Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips


A shawl Penelope would love

Ahem. I have finished the Passeggiata shawl.

That doesn’t look right written out. Far too quiet and restrained. You need to imagine me dancing around, waving the shawl in the air, and yelling, “Finally! It’s done! I can have my knitting life back!”

It’s bigger than it looks. That’s a corner of my sofa in the photo.

(Okay, that was exaggerated. I was with friends, and there wasn’t enough space in E’s living room for a lot of dancing around, and yelling would mostly just have alarmed E’s neighbors, who don’t know that I knit, much less care how it’s going. Although my friends were impressed. Also, I’ve been working on another Ardent shawlette, so it wasn’t even like the Passeggiata was the entirety of my knitting life.)

I began the Passeggiata back in September. I was at the knitting retreat, and it was an easy enough project to work on while I was away from home. It’s a garter stitch shawl with stripes, which seemed easy. As detailed in Adventures in striping, however, getting the stripes to work out has proven to be quite the challenge. When I posted that in November, I was on my third attempt. I finished the shawl on my fifth (!) attempt.

Attempt #4: This was when I modified the striping pattern. Unfortunately, now I didn’t have enough of the Aniversario to finish.

Attempt #5: Kept the modified striping pattern. Ripped back into the initial purple section and took out a few rows, hoping that would give me enough yarn at the end for that final stripe. It did.

A closer look at the stripes.

I had the same problem with Passeggiata that I did with Melodia last summer. These are supposed to be semicircular shawls. However, as knitted, they’re inverted triangles. If you’ve knitted them loosely enough, you can force them into a semicircular shape during blocking, which I did with Passeggiata. I also used three different bind offs to help shape the shawl. For the first and last 40 stitches, I used the standard bind off, because a tighter bind off would help straighten the tips. The next 60 stitches in on both sides were done with a suspended bind off: a little stretchier, but not that much. For the center, I used the yarnover bind off, because I needed as much stretch as possible to open up that arch. I then blocked fiercely, and I was successful. But basically, the knitting will not naturally turn into a semicircle if the only increases are at the edges. You need to increase within the body of the shawl as well. At this point, I probably wouldn’t do another one of these shawls unless I was prepared to add those increases in myself. I started a true semicircular shawl a few days ago, and just a couple of inches in, the difference is noticeable.

But enough of that. It’s done! It worked! It’s a shawl! Yay!


Pattern: Passeggiata
Yarn: Malabrigo Yarn Sock
Colorways: Aniversario and Cote d’Azure
Needles: 8 (5.0 mm)


Sparkly Purple Shawl

I honestly cannot explain why it took so long to make this shawl. I’ve made two shawls from the Grande Wrap pattern already, as detailed in Mega-shawl! and And again!. I knew what I was doing, and even if I hadn’t, this is a garter stitch shawl done on size 13 (9.0 mm) needles: not particularly difficult. And yet I started it in May 2017, zoomed along up until I only had two rows left (two!), and then let it sit for 15 months.


Well, it’s finished now, anyway.

A knitted purple shawl with a purple button.

I tried to make this one look dressier than its predecessors. It started as an excuse to use the metallic Wool-Ease Thick & Quick, which had been tempting me for some time. As designed, the shawl is tied with two cords. That’s worked fine with my earlier shawls, but I was afraid the friction would eventually break the metallic thread in this yarn. Plus, the bow wasn’t at all elegant, whether it fell at the front or the back. So I replaced the cords with a crocheted button loop and a large button. (I am so happily amazed that I managed to find a button that both coordinated with the yarn and was large enough to work on a heavy shawl.)


Sparkly Purple Shawl
Pattern: Grande Wrap
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick Metallics
Colorway: 305 Galaxy
Needles: 13 (9.0 mm)
Hook: L (8.0 mm)


Adventures in striping

I am knitting a Passeggiata shawl. More accurately, I am knitting it, frogging it, knitting it again, frogging it again, knitting…you get the idea. For those of you who care, no, I did not start it during a void-of-course Moon, nor was Mercury retrograde!

Passeggiata is a shawl that involves two colors of fingering weight yarn. I’m using Malabrigo Sock in the colors Aniversario (red-violet, mostly) and Cote d’Azure (navy blue). You start with a large section in your first color (Aniversario, which I’m now going to call “purple”), eventually add a thin stripe of your second color (“blue”), and proceed to alternate between your two colors, with the stripes of the first color getting thinner and the ones of the second color getting thicker, eventually ending with a bottom section solidly in your second color. In theory, I should use up almost all the yarn. I’m not worried about the blue because I plan to knit until it runs out, but getting the purple to work out right has been quite a challenge.

