Saturday, May 17, 2008

Lace and Linen

After I made an entire lace sweater in linen, I learned to appreciate the fine attributes of linen. I had been warned over and over that linen is hard on the hands. It has no "give" and is rough on your fingers.

What I found was that my personal style of knitting loosely is right for linen.

Usually, when I swatch for a big lace project (and yes, I always swatch), I find that I have to drop down at least one needle size to get the right gauge.

With linen, knitting loosely has its benefits and drawbacks.
The looseness of the loops on the needles makes them slide easily, and I can maneuver my stitches without much difficulty. However, linen's stiffness carries a sinister warning: pay attention or your needles will slide right out of the stitches!

I invariably use some type of metal needles (Addi lace, Addi turbo or Inox grey) for lace. I love the speed, and I feel quite like a knitting "athlete" when I use them. But like all athletes, I must exert care to avoid a slip-up and downtime.

Linen is super-stiff when you knit it, but you can wash it beforehand if you like. Euroflax is advertised as machine washable and dryable. You can even beat it, wring and squish it into submission. When it dries you will have a much softer, drapier yarn. I actually like knitting with new unwashed linen, so I don't wash it until the blocking stage.

I finally started the
Paisley Long Shawl from Fiddlesticks. The photo of the finished shawl is from Fiddlesticks. I hope mine will look as lovely!

YARN: After months of saying, "This is my next big lace project," I leapt into the project using size 3 Addi lace needles and a cone of navy blue Euroflax linen that I've had on hand for months. Louet formerly called this yarn "Paris" and now calls it simply "laceweight" or 14/2 -- 6 stitches per inch and 1300 yards on my half pound cone.

PATTERN: Fiddlesticks' owner Dorothy Siemens writes impeccably and her patterns are a joy to use. The charts are large and easy to read. The instructions are clear and make sense. She is also accessible via email, phone or her
Yahoo group.

From the pattern, "Paisley Long Shawl":

The Paisley Long Shawl was inspired by the designs of the beautiful woven paisley shawls of the 19th century. It is an interpretation in lace of a long shawl dating from about 1820, and features original lace motifs of botehs (the small motifs filling the middle ground of the shawl) and larger paisley patterns.

Another Fiddlesticks pattern I knit a few years ago was the Peacock Feathers Shawl. This is probably one of Dorothy's most popular patterns. I love the way the feathers grow from the small ones at the neck to the largest size at the edge.