Ellantora Rides Again

>Peers in around the door frame.<

>Enters slowly, cautiously.<

>Blows dust off the blog.<


That was an interesting almost-two-years.

What I didn’t mention at the time was that I was starting this shawl project as a way to take my mind off losing someone close. But the grieving process will not be rushed, and it did interfere with my ability to stay with the knitting project through all the project’s obstacles. Then, when the “computer malfunction” (more on that later) made typing too frustrating, it became too difficult to keep up with blogging about the project.

I might have trudged on with the shawl, bravely dealing with all the knots I encountered, and the “hand-feel” which wasn’t anywhere near as nice as I’d expected it to be, but as it got bigger, I saw what stopped me in my tracks: That thing was UGLYYYY! The lovely skein of gently gradated browns had turned into a horror resembling those ubiquitous 1970s variegated yarns.

I don’t know whether I’ll ever come up with anything that I will be able to make out of this yarn, but I promise it will not be that shawl — or anything else that I might wear in public.

For the rest of 2014, after this project fell apart, I did, too, falling into a depression that lasted for the rest of the year, and so, I did not knit or do much of anything. In 2015, I got involved in a community project that consumed all my time, and I’d begun having some carpal-tunnel issues, so did not have time or inclination to knit.

Now, a new project has been nagging at me for about a month, and I’ve done a little test-knitting to discover whether my carpal tunnel is up to it (seems good so far), and whether this is something I want to pursue. I think it is, and it does feel so good to knit again, so I’m going to give this blog another try, and see whether I can make something nice this time.



In all of the top-down Faroese-style shawls I can remember seeing, the increases are done with Yarn-Overs (YOs). There is also often some sort of eyelet bottom border, as in Jackie E-S’s Dolly Faroese Shawl, and research tells me that most Faroese-style and genuine Faroese shawls have the center panel set off with YOs. But I don’t particularly like the look in all designs, and think that I’d like this shawl to be as solid as possible, so I am trying it with no decorative holes. That is why I am using EM1s instead of YOs. Of course, if someone wanted the holes, it would be a simple matter to do a YO every time the pattern says EM1. This would give a line of holes beside each border, and another pair of lines setting off the center panel.

It’s easy to understand how this tradition of using YOs came about. First, if you’re doing a top-down shawl, a YO is an easy increase. The first shawl I ever made was the standard triangle, in which you start with three stitches at the bottom point. From then on, the directions are “K1, YO, K to end.” This is an effortless way to increase one stitch every row, and as the shawl grows, it acquires a decorative row of holes along both edges. There are similar triangle shawls in which the decorative increases are done up the spine rather than at the edges. Too bad triangle shawls prefer to remain flat triangles, and insist on slipping off your shoulders. They also only warm those shoulders, in the brief time they are there. If I’m cold enough to want a shawl, then I want it to warm my entire back, but a triangle shawl is busy dwindling to nothing down my back, and can’t do a thing about actually keeping me warm.

So, it’s easy to see how YOs are used when a shawl is constructed by increasing. But traditional Faroese shawls are worked from the bottom up, and decreased along the way. Did the Faroese women of a century ago, knitting heavy-duty working shawls to keep themselves warm in the blustery cold, where there is always an ocean wind, really feel the need for pretty lacework on these shawls? Of course not. My theory is that stitch markers are a modern invention, and the equivalents, such as a loop made in contrasting-color yarn, weren’t often used in the 1800s. So, a line of YOs would be easy to see, and would serve as a stitch marker for where to put the decreases, without having to count all those hundreds of stitches in every row. It’s easy to get lost in all that garter stitch. I imagine that from there someone did decide to insert a few rows of eyelets near the bottom, to break up the monotony and add a little decorative flair to go along with the vertical eyelet lines. But I’m pretty sure that the original intention of the vertical YOs was a practical decision, not an artistic one.






The time has come to start a project which has been waiting patiently for several years, through my knitting slump and some more-pressing designs — and almost two weeks of delays which have been chronicled here. I have never before run into so many delays and then gone ahead and started the project. Normally, by now, I’d have given up and gone on to one of the two or three others dancing in my head. But thanks to having a blog now, I will press on. Thank goodness for the blog! I’ve wanted to make the shawl for something like eight years, and to set it aside again in favor of a shiny new project would be a stupidity.

Here’s the game plan so far:

Start Neck Band:

CO 5 provisionally. K 42 rows, slipping the first stitch of each row pw, wyif. (K until there are 21 ridges ON EACH SIDE).

Move work so ndl is to your right. Skipping the first selvage stitch, PUK 20 along the side of the strip you just made, one in each of the slipped edge stitches. K the 5 CO sts.  (30 sts)

(See below for list of abbreviations.)


Picture A shows Neck Band border strip completed, ready to pick up along the side. Pencil points to where the sts will be picked up.

Picture B shows the PUK process half-done.


A: Neckband start

A: Pencil points to where the sts will be picked up.






Halfway across the pickups

B: The PUK process half-done.










