Miss May Shawl

Let’s start at the end of Helen Stewart’s (“Curious Handmade’s) Miss May Mystery Knit-a-long. The result: my shawl.  I don’t knit a ton of lace so this shawl was a challenge at times. But it was so worth the effort. And despite my wariness of mystery knits it was a lot of fun and not at all scary.

Each Tuesday for 5 weeks, Stewart released a “clue,” that is, a section of the pattern. All we knew was that we were making a large crescent shaped fingering weight shawl. The recommendation was that we select four colorways. And we knew how much yarn we’d need.

I chose Classic Elite’s now-discontinued Yuri, a 75% Merino, 25% nylon yarn. I’d had the set of 4 colors in my stash for several years awaiting the right project.

My initial inspiration wasn’t a Miss May textile. I was really drawn to this color pallette by the colors of my pre-lake home neighbor’s bee hive boxes.

I thought the 4 Yuri colorways would work really well together. First came dark gray. Then the daffodil. If I’d have had coral that would have worked out well and been closer to Ben’s bee hives inspiration. But what I had was that Poppy–bright orange. I chickened out. The orange was turning the shawl too Halloweeny. I’m often perfectly OK with dressing festively but this lace was looking kind of sophisticated. I decided Poppy wouldn’t just pop it would gaudy up my shawl. So I set out to find a 4th color in a yarn similar to Yuri in fiber content, in the roundedness of the spin, and in the way Yuri had some tonal going for it.

Fangirl’s Superwash Sock, an 80% merino 25% nylon, fit the shawl more appropriately. Because once I started thinking that the Poppy would turn my shawl into a Halloween garment I just couldn’t unthink it.

The result? A lightweight shawl that drapes nicely. It blocked into a beauty of a shawl.

So who’s Miss May Morris? She was important in the British Arts & Crafts movement and specialized in art needlework, sort of free-form embroidery, and jewelry making. Her father was William Morris, the key figure in the Arts & Crafts movement. He overshadowed her work to the point that sometimes her designs were improperly attributed to him. Here she is in 1909:

And earlier in 1872, as painted by Dante Gabriel Rossetti:

You can read more about May Morris here and see samples of her work. Many knitters chose their colorways from sections of her embroidery.

Helen Stewart’s Miss May Shawl pattern is available on Ravelry. If you haven’t worked one of Stewart’s patterns before you can be confident that they’re clearly written and error-free. They are both charted and line-by-line. The stitch count is supplied for each row. And she even charts out what percentage of the pattern is complete every few rows. For me, it’s just exactly the right amount of hand-holding. Goodness knows that I need a little hand-holding every time my needles turn to lace. Without that, I can really stink at lace.

There were just under 1000 knitters working on the shawl at the same time. If you check here, you can see many that are complete and others still in progress. Some folks decided to alter the paradigm and knit in all one color. Their shawls may not be very Miss May, but they are beautiful. Others knit their shawl using a fingering weight gradient and the result is also stunning.

If you, like me, are wary of mystery knits maybe keep an eye on Stewart’s MKAL offerings. The group comradery is fun. But it’s also helpful if you need it to be. And Stewart’s pattern writing and design skills are top-tier wonderful!

Yep, more hats

I’m still thinking cold weather. Weather wizards predict 94 today and it’s humid. And after I finish this post I believe I’ll head to the dock and dangle my feet in the water.

This first hat is one I’ve featured often on my blog. It’s Aimee Alexander’s Hungry Horse Hat. I’ve already made enough hay commenting that I think it’s a goofy name for a hat, no matter that Alexander lives in Whitefish, Montana. So I won’t go there today. Except I guess I sort of have. This time I knit the hat in 3 shades of Debbie Bliss Rialto DK. Rialto is a 100% merino and is next-to-the-skin soft.

I used the same shades of Rialto DK for a second Hungry Horse.

I didn’t have much of the red shade left, so I just worked a few stripes into the garter stitch sections. As always with my favorite hat patterns, this one has a nicely behaved crown decrease that ends without being pointy.

Next is a trek into the Ministry of Silly Hat Toppers. This next hat (minus the dangles) is an early version of Jacqueline Fee’s Three Rib Beret (minus the beret). Ravelry dates the pattern to 2009 and 2011, published in Piecework and Interweave Knits respectively. But I have a paper copy published in the Fall 1996 issue of Knitting Now, Vol. 1, #1. It is comforting for me to hope that I’m not the last knitter on the planet to recall that interesting publication. I believe it published 6 issues a year, possibly only for 2 years. One of the things I liked about Knitting Now–a black & white newspaper printed on good stock with a few color photos on an insert sheet–is that it supplied the backstory of many of its patterns.

Fee recounted that her daughter Nancy gifted her an “infant’s beret-type cap” that she found in an “antique/flea market().” She says the original was “worked flat and the back seam sewn, then the seam line was decorated at each rib change with tiny pompoms.” She included a photo of the original as part of the article. She changed the pattern to circular needles and opted to position 3 small pompoms of varied colors along the straight bound-off top. Also, the pattern includes instructions for a worsted weight adult version as well as a fingering weight infant version.

The article reports that an even earlier version of this hat appeared in the Fall, 1994 issue of SpinOff magazine.

I’m not sure why I don’t like berets, but I don’t. So I didn’t block the piece and just left it as a full beanie. At the top, instead of 3 little pompoms, I added the corkscrew dangles with a pompom on each dangle. I knit my not-a-beret in Malabrigo Rios, a worsted weight.

I grafted the top seam, using Kitchener, instead of doing the 3-needle bindoff the pattern called for. I made 3 corkscrews. For one I cast on 20, the next one I cast on 30, and then 40. I knit in the front and the back and the front again of each cast-on stitch. Next row, bind off in purl. And behold, 3 corkscrews.

The reference to “3-rib” is that the initial ribbing is 3 by 3, then 5 by 5, and at the end it’s 2 by 2. Where I added striping is stockinette, which is what the pattern calls for. It’s an interesting vintage pattern. My guess is that I’ll be looking at this one in my pick-your-gift stash for years to come. But then, as Elizabeth Zimmermann observed, the good thing about knitting hats is that some people will put almost anything on their head.

After such a silly hat, I should include a more sedate one. This is Asita Krebs Towards North Hat. I knit my version of this excellent Ravelry freebie in Berroco Ultra Wool, a worsted weight.

The pattern calls for an Aran weight yarn and an 80-stitch cast on for an adult-sized hat. I cast on 92 stitches in worsted weight and the hat fits a small adult head. It’s a fun pattern to work and even incorporates an easy Vikkel braid at the transition from the ribbing to the body of the hat. My understanding of a Vikkel braid is that it’s one knitted laterally.

At first I thought that the crown decreases were a tad untidy. But I ended up changing my mind. It works.

Next is another really wonderful Rav freebie, Erin Ruth’s very popular Molly.

Molly has everything I like in a hat. Plenty of texture. A little slouch. And that great horseshoe cable on one side worked gracefully into the orderly crown decreases.

I knit mine in Plymouth Yarns Worsted Merino Superwash Solid. Molly’s a yarneater and my version needed 201 yards (92 grams). Good golly Miss Molly, this one’s worth your time.

Now, for some time dangling my feet in the lake.