Sunday, April 3, 2016

Shawls and Shawl Shapes

Recently, I have taken an interest in shawls and shawlettes.  What is the difference?  Shawls are large.  Shawlettes are small and used more as a scarf around the neck.  Why the interest?  I can't really say.  I know I did one of my first ones recently for my daughter in law for her Christmas present.  It was the South Bay Shawlette from Lion Brand.  It has a very easy to remember four row repeat and is offset every two rows.  I used a cashmere and silk blend yarn that I had recently found in a bright blue that reminds me of electric blue and Caribbean Sea blues.  I paired it with a fabulous shawl pin. This was a triangular shawlette.  It should be fairly easy for her to find a bunch of different ways to wear it on Pinterest , with one site here that has 8 different ways plus a pattern.

When I decided to make a study of shawls for myself, I found the basic and most common shapes were Round, Crescent, Rectangle, Square, and Triangle.  Crescent, rectangle and triangle are the simplest to wear.  Squares come next in my opinion.  Round shawls I find a challenge to wear and still display the beauty of the stitches in the shawl.  There is one site that has a cheat sheet of basic shawl shapes.

Popular shawls to be found on ravelry are the virus shawl, the south bay shawl, the Elise shawl, the Hitchhiker, The Haruni, The Age of Steam and Brass shawl, anything made by Martina Behm, Ysolda Teague or Stephen West.  Knit shawls seem to be more popular with projects in the tens of thousands than crochet shawls which number in the thousands.  There are many things to be said for doing shawls that have many others doing them, such as mistakes, if there are any, are found quickly, if you have questions about a specific part there are many others who either have it figured out or with the same question.  Your yarn choices make the shawls your own even if you do the same as someone else.  Remember your gauge makes things change even if only in a subtle manner.

So whether you choose to create your own shawl utilizing the basic shapes sheet or choose a popular or not so popular pattern, free or paid, there are so many choices to make.  Do you want to knit or crochet one?  Do you want to use a very fine yarn or something thicker?  Do you want a tighter or looser gauge than is stated if using the yarn and hook/needles stated?  

Most shawls utilize some kind of lace.  Very few, if any, use cables that I have found after a very brief search.  Shawls that are very basic will use only one stitch.  I recently made myself a large shawl.  I used a yarn that matched a skirt I had made a couple years ago.  I had envisioned a half dishcloth shawl.  You know the basic drill.  Cast on 3 stitches, Increase in the first stitch and knit to the end.  Repeat this row until you have enough.  Because of the size of needles I was using (15 US) for the chunky yarn, I did each row with an increase in both first and last stitch on every row.  I was going to either knit until I had used all the yarn I had or I reached 200 stitches.  I reached 200 stitches first.  It's beautifully large and warm.  The size of the stitches also give a pseudo lace effect.   I worked on this at night when I could not sleep.  It didn't take more than a week of insomnia.  The size of the needles was a key part of the speed, not my lack of sleep.  I listened to the History Chicks on an mp3 player on a low sound.  When I fell asleep, it didn't matter about the needles or the mp3 player.  The battery ran down and was easy to recharge.  The needles I used were circulars and I didn't lose any stitches.

In reading different history stories, historical diaries and the like, I've heard about smoke rings, veils, shawls, and how women and girls wrapped themselves up in them to stay warm in winter but also, when these were wrapped around their heads, could still see to do chores and walk from here to there. I had to wonder what was going on.  Then it dawned on me as I read further and further.  In yesteryear, the yarns were very fine.  Our sportweight was heavy, if I understood what I was reading correctly.  Laceweight and threads were used with fine needles and hooks.  Laces were the patterns used.  This allowed warmth and the ability to see even if wrapped in layers and layers.  Perhaps this isn't a windproof option but few things are.

Now that I have all these shawls (or not yet), what else can I do with them?   I would not hesitate to wrap a baby in one if needed.  I would lay one over the bed to warm me more than my husband needed if I'm sick.  On the infrequent times I fly, if the flight is cold, I would cover up with it.  I've never been on a cold flight with the exception of 16 years ago.  We had to fly in winter, at night for a funeral and this was a time when you could get a flight every hour or two to any destination and planes flew 2/3 empty.  I didn't have a shawl at that time.  I would use it to cover a part of my attire that is less than perfect (perfect is relative and not always what it seems) or a part of my body I'm less than happy with at the time.  I would not leave it lay about though.  I have a dog who likes to rearrange a blanket or blanket substitute to suit himself and that would rip any lace shawl I leave out.  It would also get covered in white straight fur.  Fur sticks.  Fur is hard to remove without a lot of shaking and shushing and tumbling in the dryer.

Do you have a favorite shawl pattern?  Do you have a favorite way to wear a shawl?  Share it here.  Share it on ravelry.  If we ever get sun again, I have a bunch of photos I want to take.