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This Too Shawl Pass

Dear Ann,
Olive is harshing on me in this photo. She’s judging me because although I only have 2 garter ridges left on the Flaggy Blankie, toward the end of last week I was laid low by a wicked case of the Starties. As always, it hit me from behind. I had been sitting on 6 skeins of Alchemy Haiku, in the lemony-lime shade of Citrine, for a full year without being seized with any particular impulse to knit it. I had bought it last year in Seattle when we were on book tour, and I was all hot to trot to knit something from Gina Wilde’s intriguing book, Shibori Knits. That feeling somehow passed over. Until late last week, when I was leafing through Shibori Knits again, and came across:
The Poet’s Shawl. The stockinette bits are Alchemy Haiku, which felts, and the garter bits are Alchemy Pagoda, which doesn’t. I just LURVE this thing. So I went off in search of a non-felting yarn in the eggzact same color as my Haiku–that seemed very very important, that it be the same color.
Success! I found 3 hanks of Alchemy Silk Purse in Citrine, at my lovely local, Knitty City.
Here’s The Thing
So I cast on. Noticing, in passing, that the Haiku is sort of EAGER to felt. It will felt on itself if the strand gets even slightly bunched up, or twisted, or especially if it twists around another yarn, be it feltable or nonfeltable. I kept going. Undeterred and undaunted and undismayed.
Until I got to the part where you do a vertical column of the Silk Purse, right in the middle of two sections of the Haiku. This means you have to have 3 balls of yarn, or bobbins of yarn or whatever, going at the same time. Which is a pain in the butt for several reasons. One being the self-felting qualities of the Haiku, and the fact that you have to be so very careful if you do not want the yarns to cross or twist, and even if you’re very careful, they are going to cross and twist–it’s just the way it goes.
And then, you see how in the picture of the shawl, there are lots of irregular gaps and holes on either side of the column of non-felting garter stitch? Even on the lovely sample? Well, that’s because of the felting, I’m sure, but it’s also because of the intarsia.
See what I mean?
It’s kind of driving me crazy. I was sitting up watching the Oscars last night (sans tweeting a peep of my innermost thoughts about any of it), and just kind of hating dealing with the 3 different sections and the self-felting and the gappy holes.
Does anybody think it would be wrong if I eliminated the vertical column of Silk Purse garter stitches running up the middle of the back? Because then, I would only be knitting with one of the yarns at a time, in an unbroken strand across the row. I could deal with that. Yes, that vertical column is cool, and might even be a big part of why I liked this shawl so much in the first place. But I just don’t think I can remain undaunted and undismayed throughout this entire project, if I don’t make it a little more…..do-able. Thawts?
Susan Has A Lot To Answer For

I’m also in a pretty good frenzy about this project. Volt, from The Fine Line, by Grace Anna Farrow. Which I’d never heard of until reader Susan from Katonah went and emailed me a link and said something insidious like, “I think you’d like this designer’s shawls, especially Volt.”
Oh, I liked it, all right. I liked it 6 hanks of cashmere worth. When have you known me to buy 6 hanks of cashmere all at the same time? I saw this pattern, and my Innermost Being cried out, “I want it! And doggone it, I want it in cashmere!” What is UP with THAT?
More about that later. It’s a wonderful book. I was never a shawl person until now. These could be My Shawls. Applied i-cord is involved. Enough said.
P.S. For fun, and wrap-knitting motivation, watch this video. C’mon! “Tie a scoff!” (Keep watching, at least until you get to the scoff-sporting dachshunds!)




  1. I love all the same pieces you do only you actually do them!
    I think it would be fine to leave the column out at the back of the shawl citrine, such a beautiful colour…
    love Olive and flaggy blanket

  2. Oh! Volt is lovely. Absolutely lovely. Now I’m going to have to pretend I don’t see it or hear it calling. (I have teenagers. . . I’m good at that.)

