Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mathematix shawl, knit again

These two shawls are enough to give a gal double vision. The optical illusion created by the slip stitch chevrons coupled with the slight difference in color intensity makes the first one look like a shadow of the second.

Now that I've knit two near-identical shawls, I'm ready to answer the obvious question ("Why?") along with the less obvious ones. As I knit the second one, following my Mathematix pattern, I was checking the pattern, looking for errors and possible modifications. I started with an easy mod by choosing to knit the eyelet section with a single strand of lace weight Alpaca 1 by Isager Strik.

As soon as I saw that some of the projects on Ravelry are knit in fingering-weight yarn, producing a lighter, more delicate shawl, I was envious. I reasoned that since lighter looked nicer, maybe lightest would look nicest.

The result is a lace section that sharply contrasts with the heavier slip stitch portion. Visually, it almost disappears. The blue Alpaca 1 is doubled stranded in the rest of the shawl so that it matches the weight of The Sheep Shop's Wensleydale Longwool, a fingering weight, woolier yarn quite different from the dk-weight silk and alpaca blend I used for the original.

It is crispier, with just enough drape to curve nicely around the neck. The itchiness is a little different in feel, but both shawls are itchy to my sensitive neck. However, I enjoy a little scratchiness on a cool day and find both shawls comfortable and nicely warming. The main difference between the two is the actual weight of the shawls. The dk version is heavier, drapes more and tends to slip and slide around. The wool/alpaca version is lighter, stiffer and stays put. Neither is bad, just different. I like the feel of the silk and alpaca version as much as I enjoy the lightweight warmth of the woollier one. I'll admit that I find the original more attractive. It has a wonderful sheen and color. However, I'm fond of the second one because it helped me work through several questions about the pattern. Thanks to the second shawl and the Knitty editors, the errata was incorporated into the pattern.

Even though I started this in a hurry, using what I could find in my stash to get right to checking the pattern, I slowed my pace after the first repeat of the chart. Since I was basically through checking the pattern, I began re-thinking the design as I knit, intrigued by the changes I saw other knitters make as they knit this shawl. Another point of view can certainly open doors, as well as raising questions.

The biggest puzzle for me in the slip stitch portion was how to include new stitches into the pattern. Originally, I didn't see a lot of options there. Since other knitters have gotten into the pattern, I realize there are options even when following the 24-stitch repeat, mostly in determining when to slip stitches--right next to the yarn over, one stitch over from the yarn over, or only when two stitches can be slipped together at least one stitch away from the yarn over. Although I handled them a little differently in this shawl, trying to move the new stitches into the pattern more quickly by slipping a single stitch one stitch away from the yarn over, I'm not sure that I don't like my more conservative approach in the first shawl better. My intention there was to only slip stitches if I had a pair to slip. The result was fewer of those "eyes" you see at the center of the shawl in the first photo here, and longer stripes at the edges and center.

Actually, if you look closely at either of the shawls, you will see I wasn't totally consistent in my decisions. I mention that only to show that this shawl will have a dramatic impact even if it isn't totally perfect.

Once I was finished with the repeats of the main pattern, I moved on to the transition rows, which are designed to allow the pattern to flow into the vertical stripes of the border. I was pretty happy that the movement of the pattern is obvious.

However, as I knit through it again, I saw that I might be able to improve it. I think moving the slipped stitches over in rows 3 and 4 would produce a more consistent line of vertical contrast. It would mean moving the stitches that form the cross in the center of the A shape to the sides of the A, leaving a vertical line at the center and connecting the short verticals into the A. I'm not completely sold on that approach. As I said, it is a question of design.

Another niggling detail has to do with the border.

I first knit the turn of the border around the point of the triangle with just 16 rows. Then I ripped it out. It was very obvious that it requires a minimum of the 20 rows I specified to allow it to lay flat. In fact, once I had knit it correctly, I ripped back again. I squeezed in a few more rows off the point to make sure this wool, which had plenty of elasticity, would turn the corner well.

As I knit the shawl, the elasticity of the longwool convinced me that it would never be as big as the original. Happily, I was wrong. They are the exact same size.

Mathematix shawl pattern is published in Knitty.com

My Ravelry page for this shawl project

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