Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Three Hundred Ninety-Three Thousand Six Hundred Stitches



How do you measure,
measure half a year?

I finally finished up my Tannenzapfen tablecloth designed by Herbert Niebling this past Sunday. It was technically 393,636 stitches (not counting the crocheted bindoff edging) and took me six months and a day to complete. And there's over three miles of crochet thread in this thing.

I didn't post anything here about progress while I worked on this. When working on a stranded knitting or cables, or even plain stockinette, you can immediately see results and take joy in admiring what you've created so far. There are little milestones that allow you to take stock and reassess. But knitting lace is all about deferred dreams. After the first little bit, it's just a wad of holes sitting in your lap. It's hard to photograph, and nothing looks like it should. When it finally comes off the needles, you can see a bit of the potential, but you just don't have any sense of payoff until the blocking. And six months is a long wait for a payoff.

At first, I thought that the pine cone motifs, the tannenzapfen, would be the most interesting part. They were actually kind of a pain to knit. I ended up using thin crochet hook because I found knitting all those stitches together rather difficult. I do like how they look now, but it turns out I really like the large leaf-shaped portions best. They almost look like solid fabric next to the super-lacy double yarnovers surrounding them. They were the most boring parts to knit, but seem to me to be the most visually interesting in the end.

The instructions I used, a simplified and translated version from Doilyhead, said to simply bind off after the 405th round. But I wanted some sort of edging, so I worked out a system where by 11-stitch crocheted chains ended by gathering up 3 and 5 stitch sections along the edge. I worked a few of these into round 405, didn't like the way they worked with the previous round's yarnovers, and went ahead and added a 406th round of plain knitting. It looked much better. And after knitting 405 rounds, adding another one wasn't all that hard a decision to make.

Blocking this thing is a bit of a bear. It comes from making something knit in the round turn out as a square, which only gets one to square-ish. If you look at the whole thing in eighths, you can see that the corners are where you add some extra stitches. But it still doesn't come out right. There are lumps in the leaf motif that I'm not super happy with. I wonder if ironing the leaves flat would make the tension move out to the double yarnover sections, which, being lacier, might relax and also lie flat?


There, of course, things I wish I'd done differently. I still had some of those plastic-y ring stitch markers which worked great as visual cues for the beginning and ending of repeat sections. However, at this small gauge, the ring was thick enough to create a noticeable gutter through some parts of the fabric, even in the double yarnover sections. I'm saving those for projects on bigger needles only from now on. I also wish I'd stuck with just the jumbo put-ups of Aunt Lydia's Classic 10 crochet thread. Toward the end, I thought I'd just need a regular ball to finish, and ended up needing more. I think I made five Russian joins as I moved from one ball to another during this project. I could have gotten away with just three if I'd planned better.

Immediately after setting this out to block in the afternoon, I picked up the socks I started at Zion National Park. I'd only just gotten past the gusset decreases on the first sock when I sat down. By the time I was ready for bed, the first sock was done. It felt so good to be knitting something else!

14 comments:

  1. Steven, it's amazing, a work of art! I only wish I'd been in town a couple of days longer to see it.

    I have some steel ringless safety pins hat are very fine and might work better than the plastic rings. They came free with my needles and I use them all the time now.

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    1. I have a batch of small brightly colored ring markers that I got at Christmas, but I'd already been set up with the others and didn't want to change mid-project. Lesson learned! I'd hoped to have it done before you got here, too. But at least you can appreciate the transformation!

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  2. Steven, good to see you back.
    Neiblings can be a bear, yet very gratifying in the end. I myself have been knitting 'Pomegranate' for the last year. (row 309, 1344 stitches on)
    Your tablecloth is beautiful. Congratulations on a job well done!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sue! Oh -- that Pomegranate pattern is beautiful. I think I need a lace break, but I'm going to keep that one in mind. Knit on!

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  3. Wow, just wow. I do love how you pick big projects and stick with them! I agree, the leaves are what jump out to me in this work.

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    1. Thanks, Janelle. I do wish I could get the leaves to lie flatter. I'm wondering if I could lightly iron the leaves (it's cotton) in little sections? My theory is that this might push the tension out into the double-yarnover sections. I may have to go to a Ravelry forum with this one...

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    2. Steven, oh my! That’s so beautiful! Have you ever seen the wool felt ironing mats that quilters use? I bet it you washed the table cloth and dried it part of the way and then ironed the leaf sections on a wool mat that it might work well for you. I just can’t imagine knitting all of that in cotton crochet thread! My fingers would fall off! Cotton is so unforgiving.

      You da man!

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    3. I'll need to look into that! I've re-dampened it and starched and ironed the individual leaves, but it's still not quite right. I'll keep the mats in mind, though -- good idea!

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  4. Wow. Stunning! Now that's a masterpiece.

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