Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Second Shetland Shawl for 2010! - Michael

Most of you are aware that 2010’s knitting plans were hijacked when first my daughter-in-law and then my daughter announced their pregnancies. Suddenly my self-appointed task of designing, spinning for and knitting a Shetland-type shawl for each grandchild became the total focus for ALL of my fiber time. However, I am happy to announce that both shawls are now finished!

Michael’s shawl was simpler in some ways than his cousin Mariah’s, but more complex in others. I chose to do Michael’s shawl on a stockinette ground, which simplified knitting the shawl in the round – no endless purl rows. I also chose to start this shawl from the center, so as to incorporate a star – important, since Daddy is a Texas boy! The 8-point star chosen also reflects Mommy’s family heritage; we’re all quilters of one sort or another and that knitter’s version of a star was a perfect choice.

Additional photos are available at

After that central start, however, I needed to switch over to knitting a square. And come up with a choice of what I wanted to place in the larger, central portion of the shawl. My son-in-law and daughter both come from Irish backgrounds. My daughter has always loved Celtic knots, and has requested other knitted items that incorporate this sort of design. I found this Celtic knot in the Meg Swanson book “A Gathering of Lace,” and decided that a triad of the knots was a pictorial way of showing the growth of the family. So I charted it all out in Excel and started knitting.

After the knots, I wanted to expand the lacey portion of the shawl just a bit. So far the “lacy” motifs of the shawl were quite isolated by stockinette ground, and I wanted something more ethereal as I approached the edges of the shawl. I flipped through a lot of books, and found, in both “A Gathering of Lace” and Barbara Walker’s “First Treasury of Knitting Stitches,” a lovely rose (yes, I’ve been singing “The Yellow Rose of Texas” a good bit this fall) surrounded by a curving border vaguely reminiscent of a twining, Oriental design – at least to my mind. Since part of the baby’s heritage is also Filipino, this seemed appropriate, as well as quite pretty!

Now for the border: I was most of the way through the bordered rose repeat before I finally settled on something. Michael was conceived on the West Coast, but will be born on the East. Both areas have lovely mountains and shorelines, and I wanted something to reflect that. My usual choice for that sort of thing is some variation on Feather and Fan, but I didn’t like the way that looked with the bordered rose design – at least, not in Excel. Again, I started leafing through various pattern books, and again Barbara Walker came to the rescue. Razor Shell grows beautifully from the top of the rose border design, and curves in an fashion that has pronounced peaks.

The handspun for this one was from top I bought from Jameson & Smith – their superfine Shetland. It was a dream to spin, even to a gossamer weight of 35 wpi at two plies. I knitted it on size 2 US 40-inch metal circular needles from KnitPicks, magic-looping the center portion of the shawl. Total yardage for the completed shawl was approximately 1600 spread over three skeins, and total weight is about 6 ounces.


Kaspian said...

That's a gorgeous shawl! I love hearing about the thought you put into making it unique and personal.

Question: Could you please describe how you use Excel to design it?


PJ Kite said...

Basically, I have a knitting font I downloaded from the web (Google "knitting fonts" and take your choice) and installed onto my computer. I open a new spreadsheet in Excel, set the cell size to what I want (Row Height about 16, Column Length around 3), and then format the cells for text. I then highlight the cells I'm planning to use for the pattern and choose the knitting font. Not difficult, but sometimes a little time-consuming, especially with large patterns.

Sometimes I will short-cut it by entering only the last couple of rows of one motif followed by the first few of the next - just to see how they work together.

But there's a reason I plan for the better part of two weeks for the design phase of a shawl - it takes a while!

Kaspian said...