of them wasn't going to give me an edging that would look the way I wanted it to -- the rows were around 400 stitches long by then, after all -- and I really didn't think photographs of the edgings at the points I abandoned them at would useful enough to be worth waiting around for the lighting conditions to be suitable to take them.)

So I finally arrived at the conclusion that the best course of action would be to work the 4 increases into the first row of the edging using the best strategy I could come up with to make them as invisible as possible.

It was reasonably obvious to me that I should spread the 4 increases out as evenly as possible over the row, so I decided to work 2 increases on each wing of the shawl, with the increases being worked so they occurred approximately one third and two thirds of the way along each of the wings.

I eventually decided that a 'Lifted Increase' worked to line up with and slope sympathetically with a decrease ridge in the 'Lily of the Valley Border' would stand the best chance of blending in with the rest of the shawl -- I was particularly concerned that many of the methods for increasing stitches would result in either an obvious hole or a stitch with a different appearance to those surrounding it, which would only be emphasized further by the stretching of the stitches which would occur once the shawl was blocked.

I was actually very pleased with how the increases turned out when I worked them this way, so I continued on with the remaining rows of the 'Peaked Edging' chart.

So here I am at last, with the 'Peaked Edging' chart completed and just the final few rows to work to finish off my shawl. (403 stitches) I currently have just 24g of my original two hanks of yarn left, so it looks like deciding not to work an extra 10 rows of the 'Lily of the Valley Border' was the right decision.

As my shawl is now too large to photographed in any meaningful way using the two sheets of white cardboard as a background, I've experimented this time with spreading a few light coloured towels over my jarrah wood table, which appears to have at least given me a background with enough contrast so some of the details of the shawl can be seen...


And here is a close-up photograph of the edging, to show the stitch details a little better...


For some unknown reason, the nupps I spent so much time working on aren't showing up in these photos anywhere near as well as they are in real life even with the shawl in its unblocked state. I have my fingers crossed that when I'm finally able to take a photograph of my completed and blocked 'Swallowtail Shawl', those nupps will practically leap off the screen. ;)

I haven't included a close up photograph of the increases I worked to make the stitch count correct for the 'Peaked Edging' chart in this posting as they're currently being obscured by the lifeline I ran through the shawl at the end of the 'Lily of the Valley Border', but I'll try to remember to take one when the shawl has been completed and blocked.

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7 Comments:

At 8:29 pm, January 17, 2007, Blogger knitabulous said...

Oh my god, I bow down before your superior mathematical and spatially aware brain. That was a fantastic technical post - thanks for sharing!

 
At 10:50 am, January 20, 2007, Blogger Kerry said...

Absolutely breathtaking!!!

 
At 7:59 pm, January 20, 2007, Blogger Janette said...

That's absolutely gorgeous Pamela. Congratulations. I love the look of the HandMaiden Sea Silk, but the expansion you have made on the Swallowtail is just amazing. I hope you don't mind too much - I've mentioned your site on my blog.

 
At 1:24 am, January 21, 2007, Blogger Roxie said...

Janette sent me over here, and you just knocked my socks off! That shawl is stunning! I do hope you will enter it into contests, because it is surely a prizewinner. Bravo on your dilligent work and wonderful creativity!

 
At 9:03 pm, January 22, 2007, Blogger Kate said...

Swallowtail 101 - this post is a valuable resource for anyone attempting this pattern - and the end result is stunning. Well Done.

 
At 12:24 am, January 26, 2007, Blogger Reluctant Penguin said...

Brilliant! I made a Swallowtail for a gift and would have liked to make another for myself, but it is just too small. You have given me the help I needed to do it. Thanks a million.

 
At 11:37 am, January 31, 2007, Blogger Lara said...

Beautiful - can't wait to see the finished shawl in person.

 

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