So with the wedding day over and slowly recovering, it is hard to believe that a week ago, we were all gathered to see my oldest daughter, Latisha, getting married to her wonderful partner, Brian.
Reflecting back on the build up to the wedding, it is amazing to think just how much Latisha achieved in the organising of the wedding. She planned and made all the decorations – the arch decorated with wisteria and voile, where they said their vows to each other. She raided everyone’s house to collect the rustic crates, lanterns and vintage bottles to complement the wedding arch. She made the ring holder and the hand fasting cord.
My contribution was to bake and decorate the wedding cake and to knit the wedding shawl.
I have knit many lace and beaded shawls in the past, but none for well over 8 years. When it was agreed on having a shawl for her wedding dress, I don’t think I ever thought it would turn out how it did on the wedding day. Latisha chose the pattern – It is a wonderful design by Boo Knits (a English designer that sells through Ravelry) – called Out of the Darkness.
She wanted a crescent shawl, which is different from a traditional shawl as it does not form a back spine where the stitches are increased. A crescent shawl has the increases at each end of the shawl to form a slightly rounded shawl without a point at the back. I prefer the crescent shawls as well as it means you get the longer edge for wrapping the shawl without having a huge depth to it at the back and can be worn in so many different ways. Basically if I had knitted a traditional shaped shawl and had the same length for the width, the depth of the shawl point would have trailed on the ground behind her.
She then chose the yarn – a very fine cobweb yarn in a pale silver grey and the beads – a clear colour with rainbow reflections – that hid in the shawl until the light caught the reflection of the bead and just sparkled slightly.
I started knitting the shawl back in July, thinking that it would not take me long. I was basing it on the fact that I used to knit shawls in under a week many years ago. But times have changed – it had been many years since I had knitted a lace shawl by following a chart – so that took a couple of evenings to get back into the swing of things.
I was also busier than I used to be with the business so my time for knitting was only in the evenings now. As the shawl grew, I was only really able to knit a couple of rows each evening as one row could take anything up to an hour to complete. The stitches increased by 6 stitches every two rows, so it grew very quickly and the width of the shawl was more than the actual depth.
There were 12 stitches per pattern repeat and stitch markers had to be placed between each pattern repeat. These markers were a godsend and really needed to help keep me on the right track of knowing where the pattern repeat started and ended. I know that these little markers helped me quite a number of times throughout the shawl. Once the lace charts started it was essential that the pattern repeat section of 12 stitches was easy to find as it was easy to miss a stitch and then the whole pattern sequence would be wrong and then had to be ripped out. Honestly, I didn’t want to even consider going down this route, so the wee rings were great. They saved me on many occasions where I was able to fudge a stitch within the pattern repeat and get me back on track with the 12 stitches. It really was a better option than pulling out the rows to correct one missed loop over ….. in the big scheme of things, I don’t think anyone would have noticed if there was a stitch extra or less in one of the pattern repeats for one row.
So, I started knitting and at the start it was easy going, there was a small amount of stitches and the knitting went quickly. The pattern suggested 3 plain sections before going onto the lace sections, but it was also stated that you could repeat the plain section as many times as you wish to increase the size of the shawl. Since I had over 1000 metres of yarn and Latisha had asked for a large shawl, I decided to repeat the plain section another 3 times. It meant placing more beads into the plain section as there were beads placed into the shawl at pre-marked places on the chart to produce ‘random’ placement of beads over the shawl. I wasn’t too concerned about using extra beads or yarn. I knew I had double amount of yarn and beads that was needed to complete the shawl, so I was fine …..
I remember many, many years ago, I was taught that if you wanted to knit beads into your knitting, then you had to thread the required amount of beads onto the yarn prior to beginning your knitting. I did it that way once, and ONLY once!! It was terrible!! Not only was it difficult to thread the yarn through the hole of the beads, but it took so much time!!! Time that could be used knitting. And then while knitting, you had to push those beads along the yarn away from where you were knitting and bring a bead up each time you wanted to place one in the pattern and try your utmost to ensure you knitted the bead in the correct stitch. It was murder! Especially, if you had miscounted the amount of beads you placed onto the yarn before you started. Can you imagine getting to the end of a complex pattern and finding out that you did not have enough beads to finish the knitting? It left you in a sticky situation with very few choices – and none of them ideal – either unpick everything you had knitted, so you could place the required amount of beads on, knit on and don’t have beads in that section which would stand out, or break off your yarn to thread more beads on and then place a knot in your yarn.
