So on top of the planned store-remodel and the furious preparations for our first festival booth in September, we have, of course, still been knitting store orders and custom commissions. I have the great pleasure of finally showing off my most ambitious commission yet – a nearly four-foot-diameter allover lace circle shawl, knitted and designed by yours truly.
This shawl is knitted on US size 5 needles, and contains around 1000 yd of yarn. Hand-picked by the customer, the yarn is actually a fingering-weight hand-dyed sock blend in three different colorways, and is a blend of merino wool, domestic wool, silk, and nylon.
I cast on this project at the end of March, with a general plan for the design (lace motifs selected, a mostly finalized idea of order, and the general structure of a pi shawl in mind.) The center of the shawl features a star motif, followed by interspersed concentric rings and various styles of leafy lace charts. As I went, I had to adjust math (of course), check in for feedback from family, friends, and the luckily local customer, and listen to my instincts. The original design actually called for a much more finished style of edging, but as I neared the end, my heart was telling me that a more open, ruffled edge better matched the customer’s original inspiration. Since she and my live-in-knit-experts concurred, this one-of-a-kind version of the Treegarth design opens at its edge with unconstrained blooms of lace and a simple bind-off.
Instead of the traditional knitted-on border, the shawl fades from the darkest colorway to the lightest and ends with an uncomplicated gentle ruffle.
I completed the knitting itself on Sunday, but that is not the end of the journey for lace projects like this. After some thoughtful planning and somewhat frantic search for a space big enough for the purpose, I embarked on the final steps of washing and blocking the shawl early yesterday morning. First, the entire piece was submerged in a mixture of lukewarm water and wool wash for fifteen minutes while I set up my work space. Then, after excess water was carefully drained and pressed out in a towel, I really set to work.
Lace submerged for washing! For our natural fiber products, we use a wash containing tea tree oil and lanolin, which both removes dust-mite-type allergens and conditions the fibers into perfect softness.
Lace stitches are all about shape, and given yarn’s tendency to follow its spin, the shape of lace stitches can be rumpled and obscured when fresh off the needles. Luckily, natural fibers, especially animal-based fibers, are elastic, and take to reshaping fairly well. By stretching the shawl out and pinning it in place while wet, and not unpinning it until completely dry, I took a charmingly rumpled smallish circle of knitting to a wide, graceful drape over the course of a morning. (The pinning itself actually took an hour, for a piece this large – luckily, my blocking space was quite airy and the light weight of this yarn encouraged the drying step to pass relatively rapidly.)
So. Many. Pins. For lace this complex, I prefer stretching and pinning not just the edges, but also in the center of motifs in order to get the perfect shaping.
After blocking was complete and all the pins meticulously collected, the shawl was ready to go to its forever home! Again, local commissions make this step much simpler – the customer was doing errands in the neighborhood and dropped by to try on her prize. From what I hear, it went straight home to display, and she’s excited to have it to wear both for a work-training week ahead and for the very same festival our shop will be selling at in September.
While I can’t wait to refine the Treegarth design further, ideally for future pattern publication, I’m glad I went with my heart and made this particular commission one of a kind. It suits its owner perfectly, and it makes me happy to know that, after all that work, it’s so incredibly loved. Here’s to making more adored knitwear as we continue – onward and upward!