Designing a Shawl: Getting Started

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I often find myself making changes to a pattern or simply trying to create something new on the fly.  In fact, I do this so frequently that my last New Year’s resolution was to try to complete some knit/crochet work without making any changes to the pattern! I’d like to say that I’m doing great with that resolution…but that wouldn’t be entirely correct!

My biggest challenges are curiosity and boredom. For example, I often find myself thinking, “hmmm, what would happen if I do X instead?”  Or, I get bored when there’s just a lot of stockinette stitch or other significant repetition of stitches.  In both cases (curiosity and boredom), I tend to go off-pattern.  It doesn’t always work out well, but it does tend to increase my fun factor. 

Anyway, I’ve decided to learn some actual design basics. I figure this will either help my ‘off-pattern’ jaunts go more smoothly or it’ll keep my curious brain occupied! At the very least, I’ll find it entertaining (learning is always highly entertaining!).

My first step was to find some freebie resources to get me started. Luckily, I found Shawl Design for Everybody and I am ready to get started designing my own shawl with step 1 – the knitting trinity of yarn, shape, and pattern!

As you can probably tell from the photo above, I have a yarn combo in mind. I’m not entirely certain I love the color pairing, but I’m determined to use stuff from my stash for this project! 

The first is Mountain Colors Jeannette in a the colorway Cedar. It is a sport weight yarn but, because of the cashmere (and resulting ‘bloom’), the recommended needle size is US #5 – #8 – slightly larger than you might expect.  The silk content really gives it a lovely sheen and the individual stitches really stand out because of it. I have 47g – approximately 150 yards of this. 

The other yarn I’ll be using is The Fibre Co.’s Road to China Light in the Rhodolite colorway. This is also a sport weight yarn but, because of the Alpaca content, is a bit more airy / plump than the Jeannette. Of course, the recommended needle size for this yarn is more in the US #3 – #4 range.  I have 46g or about 150 yards of this yarn to use.

My gauge swatch suggests to me that I’ll probably go with a US #6 for the Jeannette and a US #5 for the Road to China Light. Of course,  I’ll re-swatch when I decide on stitch pattern (but that’s another step, I think).

The Jeannette yarn is pretty busy so I’ll stick with stockinette / garter for it or maybe a basic eyelet lace or something to stretch my yarn budget.  As for the Road to China Light, I’m definitely doing a lace pattern. I haven’t quite decided yet.  I was hoping for something that resulted in some fabric that had natural places for adding beads! 

I’m also pondering if I want to alternate the two yarns – for example some lace interspersed with garter/stockinette Jeannette or just a border of Jeanette with an unbroken field of lace.   <sigh>  Decisions! Decisions!

Shape (and Size)
I have a total of 93g or approximately 300 yards yarn and I’d like a longer wing span, so I’m guessing I’ll have to go with a crescent or perhaps a narrow, asymmetrical triangle shawl to make the most of what I have and still end up with a shawl-like shape (as opposed to a scarf).  Either shape would be fine, although I think I’m leaning toward the triangle shape.

My swatch indicates I get can 110 stitches / gram of the Jeannette.  Put another way, I can get 3.5 square inches from 1 gram. So, I think that means I can get about

47g * 3.5 = 164.5 inches squared 
a rectangle of about 3″ x 54″
As for the Road to China Light, my swatch shows I can get 7 square inches per 1.5 grams avg. between the two lace patterns.  That means I can get about
46g * 7 = 322 inches squared
a rectangle of about 6″ by 54″
If I remember my geometry, that means I could get, roughly, a triangle shawl with a 54″ wingspan and a depth of 18″  But, I’d rather go a bit longer and narrower. So, perhaps I’m going for a crescent or triangle with a wingspan of 60″ and a depth of 15″  give or take…  I’ll get some better calculations once I decide on the actual lace pattern, etc. 

OK.  I have my yarn picked out, a general idea of shape/size, and an inclination toward lace for the pattern.  Next, I suspect I’ll be finalizing a pattern and doing some more math.  If you’re following along, I’d love to hear about it.  Or, if you have some ideas you’d like to throw my way…  🙂 

Your Thoughts?

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