11 May 2014

The Pesky Poncho, part 2

You may remember from an earlier post that sometime last year I embarked on a long-term WIP adventure involving a particularly gorgeous poncho. I left you at a thrilling cliffhanger whereupon I had finally found the yarn I wanted to use (in Bruges, no less) and was about to make a start.

The first step was to make a swatch to test the tension. Now, this is normally something I dispense with, as I am of an impatient nature and rarely crochet things where tension is critical anyway. But for this one, unless I wanted to risk ending up with a mini snood or a maxi skirt, I had to check my tension. So I did make a swatch, using the diagram provided in the magazine (which, I now realise, is sporting some fetching coffee rings).

And that was the result, a lacy swatch with exactly the measurements required. Woohoo, success!!!

With the assurance I was using an appropriate yarn and crochet hook, I set out for the next challenge... The foundation chain. Or should I write the "Foundation Chain". For that alone was one hell of a task. The Foundation Chain had to consist of... 667 stitches. Gulp. I proceeded, relying heavily on stitch markers every 100 stitches, as well as triple-counting my stitches. The result was almost as long as my front room! 

Crocheting the first row into that never-ending chain must have been even more unpleasant but thankfully my mind seems to have blanked out most of it. The rest was no picnic though, and I do have vivid memories of it. You see, it's not that the pattern is exceedingly difficult once you get the hang of it, it's just that it's rather fiddly, especially with a 2.5mm hook.

For example, one of the key stitches of the pattern is the sweetly named "qtr15tog", meaning "15 quadruple trebles together" (that's UK trebles). For this stitch, you start by casting the (*) yarn over your hook 4 times...

...you then put your hook in the next stich, yarn over again and pull through the stitch, (**) yarn over, pull through two loops, repeat from (*) 3 times. Then you repeat from (**) 15 times, until you have a very crowded hook indeed...

...and finally you yarn over one last time and pull through all 16 loops...

You then let out a few choice expletives when your *$@! yarn slips off your @£%*!? hook and half your carefully elaborated quadruple trebles unravel as if in slow motion before your horrified eyes. You start again from (*) a few times, and finally, a good 15 minutes later, with a sweaty brow and trembling fingers, you complete the stitch. Phew!

Well done. You win the privilege of moving on to the next bit and start all over again. And there is more. There's the treillis bit. The treillis stitch is by nature quite simple. It's literally chain, double crochet, chain, double crochet and so on. It gives a lovely, delicate, lacy look to the work. You can see three rows of treillis in the left upper section of the photo below, in beige, orange and purple.

Simple and pretty enough. Except when you miss one of the chains from the previous row, of course, as in the picture below.

Can you spot it ? Can you spot the offending, standalone chain I left out THREE loooooong rows before? Aaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!!!!!! There went three painstakingly crocheted rows so that I could correct the mistake. Sigh. And frog.

Still... despite those obstacles, by mid-summer last year I had finished the front section and took the project with me on holiday to my native South of France. That's when I tackled the neck opening and shoulders, and that's where everything went wrong. Said sections should have been straightforward enough, since they just consisted of treillis stitches. But try as I might, I simply could not get the right amount of chains. Worst of all, the first time I became aware of the mistake, I had already done a few rows of the back section, complete with the offending succession of 15qtrtog stitches (which are also interspersed with 3qtrtog stitches, because why make things simple, eh?). So I obviously had to frog it, frog the shoulder section and start again. And again. And again. At my third attempt, one of the shoulder sections was still not quite right. For the life of me, I could not see what was wrong, so self-righteously decided there must be something wrong with the pattern itself. 

I then carried on again with the beginning of the back section, but the constant frogging had stripped me of my crochet drive. Yes, reader, I had developed CPAS (Crochet Project Annoyance Syndrome). For the rest of the holiday, I did not touch the Poncho again. Neither did I once I got back home. I needed a good sulk. Winter then settled in and I suddenly felt like working with thicker, warmer yarn, and the Poncho fell to the bottom of my WIP basket.

But eventually, sun and (relative) warmth re-emerged, and with them returned my appeal for lighter, lacier things, and therefore for the Poncho. I once again pictured myself wearing it over the summer, so one day I took it out of its basket, dusted my 2.5mm hook and off I went, gradually getting closer to the final stitch. There were a couple of missed chains and stitches and some frogging needed but all in all I made good progress.

I was getting confident with the pattern as well, much more than I had been last year, when I was still quite new to crochet. So I actually came to enjoy those 15qtrtog stitches for the rythmic dancing they allowed my crochet hook to indulge in. I crocheted for hours on end, and with hindsight, I wonder whether this didn't actually trigger my wrist injury.

And then there was another snag. I had been trying on the Poncho ever since I had hooked up the neck opening. It never fitted properly, as in it kept sliding off my shoulder, but I thought it would eventually get balanced out once the back section was finished. At some point along the way though, I realised the neck opening was definitely too wide for me. So I started to think about ways to fix it as inconspicuously as impossible. I spent quite some time pouring over the stichwork and imagining small additions and bypasses to correct the problem. And it was during one of those sessions, when I was about three quarters of the way through the back section, that I realised with horror (OK, I'm going a bit overboard here, but it's for dramatic effect) that I had missed a row in one of the shoulder sections. Cue Luke-I-am-your-father-style screamed denial... and another thrilling cliffhanger!

Thanks for reading, guys, to be continued... :) xxx

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