Attempt #1: I began knitting on size 7 (4.5 mm) needles. Passeggiata is a semicircular shawl, but the only increases are on the sides, so I added a yarnover at the beginning of each row to be dropped on the return, to loosen up the selvages. This turned out to not help in the slightest, so I frogged it and started over.

Close-up of purple shawl with blue stripe, on a knitting needle.

And again…

Attempt #2: The shawl was coming along nicely, up until I’d added three blue stripes. At this point, there were only three purple stripes left to work. I noted uneasily that I had more than half the ball of purple left. I ripped back to the first section, figuring I’d add a few more rows to it, then start the striping, and maybe start the sequence with a thicker purple stripe, while I was at it. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t the way it was supposed to go, so I checked the gauge. I was supposed to be getting 20 stitches/4 inches (10 cm). I was getting 23 stitches. Oops.

Attempt #3: I re-restarted the shawl on size 8 (5 mm) needles, and again made it to the point at which there were three blue stripes knitted and three purple stripes to go. My ball of purple yarn was definitely smaller than last time, but it still looked too big. But my gauge was correct, so maybe this was how it was supposed to go?

Well, I’d knitted three blue stripes. They were the same thickness as the purple stripes I had yet to knit, although they were a little shorter, but that was close enough. I weighed the blue ball of yarn and subtracted the weight from the starting weight. The three stripes had taken 15 g of yarn. Then I weighed the purple ball: 32 g. The purple stripes will take more yarn because they’ll be longer, but I doubt they’ll need 17 g more yarn.

Current solution: I’ve ripped back to the end of the first purple stripe. As designed, it’s 5 garter ridges thick. I’m going to increase that to 6 ridges, and then add an additional ridge to each of the following stripes. Since the last stripe should only be 1 ridge thick, this will mean adding an extra purple and an extra blue stripe to make it come out right. That’s fine: it’ll just add to the visual interest I figure.

I really hope I love this shawl after it’s done, after this much effort…


Iolite Iolite

It would be fun to name this post “Iolite2,” but I don’t think I can add a superscript to the title.

Back in June, Suncat and I went to a few of the local yarn stores. At one of them, I discovered the joy that is Yowza by Miss Babs. It was a hank of 100% superwash merino: worsted weight and large enough to hug. (The standard weight of a Yowza hank is 8 ounces (227 g); mine was a generous 8.7 ounces (246 g).) The store carried several dramatic colorways, but I’m not that exciting in my tastes, and what I fell in love with was Iolite: gray with splashes of purple. Now thanks to my totally reworking my stash storage last November, worsted weight yarns are towards the bottom of my tub system. It was going to be a pain and a half to move enough tubs to slip the new hank into the worsted weight one. But that wouldn’t be an issue if I used the yarn in a project right away.

Off to find a pattern that would use 560 yards (512 m) of worsted weight yarn. It wasn’t enough for an adult sweater—what I normally do with worsted weight—but the hank was expensive enough that I didn’t want to buy more. Obviously, this was a job for the Ravelry pattern browser. Several shawl patterns met my requirements and I’ve bookmarked them for the future hanks of Yowza I intend to acquire. And of those patterns, one caught my eye because it was called Iolite.

It really did take me a moment to realize that the designer had named the pattern for the yarn she’d used, and that what she’d used was a hank of Yowza in the Iolite colorway. Because, like, what were the chances? And once I’d realized that, how could I not use my Iolite in this pattern?

It was a fun knit. It’s been way too long since I’ve used knitting worsted for a project—I’ve missed it. The V-shape of the shawl helps it stay on.

I give you the Iolite Iolite:

Iolite shawl lying flat.

Iolite shawl, seen from the back.


Iolite Iolite
Pattern: Iolite
Yarn: Miss Babs Yowza
Colorway: Iolite
Needles: 6 (4.0 mm)


Wild Violets

Meet Wild Violets. I realize that at first glance, it looks like a lot of the shawlettes and shawls I’ve done. (And that’s just fine.) What’s significant about it is that this is the first project I’ve done in lace weight yarn. It’s not like I deliberately decided over the years to avoid lace weight, but I just never got around to making anything in it. For one thing, I don’t have a lot of it. Nor do I have much attraction to full-blown lace shawls. You know, the ones that are fiendishly intricate and can only be worked on in total solitude with your phone turned off, your partner away for the evening, and your pets locked up in another room, including your fish. I like a texture challenge, yes, but for me, lace projects are more of an act of endurance than a craft.

