New year, new insanity

What’s the first whacked plan of the year? I hope you’re nice and comfy and have Valium handy, because this is about to get very hairy.

My grandma has expressed her desire for handknit shawl very directly, and more than once. This means business.

I immediately started looking for a shawl pattern that would suit her. She told me that she wanted a triangular or square shawl, and that she trusted me to choose a design she’d like. On the knitting end, my only requirement was a pattern that is worked in laceweight yarn, since it’s a challenge I have yet to conquer.

I came across shawl patterns by the Alpaca Yarn Company (formerly known as America’s Alpaca) at a local yarn shop, and a little while later had many of them in my hot little hands. They are gorgeous. I know the Forest Path Stole is quite popular because it was reprinted in Interweave some time ago, but the others, not so much (correct me if I’m mistaken). The Winter Wonderland Shawl is one that I would consider for myself – it is really different!

The shawl you see on the left, Misty Morning Shawl, is the one that immediately jumped out at me as something grandma would like. Maybe it’s the scalloped edges? Or the leaves in the main part? I don’t know, and although I don’t plan to show the picture to grandma, I just know she’ll love it.

When I examined the pattern, several concerns surfaced. First, the main part of the shawl is knit on 2.5 mm needles (US 1), and the border is worked on 3.0 mm needles (US 2). Often laceweight yarn is worked on slightly larger needles (oh, US 5-8, let’s say), but I know working thin yarn on thin needles can lead to gorgeousness. Is this the easy way out? Hardly. Is Grumperina an easy way out kind of gal? Ha!

Second, the pattern is quite challenging. That whole purl or knit all wrong side rows? Not so much in this one – you’ve got to keep track of stitches when working both sides.

Third, it’s not entirely clear from the picture alone, but this shawl is not triangular. In fact, it looks like this:

I was very concerned about this, since my grandma is as particular as the rest of my family, and also because I have no idea what that would look like from the front. The last thing I want is to knit something that would be deemed as “stupid-looking.”

I sent a quick e-mail to two knitbloggers much more experienced in shawl knitting than I am (I’m not revealing who they are because if when this whole shebang fails, I am the only one responsible) and they set me on the right path. One told me that apparently shawls of this shape can look unflattering, and more importantly (I quote), “this shape is decidedly neither triangular or square.”

She’s right. My 77-yearl-old grandma, my one and only living grandma, deserves exactly what she wants – a non-stupid, triangular or square shawl. Which this is NOT.

You know exactly what’s going to happen next:

Yes, I plan to do this. I don’t know if I can. I don’t know if it will work. I don’t know if it will come out perfect.

But I want to try.

I’ve examined the pattern, specifically the way the borders are worked around the corners of the shawl (I see changing that as my biggest obstacle), and I’m somewhat optimistic. The hardest part will be figuring out how many stitches to pick up for the border highlighted pink here:

I’ll get there when I get there…

A quick note on the yarn and needles: both were really easy choices. Only a few companies make 2.5 mm and 3.0 mm needles, since the typical US 1 is 2.25 mm and the typical US 2 is 2.75 mm – metal Addis it is! Yarn: once my grandma told me that she really loved the color of her Lorna’s Laces periwinkle socks and would like a shawl that same color, I just ordered a skein of Lorna’s Laces Helen’s Lace in that very same color. I hope 1250 yards of this yarn will be enough, since the pattern specifies that 1750 yards of laceweight yarn are required. I think since I’m omitting those two front “wings,” I should be okay. The yarn is gorgeous, luscious, soft, and delicate. A real treat for me as a knitter, and hopefully for my grandma as a shawl recipient.

Next: I organize a little contest. There may or may not be a prize ;).


41 thoughts on “New year, new insanity

  1. twig

    I’m not sure whether I think you’re VERY brave or insane. I can’t wait to hear more about this adventure. Good luck.

  2. Christina

    Hey there, Grumperina,

    Sometimes those “wings” hold the shawl on your shoulders. Gotta be the devil’s advocate, ya know. Like Martha, I love your derring-do.

  3. Katy

    Gorgeous pattern. One thought, though–the Addis might be kind of slippery for a complicated shawl worked on tiny needles. Keep us posted!

  4. yahaira

    That is a gorgeous shawl, Grandma will love it. I’m with you on the anti-wings thing, I got rid of the ones in the Ella shawl that I knit for my mom and it worked out perfectly.

  5. Melissa

    Gorgeous shawl pattern! I agree with a previous commenter on the slipperiness of the Addis. I will share with you that I recently ordered Crystal Palace bamboo needles which were supposed to be 2.25mm, and are actually 2.5mm. After contacting the company, I was informed that they have trouble getting them to 2.25, and most of their needles are 2.5mm! Since they’re bamboo, you may want to try them.

  6. Lynn

    I’ve never done lace before, but would love to do someday, so I can’t wait to watch your progress.

    The pilot season of ‘The Great Lace’ starring Grumperina – Stay tuned!

  7. Angela

    If you had an old sheet or something you could cut out that odd shape, just to see how it sits over the shoulders…but your grandma does seem to know what she wants, and she did say triangular or square. Good luck!

    By the way, re. # of stitches for the border, that looks like a right triangle, and if I remember my geometry correctly, you should be able to take the number of stitches picked up for one shorter side, square that number, mult. X 2, then take the square root of that # for the # of stitches on the new (longer) side.

