Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Smokestack Lightning Scarf

I bought the yarn for this scarf on a whim. I had go to a party I didn't want to attend, and so I stopped by the yarn store to fortify myself for the event. The colors in this yarn so entranced me that I failed to ask myself what I was going to do with 4 skeins of the Great Adirondack Yarn Company's Silky Sock yarn in Bahama Mama. I have never yet knit a sock that fit my foot, and this yarn is finer than your typical sock yarn.

The colors were beautiful, though, so I took it home and began swatching. It hated being worked as lace and plain stockinette, and was obviously too fancy for most pattern stitches. It was also too fine for me to contemplate using it for socks, seeing as how it knitted up too loose for socks even on size 0 (2.0mm) needles.

Smokestack Lightning Scarf

At Christmas time, I made two fancy scarves for my mother and grandmother, one with diagonal stripes and another with chevrons. I especially liked the chevron scarf, so I decided to swatch the beautiful sock yarn and see how it liked chevrons.

Smokestack Lightning the Long Way

Chevrons made a lovely zigzag pattern, and the yarn graciously accepted i-cord for the tassels. Over the course of several weeks, I knit 26 little i-cord tassels, slipping the open stitches onto a safety pin as I finished each tassel. When all the tassels had been knit, I arranged them in a pleasing pattern on size 1 (2.50mm) needles. I then knit across 13 tassels (k2-tog, k1, p1 * p1, k2, p1 * p1, k1, ssk), switched to a different ball of yarn, and knit across the next 13 tassels in the same pattern.

I worked both ends of my scarf at the same time. I created downward-point chevrons by increasing just inside the edge ribs and decreasing on either side of the center rib. I maintained the 2x2 rib throughout, doing some extra purl decreases towards the center to avoid having more the 4 knit stitches together on the right side.

Smokestack Lightning Tassels

I continued in this fashion for five months. The stitches were slippery and the gauge was fine, so I needed good light and concentration to work on it. I found that I could work about 8 rows across both ends before my eyes started complaining, so I put in a few 8-row stints a week.

About a month ago, I realized that the scarf was getting to be a respectable length and that I was approaching the ends of the first two balls. I needed to stop early enough that I could knit the short rows to fill in the tops of the chevrons and still have enough yarn to graft the two ends of the scarf together.

I checked after every 8-row stint, but it always looked like I had plenty of yarn left. I was convinced that I would continue to knit this scarf for the rest of my life.

Short row detail

Finally, on Sunday, one of my balls was running quite low. I worked 12 short rows across each end to fill in the chevrons, then continued working flat until I had just over one repeat of yarn. One ball ran out much faster than the other, so I put that end of the scarf on another needle and continued for several inches on the other end.

Back Center, showing short rows and graft

Finally, on Tuesday afternoon, I sat down to to the grafting. I'm always a little nervous when I'm grafting. This fine, slippery yarn made me concentrate even more than usual. I certainly didn't want to have to undo the graft and pick up all those tiny stitches.


My younger daughter has told me that she intends to steal my Smokestack Lightning. When I roll my eyes, she saucily informs me that I have enough yarn to knit another one for myself.

As if I would ever knit exactly the same thing twice.

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