15 February 2013

Notches in Triangles

Damask knit with a notch about 15 inches/38 cm deep.
In the previous post, I said I didn't want to knit a solid triangle, but rather a triangle with a notch in it. Why would I want to do that?

A triangular shawl may not necessarily sit nicely on your shoulders. I wear my shawls. I do household chores while wearing my shawls. They need to stay put. A regular triangular shawl does not have a place for your neck, so you end up with a chunk of fabric that bunches up at the back of your neck. And you end up with much more fabric across your back than across your front, which means the force of gravity tugging at the back is always more than the force of gravity tugging at the front.

There are a couple ways to deal with this. Faroese shawls incorporate shaping, so they have a gentle "wing" shape that reminds me of a butterfly or a manta ray. The shaping helps get more fabric to the front so that gravity pulls evenly on both sides. Ruanas also work this way by having enough fabric in front. In fact, if you have a little more fabric in front than in back, you should be fine. The shawl might ride up on the back of your neck a little bit, but it can't fall off your body because your neck is in the way as gravity tries to pull the shawl down your front.

Triangular shawls are very popular right now. Because of their simple shaping, they are easy to knit and easy to personalize by adding whatever patterns you find delightful. But they aren't easy to wear. Now, I am as delighted as the next person to find yet another excuse to wear a shawl pin, but some shawls don't behave well even with a shawl pin. What's a knitter to do?

An easy solution is to leave out a small chunk of fabric -- i.e. knit a triangle with a notch. If you are knitting top down, this means doing a little math and casting-on midway into the shawl. Instead of starting with a few stitches and working downward, you'll want to figure out the pattern a few inches into the shawl and cast on there. (If you are a fast knitter and you don't like math, cast on as the pattern indicates in waste yarn of the same grist as your project yarn, and knit until you've reached the depth you need. Count your stitches and then cast on with the project yarn.) If you are working bottom up, just stop knitting and bind-off before you reach the top.

You may be wondering, how big a notch should I make? A trip to the fabric store, a few yards of plain fleece (on sale! glee!), and an afternoon with the scissors is what I used to answer that question. The fabric was the standard 60 inches/ 152cm in width. I cut out four plain right triangles measuring 60 inches/152cm on the leg sides. These are large, cape-like shawls. Then I proceeded to cut notches of varying depths in three of the four. Here are the results.

I started with a plain triangle. (In science lingo, this would be the baseline or control.)
Plain triangle, front.
Plain triangle, neck back.
While it can wrap completely around the shoulders and collarbone, notice how it bunches up at the neck.

A large, deep notch looks like this:
Large deep notch, front.
Large deep notch, neck back.
The depth of the notch is about 20 inches/ 51cm. It is one-third of the 60-inch length, and removes one-ninth of the area of this particular shawl.

No bunching, but also it creates a long v-neck in front. This will shorten a large triangle so that it doesn't hang as long in back. But too deep a notch, and the front will hang very long indeed. If you like the versatility of a ruana, you might like this type of shaping. Yarn not used in the eliminated notch area can be used instead to make a larger overall garment.

A medium notch looks like this:
Medium notch, front.
Medium notch, neck back.
The depth of the notch is about 15 inches/ 38cm. It is one-quarter of the 60-inch length, and removes one-sixteenth of the area of this particular shawl.

Again, this makes for a better fit at the neck than a plain triangle. You may or may not like the "lapels." You don't get a straight line down the front, but rather a little jog. If you don't mind the "lapels," you might even discover that the little diamond of overlapping fabric is a great place for the shawl pin. My Damask is this shaping.

A small shallow notch looks like this.
Small shallow notch, front.
Small shallow notch, neck back.
The depth of the notch is about 7.5 inches/ 19cm. It is one-eighth of the 60-inch length, and removes one-sixty-fourth of the area of this particular shawl.

This notch is actually too small. It accommodates the neck, but it isn't deep enough for the fabric to meet in front. On the other hand, if you have a bar pin or a cardigan clasp, you could wear the shawl this way. You might want to pin it through to the clothes underneath to prevent the weight of the shawl from pulling the shawl pin to your throat. If you are making a costume, this might be a way to use triangular shaping as a cape.

The shallower notch also shifts how the shawl sits. With the large, deep notch the fronts of the shawl definitely hung lower than the back. This is less so with the shallow notch. And the small notch eliminates the "lapels." If you get the notch depth just right, the "lapels" will meet at your collar bone where they can join with a pin or button, then the edges of the shawl hang straight. How do you figure this distance? Using a measuring tape, measure from the back of your neck around to your collar bone. If you like the shawl right up against your neck, use that distance. If you want a little more ease so the shawl is down on your shoulders or a little more fabric to overlap for your shawl pin, add a little more depth to your notch (an inch/2.5 cm or less).

Notice, too, that you'll be knitting just a little bit less fabric but not a lot less fabric. While your shawl won't be significantly larger if you are using a shallow notch, it may be give you just enough extra yarn if your gauge is a little looser than the pattern sample.


plnc said...

Great post :-) Your brilliant mind continues to amaze me! (I am loving knitting my double knit cables scarf based on your class.) Pam

Laura said...

Great idea, Jolie! Thanks for posting this. I love shawls too, but always struggle with keeping them on. This would definitely solve that problem - with a little math! :)