  3. Would it be wrong? Yes. So wrong. Horribly wrong.

  4. Maybe Olive would let up on you if she had a new scoff!

  5. I loved how you spelled thoughts.

  6. Always best to heed one’s Innermost Being. It’s kind of like gauge — you can fight it, you can knit more tightly or more loosely or plan to block the bejeezus out of a piece — it will return with a vengeance at the most inopportune time. Smarter to acquiesce from the get-go, I say, buy those 6 hanks of cashmere, and enjoy the project whole-heartedly. The Innermost Being will not be denied.

  7. I think I would actually like the first shawl better WITHOUT the trouble-making panel.

  8. Wow. I want that shawl (umm, Volt, though I would probably like the other one even with the crazy making). Heck, I want 6 skeins of cashmere.
    I don’t think I can flutter my eyelashes at a yarn shop well enough to score myself cashmere. Must come up with a plan B.

  9. Keep the annoying bit! It looks good. The knitting will take but a moment, and the shawl will last you forever.

  10. I say you don’t need no stinkin’ rules! Knittin’ is spoze to be fun, right? (I think I read that somewhere…once…)
    Why not just do that middle part in seed stitch to give it a columnar feel or carry along the purse yarn with the regular yarn for that little bit. That way you get the effect of texture with less work!
    Word. I’m a genius, I know.

  11. I love that book. I bought it months ago but have not knit a single item, so please hurry up and make volt so I can see it and get some vicarious thrills going.

  12. Ok, for me there is a critical and absolute line between the “pain in the butt” and the “why you loved the pattern in the first place”, and what you have to do now is to figure out where it is and which side you are on. You want to have a scarf in the end, that was tolerable and maybe even fun to knit, but also a scarf you will like and wear. Good luck!

  13. Ok, for me there is a critical and absolute line between the “pain in the butt” and the “why you loved the pattern in the first place”, and what you have to do now is to figure out where it is and which side you are on. You want to have a scarf in the end, that was tolerable and maybe even fun to knit, but also a scarf you will like and wear. Good luck!

  14. Wrong? I sure as heck don’t think so. Remember that EZ is up in the Great Hall of Pointy Stix and she can now out police the knitting police. Wrong? No worries; it’s your knitting. What’s the rule number for “knitting is spoze to be fun”?
    However, it was really wrong for you to pass on the info on Volt. How could you!?!?

  15. I say try it without the column and see how it goes. It might be less architecturally interesting, but I’m sure it will still be great.

  16. Get rid of the intarsia bit and knit straight across. It will be fabulous.
    And you’d better send Susan something nice. That’s a great shawl.

  17. Love the scoffs – especially on the dogs.

  18. It’s only my opinion, but I do think that the column part is part of the reason that shawl is Something Diffrunt. I’d totally go for it, because without that column, it’s possible that this shawl will head into Puddleduck territory and we all know how you feel about THAT. Go for it! It’ll be uniquer!

  19. Ah Ann, it might also be naffer !
    As in all things knitting, follow your heart.
    I want a Volt in shades of purple. I think I may even have the cashmere to do it ! Better get the book.
    p.s. I’d totally ditch the column. I knitted enough intarsia in the 80s to last a lifetime and develop an allergy to it !

  20. So if you leave that vertical bit in on the first shawl you will have that nice vertical line pointing right at your rear. And unlike the brown shawls you were obsessed with earlier, this one is not big enough to extend below.
    That is probably why you are thinking about Volt, which, while angular, is not a triangle and therefore has not even a whiff of Beatrix Potter anywhere to be sniffed.
    LOVE the denim blanket. Will be casting on for that one very soon.

  21. Wow, I was just enabled by proxy! I had to immediately buy the volt pattern. This after I spend a week getting rid of unwanted knitting books and magazines.

  22. I land on the side of forget the column on the back. I find the front much more interesting – and do not like the gaps in the back. Looks like a novice knitter did it (and it was a good first try, but …., just sayin….)
    AND – my favorite saying – “knitter’s choice”!!!

