Ambition Strikes Again

Hello all. Here’s a brief preview of the week’s post content, and a summary of what I did this weekend.

  • washed and skeined some thrift yarn
  • finished the Vermouth jacket
  • fancied up my kitchen a little bit

But that’s not this post. No, this is something that I’m a bit more excited about. This one is really going to test me. For the record, I’ve never worked with lace-weight yarn, never done official blocking, and never dyed before. That said, it’s almost stupidly optimistic to think I can make it work. But isn’t that always the case?

H and I were thinking about knitting in weddings (particularly when she showed me a link to The Knitted Wedding at Cast Off!), somewhat regretting that we hadn’t done anything for our own. But with Vermouth finished, I swore there was still time (and I’m praying I was right!), and the two of us browsed through Ravelry until we found a selection of shawls we thought would be acceptable.

The pattern we decided on? I’m sure you’ve seen it, the newly-published Rock Island from Brooklyn Tweed. Long admired from afar, I’ve finally grabbed a Brooklyn Tweed pattern of my own.

Now for the part with photos. (Finally!)

Here’s what I like best about this project: the yarn. Thankfully, Sifu is pretty much across the street from Hannah’s and open late on Fridays, so we were able to head right over with our made-up minds. We needed a solid, dark brown lace-weight yarn. Experience will teach you time and again, though, that “we need” ≠ “they’ll have”. After a few minutes of hunting through the stocks, we found this cone.

The woman running the place says she found it at an estate sale, and was originally produced here in IL, just west of Chicago in a little place called Rochelle. The company might not even be around anymore as googling “Morgan” and “yarn” in the area of the town yields no results. Evidence of age: the outer layer of yarn is a nice warm beige; the tag says “white”.

maybe we should name the shawl rochelle?

I’ll probably end up with a very gradual white-to-off-white gradient as I work inward to the protected layers, but that’s actually okay. We wanted a dark brown, and we’re gonna have it. We’ll just need to learn how to dye. Don’t worry, we’re going to test it before throwing a whole shawl in! Any suggestions, tips, catastrophic anecdotes about dyeing? I’d love to hear ’em.

It’s slow, meticulous work knitting this so far, not allowing the zoning out my other projects so often afford. Which is nice in its own way, but makes it a lot harder to knit in between phone calls. And there is one major downside to this vintage lace: it has not only yellowed, but weakened as well. In knitting a 2″x4″ swatch I broke the yarn twice just pulling it a bit too hard off the cone.

I’m a lot more careful now (I do NOT want to deal with weaving in ends in the middle of a lace motif) and it’s made me super anxious about moving it. I feel like I’m handling explosives trying to keep this thing safe on the bus. But I can’t waste a minute! June 4th is probably the most immobile deadline on a project I’ll ever face, and there are only two outcomes I can foresee. One is that my bride will have a lovely shawl; the other is that years from now, this shawl will be what they point to and say, “Right there. That’s when he lost his mind.”

I’ll catch you up on the other stuff later this week. Happy Monday!

UPDATE: Thanks to the advice given in the comments, I gave the cone a closer inspection, the results being both good and bad. Turns out there was a spot on the bottom of the cone that had several individual strands worn down to a single ply or even severed outright. It was low on the cone, and took a few rounds of unwinding to actually reach it.

I’ve no idea what journey the yarn took before I got it, but it may have brushed up against something in that spot or been repeatedly jostled and rubbed down in transit at some point is my guess. I wound down past the obvious marring, and the white, untouched yarn underneath can withstand quite a tug.

I’d assumed it was simply my own pulling, as I keep my yarn just in my peripheral sight and hadn’t fully seen. I’m quite certain I’m past any further troubles, and you have no idea how relieved I am to have avoided bad times ahead, as described in Sheridan’s comment below. PHEW.

  1. rebkatz said:

    Maybe wind the yarn into cakes instead of knitting straight off the cone?

    And good luck with the shawl and dying. I’m sure it will end up beautiful.

    • Thanks, and I hope you’re right! I’d thought winding it, but I’m terrified of breaking it even doing that. Once I finish the lace edging, I’ll have worked down to the less-aged fiber and might try it. I’ll have to see how frustrating the cone becomes.

      • Sheridan Femia said:

        Came to you via Brooklyn’s blog … may I just mention that if your yarn is weak enough that it will snap just pulling it off the cone, it’s gonna snap for SURE when you block it. Suggest you find the broken/weakened areas *now*, as someone suggested, by making yarn cakes. To get all the way to blocking and then have holes to fix, particularly in the open lacework, which is the bit that everyone is going to be looking at….. that way lies many tears.

  2. Rue said:

    Ooh, I hope you have a blast with that project! I’ve been eyeing Rock Island and hope to cast on in the next day or two.

    I’ve only dyed a couple of times (kool-aid in a pot on a stove) but each time the color was never as deep and saturated as I thought it would be. Just my two cents . . .

    • Duly noted. I might try onion skins or walnut shells, but I need to research what kind of mordant I’d need.

  3. rmwest said:

    Love LOVE Brooklyn Tweed. The man is a genius. I’m working on the tweed baby blanket right now, I’ve made porom…and I want to knit basically every other pattern. LOVE!

    • It’s pretty hard to choose just one, isn’t it? His adult-sized rework of EZ’s Tomten jacket is the whole reason I wanted to learn to knit more than just scarves.

  4. Hey! That knitted wedding is … whoa … that’s a lot of knitting!

    Your shawl will be lovely. Knit on, my man, knit on. You can do it! The great thing about lace is all the holes…it goes faster 🙂

    Can’t wait to see your progress as you go.

  5. Oh! That’s going to be gorgeous – great pattern choice. And I’m glad you found some stronger yarn in the middle of the cone.

    I’m super excited to see the finished product!

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