The Cobweb Crepe Shawl: Starting the Borders

I had time this long holiday weekend to once again turn my attention to the crepe shawl.  I’ve had the center square done since we returned from our road trip several weeks ago.  The next step in the process is to pick up 243 stitches around the perimeter of the square, which, when added to the 81 stitches already on the needle, gets you 324 stitches.

The crepe shawl is one of my summer knitting projects, chosen because of its light weight, and also because I want to take advantage of our long days of sunlight to knit the black yarn.  Here at the Fourth of July, it’s full-up summer.  I’m harvesting lavender and thyme to dry

herbs drying

and will be making pesto and more pesto in the coming weeks, plus some jam, too.  But I can tell already that the days are becoming perceptibly shorter.  Just as I have to hurry to harvest herbs in their season, I must also take advantage of available time to make progress on the shawl.  So, on this Fourth, before the cookout and fireworks, I took the time to move the shawl on to the next step in the knitting process — picking up the stitches for the borders.

There are two knitting tasks that I loathe — grafting and picking up stitches.  Of the two, I hate grafting more, but only slightly.  Now, I suppose these aren’t much different from other knitting tasks in that everything’s un-doable, everything’s fixable, if there’s a mistake.  Just take it back and start over.  But besides that, these tasks require good lighting, my undivided attention, and a good whack of time, depending on the number of stitches involved.  Sometimes, I enjoy knitting tasks that require my undivided attention.  For example, colorwork.  However, colorwork differs for me in that I enjoy seeing the pattern appear in the fabric on my needles.  Grafting and picking up stitches?  Pure tedium.

For this shawl, I was faced with the prospect of trading lots of grafting for lots of picking up stitches.  If I chose to pick up stitches and knit all four borders at once, in the round, I’d have precious little grafting to do at the end.  That would be my reward for picking up hundreds of stitches and then slogging through interminable rounds with a multitude of color-coded markers placed in a probably futile attempt to keep me on track.  Or, I could knit each border separately and then graft and miter the corners together before knitting on the edging.  Doing so would save me from picking up all the stitches at once, at the price of doing a lot of grafting after the borders were knitted.

For my last shawl, I chose to knit the borders separately.  I reasoned that finishing work, such as seaming, usually doesn’t faze me.  I knit a lot of sweaters, and I knit them in pieces, and I block them within an inch of their lives and seam them up all nice and tidy, and usually don’t require any extra wine (or whining) to do so.  Grafting shawl borders? Bring it, I thought.

Grafting the borders proved to be a more onerous undertaking than I’d imagined, though.  Grafting cobweb-weight lace and doing so neatly was one of the most tedious and nerve-wracking things I’ve done in my knitterly life.  I’m still not entirely happy with the results.  So, this shawl?  This one would be different, I told myself.  I’d follow a construction method that called for as little grafting as possible.

I sat down at the dining room table with my small crochet hook and some stitch markers, and got to work.  I divided each side into eighths, so I’d pick up 10 stitches in each section and 11 at each border end to make 81 per side.  It was long, it was tedious, and I took breaks, but I did it.

Cobweb Crepe - picking up

Then, I sat down to establish the foundation rows.  Knitting all four borders at once will be a chore, particularly as the borders grow.  I’m glad, though, to have them established, as it’s all pretty much just following the chart at this point.  Now, I’m happy to say, the shawl is all ready for me to just pick it up and work on it throughout the rest of the summer.

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