  23. If the vertical column is too difficult for you, mere mortals could not likely tackle it either.
    Will the sticky yarn be rippable though?
    LIfe is definitely better with cashmere.

  24. Lose the column. Unless you are making it for a bishop. It’s a little ecclesiastical for a lay lady. The color, also, is divine.

  25. I know the colors aren’t exact and neither is the striping scheme, but I swear I can’t look at that flaggy blanket without thinking it looks an awful lot like the “Leather Pride” flag.

  26. I agree with Pam – I would like it better without the vertical center panel. Love the denim flag blanket – will have to make one – loved the link that you had to the quilts with that one too!

  27. I say modify the pattern. The holes will probably annoy you way more than the lack of a column will.
    I just realized that I essentially applied a balancing test to your knitting dilemma. Clearly this law student is ready for spring break! πŸ™‚

  28. Please, please leave off the vertical column! It doesn’t work with the yarns — as both you and the sample amply demonstrate. All the other elements and the gorgeous yarn are enough. so there.

  29. It’s your scarf–whatever makes you happiest!

  30. Cashmere? Lots of cashmere? oooohhh…..
    And as for the Poet’s Shawl, I’d say definitely ditch that center column. If they can’t even make it look decent in the sample, how do they expect knitters (even a fantabulous knitter like yourself) to make it work??

  31. From what I can tell from the book jacket photo, that vertical column has a seriously Wonky Bit where the first garter stripes meet it below the neck-it’s not just the intarsia. Problematic. Leave it out, I say.

  32. a lovely shawl for carrie, perhaps?
    olive is only adding a bit of her special doggie hairs for effect!
    the video is a hoot……i would think one could get seriously injured in those loopy things. πŸ™‚

  33. Whoa, the Scarlet Knitter just posted on “The Fine Line” and totally got me hooked on knitting Dawn!

  34. Re: the NYT video. Are you kidding? Those people are really wearing blankets, right? Most of them anyway. It doesn’t appear that they’re wearing scarves at all, just big ole blankets wrapped around their necks. Nice blankets, but still…

  35. Which one of the kids did you sell to get the 6 skeins of cashmere all at one time? At first glance, Volt looks like something Hanne Falkenberg would design, except not in cashmere. Love it! Unfortunately, my kids are too old to sell, and the grandkids are more precious than cashmere.
    Lose the column that’s causing you so much grief–life’s too short.
    Scoffs are rarely seen here in Texas–not enough cold weather to warrant them.
    Mary G. in Texas

  36. Forget the annoying panel! Knitting is spozed to be fun.

  37. I like the column up the back — it reminds me of a saguaro cactus, and I think the shawl needs the detail. But intarsia is tricky enough without self-felting yarn. Why be masochistic?
    I like Meg McG’s advise: just do the column with the Haiku in a different stitch. Maybe an easy lace faggoting column you could embroider the Silk Purse through later, if it needed it.

  38. Have to agree with Ann – the vertical column makes it unique. Besides, without it it might look like another Citron only in Citrine. Love the color. Just discovered Grace Anna Farrow’s stuff and it’s all stunning. Hail to the Inntermost Being.

  39. Gah! I would give up my house to Olive she is so cute!

  40. I’d skip the vertical column myself. Not just because of the hassle but because it goes against the minimalist grain of the shawl, and because who needs the vertical emphasis at that particular location? (and here I bow to the brilliant linguist who first named the Jemima Puddleduck shawl effect)
    As for Grace Anna Farrow. Well. Her designs are incredible. The wraps were on display at Stitches West and, as the old saying goes,OMG. I can’t believe I scooped MDK; I blogged about them yesterday.

  41. I’m afraid the column is what makes the shawl. Soldier on – or put it aside until you are ready.

  42. You may not want to go anywhere near felted now, but just in case, the link below made me think of you – do you think she knows not to put them in water? Meanwhile, I’m off to scoff . . .

  43. You may not want to go anywhere near felted now, but just in case, the link below made me think of you – do you think she knows not to put them in water? Meanwhile, I’m off to scoff . . .

