Hello! If you don’t come here for the knitting and are bored with talk of garment construction, stitch patterns, and the like, then my apologies. Move along please! Nothing to see here!
I can now report that another pattern is ready. This was a very interesting project for me, as it is the first garment I have designed in which I began by thinking about what writing a pattern would involve. Shrugs are pretty much a summer essential in my wardrobe: personally, I find that they are more wearable than shawls, and look neater than a cardigan over the dresses that I tend to favour at this time of year. Lots of knitters (like my sister) seem to make shrugs to match individual outfits, particularly those that they intend to wear at summer weddings. I’ve noted quite a bit of shrug-related discussion along these lines over recent months; for example here on stash and burn and here over at fig and plum.
Shrug-construction is an intriguing matter. Once one moves on from the basic idea of a side-to-side seamed rectangle, they can be formed in a multitude of ways: from centre to sides (as in Lisa Daehlin’s perenially popular Viennese Shrug), as a square or lozenge with a knit-on edging (as in Mel Clark’s lacy hug me tight), or in a novel modifed T-shape (as in Alice’s Ester). The diagram shows the construction I’ve used here. I started with a provisional cast on, knit up the back, increased stitches to shape the sleeves, put the centre stitches on hold for the neck, worked over the shoulders and fronts, and knit back down again, mirroring the back shaping. The seams are joined under the arms (where you don’t see ‘em), then stitches are picked up all the way round the front and back openings, and joined to those on-hold, before adding a ribbed edging which is worked in the round. The key to this construction is a stitch pattern that looks exactly the same right-way up and upside-down. I had such a one in mind, and built my shrug around a modified version of what Barbara Walker calls ’tilted ladder’, but which has other names elsewhere. This is the kind of lace-and-cable stitch that I really like. It is logical, it is rhythmic, it is fixed in my scatty brain after just one repeat, I can immediately see where I am in the pattern, and its so berloody simple even I can knit it on a train in a near-comatose state after a long day at work.
Its also one of those deceptive stitch patterns whose visual and textural interest suggests more complexity than it actually possesses. Ah yes! My very favourite kind. I’ve used a yarn with a bright, sharp stitch definition that I really like: rowan 4 ply soft. It shows off cables and lace superlatively well, is easy to care for, and comes in a good range of colours. One thing to note (if you are looking at the way the shrug sits in this photo) is that one of my physical peculiarities is a short torso, matched with comparatively long legs (long? who am I kidding? for I am 5 ft 2″). Anyway, the garment’s finished length is between 15 and 16 inches, and the back will look shorter on anyone whose torso is longer. There are just three easy fitting sizes in the finished pattern, which will accommodate any chest measurement from 28 to 44 inches. That’s it for the detail, then, but can I just say that from start to finish, this has been an immensely satisfying project? I enjoyed thinking about the design, loved knitting it, and am very pleased with the end result and indeed the finished pattern (though I do say so myself).
The design name is Lyttelton, and I shall now tell you why (though I fear my reasoning has a degrees-of-separation quality which makes it completely inexplicable). Here goes, anyway:
1) the pattern involves a lace trellis
2) the word ‘trellis’ kept popping into my head while I was knitting.
3) this put me in mind of Mrs Trellis of North Wales, the eccentric and mysterious correspondent of Radio 4’s long running antidote to panel games, I’m Sorry, I haven’t a Clue.
4) until his sad death last year, this show was chaired by the incomparable Humphrey Lyttelton, jazz trumpeter and comedy genius, who has held a place in my affections since my Dad took me to hear him play a gig in Todmorden in 1985.
5) this shrug’s for you, Humph.
Now to what you are all wanting to know if you have actually stayed with me thus far: where the hell were you throwing those shapes? Well, yes this is Scotland, and these photographs were taken a couple of weekends ago on Traigh Lar beach on the Hebridean island of Harris, a location of unique and tremendous beauty to which I am already looking forward to returning. That beach really is that incredible — the weather was hot, the sea was cool, the views were amazing, and there was no-one else around.
So to anyone who fancies knitting themselves a Lyttelton: the pattern is now available through ravelry or above from the designs page. And to my mother who has an unshakeable idea of Scottish island weather based on one blustery school trip to Arran many, many moons ago can I just say: Yes, Ma, Harris is just like Barbados.