Thursday, September 12, 2013

Knitting 4) Angela's drop stitch scarf


Angela is my sister-in-law, the wife of my youngest brother, he who is closest to me in age of all my siblings. To the best of my memory, I have never made her a present before, certainly not since we were kids, as we pretty much were when we first met, I was about seventeen and she only a year or two older.  At that time she was studying maths at Cambridge, where my brother was studying economics.  She always was and still is quietly, doggedly and mind-bogglingly clever, and since the time she left that place and married my brother she has worked in aerospace, sending pioneering satellites into space and who-knows-what, travelling the world to do so.  She and my brother are loyal, devoted and have grown together wondrously, and I respect, admire, like and love them both, yet I really haven't spent much time with them over the years. I generally try to remember her birthday, but this year, with the kids being here and all, it passed me by until a few days later.

I found the couple of balls of this rather odd discontinued yarn in Phildar's basket again, and bought it without a plan, then found the drop stitch scarf pattern and knew they were made for each other, though at the time I didn't know for whom.  The technique is compelling and satisfying, counting up and down and back and forth all the time, but in a way and with a rhythm that quite quickly becomes happily lodged in the mind like a dance, with every third row winding the yarn round the needle, once, then twice, then three times, then twice, then once again, then six straight stitches, and so on, then in the next row you purposely drop all those wound round stitches you've just made, which feels kind of risky and exciting (yes really, well to me anyway, I lead a quiet life...) and the pattern falls out of the yarn in open loops and waves.

Initially, though, it's not all that visible:



so you have to block it quite aggressively:


which I did on the line, with the help of clothes pegs and a bag of onions,



so it finishes up nicely opened out, and the scarf itself is somewhat longer.

Observing I'd missed Angela's birthday, the final serendipitous piece dropped like into place as happily as did the stitches; the yarn with its subtle colours now suggested to me fine wires of complex alloys and rare earth metals, the wave patterns maths and graphs and other arcane things... 

Angela wrote back, a lovely warm e-mail, thanking me graciously: the yarn and pattern, she said, made her think of sea spray (I later learned this particular stitch pattern is sometimes called the sea foam drop stitch). All was well with them, she said, but she didn't know if it was an age thing, but work seemed to take up more of life than she liked; time at home and with family seemed to be more and more important but there seemed to be less and less of it.  

I invited myself to dinner with them next month.

17 comments:

marja-leena said...

Here, in the middle of a wonderful visit from husband's cousin and wife in Germany, as I take a quick look at a few blogs, comes this wonderful piece about family, love, friendship and knitting all wrapped together. I love the scarf! Interesting that 'blocking', at least in this case, involves a lot of stretching (this from a non-knitter).

Zhoen said...

I would feel so blessed to have a SIL like you, to make something so lovely, thoughtful, and unique for me.

Ellena said...

Lovely! I like to swing my scarves around and around my neck. Never to long. I tried to figure out how many stitches you counted on. 36?
I used to block my knitting on the iron board - stretched to desired size - pinned down - covered with large wet handkerchief and sat hot iron on it. Section by section.
Amazing what one can do with a bag of onions.

Francesca said...

What a beautiful scarf. I have to tell you that I first looked at this without my glasses on, and my first impression of the bag of onions was that it was a chicken! And I was very impressed you had trained a chicken to help with your blocking!

Roderick Robinson said...

Angela would have been a perfect recipient for the Fibonacci garment. You should respond to her trade in what you knit. How about a follow-up dish-cloth incorporating a demonstration of the beauty of calculus: a lovely hysteresis curve based on Δi/Δt (a small change in current divided by a small change in time). A bit basic, perhaps. Check her branch of maths. Is it topology? If so the world's your oyster.

Anonymous said...

This might be one of my favorite Lucy posts ever. That scarf is beautiful. I only know how to knit scarves, straight, long, knit-knit-knit scarves; I know nothing more. But maybe even I could do this gorgeous drop-stitch scarf? And your two ending paragraphs brought tears to my eyes. XO, Alison

Lyse said...

Très jolie cette écharpe, je suppose que le point ne doit être facile. Il faut beaucoup de patience!
La couleur est très agréable.

Bruce Taylor, a.k.a. Catalyst said...

It's lovely, Lucy, and I'm sure she was pleased to receive it.

Soize said...

Magnifiquement longue cette écharpe ! et j'adore ta méthode pour la bloquer :-)

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Beautiful and surely sensational to the touch. Knitting seems the solution to all gift-giving problems.

You've invited yourself to dinner...do they live in France? If in the UK, and in London, I'm counting on you to come and see me, Lucy!

Lucy said...

Thanks chaps.

ML - glad you're feeling good about friends and family too. Blocking is really about shaping and smoothing the finished thing, and can resolve a multitude of sins!

Z - well, I've perhaps not done so much to show appreciation in the past, but perhaps we've just not been so aware of the need to. Glad you think the scarf looks good.

Ellena - just checked the pattern, I think I only did the 26 they recommend, but you can do any multiple of 10 plus 6, it seems. I never knew about blocking until recently, which may explain why I've never found knitting very satisfying before. I love blocking! Tom has provided me with a large piece of polystyrene board and I bought myself some really nice pearly-headed pins, but here it was the stretching that was important. Soize, below, does amazing things blocking shawls on the line with lots of clothes pegs to shape them!

Francesca - I laughed out loud, literally, about the blocking chicken, but can't for the life of me see how it looks like one, even squinting with my glasses off. We had chickens once but they would never have done anything so useful; scratched it to bits more like!

RR - I have it on reliable authority those are the symbols for difference equations rather than differential ones, which cannot be solved analytically in the same manner. Like I've a clue what that's all about but probably Angela would have. I learned to knit on dishcloths, and may yet return to them.

Alison - thank you! Do try the dropstitch, the pattern is in the link, it's easy and so satisfying.

Lyse - vraiment, c'est facile et très satisfiant!

Bruce - thanks, she said she was!

Soize - merci! Deux pelotes etaient juste assez, c'était plus longue après le blocage. Tu es l'expert de blocage avec les épingles de linge!

Natalie - I hope people don't get fed up with getting knitted stuff before I get fed up with making it! That would be nice, but... I'll contact.

Roderick Robinson said...

I was thinking thermionic valves, Coulda been lower-case delta, not cap delta. My defence: cap delta is easier to knit. You'd appreciae that, wouldn't you?

Rouchswalwe said...

Would it work with a bag of apples? I found myself wondering ... I received a beautiful hand-knit scarf several years ago, but it keeps curling.

I'm as near-sighted as a blind bat, and I can see the chicken with my spectacles off!!

marly youmans said...

I like the chicken-blocking idea!

Lovely little post about making things for people we love and about renewing links...

A merry fall to you, Lucy!

agnieszka said...

how beautiful. i love your meditative posts, they always manage to slow me down.

i also wanted to let you know that despite my utter and complete comment silence, i read each and every one of your posts. just haven't felt up to commenting, and i'm sorry because i know how lovely it is to have proof positive of someone out there reading one's words.

Julia said...

That's beautiful Lucy...

And so very French of you to use a bag of onions :)

shafique said...

That is good