Blog Archives

A Very Special Shawl

As part of some work I was commissioned by my mom for Christmas gifts, I was asked to do some socks for a particular friend of the family.  This was one of the family friends that I have very fond memories of growing up, so I knew I wanted to not just do socks, but special socks.  After presenting some options to my mom, she picked out a pattern and the yarns, and I sat down to work.

Only, it didn’t.  There was an issue with the pattern that I had problems resolving.  So I adapted it, but there were additional issues with the yarn.  Though the same brand and type of sock yarn, one of the yarns was just enough thinner to create a problem in the color work.  So I adapted again and started over.  Again.  And again.  It just didn’t seem to work.  Rather, it worked, but I wasn’t happy with it for some reason.  Usually I’ll get to a point when starting socks where I say “yup, this is right”.  It didn’t happen.  I kept having doubts, including about the fit.  The whole project just didn’t feel right.  I pondered it and consulted with my mom, and we agreed to change the product to a shawl, design to be my choosing.

A shawl or capelet would need less shaping, and be free of some of the other problems I became concerned with about the socks.  So I started looking through my stitch books, and quickly made some decisions on how to start.  I knew I wanted top down, and I knew I wanted circle, like the mandalas she was so fond of, but open in the front for ease of wear.

I decided I wanted to start with the blue I had.  And turtles.



The lighting where this picture was taken makes this appear more purple than it is.  I had to do some adapting because I wanted the turtles facing up, and I was knitting top down.  So I had to start knitting from the head, rather than the tail like the stitch pattern I had.  I also knew that I wanted to do most of my increases by the end of this section.

I also had a red, and had seen a green I thought would go with them nicely.  I knew that just the blue and red would not be enough if I was doing a solid pattern, rather than lace.  I wanted hearts, and I wanted trees.  I decided to do the hearts first.  Some pointing up, some pointing down.





As I was finishing this up, I realized I was running out of yarn, but I also liked the idea of the hearts going into the green, and the trees, which I knew this friend loved.




apple tree

apple tree


The green panel I knew I wanted to be mirrored more or less from one side to the other, so I reversed the order of the trees.  This gave me an additional problem of a set of stitches in the center back, and what to do with them.  I combined a couple of stitch patterns and came up with this.

center panel

center panel


As I was knitting the tree panel, I realized it wasn’t going to be quite as long as I thought it should be, so I went in search of another yarn, thinking that purple would be a good thing to go it.  I did not find a solid at my local yarn shop, but I did find a variegated that tied the other colors together.  I decided that I wanted a slightly lacy pattern for the bottom panel, but then realized that I wanted the trees to have roots, so I threw some of those in.






I liked a “flame” lace pattern, that could also be reversed for a different look, and that’s what I finished with.




All together:




One of the things that happens when knitting for other people is sometimes you’re never really sure what the person thinks about it.  I thought that this friend would like the creation, and my mother also thought she would really like it.  A couple of days ago I got a really lovely letter saying that she’s worn it almost constantly since she got it, and how much she really loves it.  One thing that I did not know, was how much she loves turtles, it simply seemed right when I made that first decision.  I hadn’t been thinking about her home town Sacred Heart when I decided on the hearts either.

It came together in what seemed a haphazard way, but ended up being just ideal!



To Block or not Block…

Often a question knitters ask!  The finishing of a project – putting parts together, weaving in ends, and blocking the item into shape is something that many, though not all, people see as a chore.

What is blocking?  Basically it’s taking your item and wetting or merely dampening it, then placing it in shape to dry.  Washing your item after you get all the ends worked in and such is a good idea anyway, it’s probably not as clean as you might think, and doing the washing and shaping will make the item look nicer much of the time.  For sweaters (which I have yet to knit) with parts, blocking the parts before putting it together can help with that step, with everything in the shape and size it should be.  But what most people envision as “blocking” is taking an item and stretching it out and pinning it.  With lace… this is necessary to have a nice looking final product.

Lace is in many ways magical.  It does strange things while you’re knitting it, and most of the time it simply looks like a mess, or at the very least, unimpressive.  This is a small shawl I knit recently:

Quilla shawl unblocked

unblocked Quilla shawl

Okay, not the best picture but you can clearly see how the edges are curled up, and it doesn’t really look like much.

So I blocked it.  I had forgotten how much I really dislike blocking lace.  I don’t have a great place to do it, and it hurts my back (again probably because I don’t have a great place to do the deed), which is a fair part of the dislike.  I’m pondering changes so it’s not such problem for me.  Anyway, I pinned it outstretched, then dampened it and let it dry.  The result:

blocked quilla shawl

Closer view of Quilla

I was neglectful in that second one and some of the tips are folded under, but you can better see the lace definition.  These are actually fairly poor pictures of this pattern, which is Quilla by Susanna IC, available at Windy Valley Muskox.  There are much better pictures of the pattern there, I used a lighter yarn, and did not do the beading.  It’s a fun and easy little shawl to do!

So… to block or not block?  Most items (other than dishrags and such)? Block.  Non-lace items can merely be put into shape without pinning probably.  Lace of course needs the blocking to really show itself.  My biggest suggestion?  If you yourself don’t like blocking, ask at your local yarn shop (should you have one or more of those) if they offer that service.  Some do offer finishing services for a fee.  Or involve friends in your fibery endeavors and see if there’s someone who enjoys the process!