Soap opera

(one more row than before) (but I tinked and re-knit those four rows to fix the pattern mistake)


Hehe 🙂

Should we pick up this cliffhanger where we left off?

Previously on Grumperina does not speak Japanese, our heroine received some unexpected and shocking news about her current knitting project, the Mountainash Shawl. Fortuitously, the news reached her at work, allowing her a whopping 20 minutes to think about the situation while walking home. This prevented barbarian frogging carnage, an act so wild that it would be available on Pay-Per-Blog only.

Here’s what happened – Noriko’s e-mail literally had me on pins and needles until I got home. It didn’t sadden me, and I now realize that calling the news “bad” was a mistake. Not bad; rather, intriguing, puzzling, exciting… welcome! Yes, Noriko, the information was welcome, and I thank you again ;). I couldn’t wait to get home and open up the pattern book. I thought, now this is a challenge – BRING IT!

As many of you pointed out, there are many ways to skin a cat, and you know that there’s no way I would embark on knitting a huge shawl (the pattern for which is written in freakin’ Japanese!) without a plan. Of course not! I poured over that book for hours, and e-mailed back and forth with my Shawl Army many times before I cast on.

So, how would the newly acquired information affect my project? Good question. I raced home not to curl into the fetal position and cry, and not to have a wild frogging party. No, no! I raced home to see how my shawl plan differed from the designer’s, and whether I had missed something critical for which I would now need to make adjustments.

The shawl schematic above tells you that no frogging ensued. In fact, if I may be so bold (tempting the Knitting Goddess is a bad, bad idea, watch me get struck with a pointy knitting needle for saying this out loud), I think the way I’m going about knitting this shawl is… at least as intuitive (I don’t want to say “better,” but… you know…). I ran the plan by Terry when I saw her at the Yarn Harlot tour stop today (hi everyone!), and she nodded her head in approval.

For the technically-inclined, and for those who are knitting or planning to knit this shawl, I include a brief explanation of the differences in the extended entry. For the rest of you, a progress photo:


Okay, I promised myself that I wouldn’t blab too much here – time spent putting together diagrams = time I could be knitting the shawl ;). I’m guessing that if you’ve opted to read this, you’ll understand a brief explanation as clearly as a really wordy one.

First, a word about the border – it is a very simple, symmetric border (picture). The designer has made no special provisions when it comes to the corners, no mitering, no short rows (picture). As you’ll see, this is a key point.

What the designer intended


(1) The border along the long edge of the shawl is knit first as a freestanding fabric. It is 9-12 stitches wide, and we are asked to knit 85 repeats, or 1021 rows, of it. Are you already convinced that perhaps this way isn’t the best, hahaha! (2) 510 stitches are picked up along the inside edge of this border, (3) the main part of the shawl is knit long-edge-to-center; the border along the top edge is knit simultaneously using short rows; the saga ends when the center of the top is reached and the border is grafted (orange squiggly).

In the pattern, the border chart appears seven times to show the knitter the frequency at which it’s attached depending on the part of the shawl. Had I looked more carefully at the two charts illustrating how the border is attached at the center of the top of the shawl, I would have noticed that the rows are worked discontinuously, in two opposite directions. Since the border is symmetric, this is not even approximately obvious unless you’re really looking to see which way the decrease symbols face (or know Japanese and can read the instructions). This was my only clue as to how the shawl is actually worked, and I don’t blame myself for a second for not seeing this until prompted by further information.

How I interpreted the pattern


(1) Provisionally cast-on 510 sts, which correspond to the long edge of the shawl; work shawl long-edge-to-center, (2) break yarn, and pick up stitches along the selvedge edge; provisionally cast on 9 sts to account for width of border, (3) knit border seamlessly all the way around, using live stitches from the provisional cast-on (green) and picked up stitches along the selvedge (purple); graft last row to cast-on edge.

Is that last diagram busy enough for you?!? Hehe.

