“[A shawl] is perfect travel-knitting, as I have proved to myself many times. A round shawl, in fine wool, on a circular needle, is my invariable companion when space is limited, waiting-around probable, and events uncertain.” –Elizabeth Zimmermann, The Knitter’s Almanac
Take a page, literally, from Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac (available at the shop) and start a shawl before you dash out of town to beat the heat. Even if you’re sticking around for August, you’ll want some light, portable knitting to take with you from air-conditioned home to air-conditioned office. A shawl, as EZ tells us, is just the thing. The light yarn used in most shawls won’t make you hot as you knit, and it will fit neatly into your project bag to take with you everywhere.
Like the imaginary reader in Zimmermann’s book, you may be protesting, “But a shawl is difficult.” As Zimmermann says, “My dears, it’s not.” A rectangular shawl is like a great big scarf, and most of you started knitting by making a scarf, didn’t you? Meanwhile, a round shawl is a bit like a great bit hat, with increases instead of decreases. What is the second project we encourage you to make at fibre space? A hat. You’re well on your way to making the shawl you want, whether square or round, if you can knit and increase. [And, heck, you can learn to increase using the videos at knittinghelp.com.] Other than those skills, all you really need to knit a shawl is the confidence and patience you’ve gained by knitting those first few projects.
New to shawls? Go for a classic and try EZ’s Pi Shawl from Knitter’s Almanac. Circular with just six shaping rounds, this pattern can be as easy or as difficult as you like (as many EZ classics can). If you go to Ravelry and search for “Pi Shawl” in patterns, you’ll see how influential this simple piece has been: its construction is the basis for many more complicated shawl patterns today. Elizabeth tells you how to cast on and where the increases should be, and encourages you to add lace elements or not, according to your courage and your style. For real inspiration, check out Mwaa Knit‘s set of 6 free patterns, each based on the Pi Shawl, each written to celebrate the 100th anniversary of EZ’s birth last August.
If you’re looking for something smaller than a full circle, try Hilary Smith Callis’ Citron, which dazzled Knitty readers a few winters ago. A simple half-circle designed to dress up a little black dress, Citron is easy yet fun, and takes just 470 yards of laceweight yarn (check out the Neighborhood Fiber Co Pagoda that we just got into the shop). Though the original sample reminded Hilary of a lime slice, we can see knitters making oranges, lemons, or even some kind of purple citrus fruit – this shawl will glow in any of our gorgeous hand dyed lace colors.
If you want to make something with a little more weight (and are wondering what to do with the skeins of Acadia you picked up last month)? The Schieffelin Point Shawl is perfect for the shawl knitter who wants to learn how shawls are constructed. It’s mostly garter stitch, with increase rows at intervals, and there’s a knitted-on lace border that would be perfect for any knitter who wants to learn this part of shawl construction (so much easier than it sounds; we promise!).
The Stripe Study Shawl that’s all the buzz on Ravelry is knit in garter stitch (easy!) but in two different colors (fun! interesting!). Designer Veera Välimäki is one of fibre space’s favorite new designers, and this shawl shows off her signature style: putting a modern twist on old standards. We can see this one looking great in two different colors of Miss Babs Yet or Squoosh Merino Cashmere Sock. Available for €3,90 (about $5.60) as a PDF download on Ravelry, this pattern will delight you, and the finished product will earn you praise from one and all. After you finish it, you can graduate to Veera’s 3/4 Hap Shawl, based on the traditional Shetland Hap shawls. Before you know it, you’ll be working one of the gorgeous creations in The Happsalu Shawl: A Knitted Lace Tradition from Estonia (available, of course, at the shop) – all thanks to Elizabeth Zimmermann and the heat of the DC summer.