My Whippoorwill has been finished for a while now (almost two months actually!). I am counting it as my first official shawl, and as such, I can say that it has illuminated me greatly on many things.
The knitting itself was quite easy. Let’s face it, as shawl patterns go, this one is pretty much as simple as they get. But what worried me more than potential complexity was the fear of boredom. You often hear shawl knitters complain about those endless rows of several hundred stitches, about how they lose interest on purl rows, and also about how easy it is to lose track of where you are and mess up a pattern. I can happily report that I experienced none of that. I completely breezed through this pattern, at remarkable speed. I did mess up a few times, coming to the end of a row and realizing that my stitch count was a bit off, but I was equally remarkably unconcerned about that. I just picked up an extra stitch here and there, and things worked out on their own. I challenge you to locate the mistakes in my FO!
I usually consider myself quite a big fan of densely knit fabric. My ideal gauge is that thin line between a fabric that is compact, yet still soft. If pressed to choose among the alternative extremes, though, I would go towards the stiffer, tighter knit fabrics, much sooner than towards loose, open gauge. Whippoorwill taught me, however, that I may have underestimated what loose gauge can do to a knitted item’s softness. Whoa! This baby is so soft that I feel like I have to whisper the word soft when talking about it. (And frankly, while Malabrigo is amazingly soft, I think the gauge gets all the credit here.)
And the lightness, oh my, the lightness! To have something so soft, so light, yet so warm, now this is a completely new experience to me.
I knit the size small (that’s how much yarn I had), and I was convinced the finished object would be the size ‘too small’. Again, underestimating the gauge.
When something is knitted so loosely, it becomes stretchy, and this small little thing wraps around my neck, twists itself into a nice knot and even leaves some ends hanging out of it prettily without any effort.
Anyone who’s ever knit a shawl knows that they are ugly ducklings in the process and only turn into beautiful swans after you stretch them out like crazy, pin them out like a voodoo doll and block even the thought of scrunchupedness out of them. So I trusted my shawl while it looked all old-lady-skin on me, and waited patiently for the blocking to do its magic. Needless to say – it did. Wonderfully. However, after wearing the thing on and off for about a month, I can report that the edges are now rolling in again. I have to say I expected greater durability…
Am I going to have to keep blocking this every two or three weeks?
Actually, the main part of my skepticism towards shawls comes from the fact that they simply do not fit into my wardrobe. When it comes to neckwear, I’m more of a chunky, elongated kinda gal (as opposed to the light, triangular kind). In this section, I have several things to report. One, this shawl is not too triangular for me. It might even be a good stepping stone towards more properly triangulary things. Two, it’s the perfect thing to have on your neck in these transitional autumn days. Not too warm, not too cold. Three, the shawl cuts into my neck. Now here we have a problem. The upper edge (longest edge if you think of the shape as a triangle) is the least elastic one. That is because of the construction of the shawl, from the centre of that side outwards, so that edge is formed by the stitches you keep casting on in each row.
That is also normally the edge that is in most contact with the neck and I would want it most stretchy. I find this quite discouraging since most shawls I’ve seen have the same method of construction, which means that they’ll all have this unelastic edge? As it is I end up wearing my shawl “upside-down” (with the unelastic edge towards the bottom and the decorative edge towards my face), to prevent it from cutting into my neck.
I hope you guys have some advice for avoiding this!
So there you have it! I am really happy with all the lessons learned from this experience and I think it has expanded my horizons as a knitter. I look forward trying out new shawls, and maybe even discovering constructions that suit me better… Do you have any additional reflections on shawl-knitting? I’d love to hear!
p.s. Have a great weekend everyone! :)