Me wearing the Wild Violets shawl And yet, here we are. What made this different? Well, for one thing, I didn’t know what I was getting into when I bought the pattern, because I wasn’t paying attention. One reason Wild Violets looks similar to my other projects is because, like several of my other projects, it’s a Janina Kallio design. She’d had a sale on her patterns last year. I bought a few, including Wild Cherries, without noticing that unlike many (most?) of her designs, this one was written for lace weight yarn. Last August, ready to start another project, I looked through my patterns, saw this, and had the Yes, this is the one! feeling. It was only when I was reading through the pattern to check the details of yarn, needles, and gauge that I realized it was for lace weight.

I do have lace weight yarn in the stash—I have a little bit of almost everything in the stash (except jumbo yarn, and you can safely assume I’ll acquire some of that at some point). I try to avoid buying it, knowing that I’m unlikely to use it, but occasionally a skein is irresistible because of its glorious colors. This Blue Violet colorway, for instance? Knit Picks has used it for lace, fingering, and worsted weight yarn—and I have a project’s quantity of each of them. It was a relief to realize that I had a lace pattern for something I wanted to wear, and that I’d finally be able to use some of this yarn up.

Triangular purple lacy shawl.

I have observed in the past that I need more yarn than called for when working a Kallio pattern. This time, I did: 898 yards in hand and only 740 yards required. I went and added another pattern repeat—I mean, what else was I going to do with the yarn? I couldn’t then quite finish it off as designed, but I think what I did is just fine (I’ve ended with four garter stitch ridges instead of eight).

Detail of lace pattern of shawl.

Pattern stitch detail (click to enlarge).

The truly tricky part hit me as I was working on it: there wasn’t a chart. I rarely use charts, so I didn’t think it would be an issue. But it was a 36-line pattern with many similar lines, and I was struggling to stay in the right place in the instructions. Once I was past the beginning of a row and not yet at the end, life was fine and I could do the pattern stitch by memory, but because of the constant increasing, every right-side row started and ended at a different point in the pattern. I finally charted it, and both my knitting speed and accuracy went up noticeably.

Oh, the title change? If you look up the original pattern, you’ll see that Kallio made it in a delightful shade of pink. Given the color of my yarn, naturally, I renamed it.

Incidentally, this whole finishing projects bit feels wonderful. I really must do it more often.


Wild Violets
Pattern: Wild Cherries
Yarn: Knit Picks Shadow Tonal
Colorway: Blue Violet
Needles: 2 (2.75 mm)


Holden Shawl

Hey, I’ve knit a Holden!

Once upon a time, there was a free shawlette pattern called Holden. I admired it, noted that it took one hank of Malabrigo Sock, remembered that I had one hank of Malabrigo Sock, and figured that this was meant to be. Or not. I was into the lace border before I gave up and frogged it. I suspected I didn’t have enough yarn to finish it—I wish designers would give estimates of how much yarn you need for each part of a project—and ripping the whole thing out so discouraged me that I lost all motivation to start over. But it kept flitting around in my memory. And then time passed and I was browsing Ravelry for shawl and shawlette patterns, when I saw Holden again, only it had grown (and was no longer free). What was once a shawlette was now a pattern with options for medium and large sizes and different weights of yarn, and the large size was definitely a shawl, not a shawlette.

Once upon a time, I went a little yarn-wild at Shepherd’s Harvest and instead of buying one manageable skein of a pretty yarn, I bought two. This despite the fact that I didn’t have all that many patterns in mind that could use 918 yards (839 m) of fingering yarn. So the yarn went into the stash. Occasionally I’d see it when I was looking for something else, and I’d want to use it because it was a pretty yarn, but, well, 918 yards.mer-madeplusfingering_blackberry_medium

And then came the day I saw the revised Holden pattern, looked at the yarn requirements, and saw that I could make the fingering weight shawl with most of 918 yards, and my brain made the obvious connection. Four months of knitting and a three-month hiatus* later, I have a Holden shawl. The yarn turned out to be lovely knitted up as well as in the hank. Something must have been off in my gauge swatch, because I ended up with less than ten yards (9 m) after binding off—eek! But it’s done, and I’ve gotten past that first Holden defeat. Although I still haven’t found the right pattern for that hank of Malabrigo Sock.Holden3

Oh, and I think you need to start the lace border when you have at least 50% of your yarn left, but unless I make another Holden, I can’t say that for sure.Holden2

*How come sometimes stockinette stitch is peacefully mindless and other times it’s unendurably dull?


Holden Shawl
Pattern: Holden
Yarn: Blackberry Ridge Mer-made Plus Fingering
Color: Blackberry
Needles: 6 (4.0 mm)


And again!