I figure that the annoyance level of provisionally casting on 510 sts is cancelled by uniformly picking up 510 sts along the edge of the border. But on top of that, “their” way has you knit the border first… this very skinny, very long border – annoying. As for the short-rowed border along the selvedge edge – pretty clever, but is it that much more convenient than just picking up stitches and attaching the border later?? If I knew about it ahead of time, I think I would have implemented it just for novelty’s sake, but it’s not so revolutionary that I’m willing to start over.

So, I think my plan will work. I know it’s probably impossible for you to offer an opinion because you don’t have the pattern, so I’m not asking for one. Rather, I simply ask for good wishes ;).


54 thoughts on “Soap opera

  1. Anna

    Seems like whichever way you do it, this shawl is a bitch to knit. However, I like your plan better. It makes more sense.

  2. Megan A.

    Best of luck on the shawl! Your posts always show up in my RSS thingy at just the time I need a break from homework; thanks for giving me something to look forward to this close to the end of the semester.

  3. Melissa

    Good wishes!!! Although I don’t think you’ll need them. I like your way much better, anyway. I always avoid patterns that require knitting a border first. Can anyone say..boring? 🙂

  4. chris

    Many good wishes, good karma, good knitting vibes!!! And – have you ever written your own shawl/lace patterns – if you haven’t, you should – in any language you want!!

  5. LaurieM

    Your idea is just as good as theirs, probably better, because the edging can account for the corners.

    I knit Frost Flowers and leaves from the Gathering of Lace and I can say that a knitted-on border goes on forever.

  6. Theresa

    I think your way is just as intitutive as theirs, although I’d argue about how much easier it is to knit on a border to a large shawl than to knit it first. But it seems like it should work beautifully.

  7. mari

    Good luck. I think you way may make more sense in the long run and flow better than how the designer intended. It should be interesting to see how the lace diagram progresses as you work on this. I’ve ordered the book from YesAsia and I’ll be following your progress closesly.

    BTW which needles did you decide to go for this time?

  8. Susan

    A very big “arigato” to you for being so up for and up to the challenge – and sharing it with us. You’re inspiring me on my current project (fair isle cardigan with poorly written instructions; hey, maybe you’d like it?).

    It’s fun to watch your soapera. Your drama runs about as fast as the ones on TV, only yours is more exciting.

    So, arigato! You are learning Japanese, n’est-ce pas? Anyone remember that song from the 80s, “I think I’m turning Japanese”?


  9. Kittie

    Actually, I /do/ have this pattern and I’m reading your blog religiously while you do this, since I am aching to make this shawl myself and can’t read a lick of Japanese and the charts are making my eyes cross just a wee bit. You are schooling me well and prepping me to be able to give this thing a shot. Thank you for all the information you are providing as you work through this!!

  10. trek

    I think I like your interpretation better than the designer’s. Picking up 510 sts uniformly isn’t a problem – just do the math. Picking up 510 sts on something knit to resemble a garter snak, however….

  11. jess

    Love the way you approach the challenge (it wouldn’t be your blog or your projects without it)! Sending you good wishes… and wow, that shawl is gorgeous.

    [I’d agree that your method is more intuitive.]

  12. Laura

    I do think your plan will work just as well as the intended plan, and I know you will be able work through any problems that may arise.

    However, I have to admit that short row construction of the top border is very clever! I think I would prefer that to picking up stitches but only because I hate picking up stitches.

    Good Luck!

  13. Shiromaru

    What a great way you found!

    Please allow me to display respect for your positive, flexible and rational thinking.

    I heartily rejoice in your catch-up and progress.

  14. Nessa

    Good wishes you’ve got!

    I’m not gutsy enough (yet)to tackle a pattern that’s not in English, so my admiration knows no bounds. Your version should turn out better that one made according to pattern – you can do short-row pattern repeats at the corners to fill them out.

    I follow your progress with great interest. The daunting task of tediously knitting and picking up a whonking long border has kept me from tackling most Shetland shawl patterns.

    Nessa Z.

