Oh hey, I actually got around to blocking that shawl this past weekend! (This shawl is the first of three, because I decided to make them for my bridesmaids as gifts for putting up with me through the long long time we've all known each other.)
When first looking for a shawl pattern, I wanted something quick, but impressive looking, and found that Knitty's Annis Shawl fit the bill. It is a clever pattern: you work the lace edge in straight rows, and then use short rows for the body, gradually creating the triangular shape of the shawl.
Thie pattern calls for "nupps," or raised knots as detailing in the lacework, but I opted to add beads in their place for a bit of sparkle. This was my first time adding beading to my work, but Fluffy Knitter Deb's tutorial made it super easy. (There is also a tutorial on Knitty with two different ways of adding beads to the yarn.) Initially, I had a hard time locating crochet hooks small enough to use with the beads, but finally found some on Amazon.com (I went with the brand Boyle.)
I initially started knitting this shawl on circular needles with Classic Elite Yarns Silky Alpaca Lace and hated every second of it. The yarn was splitting, the yarn-overs were getting twisted on the cable of the circulars, and the flow/movement of the stitches on the needles was not smooth. All of these factors contributed to one row taking me a WHOLE HOUR to finish. These situations in knitting are always hard: do you power through it and just make the thing or do you start over and hope another yarn will work better? Since I will be making three of these, I decided I really needed to enjoy the knitting process and opted to frog the one I was working with. I switched to Handmaiden Sea Silk yarn, which I've used before and loved. This yarn is a lot more expensive than the Classic Elite I started with, but is well worth it.
I also decided to switch to straight needles because I was having so much trouble with the circular needles combined with the lace work. As long as you have needles that are at least 12" long and don't mind scrunching your stitches, it works out just fine. My per-row knitting time reduced from 1 hour to 10-15 minutes, depending on if it was a knit or a purl row. Talk about a huge difference!
Handmaiden Sea Silk is a bit thicker of a yarn then what is required of the pattern, but most reviews of this pattern stated that the stitches were too open for their taste, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to go with a thicker yarn. I really love the way it turned out and the sheen with the Sea Silk is just amazing. I used clear beads, which aren't too showy, but sparkle in the sun.
I expressed fear in blocking this shawl in my last knitting post because it was silk and because I'd never blocked a work before. Well, it was actually quite easy and I had no reason to fear this step. After reading contrasting reviews, I decided not to mist the project (like some people suggest to do with silk yarns), but to go ahead and soak it like you do for normal blocking. This technique worked out well with this yarn. I ended up using Eunny's tutorial on blocking, but did not use a washing agent. I just soaked the shawl in plain water for 5 mins, followed Eunny's tips on transferring and drying the piece, and then pinned it according to the pattern's chart.
I wasn't able to stretch the shawl to the 56" length the chart requested, but I'm still pretty happy with the final size of the shawl. If I did a looser cast-on, I would have been able to stretch the shawl to full length. I'm really amazed at the difference blocking can make to a piece, as you can see with the images above: the left shows the shawl unblocked and the right image is after being blocked and dried. The lacework really pops and all the regular stitches line-up like little soldiers.
So now I have two more to make of these, and I will most likely be making one for myself. Seeing as the whole knitting process for this shawl only took me 2 weeks, I think getting three more done before the end of July is completely feasible and kind of an interesting project!