Yarn-wise, this has been a productive summer. Since I want both to make some inroads on my stash and to stay warm, I’ve been making one shawlette/shawl/cowl/scarf after another. Often I like to try new patterns, but it can be interesting to try different things with patterns I’ve already worked up.  So here are a couple of repeats: another Daybreak shawl and another Grande Wrap.

Daybreak shawlette


For the Daybreak shawl, I wanted to try something besides pastels. The challenge was to find something Not Pastel that was still light enough not to wash me out and in cool colors so that it wouldn’t clash with both me and my entire wardrobe. So solid gray again as the base color, paired with a yarn that goes through shades of purple, green, and brown. It’s hard for me to find colors that say autumn and don’t make me look ill in the process, but I think this combination worked out pretty well.

Marble Shawl

Marble Shawl

After I made a Grande Wrap in February, I wore it a lot. Thanks to the ties, it stays on while I move around, so I decided to make one for work. But things are messier there—dust, ink, book rust, little shredded bits from torn padded envelopes—so a plain off-white shawl did not sound like a good idea. For this version, I chose a colorway that naturally looks like I might have splashed something on it. I named this one the Marble Shawl—Grande Wrap sounds more like a giant burrito than an accessory. 🙂


Muted Daybreak
Pattern: Daybreak
Yarn: Crystal Palace Mini Solid
Color: 1106 Oyster Gray
Yarn: Crystal Palace Mini Mochi
Color: 324 Drama
Needles: 5 (3.75 mm)


Marble Shawl
Pattern: Grande Wrap
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick
Color: 505 Marble
Needles: 13 (9.0 mm)



It’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and even though it seems everyone is getting more snow than we are (okay, New England has gone overboard in this respect, but the South as well? Sheesh), Minnesota is producing some respectably frigid temperatures. So, cozy things to snuggle into for warmth are still catching my eye.

I don’t remember how I ran across this pattern; maybe Lion Brand featured it in one of their newsletters or maybe I was wandering around on their website and found it. Anyway, the pattern says that the wrap—which I think of as a shawl, and we could have a whole ‘nother discussion about the terminology for these things—can be worn 8 different ways. That piqued my interest, so even though the pattern itself wasn’t all that exciting, I downloaded a copy just in case. Months later, during a trip to Michaels for something else entirely, I saw they had Wool-Ease Thick & Quick on sale. And here we are.

Grande Wrap

The shawl itself.

As you can probably guess, this wasn’t a project I chose for the technological challenge. This is a garter stitch triangle with cords. Made from super bulky yarn, though, it’s a warm garter stitch triangle, and that’s the important part. Indeed, I’m wearing it as I write this in my chilly office, and it’s doing its job just fine.


I like this style (tied at the back): it’s secure, but I can move around easily.

I did play around with the pattern a bit. In the original, you do the cords in flat stockinette stitch, 3 stitches wide, and let it curl inwards. I figured, just do I-cord. By the way, I-cord is even more annoying to work when you have to use a circular needle because you’re too stubborn to buy a set of size 13 double-pointed needles just for one project. I decided to use a suspended bind-off because I wanted something firm to keep the garter stitch from stretching out too far, but something with more give to it than the traditional bind-off.


Once I got it arranged, it was cozy and warm, but it was hard to get the points to wrap around me without leaving gaps.

Now in an ideal world, I’d make it out of super bulky merino or alpaca or something, but Wool-Ease Thick & Quick a) is affordable, b) has enough wool in it to not feel plasticky the way some acrylic yarns can, and c) is machine-washable and -dryable. If I tried to wash this by hand, the weight of this much sodden yarn would probably drag me to the floor. It measures 29″ (74 cm) long by 58″ (147 cm) wide, not counting the cords, which are 23″ (58 cm) long.


I doubt I’ll ever wear it this way. But I could! (I feel stately as all get-out in this picture.)

That last bit, incidentally, is why there aren’t any pictures of me wearing it draped simply over my shoulders, untied. It turns out that the cords trail on the floor when I do that. I’m making a wild guess that Lion Brand’s model is noticeably taller than I am. 🙂


Grande Wrap
Pattern: Grande Wrap
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick
Color: 99 Fisherman
Needles: 13 (9.0 mm)


Viajante completed

Having worked on this for almost a year, now I’m not sure what to say about it. 😀

