You know I'm making this shawl:
|Guernsey Triangle pattern by Jared Flood - this is my version...|
It's a really gorgeous pattern - all 12 pages of it - which comes with a whole freakin' section of instructions on knitting the gauge swatch! Honestly, Jared Flood has written these instructions masterfully. Everything is crystal clear. From the swatch to the blocking (which also has its own page), this pattern is a joy to follow.
The yarn (Brooklyn Tweed Loft), however, is a strange beast. If you'd asked me before I started the shawl, what I thought of it, I'd have been pretty ambivalent. It breaks easily (though not if worked with consistent tension). It's laden with bits of "vegetable matter" (as the peeps in the biz like to say). It's scratchy (though much less so after blocking). It's variable in thickness (one spot very thin, another plump and nubby). It's not cheap (though not ridiculously expensive) - 14.50 USD for 275 yards before shipping. Once shipping is added the cost jumps to 17 bucks a skein.
(On that topic: The shipping charges on this yarn are quite reasonable and it arrived quickly and was not stopped at Customs. However, the worsted weight variety of this yarn (Shelter) is quite a bit pricier, all things considered at 12.50 USD, pre-shipping, for 140 yards per skein. To make the smallest size of the Stowe cardigan, one needs 11 skeins. That'll cost over 150 bucks once the shipping is factored in - and there's probably no way to send it but in a box that may potentially stand out at the Border, given volume.)
Anyway, I started with the fingering and a shawl to keep my investment to a minimum. Remember, fingering yarn is generally the most cost-effective because you use much less of it, by weight, to make any given item than you would using a thicker yarn.
I had no idea (though not for lack of clear explanation in the instructions - which increasingly make more sense as I go) of how this shawl was going to come together. Not being an expert on triangle shawls, I'm not sure if Mr. Flood's method is standard or of his own design. If he came up with it, let me tell you, he's very clever.
Essentially you provisionally cast on (and BTW, this isn't hard - there are 8000 possible ways to do it) 13 stitches (which turn into 12 on the first row) and that forms the flexible centre bend point, of the long edge of the triangle. Then, you knit width at the same time as you knit length towards the pointy tip. Eventually, for the large version of the shawl, you end up with upwards of 300 stitches on the needles. These are knit on in batches of 4, interspersed, every other row.
The genius of this pattern is that it looks super complicated but it's nothing more than knits and purls. It does take focus because the pattern changes to mirror image along the centre spine of the triangle. And, natch, you're increasing stitches on every RS row. Having said this, there's enough consistency in the pattern so that you don't have to continue studying the instructions, except to confirm what you're doing at the beginning of each row.
I finally understand the need for stitch charts. Every other pattern I've ever knit, that comes with a chart, has also come with written instructions. In those instances, I've ignored the chart (for the most part) and focused on the language because, seriously, those things seem like a form of alien-being communication. Mind you, for this pattern, to write each row would have taken pages on pages of text and would have been far more difficult to interpret than the visual representation.So, I sucked it up and figured out how to read the picture (right to left on the RS, left to write on the WS - taking care to recognize that the SAME symbols represent different stitch types depending on what side you're working). It sounds bad but one quickly establishes a groove and there really isn't much alternative for a design like this.
A word on my impressions of the yarn at this stage:
It really is compelling. Never have I encountered a fibre with so much natural spring. On Twitter, a while ago, I likened its spring to that of a trampoline and I have to say, it is as light as a freakin' cloud. Nonetheless, there's a density in the stitch definition that defies its texture. And it is very beautifully dyed. When I knit this yarn I can sense the vaguest smell of hay (maybe it's in my mind cuz it only comes upon me when I'm not trying to find it by actually sniffing the ball of yarn). I feel close to sheep, close to the land, close to nature when I'm knitting this. (And, given that, till last week, I didn't realize wild boar was actually a kind of pig, you can see that I might benefit from a bit of getting back to nature.)
I like it enough that I'm half inclined to buy 11 skeins of Shelter (the worsted gauge) but, in light of the cost, I'm more likely to knit another project in the Loft (fingering weight) and throw in a skein or two of the Shelter into my order to see how it compares. I have a feeling that I'm going to enjoy wearing this shawl (even though I'm not a "triangle shawl" type) to such an extent that I will be knitting with this yarn again.
Live and Learn
I never imagined that my appetite for fibre would expand to this extent. I have so many ingrained perspectives on how yarn should feel (soft, even) and look (monochromatic, halo- and texture-free) and this yarn challenges them all. For sure, I've grown in this respect, I've now worked with variegated and textured yarn on a couple of occasions and I'm beginning to appreciate the kind of refinement one can find in the right kind of rustic.
Don't misunderstand. I cannot foresee that I'm ever going to gravitate towards nubby open-weave items with excessive drape. I'm not going to love muddled palettes and gritty wool.