Stillness Shawl

I am over the moon about this shawl. It’s the Stillness Shawl by Australian knitwear designer Helen Stewart. If you’re thinking about the origin of “over the moon,” your instincts are correct. “..the cow jumped over the moon and the little dog laughed to see such fun” is its source. OK. You’re likely not thinking about the origin of the phrase just now. You’re likely and hopefully thinking about this wonderful shawl. It’s a 2020 pattern released by Stewart as part of a mystery knit-a-long.

Here’s how my Stillness Shawl started. My son and wonderfully attentive daughter-in-law gifted me these three skeins of fingering weight yarn during the December 2023 holidays. They live very near Rochester, New York, the home of Spun Right Round. Spun Right Round is an indie dyer that’s been at work since 2009. Their Classic Sock is 100% merino and 100% wonderful in my new lightweight shawl.

Here’s a closer look at the stitch patterns.

The colorways are The Big Teal Wave, Hoof It (the golden brown), and Sea Horse (the lightest colorway, with fleck of golden brown and yellow-orange). With the guidance of LOTS of stitchmarkers in the lace sections, this shawl turned out to be an easy knit. I confess to being a tad skittery at the start wondering if I’d be up to it because I’m not a particularly skillful lace knitter. But my concerns were completely misplaced.

Stewart’s patterns are always super clear. I’ve knit Miss May, Floating Shawl, and now my new Stillness. Each pattern is written in the same style. There are line-by-line instructions as well as charts for the lace. The line-by-line instructions inform the knitter as the stitch count changes. Yeah! That is an incredible aid to anyone who’s a bit lace-impaired or impaired as to a particular style of lace. And to keep a knitter on track as far as yarn usage, at regular intervals (5%…10%…) the pattern charts your progress. If you need to track your yarn usage this is super helpful. Plus it’s somehow encouraging to chart your road to completion so accurately.

My shawl, laid out here on a queen-sized bed, is 58 inches wide and 29 inches deep. I used 70 grams ( 307 yards) of the teal, 60 grams (263 yards) of the brown, and 56 grams (246 yards) of the lightest shade. I’m already planning for what to knit with the remaining yardage. Because this yarn is just too wonderful to sit long in my oddments bin.

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!

Knitting with mismatched Malabrigo

This Malabrigo Finito is a trickster. First  of all, it snuck into my stash in a most surprising way. Knitting Union is a collaboration of three great designers: Tonia Barry, Susan Mills, and Kim Barnette. In 2019, Knitting Union sponsored a summer-long knit-a-long. You got one entry for the prize basket for each Knitting Union item you knit during the KAL. Well, I can be a bit prolific. Plus three months is a long time. I ended up inadvertently stuffing the prize box because I really do like a lot of their patterns. It turned out that I won the basket. It was filled with a wonderful assortment of yarn and knit-related goodies, including just over 1000 yards of Malabrigo Finito, a fingering weight merino.

Malabrigo does not come in dye lots. I am not meaning to look a gift horse in the mouth, but the photo above is true to the color of my Glitter colorway–at least on my screen. You can probably spot the problem. The bottom three skeins are a fairly close match. The 4th skein from the bottom is a good bit darker than the bottom three. And the top skein is in between. Conventional knitting wisdom says I should have alternated the skeins. Oh please. I just hate doing that! The few times I’ve tried it, it turned out to be an unpleasant tangle and an unpleasant knit. I had the idea, undoubtedly not a new one, that the right pattern could hide the differences between the skein somewhat effectively.

I have to apologize that the color of the Glitter colorway is going to bounce around in this post. It simply refused to cooperate in consistently photographing the way the eye sees the colors. I tried it outside. I tried it inside. I tried it on a cloudy day. I tried it on a sunny day. Same for natural light and artificial. So prepare for the color of this yarn bouncing around through this post. The yarn is the brown shade you see above. It is not as gold as my finished shawl photos make it appear. And, despite its name, there are no sparkles in Glitter.

This is Helen Stewart’s Floating Shawl. She’s Hells Bells on Ravelry. Stewart is a very prolific Australian designer who I did not know until Floating Shawl made its way into my queue. It has all the traits I look for in a good shawl pattern. It is generously sized. After blocking, mine is 24 inches at its deepest point and measures 56 inches across the top. It is a mix of an easy relaxing knit with slightly more challenging sections. And the crescent shape assures that I don’t have the point of a triangle aimed right at my butt. Perfect.

Floating Shawl gave me some good ways to hide the fact that my Malabrigo skeins didn’t match.  Here’s what worked well for me and involved almost none of the dreaded alternating skeins. I started at the neck edge with the lighter two skeins. Moving from light to dark helped make the color changes look like a planned progression. I started a third skein in just after an eyelet row, a sort of natural divide. Then, over 6 garter ridges, I alternated that 3rd skein with one of the lighter ones. I started a 4th skein at the lace section, another natural divide where the eye can be tricked into seeing the new pattern rather than the new shade.  And then I used the final skein at the start of the last garter stitch section all the way to the end of the picot bind-off. This was only possible because (as reported by a few other Ravelers) this shawl took closer to 800 yards than the 950 the pattern called for. And I had 1000 yards in my 5 skeins.

Floating Shawl turned out to be a calm, relaxing knit. I thought that the lace section, with more than 500 stitches, would be difficult. It wasn’t. Every wrong side row was the same easy repeat. In the first lace row I set markers every 16-stitch repeat. That worked out well.

What did I do with my extra Finito? These fingerless mitts are Melanie Berg’s fingering weight freebie: Rainy Day Mitts.

I used 48 grams of yarn for this pair, including the weight of 8 rounds of the blue star stitch detailing.

My only modifications were that I added 2 rounds to the hand area just below the top ribbing. I’d have added a few more rounds but I wasn’t sure of my yardage. And I picked up 7 stitches in the gap area of the thumb, rather than the 5 that the pattern called for.  My gap just wanted more stitches picked up. In the 6th round of the thumb, just before beginning the ribbing, I decreased 2 stitches on the gap side so that the 2 by 2 ribbing before the cast-off would line up properly.

Now, how did I hide the differences in the colorway? I didn’t. Not one bit. If anyone decides to point that out while I’m wearing them my fingers will be free to tweak their upturned nose.

I was prepared to not be pleased with these mitts. The pattern just looked a little long in the wrist and plain in the design.  But, just the opposite, it turns out that I really like this pair. I’m happily keeping them for me. And the sweet star detailing is just enough to dress these up.