Allthough that knitting just happened overnight, the whole design process of Wabi-sabi shawl was not such a hasty project.
Everything has started from my controversial interest in Noro yarns. My regular readers probably have read a lot about my hesitations about multicoloured yarn. Pretty in skein, yep. But all hard work of a knitter is easily disguised underneath bold color changes. Or results can be even worse: the finished object ends up looking like your cat puked on it. And so on. I know that I’m not right claming this, these are matters of taste after all. I understand well that a knitter can be deeply in love with multicoloureds. Even my eye wanders so easily to the multicoloured skeins sparkling in jewel tones when visiting my LYS. But then I hesitate again…
So I’ve found thought of incorporating those bold and wide ranging colour changes of Noro yarns to my work almost impossible. But at the same time I have been strongly drawn to those gorgeous materials and beautiful handspun look. That handcrafted part in manufacturing process is not announced loudly in yarn labels, but you can read about making the yarn in Noro website.
I visited shortly in London after last Christmas. I really have to say, that if you shop briefly in Oxford Street and neighborhood, visit the John Lewis yarn department. Otherwise that store does not really shine on the row of magnificent London department stores, but that yarn department stands out from the others I know. There I encountered Noro Kochoran for the first time, live. And I was instantly in love in the look and feel of it. This affair just did not leave my thoughts in peace.
“Oh, excuse moi – this clearly is a wrong photoshoot…”
In the end of January I made a small test project and knitted a colourful pair of socks from Noro Silk Garden Lite. Although perhaps a bit too hippy for my regular style they have been in constant use – the material is so pleasant to wear. And I’m really surprised how well the material has held up, in spite of a bit too loose gauge for socks.
These experiences have been present since, they have had some almos unconscious thought in my “system idle” -process and few ideas has spun off. This Wabi-sabi scarf is the first implementation.
Wabi-sabi refers to a certain Japanese view for aestethic. Actually it is quite comprehensive and I’m not a Japan expert by any means – just have stumbled on the concept in design literature several times. Shortly wabi-sabi means beauty in inperfect, it has strong elements of nature and handmade, with strong feeling of time passing by in marks of aging and use. Noro yarns have certainly a element of wabi-sabi in them – and thus the name for this project.
I wanted to stretch out the properties of Noro yarn a bit. Large amount of stitches convert the colour pooling effect of Noro to self striping effect and I decided to knit the shawl lengthwise. Other option I considered a while was a kind of ombre effect in large scale. The idea would be to pick as similar balls of yarns as possible and knit just couple of rows from every ball to extend the one colour cycle to one large garment. I have not abandoned this idea, but it has limitations – actually it is applicable only to yarns available in wide selection in my LYS (matching yarn balls is impossible in Internet) AND it’s not applicable to yarns sold in skeins, like Kochoran. Skeins are impossible to match.
It took a while – and ove 50 cm of swatching – to find the right stitch pattern for this shawl. Originally I had played with ideas of some variation of herringbone stitch. But they tend to be bulky – and very different looking in right and wrong side. After testing four variations I abandoned the idea and started to swatch texture stitches with reversible sides or at least presentable wrong side. Then I found those little crowns… …with amazing three dimensionality and emphasized handmade look. That really hit the sweet spot.
Knitting lenghtwise gave me a nice option to make fringes while knitting. Why to do this? Well, you don’t have to attach them when finishing (minimizing finishing work is almost always a good idea) ad the main reason: those stripes extend automatically – and beautifully – to the fringes. I made the fringes by looping the yarn over a cardboard piece before starting a new row. This is a gentle method for loosely spun and very hairy yarn. The option is to knit few extra stitches to the edges and frog them before casting off, but this might have been too much strain for this yarn – and knitter of this yarn.
Making fringe while knitting makes only one strand for one row. This is not enough for very plush fringe. Little crowns pattern emphazies the chunkiness of the knit – so I felt that there should be a nice bridge between the chunky knit and delicate fringe. So i tied three dense rows of knots to the fringe to gradually lighten the fabric towards the edges.
I made another detail to the fringe. Fringe loops are not cut by scissors but pulled broken by hand, with occassional help of teeth, nails and mild cursing. The result is slightly irregular fringe with gradually thinning yarn edges.
The shawl is practically sized, it can be used wrapped around a neck or thrown around the shoulders. I love those colours and the way the surface catches the light. The colours seem to change a lot by lighting. The white halo softens the colours, but sometimes you get a glimpse of VERY hot pink, sparkling jade green or something else bright and beautiful. I don’t know if it is the fading effect of angora halo, lovely handspun look, stitch pattern, tormented fringe, or what (perhaps all of those things), but the shawl looks like a vintage garment – a well held and precious one.
I probably will combine the shawl to dry surfaced, utilitarian garments: raw denim, faded twill… The contrast between materials is beautiful.
