Friday, July 6, 2012

On the Perfect Shawl

I'm working on a shawl design at the moment and looking at the miriad designs available on Ravelry and elsewhere and thinking about their popularity. There must be many reasons for it.  A shawl is something beautiful, often fragile, preferably warm and soft. It does not need to be made in a particular size. It can be worn like a scarf, around the shoulders or gypsy-like, around the waist.
Over the years I've made a few and while I wouldn't say they've been mistakes, there are some I would never make again. The baby shawl, for instance. So beautiful, so white, so fine, so easily covered in muck. Then a moment's inattention due to new baby exhaustion and someone has put the masterpiece in the washing machine and produced a matted, felted, misshaped miniature.
Then there are the Shetland shawls in cobweb yarn. They languish in a cupboard because they can't be worn. That would mean the chance of snagging a thread, of maybe having to wash it and pin it all out again. Something like that simply attracts accidents. They would not be the warmest of shawls, either, although they are certainly the most beautiful. I did wear one of mine once, when I had to play God Save the Queen for an historic celebration in the village. I couldn't believe how beautiful it looked and that I had made it. It's back in the cupboard now with the others because imagine the horror if anything happened to it.
Madeira Shawl actually in use
centre panel of Madeira

I'm thinking that a practical shawl design would be in a dark colour so that if the ends trail around the marks won't show. It should be fine but not too fine because warmth without a lot of bulk is very important. It should be large enough to cover the shoulders and of a shape that sits comfortably and doesn't keep wanting to fall off. The constantly slipping shawl can be very tiring for the shawl wearer. It should be beautiful to look at and it should be able to be worn with the majority of clothes.


 Of course, it should be fun to make and not blind you in the process, like the black Shetland shawl which took me two years of evenings to knit by the light of a 40 watt bulb that was the strongest lighting permitted in the house then. What a marathon!
Midnight Shawl detail with crowns, Spanish lace and more

Midnight centre panel
Here is the 2-ply Rose Shawl which I made from some very soft merino my mother gave me at some point. by the time I got round to using it the moths had got to it and made the knitting very annoying because the thread kept coming to a sudden unexpected end:
Rose Shawl

Rose Shawl centre panel

The  moon rising over the sea two nights ago. A cold night and a frosty morning. Just the weather for the perfect shawl.


Andie said...

How beautiful your shawls are. You are right all that beauty doesn't deserve to be locked up in a cupboard. Last year at Knitnation I did see a cobweb shawl being worn. The wearer was on the way to a lace-knitting class. I'd loved to have seen the tutor's face when she walked in. I think the wearer said the shawl weighed 26 gms and her knowing admirers made cautious wide circles around her. I can't wait to see your new practical shawl when it comes off the needles!

Kate said...

Thanks Andie. If I could come up with a safe and not too space taking up way of displaying them, I would, but they are so very large.
Ah, the practical shawl . . . said...

"At last the perfect shawl," I thought as I read every word. Never skipped ahead to check the pictures.
Sadly, Andie doesn't have it either. That must be the motivation that keeps us knitting away. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.