A couple of weeks ago I found a shawl pattern that whispered sweet words in my ears. I saved it for later, but it kept poking me for attention. I realized I had all the yarn I needed for it in my handspun stash. It also dawned on me that I had some more in knits that I haven’t looked at for years and could rip. The pattern inspired me to go through my stash and grab all the handspun yarn I needed.
The pattern is Waiting for rain, by Sylvia Mc Fadden. It is a crescent shape garter stitch shawl, beginning with ten stitches and ending with 438. The interesting thing is the short row lace sections. Just listen to it: Short row lace, isn’t it intriguing! It just starts in the middle of a row and opens up the garter stitch, revealing a sweet lace window to peek through.
The lace sections remind me of mitochondria – just a big blob with an intricate pattern in the middle of something completely different.
The shawl was originally knit up in one colour, but the pattern designer also had suggestions for a two-colour play, where she had knit the short row lace sections in a different colour. Furthermore, she had added extra rows of the second colour as stripes in the garter sections. I love the contrast between the simple garter base, the sheer lace blobs and the track pant-like stripes.
I was very keen on the idea of making the shawl in stashed and reused handspun yarns only. Here are the players I chose and the decisions I made for my shawl.
Rutan the Värmland 2-ply
For the main yarn I chose a grey yarn I created in 2021 from a variegated Värmland fleece (from a ewe named Rutan). I spun it a few years ago, and divided the fleece into piles of different shades of grey for a gradient from light to dark grey.
I had saved it for a suitable fair-isle pattern that would turn up when I at least expected it, but I realized that this shawl was the perfect candidate for the pattern. As a bonus, the meterage was just right. I chose to knit it as a gradient too, from dark at the neck to light at the bottom.
Burning the midnight oil
Another stashed yarn was actually spun from an industrially prepared blend. I don’t have many of those and I never use them these days.
Years ago, though, I asked a wool store to make me a blend with the colour of oil in a puddle. It sounds nasty, but if you consider the colour stripped from its ugly context it’s a quite fascinating colour mix. I loved the result and spun a lot of it on train rides. Held double, the fine yarn was a perfect match for the somewhat rustic looking grey Värmland wool.
Rip and rip some more
Sometimes you have a vision of a garment and when you put it on it looks just wrong. That’s what happened with my Stevenson Sweater by Kate Davies. I spun a lovely yarn with white and dyed Swedish Jämtland wool and some natural fawn Shetland wool. Once I had made a hank of the I soaked the ripped yarns I soaked it, used the blue (Held double) for the shawl and saved the white for later. I did save the matchning gauntlets, though. I use them when I work from home on cold days.
The story repeated itself with a shawl pattern I found in a knitting magazine, the Merging ripples shawl by Kyoko Nakayoshi. It looked so stylish on the model, but like a random piece of fabric across my shoulders when I had finished knitting it. This too was Jämtland wool where I had actually succeeded in creating a lovely teal dye. This yarn too got a place among the lace blobs.
Dyed and redyed finull yarn
My fourth candidate for the lace sections was a finull yarn that I spun last year. I had saved it to dye with my homegrown indigo. I actually did dye it with the very last batch of fresh leaves, but it was way too much wool in the dye pot, and way too late in the season. It barely got dyed at all. You can see the sad colour as the first couple of light green stripes near the neck. I overdyed it with some Aijozome indigo from Loop of the loom into a lovely colour (the lace section at the bottom of the shawl).
Stripes and drape
Since the lace sections are knit in short rows, the contrasting colours leave a stripe throughout the width of the shawl. Just like in one of the knit shawls in the pattern, I played with this, and added several stripes before and after the lace. It gave a very interesting effect and helped me keep count of the rows between the short row sections.
Despite the eye catching lace, most of the shawl is the garter base. Garter stitch pulls the material together lengthwise, so to get length in the shawl there needs to be more rows in garter stitch than in other techniques. This makes the shawl very drapey and feel very safe and comfy in its weight. I love the curled ends, they remind me of the tips of lamb locks.
It took me 40 minutes to bind off the 438 stitches. I chose to do that too in a contrasting colour and I am very happy with that decision, it makes a neat finish.
That was the last sentence of the pattern descrition, block aggressively. I used a gazillion pins, rearranged both them and the blocking pieces several times and spent about an hour crawling around on the floor until I was happy. Well, not entirely on the floor, I skipped up and down the stairs several times too to see from above how the blocking turned out.
The stripes actually helped me in the blocking as they served as a guide for the shape of the shawl. When I eventually decided I was finished I knew the time I had spent was totally worth it. I was also very grateful for blocking wires.
Stash and grab-friendly patterns
I have done quite a few stashbusting projects this fall. Some of them are excellent for small amounts or single skeins of handspun yarn:
- The Seguin top, knit from a ripped sweater in a commercial yarn
- The Ursina top, knit from leftovers from an earlier handspun project
- Hats! The Algae hat is on my needles right now, with the leftovers from the Waiting for rain shawl. And the Hipster hat on another set of needles with a handspun Shetland yarn. I might make another two hats before the holidays.
Older stash and grab projects from my handspun yarns are
- The Lamina wrap, perfect for small batches of yarn in the same weight
- Enchanted Mesa sweater, where I have mixed commercial and handspun yarns
- The Daisy crescent shawl, perfect for your smallest skeins of flowery colours.
The feeling of cleaning out the handspun stash is the sweetest. Like a rinse, a spring rain or a deep exhale.
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