But summer in Finland is full of surprises and I know that I will throw the shawl over a printed sundress, when the chill of the evening sneaks in…
You need four skeins for the shawl. That yarn is not cheap, though, and I do understand those economical pressures. With two skeins you can create a narrow scarf – I almost cast off after few pattern repeats because the look of narrow scarf was so nice – I actually included that option to the pattern. There will be plenty of leftover yarn with this option, I bet that it’s enough for pair of mitts or wristwarmers. And oh, if you run to major Kochoran sale or win in the lottery I calculated the yardage for large throw, too. That beautiful garment lying in our living room sofa (blocking) just forced me to do that…
I have to say that I will be more than pleased to receive feedback about this pattern – especially if you find errors, please don’t hesitate to contact! The pattern is free, it has not been test knitted by anybody else but me – and I’m certainly not a professional pattern writer. My knitting skills are mainly aquired by knitting and reading those books that have happened to interest me – so it is quite probable that there are flaws. And please, please do notice that I’m not native English speaker! So if there are bad grammatical errors, clumsy expressions, funny words – anything – please let me know!
Here are few technical details described further, pretty obvious for experienced knitters but they certainly make the pattern approachable for the knitters just beginning their journey to land of stitces.
I recommend the long tail cast on to this garment. That KnittingHelp.com video is very good, but I prefer to cast on by helding both needles (or both ends of the needle with circulars) tightly together and wrap the yarn around both of them, snugly. This creates almost always the perfect gauge for cast on. The first stitch loops might look too loose after knitting few rows, but just stretch the edge so that the yarn distributes more evenly between the stitch loops and securing yarn loops on the bottom of the cast on (there is usually a noticeable juggle when the tension in the bottom row is released). When using two needles to wrap the new stitches, release the new stitches after every 20-30 sts or so to the main needle, just pull the another needle out backwards. Bring the needles back together again and continue.
When casting off I made a special effort and used Elizabeth Zimmermanns beautiful sewn cast off. It is not difficult at all, but it is a bit slow method – I’ve never used it to cast offs as long as this. But now I thought that the advantages are worth the extra work and just grabbed the shovel. Or the needle, that is.
Sewn cast off matches almost perfectly to the long tail cast on, see how beautiful can the cast off edge be! But wich one is the one, that’s the question… …anyhoo, here’s the quick tutorial.
Sewn cast off
This is just a wild guess, but I’d say that multiple the cast off edge length by 2,5 (and then add some, just for the peace of mind) to get the yarn lenght for the sewn cast off – if you want to manage with just one length of yarn. I admit that this makes it tedious to work those long edges, but at this time I really did it, I did not want those bulky yarn ends to be wowen in to the edges of the shawl.
But those basics.
The stitches of the last row are on the needle.
1) Pull the yarn through the first two stitches, purlwise. Don’t pull it too tight, but don’t leave loose loops, either. The right tightness is pretty easy to get.
NOTE: When sewing with long yarn and yarn with loose twist (like Kochoran here), pay some extra attention to not create extra friction to the yarn. The friction wears the yarn rapidly and you end up breaking it. Keep the sewn stitches close to the needle point to add some space to the yarn to go through – or even move the stitches to thinner knitting needle for sewing. Don’t twist the yarn against the yarn twist while sewing – loosening the twist weakens the yarn considerably.
2) Pull the yarn through the first stitch, knitwise. After that you can release this first stitch from the needle.
This looks like the starting position – and it is. Just repeat those two steps described above until there is nothing left.
Sewn cast off creates fake purl bumps to the sewing side. So, to extend logically the garter stitch edge with this cast off, don’t turn the work around for cast off! Just slide the stitches to the opposite edge of circular needle and start the cast off from the same edge you started to knit the last row (with straight needles there is some additional fiddling involved, as you can imagine).
And don’t forget to match the sewing yarn color to the edge color when sewing multicolours like this!
Spilt join for yarn ends
Another simple tutorial (experienced knitters – just go on knitting or have a cup of coffee). When knitting unstructured, loosely spun wool, wool mix or other material with felting potential I always start the new skein by splitting and combining the yarn ends. This saves finishing work – and with those yarn types, especially when knitting two sided garments the join looks much better than wowen in ends. Actually it does not look anything – it is invisible.
If the yarn has blunt end, just cut a small piece out of the end by pulling to get those soft ends.
Split the both yarn ends for few centimeters length and pull the other half off (just don’t use those scissors). Set those splitted ends like in the picture above (yes, you can bin those loose bits =), but see those yarns in the middle), let the split ply overlap the intact yarn a little.
Roll the join gently back and forth between your palms a while. If you want to the join felt better, just run some water to your hands and roll with moist palms. If everything goes right, the join is practically invisible. It probably doesn’t take a lot off pull though to split it again, so knit carefully over it. But when knit it lasts well enough!