Sunday, May 11, 2008

Flippin' Spades

Today tastes like bitter coffee and wafer cookies--the good ones with the creamy frosting, not the crappy buck-a-pack ones. The vanilla ones were okay, but the chocolate were bad, and the strawberry were only good for feeding to the seagulls.

I have finally managed to flip the spade lace! Here comes the knitting wonk post I warned you about. The rest of you can look at the pretty pictures and come back when we have more fiction, or other pretty pictures, or some cheese to go with the whine.

So--you have a pretty lace pattern and a great idea for its use. The only thing is . . you want the pattern to orient from a different direction.

Example: Meet Mr. Spade Lace.

He's very handsome. I like the lines of texture that form along the edges where the decreases make the spade point. Another designer, Anne Hanson, has created a very pretty shawl (click here to see) using Spade Lace.

I like her choices of stitches . . . except that the spades are upside down in the final garment.

See, Spade Lace orients such that the points point away from the cast-on edge. Anne knit Casino from the top, i.e., the cast-on edge is at the neck of the garment, and it flows down the back from there. So the points of Spade Lace trail down the back of the wearer.

Anne did a nice job turning this into a feature of the pattern (go see here). She knit a triangle shaped shawl, so the bottom point is the final repeat of Spade Lace.

Personally, I don't like simple triangle shawls. They require clutching and pinning and fiddling to keep on your shoulders, for the most part. I really like faroese shawls. They give you wings! Really, when they're on, they have these neat little pockets that your shoulders slip into, and then they hang on your body like they're part of you. You have to take them off to get out of them, they don't slip and slide and crawl all over.

And I'll bet you saw this coming: I like to knit them from the top down.

Bottom up directions read like this: Cast on a gazillion stitches, or knit three miles of edging and pick up one stitch for every other row. Knit forever, decreasing at the edges and center back panel. When you're almost done, decrease frantically at the shoulders in order to get to the neckline before you run out of yarn.

Bleh. And bleh again. I like the control that comes with top-down. I can decide when to quit and have a finished garment, even if it's more a capelet than a shawl. The rows get longer as I go, but psychologically, that's easier for me than facing long long rows to start. And I can control the fullness of the thing from the top, making fake increases when it's "big enough, but not long enough."

So, inspired by Anne's Casino I decided to make a faroese using an inverted variant of Spade Lace.

Ready for some acrobatics? Ready, set, flip!

And here's the boiz side by side:

How's it done?

Knitted lace is a tricksy thing. Sometimes, you can get away with just knitting the pattern in reverse, changing left-leaning decreases to right-leaning decreases and vice versa. Othertimes, you're going to have to re-engineer the pattern to make it flow the way you want.

First, get a good grip on the pattern you want to flip. I knit several repeats of Spade Lace to see how the increases and decreases made the pattern what it is. When I turned my swatch around, I noted that I was going to have to reverse the order of the YO's and decreases. As you can see, this made the individual motifs a little smaller. I also needed more rows to get all the features in.

Second, consider what you want from the final product. You may--or may not-- get a perfect horizontal mirror of your original pattern. What about the design is making you want to turn it over?

What appealed to me about the lace was the line of the decreases as they outlined the spade, and the little turnunder that changed the shape from an arrow (pointy tip growing at an angle, then going perfectly level to a stem) to a spade (pointy tip growing at an angle, then rounding at the corners and dimpling at the stem). But increases and decreases often do not exactly mirror each other--a three to one decrease doesn't look quite the same as a one to three increase. You'll note that in the Inverted variation, the yo's and the dec's are reversed from the original. The stem is smaller. Those were choices I made as I went through making it come out right.

Preserve what you love.

Third, have a good understanding of lace engineering. For every increase, you need a decrease SOMEWHERE IN THE PATTERN or you will wind up with a bunch of stitches you didn't account for. Oops. This especially bites when your pattern insists that it's ready to repeat . . . if only you knew what to do with those extra three stitches.

The original Spade Lace ("OSL") is 12 rows, multiple of 18 plus 1. Motifs are alternated on the half-drop principal so they tile. As one spade grows thicker, the two neighboring spades taper off, until maximal bulge meets stems. And just for fun, there's patterning on both sides. The knit rows have four increases and two decreases. The extra stitches are decreased away on the purl side. One repeat of the lace, therefore, is a half-motif, a full motif, then a half-motif.

So okay--we'll have a half-motif, full motif, half-motif in the inverted lace ("ISL") as well. That's part of how a half-drop works, after all. We know we'll want lace to define the stems and outline the motif. We know we have the option to work decreases on the purl side to compensate for increases on the knit side.

I knit a swatch of OSL, placed a lifeline, then started my ISL right on top. This let me see what I was trying to reverse right there on the needles.

I started with flipping the pointy tip. In OSL, the tip is formed with a double decrease on the purl side halfway through. I made this a double increase on the knit side at the beginning. Gotta start somewhere.

I counted increases and decreases on the knit row, then incorporated additional decreases on the purl row to make the stitch count come back even. That set up the lines of the lace, and after that, it was mostly following the logic of the pattern as far as increases/decreases. And ripping! Lots and lots of ripping! The blessing of the lifeline was that I could rip back, knowing I couldn't lose anything serious.

The most challenging rows were where the old motif falls off and curls under and the new motif begins. This happens twice--once for the center and once for each side. Unfortunately, there's no substitute for skull sweat and elbow grease sometimes.

Keep copious notes of what you do. It took about three weeks of real time to get this flipped, so about 12 hours actually interacting with the needles. You won't remember it all. I reached row 14 of my initial run, and realized I was going to have to make some major changes at row 7. My notes gave me a starting place to determine where this point should be.

Some laces may not flip attractively. But this method gave me a place to get my fingernails under it and get the piece pried up.


Helen said...

I like YOUR version better!!!!

and wow.
remind me not to need to flip lace soon. (HAH .. this is likely to mean that I'll NEEED to flip lace next week.)

Carol said...

I ditto Helen's comment. I wouldn't take the time to knit the original but your flipped version is awesome!

Spike said...

Neither sample was well and truly blocked--just patted out on the carpet.

My version is less "bunchy" and needs less dressing than the original. I think it has to do with the placement of YO's and decreases.