Eye of the Storm Shawl and other goodies!


I discovered Holly Chayes's work on shawl geometry a few years ago and it was a game changer for me.  In particular, I was taken with her description around how to construct a crescent shaped shawl.  This particular shape hugs the shoulders and enables to garment to stay where you put it.

You can find Holly's blog post on the crescent shawl here: Crescent Shawl Geometry

I've used this general information to construct a number of shawls over the past few years in various weights of yarn, and it works without fail.  I just adjust my needle size to suit the weight of yarn chosen, and keep knitting until I like the overall length.

This particular shawl I called "The Eye of the Storm" largely due to the prevailing weather and the color of laceweight yarns used. One was a BFL yarn dyed by Smashknits in the colorway "Brooding". The other was Sugar Bush Drizzle (mohair and silk) in colorway "Thunderstorm" purchased from Darn Yarn several years back. The BFL gave the shawl body that mohair and silk alone could not.  I knit the shawl on 4 mm needles.

Holly's instructions for starting a crescent shawl are simple:

CO 13 stitches (4 border stitches, 8 sections, 1 spine stitch)

Row 1: k2, (place marker, yo, k1) four times; place marker, k1 (place marker, k1, yo) 4 times, place marker , k2

Row 2: k2, purl to last two stitches, K2.

Row 3: k2, (slip marker, yo, k to marker) four times; slip marker, k1, (slip marker, k to marker, yo) four times.

Row 4: k2, purl to last two stitches, k2.

Repeat rows three and four until desired length is reached and bind off loosely.

The two edge stitches on either side are in a garter stitch (knit every row), so it would be a natural to knit one completely in garter stitch, especially as a first project. Garter stitch is dense and squishy and makes a warm shawl.  Last year, I had a lovely skein of hand dyed boucle yarn that lent itself magnificently to a garter stitch shawl. Fancy stitch work would have been completely obscured by the texture of the yarn and sometimes, it's okay to let the yarn itself do the heavy lifting on a project.

Other times, I want an unfussy shawl, so I'll alternate between bands of stocking stitch and garter stitch. This can produce a striking product on its own.

Take for example, the men's shawl I made for a Christmas gift one year. This shawl was made in a Patons Chunky yarn on a 6mm needle. The stitches were larger and the banding effect was quite striking.  The recipient loved it and has made good use of his "caplet", as he calls it.

I used a similar approach in my Eye of the Storm Shawl, alternating between bands of stocking stitch and garter stitch, ending with a wide band of garter stitch.  The wide bottom band helps weight the edge so there is no curling to worry about.

Of course, if you wish to experiment with different stitch techniques, a shawl can be a great project for this.  I made a shawl in Istex Einband (Icelandic laceweight) where I played around with a bamboo stitch and got a nice effect.  Because of the increases on every right side row, the bamboo stitches were staggered and this created a nice lacy effect.

I alternated between bands of stocking stitch and I what I ended up calling "Broken Bamboo". The pictures show the details from that shawl.

So, in short, Holly Chayes's work on shawl geometry is worth investigating.  She offers useful information on a variety of shawl shapes that will open up a world of possibilities. 

A shawl is such a lovely garment, especially to give as a gift.  It's like making a warm hug for someone. It can be a great stash buster allowing you to combine different colors in random pattern. Or it can be a showcase for delicious hand dyed or specialty yarn.

If you are interested in learning more about shawl geometry, I encourage you to check out Holly's blog and to consider purchasing one of her books.  I just bought Book II and am eager to try out some of the more unconventional shawl shapes featured.

Hope you are having a great weekend!


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