Saturday, August 30, 2008

Storm Cloud Shawlette Pattern

(This pattern is also available as a PDF document and as a French translation on aufildesenvies)

This airy, half-circle shawl is roughly constructed like Elizabeth Zimmerman's pi shawl. It's very, very simple and can be knit at any gauge and to any size. The two versions here - a plain one in gray mohair and a ruffled one in blue wool - can be worn draped over the shoulders like a small shawl or wrapped around the neck like a scarf.

Here's the intuition behind it (more specific instructions are below): You start with four stitches, which will be in the center of the half-circle. The shawl is then shaped and enlarged by doubling the stitches at increasing intervals. For the stitch pattern, I've used an elongated garter stitch; on the right side, you always do a row of yarnovers, and on the wrong side you usually knit the knit stitches and drop the yarnovers, except when you need an increase row, when you knit all the way across.

-Fingering weight yarn, at least 150 yards (For the grey version, I used about 150 yards of handspun mohair. For the blue version, I used about 210 yards of wool dyed by the Northeast Fiber Arts Center).
- Size 8 circular needle. Length doesn't matter too much.

With fingering-weight yarn on size 8 needles, I got 4.5 stitches and 6 rows to the inch. But this pattern will work with any gauge.

The grey version is 36" wide and about 14" deep. The blue version has a ruffle added around the edge, to make it 41" wide and about 16" deep. Note: I did not block these!

Cast on 4 stitches
Row 1 and all odd rows: K1, [yo, K1] to end
Rows 2, 4, 10, 20, 38, and 72: knit across (this doubles the stitch count)
All other even rows: knit the knit stitches and drop the yarnovers

The best way to remember where to put the increase rows (i.e. Rows 2,4,10, 20, 38, and 72) is to count the number of plain garter ridges between them. The first two increases have no plain ridges between them. The next two have 2 plain ridges, then 4, 8, and finally 16.

For the grey version, I bound off after that 16th plain ridge, which is to say after row 70. For the blue version, I did the final increase at row 72, then knit 12 more rows (still in the elongated garter stitch pattern) for the ruffle. The more rows you knit after that last increase, the less pronounced the ruffle will be.

Use a flexible bind-off, or at least bind off very loosely.

I didn't block either of these shawls, because I like the texture as is. But you could block if you wanted to make the elongated garter stitch look lacier.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Blue Storm Cloud

As I come into my last two weeks back east, I'm traveling quite a bit to see friends before I go. Montreal. Connecticut. Now, Maine. I love the earnest classic-ness of this place

And it's fitting that I brought along my new blue Storm Cloud to photograph by an ocean inlet. This one is a little larger than the first one, with a pronounced ruffle that makes it gives it real kinetic energy.

The yarn is about 200 yards of a lovely fingering-weight wool, hand-dyed by the good folks at the Northeast Fiber Arts Center in Williston, VT. I stopped there one the way home from a fantastic trip to Montreal to see Kim, who used to be in my knitting group in Phoenix. It was a pleasure to visit someone I could "talk knitting" with, and a treat to find this yarn on my way home.

I immediately cast on when I got home, and I was finished in a few evenings' worth of knitting. I love this simple pattern. And I'll have it posted for you in the next day or so, now that I have photos and measurements of two of these small shawls.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Storm Clouds

This last week in Vermont has been full of misty mornings and magnificent thunderstorms. I wish I could paint the the mist nestling around the white pines, or the clouds rolling, dark and tumultuous, across the sky. But as my medium is fiber, what I did was knit myself a little storm cloud to wrap around my shoulders.

This was the first garment that I knit out of my own handspun. I started with 3.5 ounces of silvery kid mohair from an angora goat farm in Connecticut. It was drum carded, which loosened up the locks, but I still flick carded the whole batch to align the fibers and sort out second cuts and fiber tangles. Here's a handful of fiber to give you a sense of it:

I spun it on my spindle over several weeks into into a fingering weight, Andean-plied yarn. It took me a while to figure out how to get those silky, slick fibers to behave, but I ended up with about 150 yards of usable yarn. I had half a dozen small hanks - like this one - and I used Russian joins to seamlessly weave them together (Andean-plied yarn works well with Russian joins, because one end of each yarn strand already has a tidy loop)

Since I wasn' t sure how much of a wrap I'd get out of that yardage, I wanted something that I could knit until the yarn ran out, and that would be usable at any size. I settled on a half-circle shawl in elongated garter stitch, constructed along the lines of Elizabeth Zimmerman's pi shawl. It's just big enough for a traditional shoulder shawl (I'll never wear it this way, but it shows off the size):

I prefer to wear it wrapped asymmetrically around my shoulders. For the time being, I'm fastening it with a spiral pin that I improvised from galvanized steel wire. I'll be keeping my eyes out for a lightweight pewter pin - let me know if you have any suggestions!

This shawlette is also the perfect size to casually nestle around my neck. This is where the mohair really shows off its special qualities: it floats like a cloud and creates the most luscious, airy layers rather than just sinking into a mass. So, I do feel like I've reached up to the sky and grabbed a stormcloud to cloak myself in!

I promise a pattern in the next post ...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

memories of sheep

In the end, I won't really be writing about my trip to Wales. It was such a whirlwind of a reunion that there was hardly time to sleep, let alone knit or yarn-seek. But, it being Wales, I did get to see some sheep and evidence thereof.

I used to walk along here a hundred times a day, since this pasture is right in the center of campus. The lambs would frolick here in the spring and then fatten up and settle down over the year, and they are such a part of my memory of the place. It's curious that I never asked what became of those sheep; clearly, I wasn't a knitter in those days!

Friday, August 01, 2008

London & Loop!

In London here. I popped across the pond to come to a school reunion in Wales, and I have a few delicious days in the city beforehand. All I want to do here is walk, walk, walk! and observe things and reacquaint myself with this city that I used to know. And, of course, visit yarn stores along the way.

The premier destination of yesterday's 8 mile walk was Loop. It's a darling and colorful place with beautifully composed scenes tucked about: a collection of vintage buttons in apothecary jars, a basket of knitted dolls, swatches hanging as a garlands, and pom poms strung up in the windows.

I picked up four skeins of Rowan's purelife yarn, which is a naturally-dyed organic cotton that I've been coveting and which was on sale there. My plan is to make a simple camisole, like my green one from last week. Of course, this being my London yarn, it had to be a steely gray. But I'll stripe it with bit of pink.

Next stop was the famous Liberty store. I marveled at their fabrics and Rowan selection, and I found a sweet cotton ribbon to match my gray and pink yarn.

The last treat for me came in the post. I've been hankering for Garthenor's organic wool yarns ever since I came across them in my Green Knitter research. I ordered a hat's worth of their DK Loghtan Sheep yarn, and it came promptly in the mail to my friend's flat here.

Another time I'll tell you about trying to track these four-horned sheep down on the Isle of Man, which is why I have a special place in my heart for this rare wool. This yarn - and this place - is a wonderful trigger of memories.