  44. I think eliminating the middle column would look fine. Kinda like a triangular citron? That sounds rather fabulous, actually.
    Love the flag blankie. Especially love little Olive sitting on the red square. Adorable!

  45. Is now a bad time to mention that every time I see your stripey WIP I briefly think you’re knitting some lucky baby a Leather Pride flag?

  46. Adding my vote against the column down the back of an otherwise lovely design. Even if you were not having trouble with it I think it’s just…odd looking. And clearly some see knitting to the design as an exercise in doing it right by god, but the column was just somebody’s idear, it doesn’t have to be yours. Plus which, this shawl is nothing like citron, people! Grumpily going off to bed…

  47. I haven’t been counting, but my opinion might just make the pro & anti-column sides perfectly even, and what are we here for if not to make your decisions MORE difficult??
    I say, do what makes you HAPPY. Like, happy in This Moment, because that’s what counts. The column makes you fret, and besides, it does have lots of odd holes on the side, which we’re convinced to accept in the book photo because of the serenity of the model, who’s all “I’m a super-young, super-cute model and I didn’t even knit this thing so what do I care for the holes?” I think they would bug you even after you finished, which is a BIG reason to step away.

  48. OK, whilst agreeing wholeheartedly that rules are there to be broken, and patterns there just NOT to be followed, I do think that without that vertical stripe I would have to either:
    say the word ‘Puddleduck’ (like Ann) or:
    refuse to sit / walk next to you in said Puddleduck garment next time we meet.
    Abandon the Puddleduck until you feel strong enough to do the intarsia, get on with the Volt (which I love, and it’s just a big scarf, not a shawl, I think – I loathe shawls – did you guess?) and meanwhile, unless you are so heartless as to ignore that little face with the big ears, knuckle down and finish the Flag, as it is truly fabulous.
    Agony Aunts ‘r’ me. B x x x

  49. Oh, and SNORTING with laughter at you inadvertently knitting a Leather Pride Flag! (well, sort of). Fabulous. It’s almost enough to make me want a baby boy to wrap in it. I s’pose I could borrow one from somewhere…. x x x x

  50. Ex-c-use me, Ms Belinda. Shawls are fabulous. It’s how you wear them that counts.
    Blimey !

  51. knit as you please knit as you please
    spring is here so knit as you please

  52. Intarsia is my enemy. Skip it and enjoy knitting the shawl. If the holes bug you now, you aren’t gonna like ’em when you are wearing them. Plus, you will have that baby finished in no time if you can skip all that bobbin fiddling.
    Now, off to check out that book….I feel my own case of startitis coming on.

  53. Yes, eliminate that column. It will still be beautiful AND keep you sane. And Volt? I love that whole book!! She’s brilliant! Those colors of yours are fantastic: yellow-green is just the ticket with those grays. I JUST did some Bauhaus blocks for my quilting bee using those exact colors and was swooning.

  54. What I want to know is, how long until Olive gets her own scoff?

  55. Ditch the Alchemy project, already having doubts? does not look good for future.
    VOLT ahead! I did Dawn from that book- loved every second of it- even the applied i-cord(especially the applied i-cord?) Great pattern instructions and gorgeous results. I want to do Horizon from the book soon. now you’ve upped the ante with CASHMERE….

  56. If you really want the center panel, you could knit it first and then knit the two sides. You could either sew them on, or attach them as you go with a knit 2 together. The picture shows what looks like a collar, so you could knit across all three sections when you get to the top. However, that’s a lot of work and fussiness and I think it would like stunning even without the center stripe!
    PS – you might tell Olive that she has four paws and if she really feels the blanket needs to be finished, she could work on it for awhile.

  57. I like the column, if you don’t mind the “pointing at the butt” thing. Can you knit across the panel with both yarns, drop the other yarn at the end of the center panel, and pick it up again on the way back? It would make a sort of plaid-ish column, where some of the sections were knit with both yarns and some with only the Silk Purse, but I think that would be OK. And if the Haiku is twisting around the Silk Purse, can you zip the Silk Purse up tightly in a baggie pinned to the shawl until you need it again?

