The Trouble with Life Lines....

So I finally made my foray into lace knitting. It really wasn't supposed to happen, you know. I was going to knit things I could use. Scarves. Hats. Socks. Especially socks. You know, MANLY things. Okay...the socks came out bright red and green striped, and there's that German Sock Yarn thing...okay, and the "Susan Scarf" I did for my mom. But Not Lace Shawls. Heavens no, that is just a Little Too Much.

And then you look at something, and the pattern, the structure strikes you, and you think, "I wonder how that actually goes together? How does that motif actually form?"

So, (all in the name of science, mind you), I decided I'd knit the Swallowtail Shawl. I have to admit it was really enjoyable, and interesting, watching what each k2tog does, what each yo becomes, how one "bud" closes as the ones in between are opening.

I even enjoyed the Lily-of-the-Valley border, with its profusion of nupps, which I'd feared at first. They'd started out being a bit tight and tortuous at the beginning despite my efforts to "keep it loose," and then (after I realized that because I wasn't anchoring that yo after the nupp wraps, it was pulling tight) became a piece of cake, and even fun to do.

I dutifully put in a lifeline before starting the Lily-of-the-Valley border (aka nupp-a-thon), figuring that it would be a great place to screw up. I didn't.

After the nupp-a-thon comes a straight knitting and purling row, with the exception of a yo after the border and on either side of the central "spine." Easy! I'll have this thing finished today! But I thought, "Let's not be too cocky, I'll put in a lifeline just in case." So in it went, I did the two rows (following my lifeline and feeling more and more confident as I went), then went for the first row of the lace edging, a very simple, repetitious pattern. And guess what! I got to the spine, and there were not enough stitches left for me to finish it. Arrrrgh..

So I counted. there were indeed stitches missing. Strange though, because I'd been using my purl rows as a "double-check" opportunity, and everything had come out perfect. Now it was difficult to check them again with two rows of knitting on them. "Wow," I thought, "Damn good thing I put in that lifeline!" I ripped back to it, re-inserted my circular. Before I started knitting again, I decided I better count the stitches. So I did...and found that there were stitches that I'd missed as I threaded the lifeline in, and they hadn't been knitted, somehow. (Why? Weren't they still on the needle? You know...thin cashmere-y's all a haze). Thankfully the yarn was a bit sticky and they hadn't actually "gone" anywhere. My numbers were correct.

So, I knit my straight knit and purl row again, did the first row of the simple repetitious border, got to the central stitch missing.

I counted - right amount of stitches. Checked the knitting. I'd done it right. Could the pattern be wrong?

I was close to ripping back again, when it dawned on me - I'd been so gung-ho on the two simple knit and purl rows that I'd forgotten to add the yo on either side of the spine. Luckily I was able to do a little "surgery", pulling up a yo from the line below and adding a stitch with the already-in purl line.

Then took off again on the easy, repetitive sequence. A quick opening sequence, then k2tog yo k3 yo ssk k1. I flew along it, got to the end of the row...and....too many stitches for the finish sequence. Checked back...oops...somehow I'd done a k2tog yo _k1_ yo ssk k1 back there, in the second sequence.

Ah, the joys of tinking. 119 stitches. On the bright side, I did devise a new way to tink a ssk. One that is not in any way more efficient than the normal way. It's just different. I might need that information some day. Finally knitted back over it, and I've never in my life been so grateful to see 3 stitches waiting where 3 stitched ought to be!

Wow, thank God I put in that lifeline....

(The shawl really should be finished in a day or so, and I'll post it once I find a place to block the damn thing!)


