If you had told me five years ago that I would love shawls, I would’ve called you crazy. And I see it all the time, people who hear the word ‘shawl’ and immediately react with something along the lines of “What is this, an Emily Dickinson poem?”
It might be!
Hear me out, shawl haters! Or perhaps knitting novices who, like the Chloë of yore, thought shawls a weird quirk on the knitting pattern spectrum.
Shawls are the perfect blank canvas. Any yarn weight, any season, any design taste. What are you feeling like? You can knit circles, or wide rectangles, or triangles… bead it, cable it, go full lace or colourwork or short rows! Unlike sweaters, you aren’t worrying about exact fit and measuring and trying on. There are many shawl patterns out there built around using whatever yardage you have, or using up lots of leftovers, but you aren’t dedicating yourself to the mountain of work that is a blanket. Unless you want to. I have definitely knit a shawl-blanket and would recommend it to anyone who needs a dose of serious coziness.
And I’m still alive to tell the tale!
Once it’s finished, shawls are super portable. You get a useful layer that adds some personal style to whatever you’re wearing, year-round. A lace or fingering weight shawl in the summer over a tank top to keep the evening breezes at bay, a worsted shawl in the winter to wrap around your neck and shoulders. The wide variety of weights, and your choice of fibre, means you can customize your project to where/when you want to wear it. Some lacey bamboo, some squishy textured wool – they are just so wearable! You might be the type to wear them wrapped up close to your neck, or draped wide over your shoulders. There’s no wrong way. Or, perhaps, the only wrong way is to be caught without a shawl. *gasp*
At this point you will not be surprised to discover that I have two shawls in progress.
Biased Transitions by Jenny Faifel began out of a very sincere need to break open some of the stunning Kauni 8/2 Effektgarn we recently started carrying – it uses up just about all of the 300g kit that the yarn comes in, and the gradual colour changes make a very simple knit a treat for your eyes!
At the same time, with all of this talk about ‘coldest February ever’ I couldn’t resist casting on Vouvray by Melanie Berg (from her 5 Shawls collection released last month) in Illimani’s Baby Llama, to add some extra gorgeous drapey warmth into my cold, wintery, Simcoe County life.
If you have been feeling like a shawl – or if I have managed to infect you with the shawl bug – we do have a Shawl KAL (knit-along/shawlalong?) coming up, and along side it the amazingly wonderful Cyndy will be running a Shawl CAL (crochet-along). It’s a great chance to try a new technique you feel you might need a bit of help with, or get your fill of shawl talk as you add to an already voluminous collection. I can obviously talk about it for days! The KAL/CAL is built around each knitter/crocheter picking a shawl pattern of their choice, generally one you would be afraid to try alone, and working through them together with yours truly on hand for any tips and tricks. This means you can use the shawlalong to pick up any technique you want to try or need practice with, and choose a pattern that caters to that technique, your stash, and all of your emotional shawl/wrap/cowl needs!
Not sure if there’s a shawl pattern out there for you? Here are some of my recommendations if you’re on a hunt for a new shawl pattern;
The Color Affection by Veera Valimaki is, safe to say, the Ravelry favourite. I don’t think you could travel to any yarn shop on earth and not have someone ask “Excuse me – is that a Color Affection?” It’s garter stitch, so it knits up fast for a fingering weight shawl, and is a great chance for a beginner/intermediate knitter to play with striping, increasing, and eventually, short rows. For the crocheters out there, Julie Blagojevich has come up with a crochet version!
The next two are going to be designer themed, as picking just one of their patterns is difficult.
Jared Flood has 19 shawl patterns, including Rock Island which I knit two (?) years ago and have spotted in the wilds of our store several times. It’s lace, yes, but the repeats are pretty straightforward, so would be lace-novice-appropriate. Flood’s Guernsey Wrap is a textured, rectangular wrap for those of you who are not so lace-minded (as well as future Chloë who I think is going to be knitting this up in fall 2015 – spoilers!).
Stephen West is another prolific designer – with a whopping 52 shawl patterns I think his are the funky cousins to Flood’s more elegant looks. West’s patterns seem to have an endless array of options to experiment with colour. Glacier Sweep is one I have been getting a lot of use out of this winter (and another great one for trying out short rows!), while the Dotted Rays (see above, in bright green) has been on my mind. Maybe just to knit and display on my wall. Seriously – it looks so cool!
We can’t leave crocheters out ~!
I think I’m particularly partial to Swan Lake – I might need to get Cyndy to teach me how to crochet just so I can make it.
Although we won’t tell her that, she might use it against me!
There is still plenty of time to sign up for our Shawlalong if you’re interested. I hope you’ve enjoyed all this shawl-inspiration, and you’re keeping warm! Spring is just around the corner, or so I have heard, and with it – lace shawl season.