Ladies and gentlemen……Trumpety fanfare………may I present my finally finished Open Sky shawl…….I am so unbelievably over the moon happy with this shawl, it’s pretty big and is just so warm and cosy and drapes around me wonderfully.
(this is me, with my foraging basket , wearing one of the dottie angel frocks I made in the Summer…..the lovely fingerless gloves are one of a pair I bought from Ella Gordon, they’re so lovely and warm, and are worn pretty much all the time through the colder months).
As you may recall I first started knitting the shawl in October, at the time I really wasn’t a particularly good knitter (I’m not a whole lot better now), I could do very simple things (and by that I mean dishclothes or scarves) but I found telling the difference between a purl or a knit on my needle very hard, and as for passing stitchings over or skipping them and making yarn overs…..it was all gobbledegook to my ears…..after being nominated for a Liebster blog award at the end of the Summer by Zeens and Roger and answering her questions with what amounted to a right old ramble, it got me really thinking about things I wish I could do or do better.
This was in part due to a question she herself had been asked by Buttercup and Bee and which I decided to also answer, I’ve never wanted to fly or be invisible or anything “super-powery”…but oh to be able to knit properly. And the more I thought about it the more I decided that the only way that was going to happen was for me to practise.
(I love the way the sunshine makes the wool really glow)
I already had an old Harmony knitting book and made a few little swatches with stitches I knew, and just slowly became a bit more familiar with what was supposed to be happening on my needles….and then I fell in love….all head over heels for a lovely blue scarf I saw on Instagram, and really without thinking what I was doing I bought the pattern, bought the needles and some wool from Jamieson and Smith and just dived in.
Everything was new to me, the shawl needed to be knit on circular needles, it started off with a garter stitch cast on, had fancy sounding stitches…but you know what, while it wasn’t all easy peasy once I started it became not second nature, but my hands and fingers found their rythmn. Pretty soon I began setting my alarm earlier and earlier, I’d pop the kettle on, make a big pot of tea, and then me and Bernard would sit on the sofa together and I’d slowly make another row or so…sometimes I’d just be un-knitting stitch by stitch needing to correct a mistake, other time progress was made in leaps and bounds.
I’d like to say at this point how great the designer has been, I joined Andrea’s group on Ravelry and where there were things I sometimes didn’t quite understand, she’d reply and explain them, she has been so encouraging to my endeavours, and so were other people in the group, but also seeing other peoples work progress as they knitted their own shawls was very inspirational.
(Orange and green and yellow all together, the more colours the better………the wool seems so springy and the stitches are really bouncy)
Finally the shawl was finished and I cast it off, and in what I call a most Isadora Duncan-y way, flung it around myself only to choke and gasp for breath as I half near strangled myself…..I’d not thought about knitting up a tension swatch and had made it far too tight.
The pattern calls for 5mm needles and I’d used 4mm ones (thinking I needed to use the needles suggested for the wool I was using and not the ones in the pattern), plus in my head Aran weight was smaller than worsted but I think it’s actually a smidge thicker, so I had almost 1 and a half times as many stitches in 10 cms as the tension or fabric warranted.
Now I know blocking will help loosen up knitting but it wasn’t going to create the amount of drape I needed so I sort of resigned myself to the fact I’d have to un-ravel it completely and start again, I wasn’t all happy but neither was I thinking I was a complete and utter loser, I wasn’t going to shove it away in a cupboard and forget about it…..in part this video helped…and yes, I did feel a bit like a dropped stitch, but as Stephen West says “You’re not a waffle or a quitter….you’re a knitter” (I could watch this every day, it’s so funny and it made me laugh when I really wanted to cry)
(This is such beautiful wool, it’s lovely and sheepy scented even after it’s had a wash,and feels like I’m being cuddled by sheep…)
So Christmas Day saw me un-ravel the shawl, and then Boxing Day, I got up early, made a fat old pot of tea and cast on again….(actually the upside to un-ravelling and having to knit again was that in my first shawl I’d started using another brand of Shetland wool then switched to some from Jamieson and Smith and there was quite a difference in colour….the second shawl is knitted up using just Jamieson and Smith Shetland Aran and looks so much better)
And pretty much for the next couple of weeks not a peep was heard from me…..having grown up in a house full of chatty women I’m quite a talker and happily admit to being able to talk the hind legs off a donkey (I know I’m more a Miss Bates than a Miss Dashwood or Anne Elliot)…….but when I’m knitting…….is that a pin being dropped? I still made some daft mistakes but by this time my confidence had grown and rather than un-knit each stitch I was un-ravelling rows, not quite happy as Larry but knowing it wasn’t going to be the end of the world.
(using a larger needle means the wobbly tension made from my beginners stitches is somewhat noticable, the smaller needle was a bit more forgiving….. )
Once my second attempt was all finished, I tentatively put the shawl around me and while not quite what I was hoping for it did look and feel a lot looser. From reading the pattern notes and also from reading the comments in the Ravelry group’s thread I knew the shawl really needed blocking, so I bought a wee bottle of Eucalan from my local knitting shop, soaked it in tepid water for 15 minutes or so and then let the water run out and folded and pressed on the shawl…..then following the advice from the lady from the knitting shop, I pressed some of the water out with a towel but also then put in the washing machine and set it on a very gentle spin before pinning it out on some blocking mats I’d bought over the holidays and allowed it to dry…….
(I love the edging of the shawl, pinnning it out allowed me to really open this section up, it didn’t look half so nice before blocking…..)
Anyway, after about 4 days on mats I un-pinned it and the shawl pretty much flung itself around me under it’s own steam….it’s so drapey and floaty (even though it’s quite heavy)…there’s a couple of smudges of grey fur amongst the yellow (Bernard was determined to stretch out on it while it was blocking and I had to chase him off the shawl a couple of times) which has sort of felted in but I don’t mind, but I’ve had to shoo him off it now it’s all finished, it’s too nice to share with his dirty little paws…..
There’s a very informative post over on Andrea Mowry’s blog about the importance of blocking and I’d certainly recommend having a read of it…she’s so evocative in her writing you can almost smell those swatches drying……
So yesterday in the Winter sunshine, my friend Debbie kindly took these pictures of the finished shawl in all it’s lovely golden mustardy glory…….a reason to be cheerful indeed.
(… if you’re thinking is she really wearing leopard print leggings……yes I am….I love them and always think of Kenny Everett dancing around in his pretending to be Rod Stewart when I put them on……)
It’s definitely a shawl I’ll be knitting again as it feels just wonderful all wrapped up around me and I certainly won’t be catching the pip wearing this as it’s lovely and warm. And if you’re at all interested in reading my snail like progress and woolly observations while I was knitting the shawl then all the entries are under Open Sky Shawl in the tags section.