Monday, 17 June 2019

Red Sunset Shawl

Buying knitwear is not something I do often as I prefer to make my own, either knitting by hand or machine, that  way I know it will fit and I won’t see anyone else wearing an identical or even similar item. I like  to hand knit only those textures that I can’t do with the knitting machine.

So to actually buy knitwear it has to be special and a couple of pieces took my eye last year. However, I have never found the right time to wear either and when I tried them on I recently I decided both were buying mistakes. One was rather like a poncho, I did wear it out to dinner one evening and got more and more frustrated. To me arms have sleeves for a reason, they are warmer in sleeves and basically it is easier to eat wearing sleeves than having them covered underneath a cape like structure. I decided this would be one of my items I donate to charity for my lent contribution (1). 

However, this has been a valuable experience and I thought more carefully about what I do like as an outer wrap around. I have 2 Liberty large square challis Shawls woven in wool and of the 60s/70s that I love and find both warm and functional. My other shawls  are knitted wool and I love those too. They are fine lace but very versatile, being useful in winter and summer. 

However, I decided to knit a thicker rectangular shawl - this would serve three functions:

Keep me awake as I knitted  and ‘ watched’ the TV in the evening (2) 

Use up some of my store of red yarns, I have several fancy ones that I have been tempted to buy but not found the right item for them

Produce a thicker shawl that could be thrown around the shoulders as I wished and be more of an outer garment. 

I worked out a suitable size and collected the yarns together. I had seen a pattern for a Sampler Shawl, I think on Ravelry and had downloaded the free pattern. (3) I tried to find the tension used so that I could work out if my yarns needed doubling or knitting treble. I looked up the yarn used, which turned out to be a variegated yarn. I was going to put together my, mainly, single colour yarns in I hoped a pleasing sequence. 

The pattern did not include the tension and the shawl was knit with 6mm needles. These seemed huge to me, my last knit item was a 1 ply shawl using 2.5mm needles. I tried to work backwards from the size given for the shawl with the row and stitch count but that did not prove useful either. I tried my yarns with the 6 mm needles and did not like the effect I was getting and did more sample pieces, finally deciding to use 5.5mm needles and doubling up my predominately  Shetland 2 ply  as 4 ply yarn as needed. I had a little moan to myself(4) and then decided to embrace the enforced creativity. After all this was a free pattern, it had given me some ideas to get going. So I worked a tension piece and this enabled me to get a size I was happy with for a shawl. I wanted it to be wider than the 12” the pattern suggested. 

I gathered together my yarns, many I had dyed, several hand spun too, fancy yarns and lots of Shetland yarn from Jamieson and Jamieson and Smiths. The yarns all had a warm undertone and several of the red I had were clearly not suitable for inclusion to my eye. 

The yarns

After the first inch or so it was clear I needed more yarn, but this provided a conundrum as I was trying to use up yarn not buy more. I ordered some by mail order using a shade card, but each of the three I had chosen were not suitable for this project to my supercritical eyes. Hence why I decided I would make my own yarn, based on Merino  tops. If I wasn’t going to diminish my yarn stock I could use up some of the Merino tops that I had had for felt making  when I did more of this. This would give me the change to blend in colours that would suit the warm tones of the bought yarns and also I could incorporate some of my hand dyed fleece. This hand dyed fleece was mainly naturally dyed but there were some acid dyed reds. 

Carding for the ‘designer yarn’

I also had some Colinette  yarn. Some years ago I was attracted to this, such as at early Woolfest events. However, I have never found a much use for it and I was very much hoping to incorporate some into this shawl. I found it too heavy to knit with and that the colours in the variations always contained at least one that I did not like when I started using it. So after much preparation I had enough yarn made to, I hoped, complete the shawl. 

The main yarn would be Shetland, there would also be merino, North Ronaldsay, mohair and some unknowns. 

I had to make a compromise that I was not happy with. The yarn was quite bulky and I needed a lot of stitches per row. So reluctantly I gave in and used a circular needle, when I would have much preferred to use double pointed needles and a knitting belt. 

The pattern is mainly In garter stitch , although some rows were in stocking stitch. This meant I would be careful on which rows I changed the yarns and the shawl would, to me at least, have a public and private side. 

In fact I misjudged just how much yarn was needed and in all it took 300g. This meany I had to have another designing yarn session, involving finding more suitable tops and fleece and more spinning during the project. This is very unlike me as I like to have everything prepared before the start.

I quite enjoyed the knitting, but not using a circular needle. However when finished I did not like the shawl at all. I decided it was too thick and I would finish it and donate it to a good cause. 

HoweverI carried on finishing it properly, washing and then blocking the shawl on my large board. I decided I was a fine yarn person and I would just have to not waste my time on this sort of idea again. 

But I was in for a nice surprise, once I unblocked it, it felt much better and I actually fell in love with it. It is a unique item, and most of the yarns have a story behind them. The whole shawl is a reminder I see from my house at certain times of the year. It has turned out to be a talking point when I have worn it out. 

I am now deciding whether I ought to knit another in blue possibly or purple. 



  1. I read somewhere (fb), rather than giving something up for lent, donating an item a day to charity would be a useful alternative. We are trying this in 2019. 
  2. If I just sit down to watch TV in the evening I just fall asleep, probably an age thing or the fact that I wake early each day. So I tend to knit or spin or sew or similar and that enables me to keep awake. 
  3. This was called ‘Stitch Sampler Shawl’. Unfortunately the pattern when downloaded does not have the designers name on it. 
  4. This was the second pattern in two days with either wrong or incomplete information, the other being a weaving draft. I must decide to check any pattern, with free or paid for, at least twice before I decide it is the next make for me!