Picture C shows Pick-ups completed. Pencil points to the CO sts, which will be gotten next.

Picture D shows the Neck Band completed.


C: Pick-ups completed.

C: Pencil points to the CO sts.

D: Neckband completed.

D: Ready to continue down the shawl body!














Place markers:  Sl 1, K 4, PM. K 2, PM, K 16, PM, K 2, PM, K 5.

This row can be broken down as follows:

1st Border: Sl 1, K 4, PM.

1st Side: K 2, PM

Center Panel: K 16, PM,

2nd Side: K 2, PM,

2nd Border: K 5.



Set up Body:

Row 1 (RS) —  Sl 1, K 4, SM (Slip Marker).  EM1, K 2, EM1, SM, K 16, SM, EM1, K 2, EM1, SM, K 5.

This row can also be written as follows:

Sl 1, K 1st Border, SM.

EM1, K 1st Side to next marker, EM1, SM.

K Center Panel.

SM, EM1, K 2nd Side to next marker, EM1.

SM, K 2nd Border.  (34 sts)

This kind of wording will be useful later, as the various parts grow.



Row 2 — Sl 1, K 4, SM. Work (K2,P2) across to 2nd Border. SM, K 5.

In other words: Work 1st Border, work (K2,P2) across to 2nd Border, work 2nd Border, slipping markers as you come to them.



Row 3 —

Work 1st Border, SM.

EM1, K 1st Side to next marker, EM1, SM.

K Center Panel.

SM, EM1, K 2nd Side to next marker, EM1.

SM, work 2nd Border.  (38 sts)



Row 4 — Work 1st Border, work (K2,P2) across to 2nd Border, work 2nd Border, slipping markers as you come to them.



Body Pattern:

Row 5 —

Work 1st Border, SM.

EM1, K 1st Side to next marker, EM1, SM.

K Center Panel.

SM, EM1, K 2nd Side to next marker, EM1.

SM, work 2nd Border.

(4 sts increased)



Row 6 — Work 1st Border, work (K2,P2) across to 2nd Border, work 2nd Border, slipping markers as you come to them.



Row 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14  —  Repeat Rows 5 and 6.  (58 sts)



Next up: shoulder shaping!



E: Ready to start Row 15

E: Ready to start Row 15




My Abbreviations:

K — knit

P — purl

CO — cast on

PUK — pick up and knit

PM — place marker

SM — slip marker

EM1 — English Make-one or Elizabeth’s Make-one — Make an increase stitch by forming a backwards loop with the yarn and placing this on the RN.  This does not make a hole, the way a YO (yarn-over) does, and works especially well with garter stitch, which is why Elizabeth Zimmermann preferred it for many things. According to Maggie Righetti, it is called English Make-one; since it is favored by EZ, I like to think that the E in my abbreviation can also stand for Elizabeth.

ndl — needle

RN — right needle

LN — left needle

EZ — Elizabeth Zimmermann

patt — pattern

inc — increase

dec — decrease

st — stitch

pw — purlwise

wyif — with yarn in front


Also, my designations 1st Border, 2nd Border and 1st Side, 2nd Side refer to these sections of the shawl as you come to them in the row you are working, and so will change from RS to WS.









One of the reasons I thought a blog would be a good way to take my notes on this project is the pictures. I see other people’s blogs effortlessly strewn with photos of the works in progress. I had no idea that the need to insert pictures is not only not effortless, but can actually slow a project down.

Did you know that those photos don’t just pop themselves into the blog as you write it? That you have to make a point of taking your pictures, which involves finding a good location, gathering your subjects, and using your camera? That you then have to move the photos from your camera to your computer? — No matter that your hard disk is nearly full, and the camera’s memory card is full, so you can’t take any more pictures until you either get the photos onto the hard drive (which will involve severe hard-drive purging) or buy another card. — That you then have to edit the photos? And then upload them to the blog? That when you have pattern and needles ready to go, and are itching to begin, you cannot start knitting your project because you need to get a shot of the unused balls to go with the post you wrote days ago about which yarn you chose? That if you’ve decided to take pictures outside because of the gorgeous way natural light has with yarn, it then rains 3 days in a row?

I used to be a professional photographer, so you’d think some of this would be easy. And it is, to a certain extent; all the technical details are easily mastered, and I love the editing process. But my ego won’t let me just take a snapshot with my cell phone and upload it as-is. I have to fiddle with settings and arrangements and so on. Not that my pictures are works of art: I haven’t done much still-life photography, so these pictures that I’m slaving over don’t look any better than snapshots. I’m approaching the whole situation as a chance to learn product placement.

Bear with me. Either my photos will get better and look more like advertisements, or I’ll give in and start uploading snapshots from my cell phone.

close-up of the chosen yarn


basket of Possum Paints yarn - with Sergie


Rail Yard Stitch Pattern

I realized that I should have mentioned yesterday the name of the stitch pattern I’m using from BGW’s book, so I tried to look it up and discovered that I have unvented* a stitch pattern. I’m sure this one exists, but I can’t find it in the book, so for now, it’s new.

