A Shetland-Type Shawl

A shawl so fine it could pass through a wedding ring the stuff of faerie tales, and the defining characteristic of a true Shetland shawl!

Actually, though, I’ve seen it done:  my sons sitter, Missy Moses, had a little round Scottish grandmother with a cedar chest that held just such a shawl, gossamer-light, of purely white homespun superfine yarn.  She pulled off her wedding ring (maybe a size 4), grabbed the shawl any old which way and pulled it easily right through what a treasure!

I came up with a variation on this Tradition some score of years ago after knitting one for Baby Son #3…

As ephemerous as it is, there’s a goodly bit of WARMTH to it! I’ve worn one completely threadbare, and had been often stopped on the street by those wishing to admire it.

Being as knitting has been such a gift to me, and I have such an overwhelming debt to the Universe & Life in general, let me in turn offer these instructions to you as a small return for favors rendered:
Here are, make one! Wear it!  Stay warm from both the shawl and the admiring glances!

First some background details.
Shetland sheep go into a shedding mode, and if you run your fingers over their backs you can gather the loose fibers (its called roo-ing). The fibers are pointed on both ends, rather than blunted on one end from the shearing, and spin a very fine yarn. That, plus the lack of casting-off, is what allows the spinning of such a fine yarn that the ensuing shawl be passable thru a small ring.

Here’s the traditional way of going about knitting a Shetland shawl: the center is garter stitch, with a wide lace border and a smaller lace edging, all executed without binding off or assembly, and by picking up stitches along completed edges and heading off in different direxions.

Now looky here:  this is all very well and good, but I’m living my life on a shorter fuse… given the compression of Time in this tech-based culture, let’s work this shawl concept on a different scale:

First, it’ll be triangular. Those big square ones are worn folded seems a waste of effort when the display is cut in half!

Next, let’s work it ALL in ALL garter stitch:  then we’ll have a 2-sided shawl.

And let’s use brushed mohair yarn in splendid variegated colorways a couple years ago during a break from instructing at the Southeastern Animal Fiber Festival I was ECSTATIC to find gorgeous and affordable skeins– The colors took my breath away!!  The yarn is from

Pat & Steve Harder

Its a very fine yarn.  You’d have a floating shawl.  The yarn is also very slippery although this shawl is knitted all in garterstitch, the slipperiness (and the headspace of it all) might make it a bit much for a beginner. Wooden needles would put the knitter at a definite advantage as they grab the yarn a bit.
The shawl uses 400 yds of whatever yarn. This one pictured is knitted from her colorway ‘Fiesta’.

Here’s what we’ll be doing:
The body of the shawl is a long triangle in garterstitch (just knitting).

Along the 2 triangle sides, stitches are then picked up and worked in a lace stripe pattern, with occasional increases at the centerpoint to keep it lying flat. Yes, the increases do disturb the pattern and you get to figure out how to keep it marching along you can see this occurring in the foto above.

When this lace section is completed, the stitches are worked off sideways into a narrow lace edging.

So.  You’ll need the following needles: dp’s are okay, or circular
#10 1/2 for shawl triangle,
#8 for lace stripe section
#6 for lace edging

Instead of buying dp’s,howa bout making your own???  Saves BIG BUCKS… I bring my needle gauge to the home lumber store and try out their selexion of dowels, score with a razor blade and snap them, then sharpen with a pencil sharpener.  I also remember to buy some 200- grit sandpaper there, to polish ’em offâ 49-cent sets of exotic hardwood needles!  My kind of price.

(Now BEWARE!  The following instruxions are not for Blind Followers someday when that elusive commodity ‘SPARE TIME’ shows itself again, I’ll write all this up in great detail, and charge you the Big Bucks for a copy… meanwhile, email me if you get hung up and I’ll see if my time can afford figuring out a solution for ya…)

Using your 10 1/2 needles,
Cast on 3 sts. K 3 rows. At the beginning of the 4th row, increase 1 st. Mark this st with a safetypin or a yarn ‘flag’.  Every 4th row, inc 1 st
on this edge only, until there are 36 sts.
K 3 more rows.
At the beginning of the next row, K2tog.  Move your marker to that row halfway between the last inc and the 1st dec.  This is the apex of the triangle, and the centerpoint of the shawl.
Now continue to dec 1 st every 4th row, back down to 3 sts.
End with yarn on the triangle side of the shawl.

