Sunday, November 2, 2014

Hawthorne Shawl

I have always admired Susanna IC's beautiful shawls, but was never brave enough to try knitting one until now.  While searching for camel yarn to knit a scarf for Brittany, I came across the beautiful Hawthorne shawl by Susanna IC.  I put the Hawthorne on my knitting wish list and forgot about it. Recently I was searching for some yarn and the Hawthorne shawl popped up again. Oh yeah, why didn't I ever get around to knitting that? A quick search on Ravelry revealed that this is one of Susanna's most knit shawls. It seems that everyone who knits has knitted this shawl, so the project can't be that difficult. I'm going for it!

The pattern is available from Ravelry and the Twist Collective as a pdf download.  The original shawl was knit in Spirit Trail Fibers Lyra- a worsted weight merino, alpaca and silk blend yarn. Lyra has been discontinued but there are plenty of suitable substitutes. The most popular choices are Madelinetosh Vintage and Malabrigo Silky Merino or worsted. After days of searching for the perfect yarn I decided to go with Madelinetosh Pashmina, a merino, silk and cashmere blend in medieval (a cross between Bordeaux and plum). 

The pattern seemed straight forward and easy.  The entire shawl is knit, with short row shaping at the end to give it a crescent shape.  The pattern read: cast on the stitches, work the chart once and then use short row shaping until all of the stitches have been knit.  I cast on the required 311 stitches and then hit a road block on the first row. The pattern stated work Rows 1-34 of the chart; 243 stitches remain on the needles. What happened to the other 68 stitches? The chart itself was a little confusing. A block of 18 stitches was marked off by a red box. This is the stitch repeat. These stitches are to be repeated across the length of the shawl. How many repeats? Now I was totally lost, but I refused to let this pattern get the better of me.  Totally confused, I turned to my husband for help with the pattern.  He doesn't know anything about knitting or knitting patterns but he does have an analytical mind.  He suggested that I either contact the designer for help or look at her other patterns for clarification. His theory is that designers often use the same techniques in their designs and another pattern may have a clearer explanation.  I pulled copies of knitting magazines, with Susanna IC's patterns, from my files and read through them. Suddenly everything was crystal clear and the pattern made sense. I'm sharing the clarification for those of you who may want to knit the Hawthorne shawl.

                                 Count the number of stitches in the red box-18stitches.
                                 Divide this by the number of cast on stitches to get the total number of pattern
                                 repeats.. 311 sts divided by 18 sts = 17.27778 repeats
                                 Round this number to the nearest whole number- 17.2778=17 repeats
                                 Multiply the number of repeats by the number of stitches in the repeat
                                          17 reps x 18 sts per rep = 306 stitches
                                 Add the 3 stitches at the beginning of the chart (right end).
                                           306 sts + 3 sts = 309sts
                                 Finally add the remaining 2 stitches at the end of the chart (left end).
                                           309 sts +2 sts = 311
                                  The end result is 306 sts + 3 sts (right) + 2 sts (left)=311 cast on stitches

Now for the 243 stitches indicated in the directions. After working through Rows 1-34 of the chart; 243 stitches are left on the needles before starting the short row shaping. The pattern is decreased by 68 stitches while working Rows 1-34.

Once I got the initial math out of the way, the shawl knit up quite quickly. Some people have knit this in a weekend but mine took a week. The shawl pattern and chart are easy to follow. A beginning knitter with some chart knitting experience could easily knit this shawl. I plan to knit another one as a gift and to branch out and try some of Susanna IC's other designs.

Hawhtorne shawl on needles. The crescent shaping is noticeable.

Lower edge of the shawl, before blocking.

Although I couldn't find anyone who had knit this shawl in Madelinetosh Pashmina, I'm glad I chose it. The yarn is soft and luxurious and the silk gives the shawl a nice sheen. I'm almost finished the short row shaping. Now that the weather is chilly and windy I can't wait to wear this as a large scarf draped over my jacket.