Viajante worn as a short wrap.Viajante is a shawl pattern by Martina Behm. I nicknamed it “The Pink Thing” because nobody watching me knit it could figure out what it was. Basically, it’s a large stockinette stitch cone, with a garter stitch section at the narrow end and a border of mesh lace on the wide end. The whole thing is knit on the bias by increasing two stitches on every round on one side of the circle while decreasing two stitches every other round on the other side. You can wrap it around your shoulders like a shawl or pull it over your head like a poncho. I’m not sure what attracted me to it in the first place. I mean, I like what it looks like, but it was clear that it was going to involve a lot of (boring) mindless knitting, and usually I’m a process knitter more than a product knitter. I gave myself a year to finish it, because without a deadline of some sort, it was doomed to become a UFO. In the end, it wasn’t the miles of stockinette stitch that did me in, but the mesh lace border. The stockinette stitch was sort of meditative, but I had to pay attention to the mesh lace (eek!), plus working 100+ SSK’s in a row was hard on my hands.

Viajante shawl, front view.Although it’s generally an easy pattern, there were a few hiccups at the beginning. Behm used Wollmeise Lace-Garn. I chose Shimmer, a laceweight yarn from KnitPicks that I’d wanted to use for a while. Too bad it looked wretched at the gauge called for: all loose and limp like cheesecloth. If the gauge swatch was having trouble holding its shape, imagine what an entire shawl was going to look like. I went searching for suggestions and answers on Ravelry and learned that despite its name, Wollmeise Lace-Garn is more like a light fingering yarn. But I was determined to use the Shimmer—what else was I going to do with it?—so I bought more of it and tried again with the yarn held double. This was definitely the way to go. It may be heavier than a shawl made from Lace-Garn would have been, but it’s still sheer and light. Shimmer is 70% alpaca and 30% silk, so it’s plenty warm for its weight (and soft!). And as it turned out, holding the two strands together made the coloring more interesting. Lamb switches between pink and white with no intermediate shades. Using the yarn doubled resulted in parts that are white and parts that are pink, but mostly the shawl is a heathered pink, and overall the effect is remarkably like marbling.

Viajante shawl worn as a wrap.Viajante shawl viewed from the back.The final dimensions were 58½” (149 cm) long by 62″ (157 cm) wide. Behm’s schematic shows a nice cone shape. Mine is more like an L. I suspect using M1 increases on every round distorted the fabric. I did try to knit those stitches loosely, but, well, it’s an easy thing to forget. It’s only noticeable when the shawl is laid out flat, though. If anything, the added curve makes it easier to drape the shawl around my shoulders. Perhaps I should have noticed that in the pattern photos, Behm models the shawl herself and she’s much taller than I am. Depending on how I wear it, I can feel a little lost in the final product!


Yarn: KnitPicks Shimmer Hand Dyed Lace Yarn
Color: Lamb
Needles: 4 (3.5 mm), 6 (4.0 mm)

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September update

Clearly, knitting blogs were meant to be written by people who either knit small projects or knit large objects at a ferocious pace and finish them quickly. I have done neither lately, although I am knitting fairly regularly.

For the moment, I’m focusing on Viajante. Because this is the sort of project that I find easy to forget about—endless rounds of stockinette stitch—I set myself a deadline for the Pink Thing. I started it in the last days of December 2013, and I plan to finish it before the year is up. Which means that I should be three-quarters finished by the end of September. This had been a reasonable pace, it seemed, up until summer. The Pink Thing is alpaca and silk. It’s a doubled strand of laceweight alpaca and silk, nice and light, but, well, alpaca and silk. It’s warm. Not surprisingly, I’d been finding other things to knit during July and August. And suddenly it was September and I was barely past the halfway point. Oops. So now I’m being temporarily monogamous with it while I race to get back on schedule. I was at 70% this morning: there’s hope!

TruLoveBites cowl on needle.

I know it looks like a cap in this photo, but it’s a cowl. Really.

One of the projects that had diverted me from working on Viajante was the Tru Love Bites cowl, my project for knitting at the state fair this year. Alas, I have frogged it. It did get me through my Knitters’ Guild shift, and I’d kept at it, figuring it would be a quick, fun break. But there were problems from the get-go. I used the yarn called for, but I didn’t like how it looked at the gauge called for. Then the pattern was riddled with errors. I had been warned about them by reading about the pattern on Ravelry, and I could work my way through them, but they were annoying, not fun. And then despite the tighter gauge I was knitting at, I ran out of yarn six rounds before the end, at which point I decided the project was doomed and gave up. But before I ripped it out, I slipped it off the needle and tried it on, and that has inspired me to try again. I really like how it drapes around my neck. I plan to tackle it again, armed with my notes from my first attempt, and using a DK weight yarn which should look much better at the recommended gauge. Plus, DK weight yarn will make a warmer cowl, and given the temperature in my office, that isn’t a bad thing.