Saturday, February 24, 2007

Thy Name Is

Thanks to everyone who voted in the evil computer name poll! After I tried swapping cables, wall outlets, surge protectors, hibernation schemes, etc, I was contemplating dubbing the beastie Lemon and drop-kicking returning it, but found an unlikely suggestion on a troubleshooting website: disconnect the power cord, flip the voltage switch on the back panel from US to European voltage, wait 5 seconds, flip it back, plug in.

Computer voltage switch

The simple fix seems to have tamed the powerup and powerdown woes. The little green light in back and the overly bright blue light in front turned on immediately, the computer hibernates on command, and 12 hours later there's been no nonsense about opening or shutting the pod bay doors.

Given this week's SnB discussion of hussy women and other fun stuff, one hesitates to confess this, but... I tired of Handsome and swatched for the Myrtle Leaf shawl (p. 142 in Victorian Lace Today) using Lorna's Laces Helen's Lace. Teehee.

Myrtle Leaf shawl swatch

The leaf lace is lovely to be sure, but... after knitblogless Eileen mentioned she plans to knit Kew, I thought I'd join her in making leaf lace socks rather than a shawl.

So I started a half-hexagon Spider's Web Fichu, p. 44. There's something irresistable about the shiny promise of a beaded edging (!).

Spider's Web Fichu begins

The beads I plan to use call for a sporty look, so I'm using KFI Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy, a blend of 41% cotton, 34% hemp, and 25% modal (reconstituted beech tree fiber, essentially a type of rayon). The yarn is two strands of multiple plies, which takes a bit of getting used to – it knits like string, yet the fabric is supple and light, with the best characteristics of its component fibers. The fibers reflect light differently, giving the yarn a beguiling gleam, softer than the brilliant shine of mercerized cotton or rayon. The yarn does not smell like hemp, which sometimes has an odor I find disagreeable.

The spider's web pattern is quick and easy to knit. It would be a good project for a newbie lace knitter, with the caveat that the expanses of stockinette stitch and the strict geometric lines mean even small variations in gauge or errors in stitch placement are glaringly obvious. I added another chevron, then decided it really isn't necessary (but wasn't about frog back to take it out).

As this is my second project from VLT, a brief book review seems in order.Victorian Lace Today cover Overall, the projects in the book are lovely, covetable, and I plan to make several. Not one is beyond contemplation* for reasons of time, technique, practicality, or cost. The last chapter, Techniques, Tools, and Talk, equals the entire rest of the book in worth for the outstanding, very clear illustrations of stitch, blocking, and design techniques, the excellent lace yarn directory, and the author's commentary on the fabulous photo shoot locations.

The book is not without shortcomings. The most serious is the lack of an index; at minimum, I'd like an index of designs and stitch patterns. A list of designs and page numbers is given in the online errata sheet – [eyeroll] an index is not an erratum. Technique is a strong point of the book, yet some projects, such as Handsome, employ awkward stitch techniques even when better options exist and are used elsewhere in the book.

My last quibble is a pet peeve. The author notes Victorian women often did not fit the gilded cage stereotypes and strictures of the time, yet there is a certain wispy sameness to the projects: they are all fine indoor shawls. There's nothing that enterprising Bathsheba could wear to the Corn Exchange or patient Tess could wear at Talbothy's – so much laceweight mohair is equally impractical in many work environments today. The patterns are also simple and repetitious, lacking the design sophistication of the best Shetland shawls. Happily, the reader has the option to make substitutions to turn delicate flowers into rustic or sporty beauties and some readers (notably the mighty Wendy) may prefer simple to ornamented.

[ETA: In the comments, Deb raises the important matter of period authenticity. In some designs, VLT author Jane Sowerby borrows freely from multiple sources over several decades. Antique furniture connoisseurs might call that "pastiche" (ouch!); my esthetics are in a different place (and the book is clearly titled), but Victorian lace "re-enactors" will want to consult facsimile publications such as Weldon's Practical Needlework rather than VLT. The author also sprinkles mention of working class women's attire throughout the book and indicates she's worked favorite designs in multiple weights of yarn. I would have liked to see the shawls, not just hear about them. But, as I've indicated, that's a personal preference.]

For the knitter of limited means, VLT or A Gathering of Lace or Lace Style would be an excellent introduction to the craft. While VLT is all Victorian shawls and scarves, GOL draws upon a wider variety of lace traditions and includes patterns for garments other than shawls and Lace Style is mostly clothes, which may or may not strike the reader as an advantage. At the other extreme, the knitter with a shelfload of lace books will find VLT an interesting and worthwhile addition to the collection.

Finally, please send some bloggy love to new blogger Kim, who has gone from blogless to posting like Athena from the head of Zeus. And many thanks to Debby for suggesting the Cycling Knitters webring. Now that the computer is obeying working properly, I've joined and posted the ringcode [g].

*I should note I love tour de force projects – wedding gowns, greatcoats, lace coracles, nano-knitting, etc – things I admire greatly but probably will never make.


--Deb said...

I really liked VLT--although I think I was one of the first people to complain to the publisher about the complete lack of index or useful table of contents. (I mean, really! How stupid to leave that out!) But the book itself? I love the historical underpinnings of each section, and how the patterns are "authentic," not just something vaguely inspired by what the designer THINKS is Victorian lace.

Oh, and my guess is that Tess and her compatriots were wearing woven shawls or relatively plain-knit ones to get the most warmth from a necessary garment . . . hard-working women wouldn't be able to afford to wear a garment that would catch on everything, and lace does that--and is fragile, too. So, more fundamental Victorian knit shawls would most likely NOT be lace, and therefore not in this book dedicated to Victorian lace . . . at least, that's my guess!

Kim said...

Would hussy women wear lace shawls? If so, I guess it would be the kind you're making, which are so gorgeous! I haven't taken the lace shawl plunge yet, but soon. Thanks for linking to my blog twice in one post! Wow!

Beth S. said...

That's a very good review of VLT. I personally don't mind the 'pastiche' element (perfect turn of phrase, btw!) but you're absolutely right about it. Perhaps that's why "today" is in boldface type on the cover... truth in advertising. (Which I don't generally expect from the XRX people, ahem!)

I would add one thing to your review: the styling in the book is AWFUL. The hideous skirts and dresses! The nasty pleather pants! What were they thinking?...

knitseashore said...

Sorry to come to this so late (I think my bloglines lost you, but I'll add you back), but I'm glad you're joining us cycling knitters. Now, if it would only get warm enough to ride!