Joe-in Wyoming's picture

So now, we can say you are a knitter....Not really. You always were a knitter, it is just that you decided to try lace. And it is practical: If you need a light wrap for a chilly evening or a friend has bare shoulders and feels a draft, you can lend it to them. Or, a gift for a good friend or charity. [That's where my last lace project went.] The main thing is that you enjoyed it and learned some good things while knitting it. Take care. -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Kerry's picture

Well done Bob.I find knitting is such an interesting learning curve.

superi's picture

Watch out! You think you can only do one but lace is addicting. Before you know it another one is going to catch your fancy and all you're going to think about is yo and decreases.


potterdc's picture

What a wonderful read on a Friday night! Thank you!

Think less, enjoy it more.

YarnGuy716's picture

Ah, the conundrum of being a man who loves lace knitting. Welcome to our dark cadre. Fortunately I have young female cousins of the marring age who have been promised a lace shawl for their wedding. Giving me the opportunity to knit lace and have it go to a deserving recipient.

Simpawknits's picture

I just finished my first lace project and your story sounds just like mine. It's amazing how you can knit along and get the right numbers and suddenly you have two extra or two missing stitches from somewhere. Congrats on your first lace!

TheKnittingMill's picture

Your sentiments drudged up memories of my first lace project--Mario's gorgeous QAL pattern! Ambitious much? (Incidentally, Mario is the reason for my lace addiction) I'm glad you persevered! I've knit Swallowtail twice and it's such a beautiful pattern. Congratulations and I can't wait to see photos!

Tom Hart's picture

Jonathan in the district of C said it for me. Nice postage!

bobinthebul's picture

It is funny how you can fly along with a fairly complex pattern (and with nupps, oh my!) and then get completely waylaid by something as simple as a row of knit stitches and 2 (forgotten) yarnovers. And stitches dropped from a lifeline. And a simple pattern.

It's all addictive really. Except maybe dishcloths. The problem with starting a new genre is that you do one, and then you see others that you want to try as well, but you already have a list of "want-to-do"s from your previous new thing (lots of socks out there...and now I might have to incorporate lace into them, who knows). There's still felted projects to do. I did a sample piece (that now serves as my most efficient potholder) and it's been cropping up in my mind ever since.

One problem I don't have is who to give lace projects to! I can think of 5 women right off the bat who I'd love to give the shawl to, and who'd doubtless be happy to receive it!

I am enjoying knitting this and am seriously thinking of doing another one in another color.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Dishcloths are my go-to travel projects [along with socks] because they are pretty mindless knitting and make great host gifts. Or, like when I was traveling to New York, a gift to a woman who was astounded to meet a male knitter. -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

bobinthebul's picture

Hehe, there's a great gift to an astounded woman. "Here, have a dishcloth, go make yourself useful." (*ducking*) ;)

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

That was good for a chuckle. However, in her case, she was going through some drama with her adult son and the gift really helped perk her up and let her know she was valued. Never met the kid but he sounded like a real jerk. As to 'useful'...most women of my acquaintance would tell you where to put the dishcloth for a comment like that. :-p -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

akkamaddi's picture

The first time I ripped back to a lifeline, I swear I heard hosts of angels singing. I've since told someone that if it wasn't for lifelines, I would have stopped knitting. Every project I work has a minimum of two lifelines I leapfrog.

My personal choice is the raw hemp cord from craft and hardware stores. It is rough enough that it doesn't move and slip. It is also thick enough that if you knit two stitches together, it will not get pulled through/down like thread.

gardenguy42's picture

My hat is off to you sir! I have a shawl that's been on the needles for over 2 years now, about 1/3 completed. I hate lace knitting! LOL Everything you described pretty much sums up my experience. I had planned on finishing this dang thing as a Xmas gift for my mother.

In the interim since I abandoned it I have completed 2 sweaters, 3 afghans, numerous pairs of socks, hats, gloves, mittens out the door. But I am nearly defeated by the lace and its mysterious disappearing stitches. I've mastered entrelac, mosaic, fair isle, cables, etc. etc. but lace is my nemesis and I have grown to resent the beautiful fine spun wool (not really).

You've inspired me to give it one more try. Good on you!

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -- Mahatma Gandhi

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -- Mahatma Gandhi