  58. i say knit Olive that scarf she so badly needs, which will take just enough time to give you renewed perspective on the intarsia decision. Olive cannot wear citrine, too close to her own hair colour, so will need a strong primary shade Maybe her real message to you is that one of the stripes in that flag ought to be her scarf.

  59. Ohh, I think the Poet’s shawl needs that vertical column… for interest and also for stability. Without the felted column, the shawl’s pointy bit might just drift down way too far. And that would be more annoying than the knitting, I think.

  60. Dear Kay, Skip the column. Here’s why I say that: The other night, my daughter Gigi and I were pondering my next project, which will include color work and several balls of Debbie Bliss Merino DK that I have lying around. My clever girl made a pro and con list of the four patterns I am considering. One pattern had the con of only calling for four colors, which would force me to eliminate too many. My almost-ten-year-old looked at me like I was insane. She said “Mommy, it’s YOUR sweater. You can add as many colors as you want to the pattern.(Sigh)I hate patterns.” Deep thoughts.
    It’s your shawl, Kay. Make it so.

  61. Dear Kay, If it’s no fun for you, then what’s the point of even knitting the shawl? You can just take out the column and it’ll still be pretty! I think the front is pretty too! Love, Gigi πŸ™‚

  62. Here in the SF bay area, my long-haired dachshund doesn’t NEED a scarf– but he’d look mahvelous in one. Plus he could chew enough holes in it to make it a Rodarte.

  63. Knit the column with both yarns held together. The vertical line is good visually, the texture is lovely, but I’m with you on not liking the gapey-holely look and stuff. Best of luck.

  64. No fun = no knit. The picture of the back looks as if a very beginning knitter got to do the column that is pointing eggzackly at the model’s teensyweensy derriere. Sure wouldn’t play for me!

  65. I think I would prefer it without the bit up the middle. A little messy looking–because of the holes. And I just don’t like the way it interrupts, personally.

  66. What do you do with all the things you knit. Do you just make them for your book and then give them to friends and family? You couldn’t possibly wear them all.They are all beautiful!I love your books.

  67. The Haiku is evil.
    I have an 800 yard skein I’ve had forever because if I make one mistake it’s impossible to rip. I’m not a good enough knitter to play with it yet.
    That and one of the dogs thinks its one of his tennis balls (same color) and I have a hard time keeping him from trotting off with it. Gr.
    Olive is utterly adorable as usual.

  68. I think you should do each side triangle separately, then knit the vertical column, then sew them together – voila, no unsightly holes.

  69. I think I would like the shawl even better without the center panel. The yarn is gorgeous. Go for it!
    Thanks for the Olive pick. The blog has been sorely lacking in Olive photos lately. No offense…You and Ann are great. But this knitter needs more Olive!

  70. Um, we are missing the important point which is that the book appears to also have a pattern for a DOG SHAWL. Olive wants one!!!!

  71. I love the Volt! And I say that you do whatever you gotta do to end up with a finished object. If that means eliminating the center band, so be it. That center band won’t be so great if the whole thing is sitting in an undone heap in the back of the closet.

  72. Kay–I vote for the NON-vertical column (actually would like it better that way). Do whatever suits you best, however.–LoveDiane

  73. Kay and Ann – I JUST THIS MINUTE got my paperback copy of Mason-Dixon Knitting (breaking the agreed-upon Spousal Spending Freeze and opening myself up to some yet-to-be-determined spat). I am happily undecided about which project to knit, and am secretly making grand plans to turn my stash into a giant nest to sit in whilst I read your book, patting and arranging the yarn.
    So Thanks! And also, I hope we can all agree that the few dollars you got from me will be going toward yarny things and not some ridiculous college fund or something.

  74. Yay! I missed Olive! (Also, I made “dawn” from GraceAnna’s book. The applied i-cord at the end almost killed me, but it looks really cool. I loved “volt,” too, and “smolder.”

