Welcome back to the final post in this series on shawls. I hope you have enjoyed this series and feel inspired to cast on a beautiful shawl.
Don't forget you can join us in the Tangled Yarn Summer Shawl knit-along over on Ravelry and on social media using the hashtag #coastsummerkal. More details on Pwani, the shawl I designed for the knit-along can be found here.
De-constructing your shawl knitting pattern
Every designer writes their knitting patterns using their own style but most will give you a pretty standard set of information.
These are the important things to look out for in your shawl pattern:
Are you using the same yarn as the pattern calls for? If not have you considered the properties of the yarn you have chosen? If the shawl sample is in silk and you have chosen a bouncy Merino your finished item may be different to the sample shown in the pattern. This is not necessarily a problem but you need to be mindful of the effect your yarn will have on the finished object.
Want to know more about substituting yarns? Click here to read my thoughts on the subject.
Many people say gauge does not matter when you are knitting a shawl, and technically it is certainly not as important as when knitting a fitted garment. However changes in gauge have three main effects on the finished item.
1) The overall look and feel of the fabric. If your gauge is too tight your shawl may be stiff and lack drape, if you gauge is too loose you may loose stitch definition in the pattern.
2) The size of your finished object. If you gauge is tight your shawl will be smaller, if you gauge is loose your shawl may be larger. This might not be the end of the world but it is worth bearing in mind how gauge affects the finished object.
3) Yardage. If your gauge varies from the pattern you may run out of yarn. Many designs make shawls to use as much of that glorious skein as possible. Some patterns can be ended a little earlier if you run short of yarn but others can’t. If in doubt about your gauge make sure you have an extra skein on hand or a back up plan for finishing your shawl.
This is almost always a blocked measurement. Remember you can really alter an item by the style of blocking. Something that is aggressively blocked can be significantly larger than the same piece of knitting unblocked, especially with lace. Consult the pattern notes or schematic in your pattern for more information on blocking.
Many designers will include a schematic to show you the finished shape of your shawl. This is really helpful for blocking.
Every pattern should include a list of abbreviations and a key for chart symbols. Unfortunately there is no standard system for writing knitting patterns so symbols and abbreviations vary slightly. Always check your chosen pattern to make sure you understand what a designer means with their abbreviations.
Tips and Techniques
Here are three of my favourite tutorials by Ysolda Teague to help you on your shawl knitting adventure.
Increases - Here Ysolda covers basic increases such a M1R and M1L and KFB
Yarn Overs - Not all yarn overs are created in the same way. Here Ysolda talks you through the various methods for creating a yarn over and why you would choose to use each method.
No discussion on shawls would be complete with mentioning knitting charts. These are graphic representations of your knitting and commonly used to show lace, cables and colourwork.
While many designers also include written instructions with their patterns, being able to knit from charts is incredibly helpful. Understanding how a piece of knitting comes together is especially useful for getting to grips with more complex patterns and often helps you to spot errors and correct them before it is too late.
Here is my list of the main things to remember when tackling a flat knitting chart:
1) A knitting chart for working flat is worked right to left and then left to right and from the bottom up.
2) If the WS is worked using only plain stitches (for example purls) a designer may choose to leave those rows out. The chart will then be condensed and you will work each right side row from right to left.
Always check the numbers on the edges of the chart to guide you. Right side rows are usually odd numbers and wrong side rows are usually even numbers.
3) Symbols used are not always the same. Make sure you check the key for the chart you are working.
4) Greyed out blocks usually mean there is no stitch worked there. Some designers leave these in the chart, others may have removed the squares all together. Always check your key.
5) A border around a section of a chart means that area is to be repeated. The pattern will give you details of how often this section should be repeated.
If you are interested in learning more about charts Tin Can Knits has an excellent tutorial on their blog.
About the Author
Clare Devine is a writer and designer. Originally from South Africa she has nomadic tendencies and is currently knitting her way around the UK. She is passionate about all things fibre related (especially if it’s grey), knitting, travel and sunshine in equal measures.
She regularly blogs at www.yarnandpointysticks.com. You can find her on Ravelry as Knitsforklipskaap, Twitter as @_ClareDevine and Instagram as @Clare.Devine.