Monday, August 22, 2016

A Yankee Doodle Shawl and Simcha Stories

Being a proud American I couldn't resist naming this my Yankee Doodle shawl!  For non-Americans that is a reference to a popular folk song during the American Revolution.  It's the Doodler of course designed by Stephen West.

I'm not sure if anyone else has noticed, but it seems shawls keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Where will it all end, I ask?  When I first began knitting shawls 10 years ago I would buy a single skein of sock yarn, knit a very lacy pattern, block the bejeebers out of it and have a shawl.   But that's old school.  

There has been a seismic change afoot in the designing world that makes it an incredibly exciting and interesting time to be a knitter.  Today's designers use little lace work and it's rare to find a new pattern release that doesn't use at least two skeins of sock yarn and can run anywhere from 800 to 1,000+ yards. This shift to more use of color and materials with less lace work makes for more modern looking shawls. A change that is being noticed even by non-knitters although they don't understand the reason why today's knitting looks different.  Suffice it to say they're nonplussed when they see a project like this.  I recently had a gentleman comment "that's not my grandmother's knitting."  I'm sure he meant it as a compliment although I had a grandmother who knit wonderful cozy slippers and I loved her knitting.  But I understood what he was saying to me.  The shawl looked nothing like what his grandmother would have knit in shape or color.

Leading this charge and redefining what modern knitting looks like is knitwear designer and Instagram phenom Stephen West who designed the Doodler shawl I am wearing and has amassed incredible portfolio of amazing modern designs.  He's not afraid of color and uses the term "shawl" loosely.  I absolutely love his work and although it's only August something to keep in mind is that he has an annual mystery KAL usually in November that you can keep tabs on in his Ravelry group West Knits Fan Club.  

You have to be careful with these multi-colored projects though.  You do after all want to have a shawl that you can wear when all is said and done.  You can pretty much count on a Doodler with a neon green wing span, a black accent color, and a sparkling rainbow trim being a hard shawl to find an outfit for.  So I don't throw in completely with Stephen West on that score who is a big fan of bright color and extreme contrasts. He can pull off that sort of color combination beautifully.  But then he has a unique sense of style. Speaking of his style you need to see his music video Baby You're a Knitter as it will give you a taste of his crazy fun personality.

Particulars: The Doodler Shawl by Stephen West; 3 skeins Hedgehog Fibers Skinny Singles (colorways Urchin, dark truffle and Monarch); US 4 needles.  My project page on Ravelry has some "tips" for conserving the main color yarn as the first color runs very tight and many people ran out during the KAL last year.  I finished with literally a yarn or less of yarn in the main color.  I made no modifications whatsoever although I did not block the shawl aggressively. You can see that I did add the embellishment on the edging and I'm very happy with that decision.  It's a small aspect of the design that adds a nice finishing touch.  Finished blocked dimensions: 47" x 18" (as opposed to the 60" x 24" of the pattern dimensions).  I chose to block to a smaller dimension as I thought I would find a smaller shawl in this pattern easier to wear.

N.B.  There are several things to be aware of when knitting a shawl like this that uses multi-colored yarn/skeins.

1.  You need to check for color fastness before beginning your shawl.  My post on knitting multi-colored shawls gives a few tips on what you should do before casting on; and

2.  You might want to consider how aggressively you block your shawl. Sometimes less is more and in this case I only lightly blocked my doodler (see my finished dimensions above).  My post on the Lunna Voe Shawl discusses creative blocking such as I used here.

Simcha Stories ~

It's been a long time since I've shared a Simcha story.  We still go for our daily hikes but he's no longer the terror he was his first few years so there's not as much fodder to talk about.  He's still an imp though and likely to be to the end of his days.  Part of his personality is a contrariness that runs deep in his spirit.  If you want something from him he will be loath to part with it.  So it happened that we found a ball on our hike and I wanted to throw it for him.  But he didn't want to give it up, even though he loves to chase a ball.  Being the firm disciplinarian that I am I decided to ignore him. I lay back on the grass with my arms outstretch above my head, closed my eyes and enjoyed the warm sun soaking into me.  After a few minutes of pure blissful relaxation I felt a gooey slimy ball being placed very gently into my outstretched hand.  It was time to play ball.

Until next time be well, love well, and have fun picking out your fall and winter projects!  PS I'm very excited about the project up next.  Hint it's the perfect Fall and Winter piece.