78) Shawl-based geekery, and the Maths of Completion

It's been a slow week for the Peacock Shawl; I'm on row 157.  Given that I was on row 147 last time I posted, that's around 2 rows per day.  Since the shawl now consists of 234 rows (plus crochet bind-off), I have 77 rows remaining – and only 38 days until the last Rampton meet of the year, when it is 'due'.

Well, 38 x 2 = 76, so we're good, right?

Maybe not.  For a start, that plan contains zero contingency, which is not a comfortable scenario for us planny types.  Then, there's the blocking and drying time.

But, most importantly, there's also that wretched increasing-row-size thing.  A row currently contains 314 stitches; by the time I finish, it'll be more like 470.  So, the rows are getting longer as we speak…

So I made a spreadsheet.

Well, what else are you gonna do?  It worked for my Dad's Fair Isle, right?


So, allowing 30 days to finish the knitting allows for a few days contingency, and a few days to cast off, and to get round to washing and blocking the thing.  Terrifyingly, I've worked out that there are 30,420 stitches remaining (not including the cast off), so I need to average 1,014 stitches per day to finish on time.

I haven't done too well on production knitting over the last year or two; what do think the odds are for this project?


75) The Peacock’s Progress

It's been a slow but intense couple of weeks for the Peacock Shawl.  Two important milestones in a shawl's growth have been met:

  • It now looks like an amorphous blob on the needles (though the colours are still just lovely; and yes, this is another Bad iPhone shot – both overexposed and out of focus, sorry!):


  • Each row now takes Quite Some Time to complete.  Getting 'just one row' done in an evening is no longer a feeble effort.

It's a hallmark of 'increasing' shawls that they seem to go almost too quickly at first, but slow down exponentially as you continue.  When you've finished half the rows, you're only a quarter of the way done – which is one of the reasons why estimating the yarn requirements can be so tricksy.  (The other is that this is handspun, and therefore not guaranteed to have the same grist throughout).

I did a careful weigh-and-calculate when I got to the crunch point, and found that, far from having nearly enough yarn to complete the shawl, I had about the right amount if I cut two rows of feathers from the middle section.  So that is what I am doing – I am now on row 147 out of what will be 234, so I'm about two fifths of the way there; reassuring, because I haven't started the second (larger) ball of yarn yet:


(An almost acceptable iPhone photograph?  Actually, I think it just looks half decent in comparison to the others.  It's still very flashy, not exactly in focus and has a strange yellow/green colour cast.  Ahh, well…)

The transition into the next shawl section has been slow going.  This is partly because I'm having to invent the edges of each row.  Because I've 'skipped' sixteen rows, and the pattern is a twelve stitch repeat, the motifs aren't in the same place, relative to the edges of the shawl, as they are in the original design.  In short, I have four (or is it five?) extra stitches to deal with, four times in each pattern row.  Four times because there is the beginning and end of each row, plus the pattern is interrupted for the central 'spine' in the pattern.  I could just knit them, but that's not my style; I'd rather incorporate them into the pattern in the best way possible.

In at least one case, I got it completely, spectacularly wrong (well, I was out by a stitch), and had to tink back three quarters of a row and re-knit.  I'm nearly back where I was.

Last night I dreamed there was a third ball of silk to use. I was quite disappointed by the time I woke up.

70) The peacock shawl and the joys of handspun

I mentioned that I'd finally got started on the Peacock Feathers shawl, right?  I snapped this quick picture before I travelled off to North Yorkshire, knowing that it was the end of the first section, and that the work would grow pretty quickly from here on:


Excuse the horrible overexposure: this is one of the first shots taken with my new camera (thank you, eBay), and the flash options are different to my old one.

Anyway, I was right: the shawl grew quickly-quickly and I'm now nearly through the second section, which uses a motif which more closely resembles feathers, and which uses a double yarnover:

This is definitely a pattern which will benefit from a good blocking.  Two stitches are worked into the top of the double-YO, and they slip and slide and close up the hole a bit.  Experimentation proves that they will sort themselves out nicely, though, especially in this slippery silk.

Speaking of silk, I'm really enjoying knitting with my own handspun yarn (as always).  It's not as slippery as some commercial silk yarns I've used, but it is soft and drapey and luscious.  It's not perfectly even (not at all!), but somehow the fabric takes in all the yarn's imperfections and evens them out – or at least, transforms them into interesting 'features'.

I have to decide, soon, whether II've got enough yarn to try for the whole pattern, as written, or whether I'm going to drop one (or two?) of these middle-size motifs.  I have less yarn than the pattern calls for, but I'm working on smaller needles.  The quarter-point weigh in (after knitting half the rows – the magic of surface area vs. linear dimension) suggested I'd have enough yarn to work 249 rows, out of 250-plus-crochet-cast-off.  The middle section is probably the best place to omit a repeat, because it's a simpler pattern at that point, which makes me think maybe I'll drop one row of feathers from here – 8 rows.  However, that will mean the last motif lines up differently with the rest of the shawl, and with the centre-back point in particular, because the rows of mid-size feathers are staggered.  Even dropping two repeats wouldn't necessarily work, because the spacing of the feathers relative to the 'spine' of the shawl changes, repeat by repeat.

So.  The shawl finishes with about six rows of fagotting, and the aforementioned crochet bind-off.  Maybe I can drop a fagotting row?  Or the two plain rows that come between it and the bind-off?  I'm not 100% comitted to the crochet bind-off, either; it's pretty, but I'll bet its a bugger to block, and liable to catch on things, too.

So.  I think the long and short of it is that I'll weigh everything again when the crunch point is reached, and see how the numbers stand.  Because this *is* handspun, the grist isn't totally consistent throughout, which makes things somewhat unpredictable, but…  We'll just have to see!