Tuesday, April 07, 2009


What does it feel like to have wings and to feel the air beneath you as substantial as the earth?
-Verlyn Klinkenborg

How I wish I'd really grown wings! But, alas, all I did was knit myself an Aeolian shawl.

Aeolian. Aeolian meaning "wind-borne." I appropriately cast on for this shawl as our airplane took off from Bhutan, winging its way across the Himlayas. I took the romance of the name to heart, speeding through the first lace section and imagining myself knitting with the wind at my back.

But silly me, I forgot that the wind can switch on you, and I fought a headwind for the rest of the project. My wind-borne wings became an infuriating albatross. I started to have a hard time keeping track of the pattern. I misread the charts. I miscounted stitches. I made the nupps too tight. I spent countless hours tinking back and fixing mistakes. I swore my way through interminable rows and thought it would never end.

But then, in the blink of an eye, it was blocked and beautiful and bringing a smile to my face. Lace is magic like that.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure of blocking your lace, I thought I'd illustrate the process. Here is the lace before the bind off, when it's all awkwardly bunched up on the needle. This is why the knitting part of the process can be so ungratifying -- it's impossible to see what you're actually making!

After the bind off is complete, you can get a sense of shawl's size and shape, but it still looks sad and misshapen.

Finally, after being plunged into cool water and pinned out until it's as taut as a drum, the shawl stretches its way into lacy beauty. (The curved wingtips are still there, by the way. They just grew so much that they wouldn't fit on the picnic table.)

Here's a close-up of one of the "nupp" sections before blocking:

And after blocking, with the eyelets all opened up:

And now for the technical details: I followed the pattern reasonably true, although I switched to larger needles (size 6), added an extra repeat of the agave pattern, and left out the beads.

The yarn that I used is a fingering weight alpaca with no name. I bought a huge cone of this yarn in Peru about five years ago. This shawl, as voluminous as it is, hardly made a dent in the yarn.

What a happy relief to be finished with this shawl! Next up: something with instant gratification


lexa said...

It's gorgeous! Thanks for the pics of the blocking. Blocking lace is an absolute MUST. I haven't knit a shawl yet. I have an easy peasy one picked out for me on larger needles and heavier yarn. I am thinking about making a lace shawl for a friend for Christmas. If I do it will be my first real foray into the lace world. It uses fingering weight sock yarn, so it's still not a superfine laceweight yarn, so I think I can manage. :)

Elizabeth said...

Wow - so beautiful! And you look amazing.

ponyknit said...

And one would think this would make a dent on a cone of yarn, I guess not!

Veronique said...

Gorgeous! So, what are you going to make with the rest of the yarn?

gayle said...

I've got Aeolian and Maplewing elbowing each other trying to get to the front of the queue. You've just made the decision even harder!
Beautiful shawl. And I love before and after pictures of lace. From lumpy mess to airy magic!

petra said...

Beautiful work! Wear it with pride!