Basic Instincts Shawl

This is a story about yarn and instinct.

When I bought two 50-gram skeins of Cherry Tree Hill's Fingering Alpaca in the Spring Frost colorway in Spring 2008, I had every intention of knitting them up into a cozy pair of socks.

Then I lost my interest in the yarn, and it sat in my stash until January 2010, when I wound it into cakes and took it with me to Orcas Island -- again, intending to make socks.

While on the island, I knit up a gauge swatch. A pretty little thing: so light and delicate and beautiful. I caressed it. Showed it to my mom. Caressed it some more. But I couldn't bring myself to cast on. The swatch was beautiful, yes... but there wasn't a chance I was going to use this yarn for socks. Despite CTH's recommendation that it would make a fine choice for socks because of the 1% nylon binder, I didn't trust it would wear well enough for socks for me.

Rather than end up with the heartbreak of discovering such an error only after having spent precious knitting time completing an ill-fated pair, I left the yarn to linger for yet another year -- this time in the bottom of my wip knitting bag. From there it would needle me with constant reminders that I needed to find it a suitable project.

This January 1, I threw caution to the wind and with little more than a vague idea of what I was doing, I cast on and just started knitting. The result is my Basic Instinct Shawl:

With just two 50-gram yarn cakes and a desire to make them go as far as possible, I decided on a basic triangle construction, knit side-to-side. (Truth be told, another reason I took this approach rather than starting from the bottom, center-back and working my way up is because I can't stomach knitting those interminable long edges along the tops of shawls in one go.)

Starting at one side corner, I knit with increases every second row until my first yarn cake ran out; then I used the second skein to decrease every second row until I reached the far corner. This way I could use every last bit of yarn and trust I would have enough to get me through both sides. Thoroughly stressless!

One important criteria for me was that the finished shawl be fully reversible. Nothing's worse than fiddling with a shawl or scarf to keep the right side facing out on a non-reversible piece!

I had no desire to either make or wear a skimpy little bandana-sized shawlette, as I've seen done with so many sock yarns on Ravelry. To maximize my 100 grams, I found myself drawn to one of the most basic of stitches -- an airy faggot stitch turned almost into a whisper by using a larger needle than normally called for with fingering-weight yarn.

Please forgive the less-than-aesthetic background on the image below, but my strategy worked so well that I had difficulty finding a well-lit space in my house large enough to spread out the finished piece for a picture!

To avoid creating a shawl with just a big sea of unbounded openwork, I inserted five garter-stitch dividers along the way: one at center back, one at each shoulder, and one to be visible in each corner of the front. Because the shawl is knit sideways, these bands of garter form pretty vertical lines and add textural and visual interest.

The garter bands have more density than the faggot stitch, but they are bordered on each side by slightly larger eyelets formed by the yarn over that is, otherwise, drawn into decrease through the faggot stitch. I find this very pleasing.

A four-stitch garter edging on all sides completes the piece.

It was a relatively quick knit, taking just about 10 days of actual knitting, done mostly in couple-hour-increments after the kids went to bed at night. I also took a break from this project to knit up the fingerless mitts for my mom before she left.

I simply adore the way this shawl turned out! The fabric is warm around my shoulders, but it's also so light and airy that it can be folded and bunched without creating bulk.

This gives the piece wonderful flexibility because I can also wear it around my neck as a cozy cowl...

... if I can pry it away from my daughter!

Pattern: Basic Instincts Shawl (designed by me, pattern to come)
Started: January 2, 2011
Completed: January 17, 2011
Materials: Cherry Tree Hill's Fingering Alpaca, 2 skeins, 100 total grams, Spring Frost colorway
Needles: US 6 - 4.0 mm


Unknown said...

Stunning on the child. Lovely shawl and lovely child.

Elizabeth said...

The shawl turned out great. Need to whip one up for myself. Think one of the boys would model it for your blog?

meredithp said...

That's lovely. Looking forward to the pattern...whenever.

I'm a newish knitter and love to hear your thinking in the way (direction) you devised to knit it to it's maxium possible size.