I think of myself as a competent knitter. I'm not afraid to try anything with my knitting -- and I like to challenge myself. Color work? Love it! Cables? Love it! Committing to knitting 12 sweaters in 12 months? No problem. But. I have this thing with knitting lace. It kicks me in the butt. Every time.
Meet my current project. This is Kirsten Kapur's Ulmus pattern --- a wonderful shawl featuring a simple two-row slip-stitch pattern alternating two different fingering weight yarns and (here's the kicker. . .) edged with a delicate lace pattern.
I cruised on the slip-stitch portion of this project! Cruised. The pattern is easy to memorize and fun to knit -- I loved watching the variegated colors emerge. And the yarns I'm using -- Malabrigo Sock Yarn in Botticello Red and Misti International Hand Paint Sock Yarn in variegated fall colors -- are a dream to work with. (You can find my project listed here on Ravelry.)
But then I got to the delicate lace edging.
Now, in this particular pattern, there are only 34 rows of lace edging. It is a straightforward pattern -- nothing really tricky. The lace flows perfectly and cleverly from the slip-stitch pattern. Kirsten's directions are clear and well-written. She's included an accurate and easy-to-read chart. But for me? Lace kicked me in the butt. Again and again and again! I mean, how many errors can I make in one simple lace pattern? Let's just say I spent most of my knitting time over the last week. . . knitting backwards (which I do pretty darn well, thank you very much!).
Am I an idiot when it comes to knitting lace? Or is something else going on here? A misalignment of the knitting universe perhaps? Actually, what happens is this: I have two knitting tendencies that conspire to foil me when I knit lace. First, I tend to catch on to patterns very quickly when I knit. This is pretty handy -- because I don't have to refer to the pattern or chart all the time -- but, as you might imagine, I do make some spectacular errors (that's why I'm so good at knitting backwards!). Second, I tend to . . . go somewhere else. . . when I knit. I think. I talk. I listen to audiobooks. I watch tv. I drink wine.
Together, these tendencies spell d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r for even the simplest lace pattern. I do a few pattern repeats across a row. . . memorize the pattern. . . do a few more pattern repeats. . . drift off to another place in my brain. . . take a sip of wine. . .and BINGO! Kicked in the butt again!
So yesterday I got serious about finishing this project -- and managing my lace problem.
I gathered my supplies -- an enlarged and carefully marked chart. My handy Knit Picks chart keeper, with magnet strips allowing me to see ONLY my current row. The pattern. My cheaters. Markers and my crochet hook. . . you know, just in case. But what you don't see is more important. No iPod. No phone. No tv. No conversation buddies. And (sadly) no wine. I counted out loud to myself. I worked hard to focus on the pattern. Just the pattern. And I got three rows done without having to knit backwards!!!
I'm on a roll!