Okay, now for the lace stripe part of the shawl body:
You’ve already got 3 sts on your needles
Pick up a total of about 300 sts along the 2 sides of the shawl where all the decreasing and increasing occurred. That’ll be about one for every row.
Yes!  Leave that marker/yarn flag RIGHT THERE in the middle
And pick up 3 sts on the 3 you cast on at the beginning.

Now here’s the lace stripe pattern, a repeat of 6 sts and refreshingly simple for such a nice effect:

Row 1:  K1, K2 together, yarn over, K1, yarn over, K2 together.  Repeat to end of row…
Row 2:  knit.
That’s all there is to it
Knit 2 rows to establish the pattern.
Now!  Get out 2 short lengths of another yarn and knot them into loops for markers
At the end of each lace row hereafter, STOP 6 sts short of the end, put your loop in there and TURN AROUND.  Head back the other way, and stop 6 sts short of that end of the shawl, putting in the other loop to mark where you turn.
Continue in this manner until you end up at the middle 6 (or so) sts.

Because the lace is worked off 2 sides that sit at an angle to each other, it’s necessary to increase now and then to keep the shawl lying flat:
So, at the same time that you knit 6 sts shorter every row: every 6 rows, inc 1 st each side of the ribbing closest to the centerpoint. I do this by just not knitting 2 together on each side of the single garter stitch.
After you increase like this a few times, you’ll have enough extra stitches to form a new pattern element.  It almost happens by itselfâ This is where YOU get to figure out how!

So here we are, having completed with knocking off 6 sts at the end of every row,at the centerpoint of the lace stripe section: congratulations!

Knit on over to the corner of the shawl.

Now we’re gonna turn 90 degrees and work toward the other corner of the shawl with a narrow lace edging. Here’s the pattern for that:

Cast on 7 sts.
K back to shawl body, k(last cast-on st and 1st shawl st) tog.
Row 1: k3 YOx2 K2tog k2.
Row 2: K4 p1 k2 k2tog
Row 3: K (8sts)
Row 4: K (7sts) to last st k2tog (yes, one from lace border, and one from shawl: this is how we attach the lace to the bottom edge of the shawl).
Row 5: K2 (YOx2, k2tog)x2 k2
Row 6: K4 p1 k2 p1 k1 k2tog
Row 7: K
Row 8: bind off 3 sts loosely, k to last st k3 tog (yes, 2 shawl sts).
Repeat from row #1 ’til you get to the other end of the triangle.

Yay, you’re DONE!!
Rinse it, roll in towel and walk dry.
Now, to get the shawl looking REALLY GOOD, we’ll block it out–
Find an unused bed or carpet and get a whole handful of pins.
Tack the 3 corners down, eyeballing shawl for symmetry, and pull on every one of those wretched lace points, and pin in place. It’ll be dry soon, and then you’re out and about all swingy and fancy!

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One Comment

  1. Wow Ayala, you always amaze me. What a beautfiul shawl. Are you making these shawls for the Holiday Market? I would love to take a class from you on how to make this shawl. Have you ever considered? I know it’s your busy time right now.

    I’m such a visual learner and when it comes to knitting, sometimes I have to really see it in action to get the concept. I’ve yet been able to make a descent pair of socks! Unfortunately I haven’t connected with any knitters up here in Oakridge. I still have my wonderful bear sweater that you help me create!

    I recently purchased a little Merino Wool to make Toby and I each a felted hat. It’s been over 14 years since I last felted. Gosh!

    I am starting my own educational consulting business. I’m having a website develop, so I can consult over the internet as well as provide direct service out in the community. My domain name is called: childrenadvocacyspecialneeds.com The website could be finished around Thanksgiving. I am pretty excited about it.

    How are you and Richard doing? Everyone I hope is healthy and happy. Much blessings to you!

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