  75. So glad to see Olive again.
    I LOVE Volt and as for The Poet’s Shawl, I say ditch the center panel – c’mon: intarsia with silk linked into self -felting yarn – who needs the hassle?

  76. Re: Poet’s Shawl: I loved it from the front and didn’t like the back with the vertical stripe so my thawt is lose the vertical w/ the crazy making.

  77. Killing me with the link to Volt. Because like all fabulous items with fabulous lines, all those things are screaming to become blankets. And I’ve already got two insane blanket projects happening. All anyone wants is socks, anyway. But Volt? As a blanket? I thought it was, at first, with all that white space as a solid portion. Good heavens.
    The crazy log cabin with the stripes? I picked up for the next section. I am fortified. I will carry on. For now.

  78. You have the only project for “Poet’s Shawl” on Ravelry – does that make it a sort of “googlewhack” project or is everyone else having trouble too? (Personally I think the suggestions for a textured central column are inspired.)
    Good luck with whatever you decide.

  79. Hmmm. What is the plural of “scoff?” Is it “scawvs?” For the shawl dilemma, I wholeheartedly agree with Barbara A.M.:
    “Knit the column with both yarns held together. The vertical line is good visually, the texture is lovely, but I’m with you on not liking the gapey-holely look and stuff.”
    Also, re: Leather Pride. Olive is obviously exploring her identity as she grows up, and she may be asking for a(spiked?)leather collar and/or coat to show that she’s “Bad to the Bone.” Ha. Ha.

  80. That Poet’s Shawl is gorgeous! And you can’t beat that name.

  81. Dear Kay, please see blog post dated Jan 12, 2009 where you mentioned slate blue and chartreuse as that fresh! new! color combination you often choose. When I saw the Volta combo I was amused- could it be- slate blue? chartreuse?
    The comment was active for me as I’d just finished reading the musty archives, thanks for many laughs along the way. This blog rocks.

  82. Dear Kay, please see blog post dated Jan 12, 2009 where you mentioned slate blue and chartreuse as that fresh! new! color combination you often choose. When I saw the Volta combo I was amused- could it be- slate blue? chartreuse?
    The comment was active for me as I’d just finished reading the musty archives, thanks for many laughs along the way. This blog rocks.

  83. 1. Thanks so much for the spread out flaggy blanket picture (and the education on what the Leather Flag is that I have now received from Wikipedia.)
    2. Do the different denim colors have any problems with bleeding on each other? Just wondering.
    3. Intarsia in lace weight is a swear word. Just say no. Really.
    4. What if you left yo holes and then wove in the silk afterwards, kinda like the table runner in your second book?

  84. I may be late to the game, but I would forego the center stripe, thereby skipping the intasia as well. The yarn is obviously fabulous (luv the shade you have selected) and the overall pattern is very nice. But I think the tendency to leave the oddly sized holes at the color changes really detracts from both. Good to Olive and the flaggy blanket!

  85. I like the column but I think I’d knit the lighter yarn across with the other as others have suggested. I think it would fill/close up the gaps with its fluffines and look great. Beautiful pattern, gorgeous yarn. The gaps would make me a little nutty too though. My 2 cents!

  86. I absolutely looove Olive, she is the cutest little puppy I have seen in awhile. Love the afgan too.

  87. I am not a good shawl wearer. Though I think I am starting to be a good shawl knitter. And I enjoy em.

  88. A propos the beautiful blues in the blanket: I just came across a truly remarkable textile object at Sri Threads, which if you haven’t already seen, I think you would like…

  89. Have you seen what’s happening in West Cape May? Tree cosies! By mystery knitters!

  90. I CANNOT believe you’re writing about this – and doing it. I just picked up hte yarn in Portland (the crawl was a big success) and am starting to work on it and my colors are almost identical. I adore this woman’s work and VOLT will be in the next issue of a not to be named knitting magazine.


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