Wednesday, April 30, 2008

On Shawls....

My daughter asked recently what I was working on....

When I replied, "a shawl" she said "How many do you need?"

Obviously she is not a Knitter or even a knitter.

Any Knitter knows that how many shawls (or any other knitted item) you have made is beside the point.

I like knitting shawls, I like to wear them too but mostly I like knitting and designing them.

My first experience with shawls was a class on faroese shawls taught by Joan Schrouder and sponsored by the Greater St. Louis Knitter's Guild in the spring of 2004. I was totally lost.

But I have learned much since then, thank goodness I have her invaluable handouts,
and have enjoyed and been inspired by these books:


I love these books for stitch patterns:


A Shetland Shawl
The first shawl I made was inspired by the instructions for a shetland shawl in "Best of Knitter's Shawls and Scarves".  The yarn is alpaca/silk from Elann.  I didn't do a great job of knitting or designing this shawl and one day plan to make it again with improvements, but I was quite proud that it turned out so nice and I've worn it a lot to the point where it is showing wear and tear, needs to be reblocked:

A Pi R Square Shawl
Next I made a "Pi R Square" shawl from Elizabeth Zimmerman's book 'Knitting Around'.  The yarn is Silky Wool by Elizabeth Lavold.  I added a border/collar.  The 'square' portions of the shawl came out to be too long, so I knitted i-cord and laced it through the yarnovers to gather it up.  I like wearing this shawl although it is a bit cumbersome, it drapes beautifully:

A Flower Basket Shawl
I love all the beautiful shawls that Evelyn Clark designs.  Here is my Flower Basket Shawl knitted in gray laceweight merino with the yarn doubled.  It is knit exactly as given in the pattern from the Fall 2004 issue of Interweave Knits.

I also made the Swallowtail Shawl (Fall 2006, Interweave Knits) although I knit it as a square rather than a triangle.   I don't have any photos and it turned out too small so I gave it to my eight year old cousin Mira (she was thrilled and now wants to learn how to knit).

Flemish Block Cap Shawl
When Jane Sowerby's Victorian Lace Today was released I was inspired to make a 'cap shawl', but not one to be satisfied with following directions I decided to base the increases on the principle of the cap shawl shaping in the book but inserted my own choice of stitch pattern and border.  This yarn is from, but I purchased it on ebay.  Very interesting, soft, handspun, thick and thin, lots of yardage for the price.  I'm really pleased with the way this shawl turned out, it's a little odd to wear because of the swirl shaping it skews when folded in half, so it works better to just fold back a section as if it's a collar.

Woven Diamonds Faroese Shawl
Finally I made it back to faroese shawls once I could understand what was going on by studying the notes from Joan's class and the articles/patterns in Best of Knitter's Shawls and Scarves and A Gathering of Lace.  I designed a shawl that is similar to the yellow and blue faroese by Meg Swanson in Best of Knitter's Shawls and Scarves, but again elected to use my own choice of stitch patterns for the gusset and border. I prefer lace that has a stockinette background, I think it shows the stitches better, so my faroese shawl has stockinette background on the border and gusset but the edging and side panels above the border are knit in garter stitch.  The yarn is Brown Sheep Naturespun Sport 100% wool.  I've worn it a lot, the yarn is pilling some and I've just re-blocked it.

My friend Fran begged me for this pattern so she earned the title of Test Knitter.  Unfortunately my first attempts at writing the pattern had errors and Fran spent a lot of time starting over - I'm still amazed that she stuck it out.  There is a photo of it on her blog.  In any event - the pattern is correct and clear and I will soon make it available for sale and teach it as a class at Kirkwood Knittery.  I decided to 'test knit' it myself and needed to find an easier way to finish the neckline where the last stitches are joined - so I just completed a version in white cotton/rayon by Dalegarn that I purchased at Knit N Caboodle.   I like it a lot and look forward to wearing it soon.

The 2/3 Pi Shawl
In between the two faroese shawls I found some gorgeous hand dyed silk/wool laceweight yarn at The Loopy Ewe . Not only did I love the color, I loved the name that the hand dyer goes by, Chewy Spaghetti.  I decided to make a modified version of Elizabeth Zimmerman's 'Pi Shawl' from Knitter's Almanac and Best of Knitter's Shawls and Scarves.
I thought it would be nice to have it open in the front so rather than make a full circle that is usually worn folded in half and draped over the shoulders, I used my pi r square shawl to determine that 2/3 pi would be enough to go around my body. I  cast on with a provisional cast on working increases according to the pi shawl formula. Then I added a very simple knitted on border from Barbara Abbey's book Knitting Lace. I folded back the border to create a 'collar' when I blocked it.  I think it has sort of an antique look to it.

Hmmm - how many shawls does one need?

Welcome to my Blog!

Here's my knitting story....
I've always loved crafts.
The first fiber related craft that I remember was the little cards with holes punched and shoelace type things that were to be threaded through the holes - I was so excited to be sewing!!

Then there were the looms with multicolored stretchy nylon loops that were woven to make potholders - wouldn't any mother be proud to own one of those lovely items??

