Tuesday, July 11, 2006

And the winner is …

The time has arrived to announce the winner of the “how many stitches in the shawl” contest! I also promised you a good, long post today with answers to all of your questions about the shawl. But first … drum roll please …

Congratulations to Heide for her winning entry! Several entrants were surprisingly close with their guesses, but Heide wins the prize with her guess of 256,000 stitches. That’s pretty darn close to the actual number of stitches – 250,512. Congratulations to Heide who will receive her choice of Fearless Fibers Merino Yarn.

And now, on to answer the questions you had about the shawl:

Q. Is it crazier that I asked you to guess how many stitches are in the shawl or is crazier that I counted them?
A. It’s crazier that I asked you to guess. Since this is a mitered square shawl, it was actually pretty quick and easy to calculate the stitches. I just calculated how many stitches in a square and how many in a triangle, counted the squares and triangles, did a quick bit of multiplication and addition and that was that.

Q. Where does the pattern come from?
A. It is from Vivian Hoxbro’s book, Domino Knitting. The pattern as written calls for a heavier weight yarn, but I chose to use a finer gauge yarn as I was fearful that with such a large shawl the weight of the material would cause it to stretch out of shape and I wanted to ensure a sturdy knit. My shawl is knit on US #2 needles (eek!).

Q. What type of yarn is it?
A. The yarn is a blend of merino wool and tencel. I won’t mention the brand, however, as I am no longer a fan of this label. It’s a small company that grew quickly and their quality suffered. They seem to be improving now, but I personally can’t bring myself to buy from them anymore after having several very bad experiences. Fortunately, the yarn for this shawl was fine. The only problem with this yarn was one of my own making. I should not have chosen this colorway, as I really don’t care for it very much. I was so anxious to begin this shawl and so certain that this was the type of yarn that I wanted to use that I settled for this colorway since it was the only one in my LYS with enough quantity for the shawl. (Warning to other impatient and half brain-dead knitters like me: When you undertake a project this large, time-consuming and costly, do NOT settle! Duh. Lesson learned.)

Q. How long did it take to knit?
A. My best estimate is a cajillion hours. This was actually my sabbatical project a couple of years ago, when I was still in the corporate workforce and had the wonderful benefit of a two-month paid sabbatical after reaching seven years of service with the company. Most folks use their sabbatical time travel the world, do meaningful volunteer work, etc., but I chose to see what life would be like if I had a paycheck but no job. I just lived. I knit. I cooked. I read a bit. I took walks. It was absolute heaven.

Several folks also mentioned an interest in mitered square (or “Domino” or modular) knitting. If you haven’t tried this before, I highly recommend it! The small book by Vivian Hoxbro called Domino Knitting is a good place to start with the basics, but there are lots of other more in-depth books available as well.

For those not familiar with mitered squares, the concept is simple: You begin with an odd number of stitches. Your cast-on stitches will become two sides of the square you will complete. By decreasing by two stitches in the center using the slip one, K2TOG, PSSO method on the center three stitches of the row, you will slowly build a square. Since the decreases are in the center of the row, the work will turn on itself so to speak, drawing up the two halves of your original cast on to form two sides of a square. You will finally get to the point where only one stitch remains and it will be the top of a completed triangle (square on its side). As you knit the square, you use a selvage stitch at each end so that you will have a nice clean daisy chain along the sides to pick up stitches as you proceed.

As you continue, you actually knit the squares together rather than later seaming them together. You do this by beginning with the single stitch remaining from the square just completed and then picking up stitches along one edge of the square. You will end up with ½ minus 1 the number of stitches you had in your square to start with. When you reach that point, you proceed with a knitted cast on to reach the total number of stitches to begin a new square and then you simply proceed as you did with the first square. You can use this basic technique with a bit of variation to create triangles, rectangles and more complex shapes.

Knitting this way has so many advantages and is such fun! First of all, since your pieces are knit together as you go there is very little finishing work to do. It’s also very easy to set aside a piece of modular knitting and pick it up some time later without any hassle trying to figure out where you were in your pattern. You’re basically just following a chart of shapes. Modular knitting is also a delight with handpainted yarns. Since the decreases that shape the squares are in the center of the knitting, your finished squares will have multidirectional stitches: one triangular half of the square will be horizontal and the half will be vertical. This just adds to the colorful mosaic quality of handpainted yarns. Finally, there is something very satisfying about the modular knitting experience. Every knitter is familiar with the feeling of satisfaction that comes with completed a project, but there are also milestones throughout the project that give one that same sense of satisfaction. Finishing the edge ribbing on a sweater. Reaching the armhole shaping. Completing a sleeve. What I found with modular knitting is that you get a bite-size version of that feeling of satisfaction with each and every square you complete.

Now it’s time for me to go send an e-mail to Heide with the good news about the her contest win! This contest was so much fun that I’m sure I’ll do more in the future. Keep your eyes open for future fun!

In my next post, I’ll provide a picture of my completed KWC project. It’s all done now, but this is a long enough post already so I’ll save that for next time.

Thanks again to the over 40 folks who entered the contest! (That is, more than 40 people … not the people who – like me – are over 40).

Happy Knitting!


AmysBabies said...

Yay to Heide! I think that shawl is great. I don't knit, but I wonder if the pattern could be translated to crochet? Hmmm..another project to keep me awake at night : D

aija said...

Yay Heide!!

And wow again, what an amazing project! :)

anne said...

hooray for heide!

Heide said...

Thank you Deb! I'm in awe at the number of stitches and patience. The effort was well-rewarded though, the shawl is lovely.

Brittany said...

Gah. How off was I? :P

Congrats to Heide!