A few years ago, I worked for a time in a yarn shop: a job which brought me into contact with thousands of knitters (and a few crocheters, let’s not forget them) from all over the world. When you do that job — there’s a parallel with teaching here, which I did for years — you realise that people have pretty similar needs, and you become practised in being able to recommend techniques or materials which will solve their problems or move them on to the next level.
The owner stocked a few colours of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift, and asked me to design a shawl pattern to sell alongside the yarn. At the time I was seeing a lot of shawls which had a stocking stitch triangle with an edging in one stitch pattern. I loved a lot of them, but I’d never knitted one. I guess I just liked to do something pretty early on in the shawl and I knew I would put my knitting aside before I got to the interesting and beautiful stitch pattern. And I wanted to address a need that some of the customers had expressed to knit something lace, which wasn’t all lace — all lace could be scary, in their view.
So I chose three different stitch patterns — from the Shetland tradition, because of the origin of the yarn — and a relatively simple edging to go with it. There would be some stocking stitch, and some lace: the best of both worlds. Oh the calculations….the calculations went on forever. It was a while ago, but I vividly remember one long day where I had perfect peace at home and I spend the entire time in my pyjamas calculating row counts and working out exactly where to put the repeats and how best to factor in the increases. This is relatively easy if you design a shawl which is made up of two right-angled triangles: you increase at the same rate pretty much everywhere. If you’re increasing faster at the outer edges than at the spine, and making reasonably complex stitch patterns fit in happily, it gets to be a lot more work. (A lot!) By the time the pattern was written and knitted, I almost never wanted to see it again.
But to cut a long story short, it’s been a great pattern for me. I get happy messages saying what a pleasure it is to knit, and never boring (hmm, the edging does go on a bit though, prepare yourselves!). There are loads of fabulous projects on Ravelry and it’s a real buzz to see a new one appear, every time. The colours are gorgeous — there’s a green version, photographed against a snowy landscape, that I covet — and some of the two-colour versions are inspiring.
Autumn is definitely here: it’s almost time to swathe myself in my big mustardy woolly shawl again. I’ve put the pattern on sale at £2.25 ($3.65 ish) for the whole of October, which is a 40% discount. The shawl takes about 585m/640yds of a 4-ply yarn (maybe a little less, depending on your tension). The woollier the better in my view, but have a look through the projects linked above and you’ll see that smoother or finer yarns work too. I really look forward to seeing more wonderful Northern Summer Shawls* popping up. Happy Knitting!
*About the name. Summer in Edinburgh is often a short, dreary affair: a few days of warm sunshine followed by weeks and weeks of speculation. “Well, we’ve had our summer…That was it, eh?…Och it didnae used to be like this, it’s that global warming…” I knitted this one in July 2010, which was mostly grey and cool, and the timing plus the golden wool made me hanker a bit for better things: a proper Northern Summer. We got one this year, and I can report that life was a lot better for it!