  15. Carla

    Holy cow Grumpy, really what do you do for a living? (I don’t remember) But dang…you put so much thought and work into this particular shawl (and well, just about everything you knit) that if the government put you in charge of diplomacy, we’d surely have world peace! You would FIND a way I’m sure 🙂

  16. miss ewe

    Once gain I bow (how Japanese) to Grumperina, knitting goddess of “the other way”. You were an interesting little kid, weren’t you.

  17. CarrieScribe

    Looks like your way is great. (I think I’d prefer to knit the border first, because knitting on a (seemingly endless) border at the end seems like pure torture to me (and was, the one time I had to do it so far), but that’s one of those things where opinions are just going to vary.)

    Glad you didn’t frog in a fit of pique — though we all knew better than to think you’d do that.

  18. Janice in GA

    The original pattern design is a bit more like they do it in Orenburg shawls, or in designs like Sharon Miller’s Princess Shawl (I think – I don’t actually have that pattern, alas.) The triangular Orenburg I’m working on has you knit the top border first, then pick up stitches along the border and knit the center. You knit one side border while you’re knitting the center, then you knit the third border separately and graft it on. Tell me *that* isn’t kinda messed up! I’d assumed when I started out (from not reading the directions clearly enough) that both side borders would be knit at the same time, and just a little bit grafted at the point. But I was curious enough about how it was going to work to try it as written.

    Sounds like you’re having fun, and that’s a good thing.

  19. Joanna

    Sending good wishes! I’m intrigued by the idea of knitting the border at the same time, but I can understand why you wouldn’t want to frog what you’ve done so far just to try it. Maybe next time, right? 😉 And I definitely agree that making and undoing a provisional cast-on, while fiddly, is still much more enjoyable than picking up stitches. Especially when there are over 500 of them.

    (And it was good to see you yesterday – next time, whenever that may be, I’ll be much less sheepish and just go say hi! :))

  20. omly

    There is a very helpful website here for interpreting japanese knitting patterns if you speak english. Looks like you have it under control though.

  21. Sarah

    Sending you many, many good wishes! I’m not sure I entirely understood the explanation, but it was clear to me that you know what you’re doing, and I have no doubt that this project will be a great success!

  22. Carrie

    Since everyone does things differently, the way the designer wrote it made sense for her, and this way is more intuitive for you! I don’t think the knitting goddess would smite you for feeling more comfortable with a different way.

  23. Sooza

    Kudos to you, girl! You’re doing fabulously, really. And if you ask me, I think your way of interpreting this pattern is way more intuitive than the original one But that might just be me, who neither gets the point of knitting 4 yards of edging first and then knitting inwards in the original Shetland style shawls. I rather do it the other way around and attach the edging in the end. It’s a really neat way, in my eyes. I’m looking really forward to more news from this project.

    Happy knitting


  24. Kathy

    Wishing you luck, but I bet you don’t need it! I think your plans make far better sense, and once you are past casting on that initial huge amount, the rest is all downhill – win-win situation. Can’t wait to see more pictures!

  25. Emily

    Hey, it was nice meeting you at Yarn Harlot Day. I hope I didn’t come off like a total stalker, I was just already all a-flutter to see Stephanie, and then I saw you and I was like, “Holy crap, I recognize her. From that blog!” And then I get all shy and weird and try to throw yarn at people to distract them. In that crowd, it would have worked, too. 🙂

  26. Mary K. in Rockport

    Totally unrelated to your topic of today, but I couldn’t keep myself from glancing at your pant hems in Cambridge the other day….

  27. Sue

    It certainly looks like you’ve got the puzzle solved… based on the picture this is going to be one gorgeous shawl, worth the mental work as well as the knitting! Congratulations on the success so far!

  28. Kenny

    Just out of curiosity, when you say “tink”, do you unknit each individual stitch or do you pull the whole thing off the needles and insert the needles back to the stitches?

  29. Christina

    …and this is why I will never knit a shawl from a pattern written in Japanese.

    I am enjoying following the drama turned saga of your shawl. Good luck and best wishes!

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