So, how did I manage to include beads in my knitting without any hassle? Well, the only hassle I had was when the bead would flick away from me when trying to pick it up with the crochet hook and the bead would fly across the room. I lost count with how many I lost to the floor and Alyssa would gather them up for me.
I came across this technique of knitting with beads quite a few years ago and I now always use this way. Basically you place the beads onto the stitch with a crochet hook as you knit the stitches. When you come to the stitch that has a bead, you place a bead onto a crochet hook (usually a .75mm hook – one where you wouldn’t use it for crocheting, unless you like to torture yourself) that is fine enough to go through the hole in the bead. You then place the stitch from the left hand needle onto the hook of the crochet hook and push the bead back over the hook and down onto the stitch. The stitch is then placed back on to the left hand needle and is knitted. The bead is now placed securely onto the stitch and will not move around. It really is a pain-free way of adding beads to your knitting, it just slows you down with knitting when you have to place 3-4 beads in every pattern repeat!
Once I had knitted the plain section, it was time to start on the lace sections – there was about 5 different lace sections to do for the shawl. It was also suggested that if you wanted to knit a larger lace section, than two sections could be repeated. So, since I still had a good amount of yarn and beads, I decided to increase the lace section as I really wanted the shawl to be lacy and open as well as a decent size. I still had plenty of time before the wedding. However, I seemed to forget that as the shawl grew in size, the amount of stitches also grew with every row completed.
Following a complicated lace chart, where beads are placed A LOT throughout out, takes a fair bit of concentration and time to complete one row. I did some maths towards the end – each pattern repeat had 12 stitches ….. I counted about 50 odd pattern repeat markers!!! Work the maths out on that one!
When I was about to complete the last chart, I was nearly out of my pack of beads – pack of 1500 – so I had to order more. They arrived in time and I was able to do the final few rows of the shawl – this row had even more beads placed on to give the edging some weight and a luxury touch. The cast off edge took me several evenings to complete – at this point I had calculated that I had close to 700 stitches to cast off, but it was no ordinary cast off – the cast off was done with picots being formed while casting off, so it was basically – cast on 4 stitches, cast off 6 stitches – all the way along the row. The casting off was tedious and long winded, but I have to admit that the edging was spectacular and well worth the extra effort. So the final stitch came off the needles a week before the wedding. So this shawl, nearly used the 1000 metres of yearn and OVER 1500 beads!
However, the shawl may have been finished – knitting wise – but it still had to be blocked to bring the lace to life and truly make the shawl bloom. To block my shawls and to bring out the lace, I always soak them in warm water with some fabric softener, mainly to freshen it up and give it a lovely smell. After the shawl has been soaking for about 20 minutes, I wring out the extra water so it is not soaking wet and it is time to bring it to life by blocking and letting it dry thoroughly.
I use the interlocking foam play mats to block, they are brilliant as you can stick the pins in them and they stay secure. I place my first pin in the centre of the top edge of the shawl and work my way along the top edge towards the very edge of the shawl that meets with the cast off edge, one half at a time. The cast on edge is slightly pulled and pins placed every couple of inches along this edge. It is when you also create the curve that you want with your blocked shawl.
Once I have completed pinning the top edge, I pull the shawl out to reveal the lace pattern and let it bloom and then place a pin in the centre of the shawl bottom. Again, I work outwards to the edge point, one side at a time, pulling the shawl to open the lace. This is where you also create points at your edge.
I soon discovered that I had a slight issue with the shawl and the blocks – I didn’t have enough foam blocks to accommodate the shawl! The two edge points of the shawl went way beyond the foam blocks and I had to fold the edges and bring them back to the centre of the shawl. Sometimes you just need to improvise! Once the shawl is pinned open, it is now left for at least 24 hours so it can dry completely. Sometimes, it can take longer, as it depends on how much rain we have having and just how damp the air can be.
After a day and a bit, the shawl was completely dry and I was able to remove the pins. The shawl had grown with the blocking and the lace pattern had truly opened and become even more like a cobweb – a sparkling cobweb with beads (or dew drops)! All that had to be done now was to weave in the ends of yarn at the cast on and cast off points and then lovingly wrap it in tissue paper and into a box so it could be gifted to Latisha as she was getting into her wedding dress prior to the ceremony.
I think it is safe to say that the shawl really did suit her and set off her dress and hair so well.