Saturday, April 21, 2012

Babes is Beautiful. A Shawl at Last!

A few years ago, I got a lovely light brown MerinoX fleece from my friend, Tina Ulbrick.  Then I washed it, combed it, and carded it.  You can see pictures and read about these steps in a blog entry from February 2011.

I had hoped to finish this shawl last spring.  That did not happen.  I only just started knitting the shawl less than four weeks ago.  And I blocked the shawl yesterday.

I had spun a total of six skeins of yarns:  two thick ( 4.25 oz, 232 yds; average of 55 yards per ounce), two medium (4.00 oz, 332 yds, average 83 yards per ounce), and two thin (2.30 oz, 318 yds, average 138 yards per ounce).

I decided to knit a square shawl from center out.  I cast on 8 sts and ended with 512 sts at bind off.  There are three sections:  1) The center panel is in garter stitch which uses the thick yarn.  2) That square center is surrounded by a border section in “Mrs. Montague’s Pattern” (see B. Walker’s book, A Treasury of Knitting Patterns) on a garter stitch background instead of a stockinette stitch background using the medium yarn.  3) The edge section is knitted from a variation of “Ploughed Acre” (again, see B. Walker’s book)  with the thin yarn.

Here’s a picture of the finished shawl.

Normally, when I design a project I sample and swatch and sample and swatch some more.  For this project, I just started at the cast on and knitted away.  I didn’t decide what to do with the border section until I’d knitted all the thick yarn.  And I didn’t decide what to do with the edge section until I’d knitted all the medium yarn.  To my delight, all things went surprisingly well (except for the binding off, as explained below).

Pleasant Surprise # 1:  Despite the different thicknesses of yarns, I used the same needle size throughout.  I used a US size 9 (5.5mm).  I did swatch the thick yarn to determine the size of needle to use.

Pleasant Surprise # 2:  This strategy of knitting from center out allows you to make any size shawl; the center, border, and edge are only as big as you have yarn to knit.

Unpleasant Surprise:  The bind off did not go as smoothly as the knitting of the shawl.  I wanted to use a K2tog bind off, and I wanted to use a double strand of the thin yarn for the bind off to give the bind-off edge a bit of heft.  For this to work, I needed to leave enough yarn for the bind off.

Here’s what I thought.  It seemed that the bind off edge would use approximately the same amount of yarn as two worked edge rounds.  So, as I was on the last skein of yarn I started weighing the ball of yarn after each two rounds of edge.

I had 1.40 oz of yarn left before round 47 (I started counting rounds at the beginning of the medium-weight-yarn border).
I had 1.25 oz of yarn left before round 49.
1.15 oz before round 51.
1.00 oz before round 53.
0.90 oz before round 55.
0.75 oz before round 57.
0.60 oz before round 59.
0.45 oz before round 61.

Naturally, I thought that I could work rounds 61 and 62 and still have plenty left (0.30 oz) for the bind off.  With a double strand of yarn, I started binding off.  The yarn was disappearing faster than I expected.  When I’d bound off one side of the square (i.e., a quarter of the distance), I measured the remaining yarn and discovered that I only had 0.20 oz left.  That made me nervous.

So, I undid the partially bound off edge, and then undid 2 rounds of the shawl.  One stitch at a time.

After the second time I bound off I had 0.20 oz of thin yarn left over.  That means I used 0.25 oz for the bind off, while it only took 0.15 oz to work 2 rounds!  Maybe I could have made it all the way around the first time I started binding off.  Maybe.

Here’s another picture with some back lighting so you can see the thicker bound off edge.  I know the photo is not crisp and clear, but it does show the edge nicely.

I do like the result; I think using three thicknesses of yarn in one project is a worthy strategy, but this shawl is on the small side.  When I took it off the needles, it measured 32” x 32” relaxed.  I wet-blocked it and pinned it out to 48” x 48”.  When it was dry and I unpinned it, it relaxed to only 40” x 40” square.  I wish I’d spun more yarn.  Next time….


  1. Lovely! And interesting observations.

  2. This was a wonderful post, almost like a mini lesson! Thank you for sharing your process and the results, the finish product is beautiful.

    A few years ago (well, several years ago now) I "met" Tina because I was interested in a ram she had for sale. We were never able to make it work out, but she was a very nice person with lovely sheep, as your shawl shows ;)

    1. Thanks, Cary. I've got to email Tina to let her know that I finally finished a project from Babes's fleece.