I have a new design up on Ravelry! But before I go into it, I first have to tell you the back story…
One of my most favourite knits ever is this big shawl:
I first saw this traditional Faroese shawl in one of my very favourite knitting books, Nordic Knits by Susana Pagholdh, not long after I started knitting. I was floored by its beautiful simplicity but intimidated by the idea of lace and so I filed it in the back of my mind as something to come back to if I stuck to knitting and ever got “good enough to make it”. I finally came back to it a few years ago and had such a ball knitting it, both for the joy of the pattern itself but also in the knowledge that I was not only good enough to knit it but that I’d found such a lovely craft that I had indeed stuck to.
I’ve worn it most cold days since then, loving its incredibly light but warm fabric (it only weighs 350gm!) and the way I feel so enveloped in it. And so many people comment on it, especially in the yarn shops that I’ve worked in. Unfortunately Nordic Knits is no longer in print (though you can score the odd copy second hand- do watch out for it as it’s a real beauty) and the other book it is found in is only available in Faroese and it is always disappointing to tell people that. So that I decided to use it as a springboard for my own design, using the same traditional elements: bottom up construction, lace panel, central gore and the ubiquitous fringe!
This is Big Star!
Just like the original shawl that inspired it, this one is a large, cozy shawl incorporating the characteristic features of a traditional Faroese shawl: garter-stitch body, large graphic lace panel, central gore, shoulder shaping and fringe. It is constructed from the bottom up, with garter stitch to start, an interesting lace section next and rapid decreasing to finish, it’s a surprisingly quick knit with just enough to keep you interested. Big enough to wrap a couple of times around your neck, it can also be worn in the traditional way- wrapped around the waist and tied at the back… Either way, Big Star keeps you as warm as toast!
Big Star owes much to the original design but is a hybrid, combining traditional lace motifs from both Faroese and other knitting cultures of the North Atlantic and Baltic that, together, form a series of stars and evoke the folk knitting and warm, utilitarian shawls of knitting cultures around the world.
I was lucky enough to have a lovely bunch of knitters to test-knit it without even having seen the new version of the design- how ace are they! Thank you so much, Kerry, Jeni, Laura, Leona, Liz, Mel, Susana and Zoe! I’ll post some shots of their beautiful versions here over the next few days.
I also sought the help of a tech editor for this one and found a great support in Joeli, who answered all my many rookie questions about pattern writing and chart software and was particularly helpful in suggesting formats for charting such a large lace panel.
Special thanks goes to Jeni Reid, photographer extraordinaire who not only spun up a special Shetland fleece that she’d bought at last year’s Shetland Wool Week to make her own stunning version but also took these beautiful photos of my version of the shawl. We had a hilarious time trying to get some good shots but Jeni did a great job at enduring my grimaces and general dislike for having my photo taken and captured the shawl and Dundee beautifully. Next time, however, I’ll ignore the dark blue yarn in my stash and reach for something more easily photographed that shows up lace well!
Faroese shawls are traditionally made in the natural shades of the local sheep in yarns produced on the islands, such as Snaeldan aran-weight, but I deliberately left the yarn weight for this design flexible, ranging from fingering to light worsted; lighter yarns will create a lighter, slightly smaller shawl like mine with more open lace, such as mine, whereas Jeni’s and Mel’s are both heavier and warmer.
Both the original shawl and Big Star were knitted in Rowanspun DK, sadly discontinued but a great example of the type of yarn that I think is most suited to this large shawl- you’ll want to use a light, airy woollen-spun yarn that both traps air to keep you warm but has long metrage, resulting in a light but very warm shawl.
Suitable yarns include Brooklyn Tweed Loft or Shelter, Elsa Woolen-spun Sport Weight Cormo, Jamieson and Smith Jumper Weight 2ply or Jamieson’s Spindrift, Moeke Elena, Peace Fleece DK Sport, Rowan Felted Tweed DK or Rowanspun DK, Schoolhouse Press Unspun Icelandic, Shilasdair Luxury DK and Snaeldan 2ply.
After seeing Jeni’s beautiful version in handspun, I’m actually considering making a third with the fleece I bought in Shetland… did I mention that I’d bought one?! Now I just need to find a wheel to borrow ; )
Big Star is now up on Ravelry, just in time for the northern winter- enjoy! Do let me know if you make it- I’d love to you see your version and hear any thoughts about it…