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Friday, 17 April 2015


If the weather has been miserable where you are this week, you may want to look away now. We don't often get the opportunity to boast about glorious sunshine in April here in the UK, but this week has seen temperatures warm enough for short sleeves and the emergence of some very pale legs! Of course, I shed my winter plumage with some reluctance as it means putting away the cosy sweaters and handknit socks that I've been wrapping myself happily in all winter long, but it also prompts a spell of cast-on-itis - particularly for great transitional pieces such as shawls.

The idea that shawls are the reserved for little old ladies, or seen only in popular television costume dramas has long been shut up in the outmoded closet thanks to some truly beautiful, contemporary designs by many of the top independent designers. That shawls make up almost half of the top 40 patterns on Ravelry's Hot Right Now board at the moment, gives you some idea of the popularity of a well designed shawl, and there are a number of reasons why they have emerged as the go-to item for a huge majority of knitters.

Like socks they are portable enough to throw into your bag and work on during an early morning train commute, or while waiting for the kids to come out of school. They come in all shapes and sizes and can be a showcase for some particularly precious yarn in a breathtaking colour. The long rows can be cathartic tv or knitnight knitting in the simplest garter stitch design, or provide an immensely satisfying lacework challenge on a quiet sunday morning. Attend any kind of knitting/yarn/fibre festival wearing your fabulous shawl and be immediately welcomed into the fellowship of like-minded knitters - many of whom are likely to stop you to admire your handiwork . . . well, who doesn't want to be part of such a prestigious club AND praised for their knitting prowess?? The shawl has so much to offer!

There are some stunning shawls to be found and knitted - in every imaginable weight and type of yarn. I have selected a few of my favourites here which call specifically for a sportweight yarn - an ideal weight for this time of year and perfect for using some of your Naturally Soft Merino.

Still featuring consistently on the Hot Right Now board and the perfect project for those who want to be brave with colour choices while enjoying the gentle, soothing rhythm of garter stitch is 'Drachenfels' by Melanie Berg. This is a large shawl which takes approx. 900m of yarn (7-8 balls of NSM) - the pattern costs around £4.36.

Inspired by the huge popularity of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is the 'Outlander Shawl' by Rachel Roden - a riot of travelling cables, lace and fabulous colour! Downloadable from Ravelry for £4.67, you could be watching the latest episode of Outlander while knitting your shawl . . . just a thought . . .
Want something in a single colour with a touch of geometric style? Then Parquet Tiles by Rose Beck is the shawl for you. Trying knitting in putty grey or forget-me-not for a soft neutral - the small size takes just 366m which is about 3 balls of NSM. Pattern costs £3.94 from Ravelry.

Easy garter stitch and a simple motif on the edge make Pipers Journey by Paula Emons-Fuessle (aka the Knitting Pipeline podcaster) the perfect choice for travel knitting. Taking just 3 balls of NSM this would look great in fuchsia or grass for a splash of spring colour. Pattern costs £3.43 from Ravelry.

Ready for something a little more challenging? The Ruxton Shawl by Dee O'Keefe has multiple pattern changes which create great texture over the triangular shape and is finished with a pretty picot edging. Requiring around 622m (approx. 5 balls of  NSM), this makes a substantial shawl which will keep you warm through the cold spring evenings. Pattern is approx. £4.12 from Ravelry. 

Elegant in its simplicity and the most attractive way to showcase a bold statement colour is The Big Blue shawl by Meg Gadsbey. The name suggests blue but I think this could look equally splendid in our Limited Edition teal or pumpkin NSM. Another small shawl that takes just 500m (approx. 4 balls of NSM), the pattern costs around £3.43 from Ravelry.

Finally, the only free pattern in my pattern pick is Kottarainen by Heidi Alander - a 2 coloured shawl that makes the most of contrasting stripes and a beautiful eyelet lace border. A subtle colour choice here could make for a very elegant summer cover-up - try some close neutrals in fawn and snow or petal and putty grey.

I haven't provided links to all the colours of Naturally Soft Merino in the text, but you can see all 20 colours in the image below. Have I convinced you that a shawl is the perfect spring/summer cover-up? And if so, which shawl, and which colour? Tempting isn't it??

(posted by Max)

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