Northern night sky

I'm in the habit of always having something a bit insane on my needles. Something challenging that will take a long time to finish. This one took a year and a half from cast on to bind off.

How: Circular needles 3.25 mm
From: West Yorkshire Spinners Exquisite Lace, 116 g

I've been mesmerized by stars from an early age. You'd think I'd know a thing or two about them, but no: I can spot the Big Dipper but that's it. I've just always loved to stare at the night sky. When I was a small child, we lived in a two-storey house and our upstairs bathroom had this tiny little window. Every night when mom washed my teeth, I wanted to climb onto the water tank of the loo because from there I could just reach to look at the stars from the little window. I'm done climbing on the toilet but I still sometimes go out at night just to have a look at the night sky.

After that little story, it should come as no surprise that I gasped when I saw the Celestarium shawl on Twist Collection: it had the whole northern night sky on it! The pattern came out already in 2012 but some things take their time and this one waited for the perfect yarn and the perfect moment.

Few years ago, we were traveling on the isle of Skye and out b&b hostess told me that there was a little spinning shop just across the street! And what a lucky thing she would mention it because otherwise we would've never noticed. The shop was the cutest ever. They sold spinning fibres, handspun yarns and a few industrial yarns as well. The Exquisite Lace by West Yorkshire Spinners caught my eye right away. I knew I had finally found the perfect yarn for my Celestarium shawl. The color was the perfect ink, blueish black. And the combination of Falkland wool with silk wasn't too shabby either!

Once we got home, I took a closer look at the pattern. I knew many nerdy knitters had made their shawls with different sized beads for different sized stars. And thanks to them, the pattern page actually had a star map showing the different star sizes in color codes. So I ordered a bunch of beads. Unfortunately, some of them were way too small to use for knitting so in the end I ended up using just the plain old 8/0 and 6/0, and divided the stars into two different size classes.

If you've followed me for a while, you may know I like to not take it easy on my spare time. So when I saw this project on Ravelry featuring the Milkyway, I was sold! The star map linked on the project page doesn't work anymore but I think I used this one for help.

The Celestarium shawl pattern comes with charts pointing out beads at star locations. In addition, the pattern has a star map where the charts have been marked to help make sense of it all. I used all of these and spent half a day drawing lines between the beads to outline all the different constellations. I also wrote down the names so I could place them on the star map more easily. I marked the bigger stars so I'd remember to use the bigger beads for those. Finally, I outlined the Milkyway on all the charts.

Once I had sketched the outlines of the Milkyway I started randomly crossing out stitches inside the outlines about 4-6 stitches apart to mark down beads for the Milkyway. I used three different kind of beads: clear 8/0 beads with silver lining for the majority of stars, clear 6/0 beads for the bigger stars (I wish I had found silver lined big beads but no luck there), and clear 8/0 beads for the Milkyway.

The pattern uses beads, yarnovers and decreases to make these little holes next to the star beads For the Milkyway, I didn't make the holes so the constellations would stand out better. I think it worked out very nicely.

Since I really don't seem to be able to take it easy on my spare time, I did one more modification. The pattern gives instructions for a narrow garter stitch edging. I used a lace weight yarn instead of fingering weight and also smaller needles so I was scared the shawl wouldn't be big enough without  wider edging. Also, the star map was so delicate and beautiful it felt wrong to do just a rugged garter stitch edge. I used the edge pattern of the Evenstar shawl. The edge lace is 17-21 stitches wide, depending on the row and it's worked sideways, decreasing one shawl body stitch every two rows. Since the shawl ended up with over 800 stitches that meant over 1600 rows of edge lace. Did I mention the lace is worked on WS rows too? And did I mention, I used beads for the lace as well? 

This surely won't be everyone's cup of tea. But for me, it was a match made in heaven. I need to always have one project that requires insane amounts of concentration and patience. Something to pick up when I want to tease myself a bit. I know it doesn't sound like one, but this is a compliment. I truly enjoyed challenging myself with this shawl. There aren't that many techniques that feel difficult in knitting, so the challenge usually comes in the form of patience and concentration. Also, this shawl is one of the most beautiful things I've knitted.

Now, I need to come up with a new challenge to work on when I want to take a little break from designing.

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