Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Finished Object: Starshower Shawl / Cowl

My arms have borne up well to knitting lately, which is merciful because I've had opportunity (to say nothing of a multiplicity of deep feelings to quantify) to make this hybrid cowl/shawl over the last week and a half :

It's Starshower by Hilary Smith Callis, a lovely, practical pattern - the only downside of which (in the knitting, not the admiring) is the excess of lacework involved.

Have I mentioned I hate lacework?

In true knitting-lace style, I came upon a stitch fuck up that cost me 2 hours (I was very tired at that point and the work moves from knitting on the right side and the wrong side of the fabric. Moral of the story: don't lose focus). At my grandmother's funeral, we reminisced on her obsession with puzzles (she was able to resolve any puzzle, no matter how complicated or how many pieces were involved) and on how she'd taught us all (seriously, everyone) how to do them. I, for one, never liked puzzles. I found them tedious, difficult for no good reason. Who cares?, I'd wonder. But as I unworked and reworked stitches to fix my mistake, I was reminded that really, I was putting together a puzzle. And, gently, comfortingly, it reminded me of the ways in which my Self has been shaped by my formative influencers.

Starshower floats atop the shoulders like this:

Starshower by Hilary Smith Callis
What I did really well: I used a great yarn. It's new to me: Quince and Co Tern (a fingering-weight yarn made of 75% wool and 25% silk). Yeah, I've spoken highly of Quince yarns before - I like them a lot. But I am finicky about silk blends. I feel they tend to sacrifice recovery for drape and that can create a garment that quickly wears badly.

Tern is a delight! It's springy and spongy - easy to knit - but it's got a bit of drape. Also, it's very slightly sheeny on matte because the silk doesn't dye the same way that the wool does.

When first I received it (last year), I was on the fence about my chosen colour: Barnacle. I mean, seriously, who names a yarn Barnacle? More to the point, who buys it?? It's more brown than grey - which is not what I anticipated and which wouldn't have been my preference. But I've grown to appreciate it for the way the silk brings out its sheen. It's very similar to the colour of shawl worn in the marketing photo.

What I could have done better: Well, I didn't swatch. Moreover, I went down a needle size from the recommended (given my propensity to knit loosely). In the final analysis, it's only good luck that I could block the finished garment to size (note the plethora of pins), stretched wet to slightly larger dimensions than those indicated in the pattern. (It's my way of accounting for probable retraction of the fabric as it dries.) Even at the recommended dimensions, I feel it's on the firm side (likely because, by going down a needle size, I made the fabric tighter than it would have been). I sense this shawl could use a tiny bit more drape, more openness, particularly at the cowl which is very shallow. I don't know that going up a needle size (or using a different yarn) would resolve this but I'll consider them when I make this again (and I may well).

The reason to swatch, I sometimes have to remind myself, isn't only to determine size, but to clarify that the properties of the fabric I've created (in that swatch) suit the purpose of the garment with which I intend to make it.

The finished shawl is very odd looking when not worn:

It's kind of like a beehive.

The pattern is excellently written - clear but with an abundance of detail to forestall concerns about potential misinterpretation. And, at 400 yards of fabric and minimal fitting required, this project doesn't drag on overly or tax one. Just one final reminder: You really do always have to focus when knitting lace. Also, you will inevitably fuck it up and then, your only recourse will be to understand how to take it apart vertically and put it back together. So there's a learning curve.

But I've never enjoyed a lacework project as much as this one (it was very elegantly sequenced) and the finished object is eminently wearable.

What do you think?


  1. Lovely color and pattern. Knitting is very therapeutic and good for the soul. Tami

  2. I think it looks lovely! has a very nice shape on the hanger. The warm caramel colour is quite delicious too :)

    1. Thanks Carolyn! The colour is very lovely - and totally one that would look great on you.

  3. What a pretty and unexpected shape! I like that greyish brown - it'll be perfect with all of your navy!

  4. It looks regal, like a shoulder crown. Or a fur stole, only better; a modern take on tradition. When Krissie wears it she will bring out the royal aspect.

    1. Oooh, I never thought of that. I hope it's not too battle garb from the middle ages :-) But I'll aim to be as royal as possible (as always!)