Last weekend I finished my first Branching Out scarf, which will be a belated birthday present for a friend. She'd requested a scarf, and I wanted to do something more exciting than your garden variety 2x2 ribbing. This looked like fun to try some lace. (Little did I know that it's the de rigeur scarf out there, according to Sis!)
I made this with two skeins of KnitPicks' Andean Treasure in Lilac, which is a 100% baby alpaca sport weight. The finished size was 64x6.5 inches, just over 5 feet long. The purple has a nice heather-ish quality to it, and is the softest you could imagine. I found myself imagine a whole blanket or shawl out of it as I was knitting the scarf. The only downside I could imagine for this yarn is it is so fuzzy and gentle, I'd be afraid of pilling. But it's a dream to knit with. I also found some nice, 8-inch bamboo needles to work on - straights tend to make my wrists cramp up, but the bamboos are nice and light. I think I'm pretty well sold on them now too.
This pattern is introduced as a good beginner lace project, and I'd never tried it before. The pattern repeat is only 10 rows, which was perfect. At first it was frustrating because I couldn't figure out what the stitches were trying to do - it didn't feel like how you knit with cables, and can see what all the twists are working out to. In the beginning I got through 3 pattern repeats but had made too many mistakes to keep going, and ripped out the whole thing and started over. After a second start, and a few lifelines threaded through for safety, I started to get the hang of it. After about 15 or 20 repeats I felt comfy and could go on without the chart. Something that really helps keep you on pattern is the line of knit stitches right up the centre.
Now, I'd read the Yarn Harlot talking about the magic of blocking lace, and was tantalized by the idea of it. Before blocking, the pattern was pretty well visible in the scarf, but the sides were curling in and it didn't have much shape. But after blocking, just like that, the whole thing came out clean and flat, all the leaves in the pattern showed up nice and clear, and the yarn-over holes just pop. Blocking is magic, what do you know?
It's going to be hard not to steal this one for myself, I tell ya. But after this project, call me smitten with lace. Once I've worked through all my sock and sweater stash, I think I'll look out for a good shawl pattern.