WIP - The Magic of Lace (and provisional cast ons)

First, a little background before we get to the good stuff (the pictures!). If I had to pick a favorite type of craft, it would probably have to be knitting lace. When I first started knitting, it seemed all I could do to make sure all the stitches were knit. Purposely skipping stitches? Intentionally knitting them together?! Crazy talk. But as I mastered the knit stitch, and then the purl, a magical thing happened...I got bored. Scarves and blankets are great, but I started to look around at what was out there and crave something more interesting. Right about this time, my good friends were getting married, and I offered to make Maggie a wedding shawl, not really knowing what went into it. It seemed a perfect opportunity to buy Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush, which I had been eyeing since seeing a sample in Interweave. I had made a few lace things (more scarves!) before buying the book, and I figured it wouldn't be that different. Yeah...I was a little overconfident! Estonian lace doesn't just involve the regular increases, decreases, and yarn overs - it also has nupps, and they can be a little tricky to master. Basically a nupp is a knit, yarn over, knit, yarn over, knit, all into one stitch. Usually you are putting 5 or 7 stitches into that one stitch, but here's the tricky part...you have to purl all of those stitches together on the following wrong side row. It took me TONS of practice to get this down, which means that Maggie's shawl got knit and frogged several times over. It didn't help that I had decided to basically make up my pattern by cobbling different parts of different patterns together - on my first shawl. What a dummy. Anyway, this is what her shawl ended up looking like:

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Luckily, my rookie mistakes didn't turn me off from lace, and I've made several things since then. I was even going to make my wedding dress, until I found the one I ended up buying :). Lately, though, I've been sewing a lot, and I was craving a little knitting time, so I went to my favorite book and decided to actually faithfully follow the Leaf and Nupp Shawl pattern.

Except for one thing. I have a tick or something, there's always ONE thing I don't follow (or, you know, many things). In this case, it was the cast on method. Nancy recommends the crochet provisional cast on. This involves crocheting a chain out of waste yarn, and then starting your knit stitches on this chain, with the idea that you will pick the crochet chain out later on. I've tried this method before and it absolutely works, but when I do it, I sometimes stretch out certain stitches and on one occasion, I cut the wrong yarn. Nothing that can't be fixed, but definitely annoying. So, I used the knitting provisional cast on, where you basically wrap the working yarn around a waste yarn, and then just pull the waste yarn out at the end. Knitty has an awesome tutorial here. I find it easier to use, personally. So, here's the start of my new shawl:

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Please excuse the purple thumb - when the hair dying directions tell you to wear gloves, you really should wear gloves.

Here it is a little further along:

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You can see my brown waste yarn there, holding what will turn into live stitches when I'm ready to knit that edge. The yarn is Cascade Silky Alpaca Lace, which is one of my absolute favorites. I used it in my own wedding shawl - It's great to knit with and the end product is always super soft and surprisingly warm. It has this gorgeous sheen in person that no picture I've been able to take does justice. I still try though:

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In the middle there are those nupps I was talking about - once the shawl is blocked, they'll be even more noticeable.

More pictures to come as the shawl grows, but for now one last photo of someone not so sure about this whole "knitting" thing:

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I think Stella the kitty would prefer I just handed all that yarn over to her directly!