The pattern in BGW’s Treasury is Sand Stitch, which is based on K1, P1 Seed Stitch, but with the WS rows done in K only. Because Jackie E-S’s Dolly shawl called for the shoulder shaping to be done on RS rows, I reversed the stitch pattern, so the K rows are RS, and all increases are done there, and the Seed Stitch patterning is done on the WS rows.

However, before I settled on this pattern, I had looked at a lot of others, some of which had Moss Stitch patterning (K2, P2). So, when I finally decided that Sand Stitch was the pattern I would use, I inadvertently combined these, and ended up doing Moss Stitch patterning on the WS.

Since it is temporarily a new stitch pattern, I will name it. Eventually, I will discover its original name, but for now it is, um, Rail Yard Stitch?

… Maybe just Rail Stitch.


Rail Stitch  (mult. of 4)

Row 1 (RS): Knit.

Row 2: *K2,P2. Rep from *.

Row 3: Knit.

Row 4: *P2,K2. Rep from *.

Repeat these 4 rows.


* “Unvented” is a term devised by Elizabeth Zimmermann (in Knitting Without Tears?). Its premise lies in the knowledge that when we knitters “invent” something that is new to us — a technique, pattern, etc. — we are probably creating something which has been invented before. To EZ, it seemed like hubris to claim to have invented something, as if it was unique in the long history of knitting, when it had possibly been invented many times before, by many different knitters in many different places.


On Needles and Stitch Pattern

I am not crazy about garter stitch (sorry, EZ!) because it is too likely to stretch out of shape. And I am afraid that when the garter stitch stretches under its own weight, making holes between the stitches, it will let out the heat. Since I want this shawl to be warm, I am picturing it in a relatively solid pattern which, while still draping as a shawl should, won’t be too loose. So, I was thinking a nice Fabric Stitch or Linen Stitch would give a solid, woven-looking fabric. Then I realized that it probably wouldn’t have enough drape for a shawl.  So I got out the stitch books, and swatched a little, and came up with one from BGW’s Treasury* which I think will work. On the right side, it looks a lot like garter stitch. And on the wrong side, it looks like a different right-side pattern, so I never have to worry about fussing with how I put the shawl on — either side will look all right.

The needle size recommended on the ball band is US6. I am having trouble deciding between a US6 and US8 for this project. On the one hand, I want the fabric to be solid and warm, but on the other, it can’t be so firm that it doesn’t drape properly. I know, that’s what swatches are for. Except that swatches lie. So I will just make a guess and see how it goes. Excuse me a moment…

[Soft background music playing…]

Decision made. I just went and examined my needle supply. I have two sets of 60” circulars in size US7. All my 6s and 8s are in use in other projects, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have any of those longer than 29” anyway. So, US7 it will be.


* Barbara G. Walker, A Treasury of Knitting Patterns, Schoolhouse Press, 1998

Edit: If you want a link to this book, that would be here. Scroll down the page a bit (their website is a little low-tech). This book is the blue one.


Rail Yard Yarn

I’ve gone back and forth for several days on which yarn to use. The one I would most like to use is Possum Paints from Cherry Tree Hill, but I have only 6 skeins, and all but two are in different colorways (and unfortunately, this yarn has been discontinued for so long, it’s unlikely I’ll be able to find any more). While mixing these might work, I’d rather use two of them alone, to bring out their pretty, muted shades, rather than trying to blend them in with the bolder shades of the others, so I think the Possum Paints are destined to become three or four lace scarves instead.

pile o' possum, lightened for WPPossum Paints pile

Next, I considered the Karabella Aurora 8 I have in my stash. I love this yarn, and have enough balls in each of two or three colors, so at first I thought I’d found a winner, but the way this yarn knits up, I’d rather use it for a sweater. I think it will be too heavy and stretchy for a shawl, and the dark solid colors I have will magnify every piece of lint they pick up. Since I’m planning on using this shawl as a substitute for a sweater and jacket when I travel (as well as blanket on train trips), it will be kicking around in some odd situations, and needs to look good without fuss.

After this, my eyes lighted on my 10 skeins of Blue Sky Baby Alpaca — perfect! It’s lightweight, a light color that won’t show lint and cat and dog hair. Since it’s  sport weight, it will be thinner and more compact for traveling, while still keeping me as warm as the thicker wool yarns would. And at 110 yards per skein, I’m sure there will be enough. But wait: this is a beautiful, elegant yarn, and shouldn’t be used for a kick-around shawl. Better for a dressy lace shawl or sweater. Keep looking.

I then decided on, and rejected, Bryspun Kid-n-Ewe, Lamb’s Pride Worsted, Galway Highland Heather, and a few others before I happened to spot 3 skeins of Araucania Magallanes. It’s a thick-and-thin, and heavier than I would like, but it’s a gradient of a neutral color (beige to tan-brown), so with luck it will resist showing both dirt (dark) and critter hair (light), and each ball has 242 yards, so there should be enough if I use big-enough needles. More on the needles next time.

the chosen yarn - Magallanes