Monday, June 21, 2010

Shetland Hap Shawl from scratch, WIP

On my trip to Scotland last year, one of our stops was Lerwick, in Shetland. The highlight was of course Jamieson and Smith, with it's modest storefront, above left. I purchased several bags of Shetland supreme top. A delight to spin, soft and lovely. I purchased mostly the natural white, but also samples of all the colors : mid gray, moorit, dark chocolate, light brown.

Shetland lace shawls are incredibly fine and intricate. Lovely examples are at Sharon Miller's website. These shawls were knit to sell as a cottage industry, according to Sharon Miller's classic text, Heirloom Knitting. But the shawls I was really attracted to were the hap shawls. These Miller described in Shetland Hap Shawls. These shawls involve a garter square, surrounded by a simple lace, usually "Old Shale" lace were working women's shawls, square in shape, often tied behind the back, or used to swaddle a baby. It was something a little less fine that I could actually spin and knit myself.

So, my Shetland Supreme top was destined to become a hap shawl. I often spin as I knit, being too enthusiastic about a project to wait till the spinning's all done. Here's what there is so far:

I'm working on the center square, double plied yarn, worked as a diamond with a cat's paw design. In parts of Shetland the hap shawl centers are simply garter, although according to Liz Lovick, sometimes they had a lace pattern. I loved the traditional cat's paw and decided to knit the center square as a diamond (increasing to the final then decreasing) utilizing this lace pattern. I have an untested pattern (except for the one I'm doing) available in the sidebar, if you want to take a risk! Once I've got it all spun up, I'll add the fan and feather border, in graduated shades. These directions are just for the center square, but I'll add the border once I get to it.

I should note that according to Ms. Miller, these shawls were originally knit in sections or "border inwards" on straight needles, it was only due to the advent of circulars in the 20's to 40's (or by use of 4 quite long dpn's) that one could knit it as I am, "border outwards" or center first then picking up lace stitches around the border on a big circular.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Orkney Leaf Shawl

I was lucky to visit Scotland last summer (2009) with Joyce James on her Scottish Skeins and Skerries tour, during which myself and new friends knit, visited, sipped wine (nothing else goes as well with knitting) and spent our way through Edinborough, Shetland, Orkney, and Hebrides. There was also a brief visit to Glasgow prior to our return flights. I'll describe more adventures in future posts, but today I'll describe a visit to a shop in Orkney and the shawl that resulted. The slightly drab photo above is a view in Kirkwall.

We boarded the bus in Kirkwall and drove up to a shop called The Wool Shed. (No website that I can locate...). They had lovely items. We had a brief tutorial on felting, and, as per our fiber loving ilk, snatched up yarns and roving. I came away with several bags of both Shetland and North Ronaldsay roving. Now the best thing about this stuff was the color. Bags held coordinated shades. According to the label, Pam Murray was the talented dyer. On the return drive in the van, we spied a place where the North Sea ran head on in to the Atlantic, in between two islands (one that we were driving on) with the waters perpetually assaulting each other head on. Of course, I neglected to get a photo, but it was so dramatic that I'll always remember it. Looked like a place with plenty of power, a great spot for Pagan rituals done with blue woad on one's face!

Once home, I spun up the blue-green colorway of shetland wool. Now, truth be told, green in most all forms calls to me. I double plied (I kinda lied in my last post, I have made successful shawls from my two ply handspun.) I just let the colors do what they wanted to, and so of course sometimes there were runs with both strands in one shade of blue or green. The photo to the right is more blue than green and doesn't really do it justice. The yarn turned out about 10 wpi.

I made what was for me an obvious pattern choice, Evelyn A Clark's Leaf Shawl, from her book
Knitting Lace Triangles. I do love this book for the
ability to create one's own shawl using Evelyn's
formula and her sample lace patterns. According Amazon, the book is out of print but some copies are available. My recommendation if you like triangular shawls is to snatch one up. Ultimately I hope to invent some of my own lace triangles using her basic principles. I would love to knit a shawl of just different variations of lace that looks like leaves; the increase and decreases just lend themselves to the shape of a leaf.
I finished the shawl last month during a lecture at the American Occupational Therapy Association national conference in Orlando. I was the only knitter I spied, but I will admit I gathered some complements as I knit through the sessions.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I have an Ashford Traditional spinning wheel. I am not a great spinner, and it took 2 years to find a functional default yarn. I learned to spin at courses at John C Campbell Folk School. I am a spontaneous spinner and don’t spend a lot of time comparing my twist during the course of spinning a particular yarn. However, I love making yarn.

I started out making a lot of 2 ply yarns then didn’t know what to do with them. How much was there when I was done? Who knew? Certainly not enough for an adult sized sweater. Not living "up north" anymore, I don't need a scarf and I've given everyone I know who lives there at least two. And as much as I love my little niece and nephew, knitting them a sweater out of handspun that might be headed for the washing machine just didn’t seem right. Apologies to my sister (my brother in law assured me “I would NEVER do that!”)

As in the last two years I have mostly knit shawls, and my 2 ply yarn tended to be too chunky for those fine lace shawls that I love, I switched to doing singles. I can now produce a fairly useable fine singles at about 12-14 (or more!) wraps per inch to use for a lace shawl yarn. And when the yarn is used up, however much the yardage, the shawl is done!

Here’s an example of a shawl from my single ply:

Evelyn A. Clark’s Wild West Lace Shawl

This was spun from roving from Gale’s Art (met Gale at Folkschool), blue faced Leicester. For this yarn I actually separated the colors as I spun to get longer lengths of one color. This is actually more of a kerchief than a shawl. I modified the lace patterning thinking I had enough yarn so added an additional lace section, then I didn't have enough to do the buffalo tracks at the end. I'll just have to do it again!

If you scrunch up your eyes, you can see the buffalo in Evelyn's clever lace design to the right.

Finished in March, this was the first shawl that I used blocking wires to block. I got mine from Knitpicks. Nothing beats the thrill of seeing the lace expand as you pin.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Falling off the proverbial log

Who knew that it only took 3 minutes, a glass of wine for courage, and absolutely no prior learning to start that knitting blog I've been conceiving for at least a year? More erudite sounding posts to come soon!