Random thoughts of a fiber enthusiast - mostly fiber related, sometimes coherent

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Shawl Design

(This post was started while I was still in Washington.  I’m back in California now.)

All of my reference books are back in California, but I want to cast on now.  Thankfully, there are a lot of excellent references on the internet.  I have always wanted a Faroese styled shawl.  Something that will sit and stay on my shoulders, no matter what I’m doing.  I found this excellent reference* on shaping all manners of shawls from simple triangles to faroese styled shawls with shoulder shaping.

I grabbed a piece of paper and sketched out the schematic of the shawl that I want to make.  I made a swatch in pattern.  I like the way it looks.  I like the fabric.  So, now for a quick bit of math.


My swatch is 11 sts over 2″ on 3.00mm needles.  The row gauge doesn’t really matter here because I’m working neck down.  I’ll keep working until I get to the depth I want.  I’ll continue to try it on as I go.  If I were a taller person, I would worry about the row gauge and yarn usage.  But for my purposes, I’m 99.9% sure that I will reach my desired depth before I run out of yarn.

Design considerations:

  • From the shawls I’ve seen at Madrona, I didn’t want a “bend” created by the yarn over increases n-stitches in from the edge.  So my shawl will have an invisible increase on the first and last stitch created by knitting into the front and back of the edge stitches.
  • Since this pattern changes color every 2 rows (single garter ridge), the old yarn will be carried up the outside edge.  I will apply an I-cord edge at the end to hide the floats.
  • My increase lines will be created by adjacent increases: knit into front and back of 2 consecutive stitches.  This will be nicely hidden in garter stitch.  If I were to make this shawl in stockinette stitch, I would consider some decorative increase options.

My schematic has 4 lines of increases at the top of the shawl, and it divides the work into 5 sections with increases at each edge of the sections.  A quick measure (and a sample) shows that the start will look something like this:

  1. right front panel: it starts at a point, so only 1 outside edge stitch is required, plus one shoulder increase stitch
  2. right back (from right shoulder to right edge of center panel): 2″ to lay over the shoulder; 11 sts
  3. center panel: 2″; 11 sts  (because I don’t want the back enter panel to be too wide after increases)
  4. left back (from left edge of center panel to left shoulder): same as the right; 11 sts
  5. left front panel: 1 outside edge stitch plus one shoulder increase stitch

Again, since I am not knitting an edge as I go, I can go directly to the cast on.  For my shawl, I need to cast on 58 stitches.  Since the cast on will be hidden by the applied I-cord, I will cast on using the yarn that will be used for the I-cord edge.

Yarn: Noro Silk Garden Sock, 1 skein each of White/Natural (S269, Lot A) and Reds (S84, Lot A)
Needles: 3.00 mm
Gauge: 11 sts/2″

So, here are the pithy instructions for my yarn, gauge and sizing:

Cast On: With color A, cast on 32 sts (I used the knitted on cast on)

Neck & Shoulder Shaping

  • Setup Row, Row 1 (RS): with color A, (kfb) 2x, pm, kfb, k9, kfb, pm, kfb, k4, kfb, pm, kfb, k9, kfb, pm, (kfb) 2x
  • Row 2 (WS) and all even rows: with color A, knit across; slip markers as you come to them
  • Row 3: drop color A, do not cut; with color B, kfb, (k to 1 st before marker, kfb, slip marker, kfb) 4x, k to last st, kfb
  • Row 5: drop color B, pick up color A, kfb, (k to 1 st before marker, kfb, slip marker, kfb) 4x, k to last st, kfb
  • Repeat rows 3-6 until desired shoulder depth; approx. 3-5″.

Stop increases inside the center panel when the center panel reached desired width.

Remove outer stitch markers (and stop increases at these points) when you reach the desired shoulder depth, or slightly short of it.

Bind off.


This has been an interesting exercise.  In addition to pen and paper, I used the draft of this post for keeping my notes of design, modifying it as I go.  Hopefully, this will last longer than the little pieces of scrap paper that I design on and disappear in the way of all things you want to keep.

As for the Noro Silk Garden Sock yarn…it doesn’t take to ripping very well.  It’s extremely sticky.  When ripping out your knitting, it just gets more and more sticky.  After several frogging, the yarn gets pretty difficult to work with.  Hopefully, I’m done with all that and we are on to easy sailing from here on out.

Why so many restarts?  Well, there was the swatch.  Then, my initial design was too large.  (It was what I designed, but I didn’t like the way it sat on my shoulders.)  Then, I didn’t like how wide the center panel became after a few inches.  First design attempt had my center panel as the widest part of the cast on.  Second attempt had them all the same width.  The most current version, has the center panel as the smallest set of increases.

I’m still not 100% happy with the current one.  I think the next time I make this, I will start the shoulder increases after an inch of shoulder work.  Yes, I said next time.  I’m not ripping this yarn out again for anything.  It’s difficult enough to work as it is.

