01 July 2011

Shawl Competition

Today is the due date for entries for the Claudia Hand Painted Yarn Shawl the Love contest. For me, this was a great excuse to indulge in some linen yarn. I had heard great things about linen. For one, it likes being thrown through the washer and dryer. I've seen in person the Flounce duo skirt from Gwen Bortner's Entrée to Entrelac. Linen has some life to it, so a skirt or shawl will have a lot of sassy movement! I was glad to have an excuse to play.

I started by shopping for the yarn. The Whole Nine Yarns did have some, but only in half a dozen colors. Eat.Sleep.Knit carries the full line of colors. And I decided to work outside my comfort zone by choosing brown. In the end, I found two mismatched dye lots of "copper pennies" and a light-brown named "honey." I must admit that although I'm not a big fan of brown, "copper pennies" is a pretty colorway in either its dark or light incarnation. And brown can be a nice change-up from the basic neutrals of black, white, gray, and navy. Using mismatched skeins was a fun way to turn a potential problem into a design solution. Hand dyed yarns often vary significantly from dye lot to dye lot, but in this design, that quality is desirable.

I don't remember my original inspiration. I have been fiddling around with mitered squares for quite some time. I think I even made a teddy bear dress several years ago using non-square mitered shapes. For some reason, I came back to the mitered idea and played around with it. I thought about making a shape that would look like a feather. I chose a basic faggoting pattern in which the lace is worked on both right-side and wrong-side rows. The real trick was figuring out how to work the lace and the mitered shaping at the same time.

Remember all those Japanese pattern books I've been reading? The solution came from something I'd seen there.
If you are used to graphs, you may be tempted to draw something that looks like the diagram on the left. You'll start with a lot of stitches at the bottom, and decrease to only one at the top, and your mitered decrease line will run down the middle. It looks like a triangle on the page, but it will be a mitered square or its relative when you knit it. The problem with this approach is that the stitches that are disappearing in your knitting are not the ones at the edges. The stitches you are decreasing away are the ones next to the miter. The diagram on the left would work if you were decreasing at the beginning and end of the rows, rather than in the middle. Instead, lay out your chart so it looks like the example on the right. Yes, those big open gaps between the shaping and the miter look very odd on paper. But by graphing this way, the wales of the chart and the wales of your knitting will stack up and match. You'll be able to see on paper before you knit it how the lace patterning interacts across rows. You'll be able to tell what to do to keep your mitered shaping while still keeping your lace patterning continuous.

I am sharing this design technique because perhaps the best part of Rosemary Drysdale's Entrelac book is the section of swatches of entrelac knit in a variety of stitch patterns -- lace, Fair Isle, bobbles, cables, seed stitch. I haven't seen a lot of pattern play in mitered modules. Usually miters are just garter, garter ridge stitch (2 rows stockinette, 2 rows garter), or stockinette. I'd like to encourage some experimentation.

In my shawl I've also played with the rate of decrease. The first course of kite-shapes has mitered decreasing on right-side and wrong-side rows. This produces top sides that are half the length of the bottom sides. The second course of shapes is stockinette-based but with the usual right-side only shaping. Because all four sides have the same number of stitches, it resembles a square or a least a diamond. I have also swatched a number of variants on this, including decreases every third row, or alternating the central decrease line with decreases at the edges. In this way, you can produce a variety of quadrilateral shapes all with a central miter line. I would love to see more designers playing both with shape and with pattern in modular knitting.
In the end, my shawl doesn't really look like bird wings. But, it does have a pretty pattern. After consulting with my gardening friends, I named it Dahlia. At least my friends aren't science fiction fans. When I laid the shawl out to take a picture, I realized that in black it would loosely resemble the Shadow Vessels from Babylon 5.

1 comment:

rowndabout said...

This is incredibly beautiful. I can't wait to buy the pattern.