Oh. I did this!

I did a thing! A thing that I did that was sort of a big deal and sort of weird and I kept meaning to take pictures and tell you about it but kept forgetting and then it was over. It involved this monster:

This is a knitting machine. My mother’s knitting machine. It is called a “Big Phil” which is truly in no way flattering, but that is what they call it. When we were home for reading week, at the same time that I got to meet the Yarn Harlot and was on that ridiculous Doctor Who binge, I spent an afternoon wrestling with this guy.

Here’s why: A lovely friend commissioned me to make a very large object that was mostly just stockinette. I knew that even though I had two and a half months until Christmas, it was highly unlikely I could fit it in… unless I did most of it on the knitting machine. So I took a thwack. I had one visit home before Christmas, I could use Mum’s machine then.

Acquisition of the yarn was the first problem. We were heading home on a Tuesday night, after a meeting downtown, and I was going to snag the yarn from the store on the way out. I got the okay from my boss to do so even though the store was closed. So we were packed up and ready to go… and I couldn’t find my keys. Without my keys, I couldn’t get into the store after closing to get the yarn (and I couldn’t quite bring myself to call my boss to ask her to open the store for me just so I could buy emergency yarn. I have limits). We ransacked the house and I couldn’t find my keys anywhere. It was time to go – being late for this meeting was not an option – so I couldn’t get the yarn.

We ended up getting up early the next morning to go to the local yarn shop in Maryland, where I knew they carried the line of yarn. They had three skeins of it; I needed 5, but maybe 3 would be enough for the center of the object, and I could just knit a big border by hand. Sure.

As far as the object itself, I didn’t actually know what it was. My client called it a “shawl,” but according to the schematics she described, it was mostly an enormous rectangle. Not like a stole, but like something else, as it had a “keyhole” that went halfway up its length. I used every single needle on the machine, set the gauge pretty large, and cranked out half the rectangle. When my yarn was about halfway gone, I split the rectangle in half. Then when I was nearly out of yarn, I spent about an hour trying to close the hole – because “keyhole” to me sounds like a hole that closes.

I’m glad I checked on that last point, because in this case “keyhole” meant “slit.” I still really had no idea what I was making, but at least I knew what it was supposed to be shaped like.

When we got back home, I picked up two more skeins of the yarn, and picked up all around this massive split rectangle. I did all the math so the Feather and Fan/Old Shale lace pattern would go evenly along the edges, and started knitting. I had to rip back most of a couple rounds at the beginning when I realized I hadn’t done the establishing row of lace quite right, which is not a small task, since a “round” of this thing was something like 800 stitches. The knitting was enjoyable (Old Shale is so nice since 3 out of 4 rounds are just plain), and when I got to the end I only had to rip the bind-off out once because I had of course underestimated the yarn I would have to leave for it.

The thing was finished just in time for Thanksgiving. While we were gone, it blocked on most of our queen-sized bed.

Then when we unpinned it…

Roommate A, my compliant model, almost didn’t take it off. I have been told this kind of garment is called a “Ruana,” and it is nearly as good as a cape as an excuse for an adult to wear a blanket out of doors. You can wear it a bunch of different ways, and it looks good on many different types. I am quite pleased with it, and would have been very unhappy to give it away if it were not for the fact that I was being well-paid.

Now that I actually know what I’m doing, I kinda want to make another one. Though sometimes it’s fun when you aren’t quite sure what you’re making ’till it’s done.

6 thoughts on “Oh. I did this!

  1. I have an Irish Ruanna my mother gave me when I was 15. So its…old. And gorgeous…and still gets compliments when I wear it. Bigger than what is pictured here, but still probably the best Christmas present I ever got.


  2. So you made up the pattern yourself? At least the border part? It IS nice….I like it too. It’s great to see the finished product since it was hard to get the vision when it was incomplete. Looks like a good stash buster and a nice excuse for me to get out the knitting machine again. Let’s make a couple when you are over for Christmas.


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