Why not just cut it off and start anew?  Well to find out whether it sits well or not, I have to knit about 5-6″.  That’s a lot of garter stitch.

* Editor’s Note: As of 2013-Mar-20, the link to my reference page have disappeared. Here’s another shawl shape reference, without the faroese shawl shaping. For faroese shawls, there’s a series written by Liberty’s Yarn: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

This and That

And everything in between.

Cottage Deck

Here’s my workspace while I’m catching up. My laptop, tea, cell phone, and Kindle on the small table on my deck with the view of Admiralty Strait and Port Townsend in the distance. What more can I ask more?

Design Your Own Fair Isle Sweater

As I said in the last post, it was a great class. Janine walked us through a bit of color theory and discerning value. This was a valuable (ha ha) lesson. One inviolate rule in fair isle work is value trumps color. Repeat that mantra as you work on your design. Value trumps color.

Once we finished our value exercise, we started with our inspiration picture. I wasn’t very organized this trip. It was all I can do to pack myself, the loom and the critters into the station wagon. I didn’t have the wherewithal to pack for the class as well. So, I availed myself to Janine’s fine collection of National Geographic, and selected a photograph of a group of moss covered rocks. The rocks were blue-gray in the midst of chartreuse, plus a scattering of orange leaves on one of the rocks.

We then picked out the colors in our inspiration photo from Janine’s amazing library of yarn (entire selection of currently available color from Jamieson & Smith, Jamieson’s Spindrift, and Elemental Affects). Then without any preconceived notions, selected additional colors in the color family. Arrange the yarns in value, split it in half, then proceed to a speed swatch. From the speed swatch we can tell what colors were working, what weren’t, and what areas/values that we might be missing.

I have to say, my swatch was stupefyingly ugly. Dark browns (I was trying for the shadows), and garish oranges to capture the bright leaves. Seriously. There wasn’t many nice things other people in the class was able to say about the swatch other than “oh, that’s a nice orange…,” pointing to a single line of color, or “hmm, I like that color, I think that was what I was looking for in my swatch.” Seriously bad.

However, I was able to salvage what I had, and hard pruned my collection (from 33 colors to 15) and replaced one or two colors. Reordered them into 2 “colorways” and in arranged them in respective values. Voila! Something that was more pleasing.

Next we pored through various pattern/motif books to select our patterns. I came up with something called
“Scatness” (I kid thee not. Perhaps subconsciously naming my speed swatch.) from Postcards from Shetland by Ron Schweitzer.

May I present the my workshop results…(click for big)

Design Your Own Fair Isle Sweater samplers

Clockwise from bottom left: speed swatch, photo inspiration, Scatness chart and my color notes, and my swatch.

Not bad, if I say so myself. This is an all over pattern that I’m thinking of making in to a vest, possibly a sweater, but most likely a vest. I still want to tweak the color combinations a bit. The proportions and placement are close, but there’s a bit of finenessing still required here. I’ll get there. There’s a line of peach that I’m not fond of. I do agree that it’s necessary for the piece to pull together, but it’s where it’s place and the number of rows used that I need to tweak. Janine proposes that I call it something other than “peach”, like “Martin” to get over my dislike for the color. We’ll see.

(By the way, if you click through on Scatness, you’ll notice how different the sweater looks from my swatch.  It’s amazing the effect you’ll get just by changing the values.)

June Socks (Socks #7)

Socks 0807

My 7th pair of socks this year, using the second Flat Feet purchased at Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat, knitted toe up. I’m working on a set of footlets from the leftover yarn right now.

Dye Day

Cochineal and Indigo skeinsThis is the result of my dye day at Kathleen’s yesterday. Above is cochineal with ammonia modifier. Below is half strength indigo bath. (And that’s Ellie, inspecting the results.) I’ll write more on the dye day later.

Now, I have to finish my beet salad and head to the neighborhood potluck at the pool. I’m trying to squeeze as much into my last day on the island as I can.

I have to pack up the car tonight and close up the house in the morning. I have a reservation on the noon ferry tomorrow. I need to be there at least 30-90 minutes in advance of the ferry. I know this flies in the face of my earlier post, but this being the end of a long holiday weekend, I made a reservation and need to keep it, or I might be on the island a day longer than planned. And I have commitments back in California that I need to keep.


Quick Post

Grace has been asking me about the Design Your Own Fair Isle class I took from Janine Bajus last week at Madrona Fiber Arts. I’ve been too busy to write a real post with my own pictures, so I’ll leave you with a few links.

If you ever have the chance to take the class from Janine, do it! I’ve learned a lot, even though I haven’t learned to love the color peach yet.

More later. Right now, I’ve got to head off island to Kathleen’s dyeing party.

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