Making a Shetland Shawl from Scratch!

When I was preparing to move away for a year I took time to carefully think about what knitting project I could bring that would keep me busy for a year and not take up too much room in my suitcases.

I am a fast knitter. I knit Hanne Falkenberg’s Ballerina Jacket in 10 weeks while I was doing my dissertation research, taking language classes and dealing with general and overwhelming homesickness. I love A Gathering of Lace, it is a book filled with projects that require 2 or 3 charts and are knitted on size 1 or 2 needles. But even those were not taking the time they used to. So, before I left California I purchased 8 ounces of a wonderful merino and threw it into my suitcase with my drop spindle. 22 hours later I sat in Amman and wondered what I had done.

I pulled off a handful of roving at a time and sat and spun it up while I watched TV or bad movies. At first it did seem to take and eternity, and I was not pleased with the results. I put too much twist into the yarn, and it was inconsistent. I wanted a lace-weight yarn.

Once I’d spun a handful or two I would wind the singles onto a ballwinder to make a center-pull ball. I tied the “inside” and the “outside” end together and plied.

This resulted in batches of yarn. Here is some of the first I spun back in September 2006. It sucks. You can see little corkscrews of yarn I put too much twist into. It is quite inconsistent. The Jordanian half Dinar is slightly bigger than a U.S. quarter.

This is more like it. I spun from early September until early January before I got a yarn I really liked. I had quite a lot of inconsistent fingering-weight yarn from my first attempts and I used that to swatch, something I never do. I took each batch of yarn and washed it with my 2-in-1 shampoo conditioner and hung it on the dresser with some weight to set the twist. Then I took the batches and felted the ends together to create one big skein.

By the middle of January 2007 I had a pretty good ball of lace-weight yarn. I continued to spin the roving and by May I had quite a lot. I originally promised myself I’d spin the whole roving for the practice, but I was too eager to cast on and start knitting. I have about 2 ounces left over. I casted on in March, knit most of this in Iran, and finished it this week. I had this strange sense of, well, nothing, when I finished. I finished the shawl but felt no sense of accomplishment. It was weird. This project has been with me for so long, I guess, that it may never feel finished. Since I took the following pictures I did a single crochet edging with similar colored beads every 10 stitches along both edges.

It won’t be until I return to the States that I have access to my blocking wires and can properly block the shawl. Perhaps that’s why it doesn’t feel finished.

I decided that I like that the two ends do not match.

What an amazing project this has been for me. I hated spindle spinning, but I (mostly) learned to overcome this. I have become a much better spinner. When I visited California in March I sat and spun on my wheel, and I made the best yarn I’ve ever produced with it. There is something about isolating myself from the wheel and working with a device so simple that all I can do is concentrate on drafting, and then doing that for 7 months, that taught me more about spinning than I’ve learned in the last 6 years. Taking on a project like this taught me that momentum comes from the mere passage of time. The more time I invested in this, the more I really came to understand that beautiful work will always wait for me. I nickel-and-dimed this project, and now I have this amazing shawl that I made from scratch!

I will return to California next month, and I am wearing this shawl home no matter how hot it is.




9 Months

I've been in Jordan for 9 months today. It has been one heck of a yarn diet, but no less crafty. Yesterday several folks in my building went on a field trip to a place east of Madaba where there is a knitting/spinning/weaving workshop. And I didn't go! I was actually getting work done. But... Dang. I missed that.

Here and there I pick up and work on Erin.
Every time I think I've got Fair Isle under control, and I've come to understand how much yarn to strand behind the knitting, I turn it and look at the wrong side of the work. Then, I wince. But that will all be on the wrong side, and I realized a while ago that this will need to be lined if it is to survive. No one will know but me, right?

Then there is the Shetland scarf:
On 9 September 2006 I began spinning this yarn, and now I have a Shetland Scarf that is taller than me. I tried to take a picture of me holding this up so you could see it's length, but it won't fit into a picture anymore because it's so tall!