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Knitting Lacey Shawls for Beginners – Part One

Hello and welcome.

Having undertaken my first lace shawl project ever, I thought I’d share the process of the learning curve with my gentle readers.  (adjusts crevat, lights pipe)

In order to ensure sucess, one of the most important steps is to assemble everything you could ever need while knitting, since, odds on, you will be reluctant to stand up and fetch anything to attend to even the most basic needs while you work.  You will need:

  • A pattern: it is terribly important to stretch before exercising, and it is equally important to spend hours before casting on trawling through Ravelry, every pattern book you and all your friends own and innumerable websites before settling upon a pattern you like and aren’t scared of.  The more gifted practitioners will spend a little time wondering if it would just be easier to write their own pattern.  The truly wise will ignore this impulse.
  • Yarn: this is fairly obvious. If you haven’t got yarn to knit the shawl with, you’re just going to be waving needles around obsessively and people are going to start calling you this and that.
  • Needles: take the time to accumulate every needle you have ever owned into one location, since you are going to swatch several times, washing and blocking each swatch as you go, in order to determine the perfect fabric and get perfect gauge.  Of course, if you’re me (and chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you are) you will simply pack the pattern, yarn and whatever needles aren’t currently in use into your handbag, and then cast on willy-nilly at work during your lunchbreak whlie playing Scrabble. Don’t fight this impulse.  I mean, it’s a shawl: if it’s too small, you just keep on trucking until it’s big enough. If it’s too big, you stop early or frog back.  T’ain’t critical.  I should emphasise, however, that you really do need sharp needles.  Powerful sharp.  If you use bluntos, you’re going to drive yourself plum around the bend trying to work a K3tog through the back of the loop — and you may need to work a lot of them.
  • Patience: a lace shawl, due to the traditional fineness of the yarn and the intricacy of the pattern, combined with the necessary size of the item, can take some time.  It can be repetitve and, at times, frustrating, especially if you make an error and have to tink back a couple of rows. Try and be patient: your knitting is both inanimate and insensate, and will not respond to any emotional outbursts or tempter tantrums, however powerful.  The important thing to remember is to breathe and relax and desperately hope to outlive the great knitted pile of crap that is sucking your entire LIFE into a vortex of endless labour.  [Author’s note: This blog entry was written in the middle of a lace shawl project.]
  • Hydration: don’t forget to stay hydrated. Lace shawls require commitment and dedication, and nothing is going to stuff that up like failing to adequately hydrate.  Won’t you look silly?  Try to keep an iced whiskey nearby at all times. You may also have your whiskey neat, although it’s not strictly authentic: historically, lace knitters would drink their whiskey iced in order to keep themselves cool, as immortalised in the traditional drinking song Why Did I Agree To Make A Wedding Shawl Anyway I Don’t Even Like My Sister That Much (I Bet She Machine-Washes It).
  • A sense of adventure: trust me, it’s going to be great.

I’ll give you some time to accumulate these necessary provisions, and then we’ll be back with “Knitting Lacey Shawls for Beginners: Hangover Tips”.  Until then, happy knitting!

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