  8. Susan Maurer

    I think you’re right on in your thinking. I saw a lovely cape-like garment with sleeves on the very same model from Alpaca Yarn Company. I think that Cote d’Azur is the pattern name. Anyway, I bought the pattern but not (yet) the yarn. While they’re a good company (later sending me a completely new pattern with corrections made to the pattern, incorporated therein), the photo of the model in the cape thingy was ALSO taken from behind, just like your shawl. I happened to be surfing the web, comparing yarn prices for the garment, when lo and behold, I found a vendor who had a front-view of the cape. Yeeeccchhhhh! The front wings on the cape hung a lot lower and swingier in the full frontal view. Good lesson to me: figure out what the thing looks like all the way around before casting on. I then lamented that I may never knit the thing, but your sense of adventure is contagious. To me, half the fun of knitting is getting exactly what YOU want. So you’ve inspired me. I may well have to improvise their pattern. It’s a rush to figure it out and get it right. Your grandma will be pleased as punch. Can’t wait to watch your/her shawl in progress!

  9. Martha

    It will be gorgeous! Your grandma will be thrilled.

    On my first shawl, I found the Addis too blunt and switched to Inox, which have a nice sharp point. However, while both the Addis and Inox were size 3, the Inox were a tad thinner than the Addis and left a very visible line across my shawl. Had I not been under the gun and sick to death of the pattern, I’d have ripped and re-knit. I did block it out some but I think you can still see it. So I hate to say it, but I would recommend knitting a swatch with the Addis first to make sure they work for you, because if you switch horses mid-stream, it may leave a ripple.

  10. Judy

    Now that’s going to be beautiful!! I have tried laceweight on large needles and hated the experience…maybe on smaller needles I would be able to deal with it. Watching your saga with bated breath…

  11. Margot

    The shawl will be beautiful. Adventure ho!

    More Addi caution here: I found them too blunt to wrok lace comfortably. I knit a lace scarf for my mom with Addis and it was painfully slow because of the blunt tips. Only stubbornness got me through.

    You have such a lucky grandma. I wish I had caught the knitting bug in time to have spoiled my grandmother rotten with knitted lovliness as you do.

  12. Cheryl

    Oh that will be just gorgeous in Helen’s Lace…oh gosh… I really like your adaptation of that pattern… I think the old way would have been a bit overwhelming for a little woman…. can’t wait to see the progress on it!!! πŸ™‚

  13. Jena (the yarnharpy)

    Just a thought… the shawl, as designed, seems to have that back triangle reaching from elbow to elbow, with the midline you noted lying along the arm-shoulder-neck-shoulder-arm line. If you remove the wings and just knit the back triangle, is it going to be long/wide/deep enough to function as a shawl? It very well may be, I’m just seeing something in my head that makes it bunch up if that midline then comes forward and over her arms.

    I could be completely wrong, however. I haven’t had any coffee at all this morning. πŸ™‚

  14. winnie

    man.. you are indeed insane. but if there’s anyone who can do it, you’re it. do keep us updated on the journey of insanity though.. curious minds want to know.

  15. Stephanie

    Oh, you are a brave one. I have no doubt that you’ll figure it out and it will be lovely. Good luck. The only thing I worry about on the addis is the point (or lack thereof) – are you going to be able to stand it? Holz and Stein makes a nice 2.5 mm needle with a good point. You have to order them from Germany, but I have the website if you’re intereted.

  16. gail

    Stunning!! Similar in ultimate shape to Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Pi Are Square Shawl, one that fits beautifully and keeps the front warm, as well as the back. I don’t know if the shaping is similar….

  17. Angela

    “you should be able to take the number of stitches picked up for one shorter side, square that number, mult. X 2, then take the square root of that # for the # of stitches on the new (longer) side”–I forgot to add “and then hope that last # is close to a # that works with your lace pattern repeat!”

  18. Kim

    All in all it sounds really great : ) But I have to admit I share the same worry as “Jena (the yarnharpy)”.. Are you sure it won’t turn out too small if you cut off those “wings”?

    Can’t wait to see how it all turns out! I’m sure whatever you do with it will be just great.. cause that’s just how you do things : )

  19. Ruth

    I love your sense of derring-do. Each new year should start with an adventure. Thanks for taking us along for the ride.

  20. Marie

    I think this shawl is going to look amazing! I’ll be knitting my first lace project soon and I’ma lready ovewhelmed jsut by looking at the chart. You’ve got guts!

  21. MJ

    It’s really lovely and I hope you succeed in it! Can you possibly convert it into a neck down pattern so you can control the finished width, and then calculate the # of rows for the edging?

    I hope I’m not playing the devil’s advocate here!

  22. Dani

    What a pretty shawl! I am glad to hear that grandma loved her socks and that she wants more in that color πŸ™‚ Happy New Year!

  23. Cindy

    Your grandma IS really lucky. I can’t wait to see the finished shawl in about a week or two! You are a speedy knitter.

    About the size of the shawl – it looks to me like you made the triangle without the “wings” larger in the drawing – to compensate for removing the wings. I do think you need to do that. It might be a good idea to cut an old sheet or some material to the shape to determine the size you would like.

    I knit a triangular shawl a few years ago for me, and was surprised that I liked it a little on the smallish side. It was not overwhelming and looked quite neat. I did my lace border on the two ‘back’ edges, but not along the neck edge. I don’t think I would like a lace border on the neck edge. You might want to think about that.

    BTW, Angela is right about the math if you do put lace on the neck edge. It’s the Pythagorean Theorem. A squared + B squared = C squared.

  24. Knitnana…I just ordered this very same pattern – had no idea of the shape (it hasn’t gotten here yet). I’m intrigued with your plans and will keep watch to see how they turn out, b/c like your grandma, this nana prefers a definite TRIANGLE. But this pattern is soooo pretty. hmmmmm…Very best wishes as you embark on this project! It’s gorgeous so far!


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