The Spider Queen Part 3

Shortly after I started work on The Spider Queen, I searched on Ravelry and Google to see whether I could find any information on how knitters who had knitted this shawl had handled the borders. I found photographs of some very lovely completed Spider Queens, and several unfinished projects on Ravelry. But the most interesting finding was the blog of a woman who is fairly well known in knitting circles. Her blog includes a lot of very good technical advice, and she is quite inventive. I was excited to see that she had tackled The Spider Queen back in 2007 because I thought that she had perhaps devised a way to knit the borders without having the ugly seams.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that this knitter seemed to hate this shawl. Not only did she think the border patterns were so ill-chosen that she designed her own borders using different patterns, she claimed that the instructions given by Hazel Carter, the shawl’s designer, are wrong, wrong, wrong. She had worked a gauge swatch using the spider pattern from the center of the shawl and following Hazel Carter’s instructions to the letter. She posted a picture of the swatch, and it looks pretty awful. The reason for this, she claims, is that she followed the instructions to always read the center chart from right to left. Now, normally a chart written for back-and-forth knitting, as opposed to knitting in the round, is read from right to left on the right-side rows and left to right on the wrong-side rows. So she knitted another swatch reading the charts in the standard way and got much better results. You can see the pictures of her two swatches by clicking here.

When I found this blog entry, I was quite taken aback because I had already completed most of the first spider section of the shawl center. I had followed the instructions to always read the chart from right to left, and my results were exactly as intended.

The “spider” pattern in my Spider Queen center reading the chart from right to left on every row.

I don’t know where the other knitter went wrong, but it wasn’t the fault of Hazel Carter or the pattern. In fact, the pattern is totally symmetrical, and every row (except 3, 9, and 15) actually reads the same whether one goes from right to left or left to right. If a knitter failed to read the instructions carefully and missed the part where Carter says to read the center chart from right to left on every row and simply knitted the chart in the usual manner, the pattern would work just the same.

I suspect the reason Carter instructs the knitter to always read the chart from right to left is because there are a couple of rows that begin and end with a single decrease (k2tog), but the pattern repeats are separated with a double decrease (sl1, k2tog, psso), so she uses a different symbol for the last stitch of the repeat.

Anyhow, regardless of the complaints of other knitters, I have been happily knitting away on The Spider Queen and after completing two repeats of the center

Two repeats of The Spider Queen center dry-streched.

I’m very happy with how my always-right-to-left spiders look.

The Spider Queen “spiders” knitted according to the designer’s directions.

The Spider Queen Part 1

Many years ago, I bought a kit for Hazel Carter’s The Cat’s Day Shawl from Blackberry Ridge.  Like many of Carter’s designs, this shawl tells a story, the story of the a day in the life of a Shetland cat. The lace patterns used in the shawl all represent elements of the story. A Cat’s Day was the first Shetland-type shawl I ever made, and much to my surprise, it was not at all difficult.

The Cat’s Day Shawl

The yarn is a nice heavy-laceweight wool-silk blend that feels good against the skin and that wears very nicely. I’ve used the shawl a lot, mostly as a coverlet. It is lightweight and  perfect to use when napping in air conditioning or for layering with other covers when it is cold.

I love this shawl so much that I bought several other Hazel Carter kits from Blackberry Ridge, including The Spider Queen Shawl, which I think is dramatic-looking.

The Spider Queen Shawl by Hazel Carter

The Spider Queen kit includes Blackberry Ridge’s Thistledown yarn, a cobweb-weight single. The kit marinated in my stash for a long time because I thought it would be difficult to knit. You see, the lace patterns used for the shawl are the type that have pattern stitches every row. A lot of lace patterns alternate a pattern row with a row that is plain knit (or purl), and I have little difficulty with this type of lace knitting. But the few times I have attempted patterns that include pattern stitches on every row, I have given up in despair. My Melanie Shawl has sat untouched for years because I found the going incredibly slow due to the difficulty I had getting the pattern correct. So I guess it’s understandable that it has taken me a long time to work up the courage to tackle The Spider Queen.

But the lace patterns aren’t the only difficulty I had with starting The Spider Queen. Another reason I avoided The Spider Queen was because the borders are knitted individually, then sewn up. The seams look awful in the picture on the pattern, and I know that mine would probably look much, much worse, being that I really hate sewing up knitted pieces. I have to come up with a way to knit the borders without having those ugly, ugly, ugly seams.

But in spite of these obstacles, I had an overwhelming desire to knit The Spider Queen, so I took the plunge. The kit includes Blackberry Ridge’s Thistledown yarn, a cobweb-weight single. I cast on in Thistledown and started knitting away. I got this far before I stopped.

Thistledown is a yarn with great variation in its thickness (or thinness, depending on how you look at it), and I was not pleased with how the thick sections looked.

The Spider Queen in Thistledown. The fuzzy thick sections of the yarn ruin the appearance of the pattern.

There was no way I was going to put so much work into this shawl using this yarn. I wasn’t about to end up with bunch of fuzzy places ruining the ethereal appearance of my shawl. So I decided to order some Jamieson & Smith cobweb in natural and start over. The Thistledown will be used for some other project somewhere down the road.

When the J & S arrived, I realized it was even finer than the Thistledown, so when I cast on The Spider Queen for the second time, I went down a needle size. The J & S cobweb is also a single that has variation in its thickness, but the variation is considerably less than the Thistledown. In comparison to Thistledown, the J & S is nearly uniform in thickness, and it knits up beautifully without the difference in thickness being noticeable.

The Spider Queen in Jamieson & Smith’s cobweb. No fuzzy thick spots.

I’ve knitted one-and-a-half repeats of the center pattern so far, and I’m amazed at how quickly it has gone. Even though nearly every row includes pattern stitches, the pattern is easy to follow and the knitting is easy to read. I’ve had no difficulty whatsoever.

The Spider Queen 1.5 repeats of center

The Spider Queen dry stretched.

I have even been working on this shawl while watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s my lucky knitting, bringing good fortune to the Los Angeles Kings, who beat the Phoenix Coyotes last night to win the Western Conference championship, the Campbell Cup, and the right to face the Eastern Conference champion (either the Devils or the Rangers) in the Stanley Cup finals. Go, Kings!