Ask most non-knitters who wears shawls, and you’ll possibly get the answer of “little old ladies” or “history re-enactment folk”.
When I started knitting, the usefulness of wearing shawls eluded me. Why wear a shawl when you can wear a cardigan, or a scarf? Sometimes a cardigan is too much, but a scarf just doesn’t quite cover enough… but a shawl, or a wrap is a great in between. It is an accessory that can ward off a slightly more than crisp wind in spring or autumn, or add a cosy layer when you’re rugging up against winter’s chill. They’re also fantastic, when knit in a laceweight or gossamer yarn in a luxurious fibre, such as silk, alpaca, optim or cashmere, to add an element of elegance or drama to an evening outfit.
I have only knit three shawls to date, but already I see them as an essential addition to my wardrobe. I also have plans for additions to the shawl-drobe (teehee) for some silk shawls so that I can wear them through summer as well. I’m envisioning summer dresses with a light shawl or wrap this year.
My first shawl was the Photosynthesis (Ravelry Link). Top down from centre, triangular. I also knit it in handspun (just to make it more interesting) and learned a great shawl bind off. The blend makes it perfect for warding off a breeze or airconditioning, or for wrapping around my neck under a coat.
Next was the Citron (Ravelry Link). Top down from centre, semi circular. This took me a while to finish, because of the seemingly endless stocking stitch, the fact that I added 2 sections to the pattern and beads to the ruffle didn’t help that fact. It’s a lighter shawl and is great as an inbetween piece, and a shot of colour.
Then I decided to knit something for summer. Which brought me to Summerflies. Top down from centre, semi circular. I knit this in a viscose/silk blend that I’ve had in my stash for years. It’s a free pattern, and the only change I made was the edging. I didn’t want to knit another ruffle so close to finishing the Citron. So I added a border of the ridged eyelets. It’s a lovely light shoulder cover. I haven’t worn it yet, because it’s been too cold.
The great thing is that there are no hard and fast rules about shawls. There are so many shapes and styles around, that if lace knitting isn’t your thing, there are designers who use shape and texture to create visual interest. A designer that has been brought to my attention recently is Stephen West (here is his Ravelry Link). His designs are geometric, simple and striking. He also demonstrates that shawls are not just for women. My friend Margarita (aka 1FunkyKnitWit) made a Daybreak shawl and a Flamboyan recently and they are just stunning! I love the use of colour and geometry. Also, not being a lace, it also lends itself to being a warmer, more wind resistant wrap up. It’s also probably a little more striking, as you don’t need to see the details (as you do with lace) to appreciate it’s structure.
However, I must say that after knitting my Citron, shawls and wraps that are wrought with stocking stitch will certainly be my “TV/Movie/Social knitting”, rather than my knitting for enjoyment. I really must admit that I love to knit lace, and the next 3 shawls I have planned are all lacey ones. One of which is HUGE and lacey.