Monday, October 17, 2016

Knitting Uncia

I seem to have gained a number of followers recently.  Welcome!

I've knitted some lace in my time.  Above, the Star Leaves shawl in that glowing autumnal yarn.

The Swallowtail shawl, in a lovely lace-weight yarn.

A Drops design that I knit for a charity some years ago.

These all follow that basic triangular construction of knitting a little garter tab and picking up along its edge to begin at the back neck.  The increases therefore come at the predictable places: edges and centre back.

But equally predictable is the lace.  With these, once the basic pattern is established, the repeats become obvious from the knitting itself.  Like in  traditional Fair Isle, the numerical sequences have a balance and a rhythm.

Of course, I learned a few things in knitting these.  The Swallowtail uses nupps in its Lily of the valley border, and I had not met those before.  The Star Leaves shawl has a section of textured knitting before the leaf section began, which was a puzzle to work out.  But, in general, knitting lace, especially on a large shawl, is so repetitive that boredom is a risk to completion.  One loses interest before it is finished. 

And you can certainly watch television while knitting, although perhaps not read sub-titles.

However, Uncia is different .  For a start, there are eight large charts, with the style of openwork constantly changing.  Very few of the manoeuvres are completely new, but several of the symbols are unfamiliar.  There is a key of course, on each page, and a further explanation of what these mean on two different pages.

Then there are the increases.  Because the design is based on the idea of stonework rising in columns, the increases are hidden very cleverly within the ribs.  Looking at the finished fabric they are almost invisible.  But that also makes them unpredictable on the pattern. 

So you sit with the chart, card pinned across above the row one is working, and, reading the row like a line of text, knit the row.  By now - I am on Row 350 of 400 - I can mostly predict what to do, and the wrongside rows have become readable from the knitting rather than the chart.

With knitting this complex it would have helped a lot to have a close-up picture of the section to be knit, rather than the series of very beautiful images of the designer, Lucy Hague, wearing it.  Then you could see what you were aiming at.

But, as I reach the final chart, I can see that it is also the sort of knitting where you don't want it to be finished.  I'll be thinking carefully what my next project will be, to avoid a sense of anti-climax.  Lucy Hague has a series of Celtic knotwork shawls, but I'm thinking perhaps Houlland from the "Book of Haps".

Monday, October 03, 2016


It's some time since knitting featured here - but that does not mean that no knitting has been happening. 

While on holiday, we had the sort of train journeys which lend themselves to long stints of knitting.  I took the sleeves of the cardigan I am knitting from the Rowan yarn I found in that charity shop in Cockermouth earlier in the summer.  I've now decided that the colourway is Oatmeal, rather than Porridge which is a creamier, lighter colour.  And it feels a bit like oatmeal to knit - bumpy and slow.  It certainly reminds me how much toil is involved in knitting a full-size adult garment.  I like to knit both sleeves together, so that the rate of increase matches, and both will be ready at the same time.  But it is the kind of project likely to be put down and not picked up again for some time.

We did see quite a number of yarn stores while away, and several other people knitting on trains.  I bought one ball of a Regia sock yarn, in a colourway I have not seen in the UK.

Before we went away, I put in an order for Kate Davies' book of Haps, and the yarn for the one design out of it that I could imagine actually knitting: Uncia. I thought it was time to take on a challenge in my knitting again.

For a while - almost two years in fact, I have been knitting for charity, using long-stored yarn and balls of acrylic bought in specially.  Most recently I've been on mittens for the elementary school in Rapid City.  It's easy and mindless to turn out pairs of these.  The idea that they might actually be worn by someone who would be cold otherwise is a strong incentive.

Likewise all those iterations of the Gidday Baby pattern for the Pine Ridge reservation.  I never seemed to tire of variations of that, but recently the birth-rate seems to have slowed, so there was a natural break there.

So then, Uncia.  This pattern, by Lucy Hague, is about as far from mindless and repetitive as it is possible to get.  I can usually knit while watching tv, travelling, talking, even reading on a Kindle.  But not this one.  This one requires really good eyesight, strong lighting and total concentration. 

Apparently it was designed after visiting a series of Gothic cathedrals, including Cologne and Mont St Michel.  Now, we were outside Cologne cathedral for several hours recently.  The fa├žade is extraordinarily beautiful, in shades of grey and black.

  As the evening sun lights it up, the stone shows all its honeyed tones.  Imagine translating those arches into cable and lace: this is what the designer did.

I am now almost through chart C - there are five more to go.  The Gothic arches are already clearly visible, and the knitting has taken on a certain rhythm.  There are four hundred rows in all, as it fans out into more traditional lace; I'm about to do row 238.

I seem to have gained a Follower - is it you, Outlaws, or have you been there for some time?