Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cheshire Cat Stole

Cavalcade! Of! Finished! Things!

First up is what I'm most proud of: the Cheshire Cat Stole.

Pattern: my own, Alice's Cheshire Cat Stole, published by Purlescence

Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Silk Thread (the colorway in the pictures is Falcon's Eye, a variegated sage green with the rare flash of purple - though that might've been unique to my weird skein. They just started dyeing this colorway again. Yay!) I used approximate 750-800 yards of the skein.

Needles: 2.75 mm/US 2 Crystal Palace bamboo straights.

The pattern was conceived as a contest entry for Purlescence's Storyteller's competition. My entry was for the Alice in Wonderland month: what would Alice knit? My take on it was that any knitting done down the rabbit hole would probably turn out a lot different than you expected, yet still logical (like all of Alice's poem recitations coming out wrong, but still in the same meter and rhyme patterns).

I was playing around with taking a predictable pattern and changing it, as if you were making mistakes (like throwing in increases and decreases where you shouldn't) but it still ended up making a coherent pattern after all. My first scribblings were WAY too complicated and it was hard to see any pattern, so I ended up going with the simple cats-eye and the waving rows of yarn overs. It reminds me of the Cheshire Cat grinning.

After I knit up a sample it looked a little too plain so I threw in some beads just for the fun of it. It adds a nice sparkle to the edges, too. It's got plain purl rows every other row (except the garter stitch border). The beads are attached via crochet hook as you go and happen infrequently enough that I was VERY EXCITED whenever I'd reach a beaded row (YES! PROGRESS!). It's easy to do it minus the beads, though, if you don't wish to bead it, no worries.

The edging at each end is just several inches of the YO/dec/YO pattern interspersed with plain stockinette. I knit the cast-on about a billion times before I figured out a way to attach the crystal bicone beads on the edges without having them look odd (and having the cast-on and cast-off match). The bicones are big enough they still kind of pop out from the surrounding stitches, but I like the sparkly/dangly effect and they give a little bit of weight to the ends, just enough to make it hang nicely but not distort. Mmmm, sparklies!

In the interest of consistent style and editing (Purlescence has published a number of other patterns) the format of the original charts I made was changed for the published pattern. Because the width of the stole varies, my original charts were odd and I've never seen anything similar, but I wrote them more to see what the pattern was on any given row (I'm preferential to charts, since I'm a very visual person and like to see how the individual rows make the whole). If you'd like a copy of the original charts, drop me an email. They are THE SAME as the published pattern, just formatted differently and with different symbols. Just another way to look at things, ok? You do need to have the PDF as well, though.

The yarn: I love silk. The drape of the finished stole is sensuous. The colors are gorgeous, subtle and shiny at the same time. But boy is it a pain to work with. The yarn had to be wound onto a cone (ahem, repurposed toilet paper roll) and fed back to me from the outside-in, not the center of the roll. The silk, for being so slippery, tangled up like crazy if not treated with care. If you can, get the yarn store to wind it for you. I think this woman's setup is brilliant, but I just unwrapped from the roll, if you don't feel like going that far.

Silk doesn't have any give so you have to keep a fairly even tension; like cotton, it shows unevenness. For instance, for me, the 2nd yarn over (the left one) in every single YO/dec/YO combination always came out smaller than the first, so I came up with this special maneuver where I'd tug the 2nd yarnover a little extra when I purled back across.

Needles: I prefer wood or bamboo needles for lace, since they're more grippy than metal and they're easily available. For the silk, they seemed a necessity because the silk was so slippery. Dropping a stitch in this stuff meant it dropped 2-3 rows, just like that. Stupid slippery silk (someone want to explain to me why it tangled so badly at the same time?)

I chose the small size needles because I prefer lace with small-size stockinette (too big and it seems hole-ey to me, and not in a good way. Like it's competing with the yarn overs). I tried a few different needles on swatches and this was my favorite. Your Mileage May Vary. Silk does tend to stretch if you wet block it (I did - it needed the bath), so I really recommend you knit a small pattern swatch first if you're using silk, and block it as you plan to block the finished stole.

Finishing: I wove in the ends, but did not use knots nor Russian joins. I knit with 2 strands for a few stitches to secure both of them, then wove in the ends.

I did completely wet block the stole, despite numerous sources who predicted UTTER DOOM should I do that. (Note that some silk dyes are water-soluble, so if the yarn says 'dry clean', you should probably test first before dunking it). I prefer to block stoles in the same way that I'll be washing them in the future. I didn't have any problems with the silk breaking, but I was gentle and supported the wet stole without letting any dangle. I wrapped the washed stole in a towel and squeezed (squoze?) out the excess.

I blocked assertively but not aggressively. I'm no blocking expert, I just did what worked for me.

Because I wanted gently curving sides, I only pinned the short edges, up to where the curves started, so that each bead ended in a point and the long edge was straight for those first few inches. The long edges I smoothed out into waving curves with my fingers (silk thread stays where it's stretched, so you can do this. I don't know how wool would work, you might need to pin that if you wanted to block agressively) Note that silk dries REALLY FAST when it's warm. I had to keep a squirt bottle handy just to wet down parts because they dried before I could get to them.

The #1 most useful thing to have when blocking (I blocked on a bed) was a vertical guide (hooray for striped sheets!). This helped me keep a constant average width along the whole length of the stole, without needing to measure everything to within an inch of its life. I did take pictures during blocking so if I'm not making any sense and you'd like help, maybe I can illustrate better.

The silk seems a little rough until it completely dries. I did try steaming it a little to see if I could get it extra-glossy because I thought I'd read something about that, but I found it didn't make any difference that I could detect.

I'm still floored that someone wanted to publish this pattern and paid me to design and write it. Thank you Robynn at Purlescence!

1 comment:

Maman Abeille said...


Two years ago I make for myself this beautiful stole. I want to know if you allow me to translate this pattern in french, because the readers of my blog is almost only French people…

Of course i’ll make a link to your own pattern with your name… :)

Thank you and sorry for my english.

Maman Abeille