When I was about 7 or 8 one of my Grandmother's cousins taught me to knit and purl, but I don't remember especially enjoying it or making anything. She made a lot of daisy afghans that were done with a small circular loom and crocheted together. At about 12 or 13, I thought it would be fun to make one of those. She said that it needed to be done in 'shetland wool' - so my Mom took me to Golde's department store where I spent just about all of my savings to buy green, orange and yellow wool (obvious daisy colors - no?). It took me several years to finish all the flowers but my cousin crocheted it together and the finished afghan looked fabulous on my college dorm cot - see it there behind me -->

Through junior high, high school and college I took every sewing course that was available. Knit and crochet were not really on my radar. Crafts for me during that era were more along the lines of batik, tie dye, macramé, latch hooking, quilling, candlewicking, needlepoint, cross stitch and embroidery, along with sewing.

When we got engaged in '82, I thought it would be nice to have an afghan and matching pillow for my 'hope chest'. I bought a kit at Lee Wards for a white afghan knit in 3 panels, crocheted together and then embroidered. I was ok with the crochet and embroidery but my panels were tilted to the right - still have no idea what I did wrong. That project took a long time, it was a number of years until I wanted to knit again.

At some point in the late 80's I decided that I needed another afghan. This time I bought Lion Brand acrylic, a Red Heart booklet of patterns, and another booklet that claimed to make knitting easy. That's how I learned to make cables. But again that project took several years to complete.

Eventually (mid-late 90's) I was inspired to try a third afghan (for my daughter to take to college - I had several years to work on it before she would graduate), still was not enthralled by knitting though.

One pretty spring day in 2003 I wondered into a LYS and was overwhelmed by the choices of fiber and color - it was total sensory overload. Who knew there were so many choices? Decided then and there that I had to knit something - the owner helped me choose a pattern, yarn and needles. She asked if I needed smaller needles for the ribbing - being so inexperienced, I replied, "is that how it's usually done?". She also asked if preferred straights or circulars, bamboo or metal, etc. - being completely clueless I said I'd take whatever type she recommended.

Went home and was completely confused by all the pattern abbreviations - what the heck did it mean when it said 'yarnover' and how could anyone know how to 's1k1psso'?? So much for that pattern. Instead I chose a tank with cables that was in a Vogue Knitting magazine at the library. I figured that should work since I knew how to make cables and I could read the portion of that pattern that said how many to cast on - so off I went and ad-libbed my way through it. It didn't fit very well but I certainly wore it proudly.

Another year later and I wanted to knit something so decided on a striped scarf for my daughter. Being big on Disney colors at that time, she chose turquoise and lime Lion Brand Microspun from Michael's...

(This is a later version of the scarf and hat to go with it)
I soon ended up back at the same LYS and the owner invited me to attend a knit-in held at her shop. She promised that it was quite a nice group of ladies that loved to answer knitting questions.

At that first knit-in I learned that: I was twisting my stitches; I was a continental knitter; and that I was way out of my league! Barb K. was knitting a patchwork sweater with some funny looking needles (they were Addi turbos); Pat J. was learning to knit a hat with strange two ended wood needles; Pattee G. was baffling over a sweater that began in the center; and Kim M. was knitting gorgeous gloves with three strands of fine yarn. Then there was me with my stockinette, curling at the edge, sometimes twisted stitch, boring striped scarf.

That was a real eye opener - I didn't know there was so much to know about knitting! It was fascinating. I went home determined to figure out what it meant that I was twisting my stitches, before that evening I had no idea that there was a certain way that the stitches should go. I found an on-line site with videos ( which later became and then the light bulb went on.

From there I searched for local knitting groups and found through the Greater St. Louis Knitter's Guild that there was a weekly knit-in at a nearby bookstore. I remember calling Denise C. and being rather apologetic that I really didn't know how to knit but was interested in attending a knit-in. She kindly explained that knitter's love to teach others so that was no problem.

So in the summer of 2004, that is where I first met Robin C., Tyann L., and re-met Kim M. and Barb K. (same Kim and Barb from earlier). All were members of the Guild and encouraged me to attend the next Guild meeting, which I did and later joined.
I was quite inspired by all the beautiful projects that everyone was working on. The monthly programs were really interesting, my favorite part though was "show 'n share". Everyone was so nice. I was quite surprised that everyone knit during meetings!

From there the rest is history - I couldn't soak it up fast enough, my fingers couldn't keep up with all that I wanted to try. I was soon a "Knitter" with a capital "K" as defined by the Yarn Harlot. I made so many nice new friends who all liked to do something that I liked to do - what a new concept that was!

Once I learned a technique I wasn't happy to knit straight from someone else's pattern and began modifying existing patterns, then making up my own designs. After being asked so many times 'where did you get that pattern' I thought it would be fun to try to have a pattern published.

I applied for membership to the Professional Knitwear Designers Group (which later became the Association of Knitwear Designers to learn more about the knitting pattern publishing side of the industry and get advice for submitting free-lance design ideas to magazines. Diane Z. was assigned as my mentor and patiently answered my gazillion questions.

In 2005 I took a deep breath and submitted two designs to Knitter's magazine fully expecting them to be returned with a rejection letter any day. I was absolutely floored when they were accepted for publication.

Since then I had a third design published by Knitter's and another appeared in Vogue Knitting.

Recently I decided to try my hand a self-publishing beginning with a lovely design for a sock named "Ariel" - a subject for a near-future post.

About Me

My photo
Knitting is magical!