Yes, I am feeling quite smug ;). Totally without justification, actually – this pattern is INSANELY simple. It’s the Aranami Shawl by Olga Buraya-Kefelian – I found it on Ravelry when I was looking for a shawl pattern to make as a gift, and knew immediately this was the one! It’s pretty rare for me to find a pattern that looks totally fresh, but I think this does – the construction is really simple, but I just think the effect is amazing!
Anyway, on to the nitty-gritty: I used Jamieson’s Spindrift, a lovely Shetland 4-ply. It’s pretty rare (OK, almost unheard-of) for me to buy wool from somewhere else than work, but sometimes it can’t be avoided (sorry Boss…). This was such an occasion – the colour range of a hand-knitting yarn won’t typically include 5 graded shades of one colour, which is what looks best in this shawl. The pattern specifies Brooklyn Tweed Loft (UK stockist Loop), which everyone raves about – I’m sure it’s great, but is it really £11.99/50g great? Answer: It may well be, but I don’t know, because I did a double-take and started looking for alternatives… To be fair, Olga does point out that you can get two shawls out of the 5 skeins (with reversed shading), but unless you’re knitting Christmas gifts for your friends, Good Twin and Evil Twin, I’m not sure how much that appeals…
With the criteria for the yarn being a 4ply, with good colour choice and not requiring a second mortgage, Spindrift was the obvious answer. It’s good value, at £2.90/25g – for this pattern the 25g balls are ideal, as you only need 1 for each of the first 3 colours, then 2 each for the last 2 stripes.* And it’s pure wool, and it’s British! What’s not to like? Also, there are 225 colours. That’s not a typo.
* The middle colour is touch-and-go, depending on tension, needle size and exact yardage. I had 30cm of yarn left from that ball…
The yarn was actually even nicer than I expected – I’ll certainly be using it again. If you have a really low itch-tolerance it may not be your first choice, as it’s what I’d describe as ‘proper wool’. I upped the needle size to 3.25mm,from the recommended 2.75mm – it was looking cramped and ugly, probably due to my notoriously wayward tension… The only changes I made to the pattern were as follows:
- Having had a quick look at other people’s projects on ravelry, something that lots of people recommended was to slip the 1st stitch and purl the last stitch of every row, to make it easier to pick up the stitches. That’s a winner in my book, so I did it, and it really gives a wonderfully clear edge to pick up from. Definitely do this!
- When picking up the stitches to attach the right-hand (as you look at it) shell of the 2nd row to the bottom shell, I picked up with the wrong side facing instead of the right. This is because for all the other edge shells, the WS of the cast-on is on the RS of the shawl (still making sense???…), so if the bottom one had the RS facing the edge of it would look different to all the others.
- Another tip (not a change to the pattern as such), is when you get to the last tier leave the stitches on a circular needle, rather than a string or holder – this way they’ll all be right there on the needle when you need to knit back across the whole width. And there’s no need to break the yarn between motifs on this tier – believe me, you have enough ends to sew in already…
As for the pattern itself, I’m not joking when I say it would make a good maybe 3rd project. If you can cast on and knit garter stitch, you’re most of the way there. You’ll get a lot of practice in: decreasing, picking up stitches, and (last tier only) short-row shaping. None of these are that scary, and the fact that there’s no fit or stitch detail to worry about means it would be a great skill-builder for anyone who wants to get to grips with these techniques.
The lovely shell-shapes form while you’re knitting, but you can then exaggerate them further during blocking. With hindsight, I could probably’ve stretched out the top couple of tiers a bit better, but by the time I realised this I’d nearly finished pinning it. Take my word for it, this isn’t a job you’ll do twice. Requirements for blocking are as follows:
- 4-5 packets of pins.
- large drink.
- darkened room to lie down in afterwards.
I only had the pins, but there’s still time for you to learn from my mistakes.
Sorry about the hurried-and-almost-identical pictures – it’s been raining pretty solidly here for around 24hrs, we took these in the 5 minutes where it was only raining a little bit…
I think when I make it for me, I’ll follow Olga’s advice (which I’ve obviously only just seen now…) to pick up just the outer strand rather than the full stitch, to make the seams less obvious on the back. I might make it a bit bigger as well, as it’s more of a shawlette really, but then they do say small is beautiful!
All-in-all, I’ve really enjoyed knitting this, it’s always nice to find a pattern and yarn that suit each other perfectly, and for me to be itching to knit it again is the highest recommendation I can give – usually once I’ve knit something I never want to see the pattern again!
I probably won’t be checking in again before Christmas, so have a great holiday!