Picking Daisies Shawl

This Picking Daisies Shawl from Melanie Berg was my summer knitting project. I cast on in May shortly after turning in my grades for the spring semester. In the past, I would have churned my way through several projects over the summer, but my desire to knit this summer was quieter and more intermittent. So I just concentrated my limited energy on working slowly and steadily, and I finally bound off the day before the Autumn Equinox.

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The yarn came as a kit from Craftsy, which I bought myself for my birthday because I enjoyed knitting and wearing my Drachenfels Shawl so much.  The kit came with four skeins of Cloudborn Fibers Merino, which is a fingering weight merino single from Craftsy’s in house yarn line. I basically wanted to reproduce the shawl as it appeared in one of the sample photos on Craftsy, so I picked the colors that seemed closest—Charcoal Heather, Light Gray Heather, and Magenta.

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The gray striped section of the shawl is very easy knitting that is perfect for picking up and putting down. The clustered stitch pattern used to knit up the magenta yarn was obviously more complex than the simple garter and slip stitch patterns used elsewhere in the shawl. But it wasn’t terribly tricky to complete and it was really satisfying to watch it come together. Plus, after so much garter stitch in gray yarn, the more complicated cluster stitches were a welcome relief. The most tedious thing about this pattern was dealing with all of the ends that needed weaving in. I’m glad I had the foresight to stop a few times in the process of knitting this and weave in the ends I had produced at that point—it made finishing the shawl a little less painful.

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When I bound off the shawl, the clustered stitch sections were pretty bunched up and, in their relaxed state, were probably a good three inches narrower than the surrounding garter sections. It was clear that it needed aggressive blocking to get a good finish, so I finally bit the bullet and ordered some blocking wires. Getting the shawl laid out with the blocking wires took a long time and felt pretty tedious, but the result is totally worth it. I was able to completely open up the cluster stitch pattern and even out all the sides of the shawl. And now that it’s been blocked, it feels soft and drapey and lovely to wear.

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2018 has unexpectedly turned out to be the year of the knitting tool for me. Since January, I’ve bought a swift, ball winder, scale, sock blockers in my size and Aidan’s, wool wash, blocking mats, new birch DPNs for knitting sleeves, new stainless steel 16” circular needles for hat knitting, locking stitch markers, and blocking wires. I think I finally had an epiphany this year and realized that investing in good sewing tools had made for a much better sewing experience, and that it was kind of ridiculous that I was still knitting like I was a broke college student/beginner knitter. Obviously, none of these things is necessary (I’ve managed to get through more than a decade of knitting with cheap or improvised tools), but they definitely make for a nicer experience. Maybe at some point I’ll actually upgrade from the Fiskars safety scissors I keep in my notions pouch!

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Drachenfels

I really like a lot of Melanie Berg’s work, but her Drachenfels pattern wasn’t on my radar until my friend Abby sent me a link to the kits Craftsy was offering for this pattern. I got completely sucked in by monochromatic color scheme of the “Ice” kit and the super affordable sale price, and ended up making an impulse buy. That’s pretty unusual for me—I tend to do a lot of advanced project planning and spend a lot of time pouring over patterns and trying to figure out exactly what kind of materials I want to use. But maybe I’m developing a new weakness for kits, because Siobhan has me very close to buying this Saudade kit from Ysolda Teague. Regardless, the kit purchase was a good one. I’m so happy with this finished shawl!

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It’s a bit difficult to photograph since it’s pretty big. After blocking, the shawl is ~80” long and 24” deep. I like wearing these larger-sized shawls as scarves during the winter. My campus has some fairly significant climate control issues. They’ve actually just started a major renovation on our largest building that will take about five years to complete and involve special attention to the HVAC system because, as our Dean put it, “buildings shouldn’t have seasons.” Anyway, it’s hard to dress for work when you can be in one classroom that is easily 80 degrees all year long and then have to sit through a meeting in a 55 degree conference room. (I wish this scenario were an exaggeration. It is not.) A generously sized scarf like this lets me wear lighter layers in the rooms that are overheated while providing genuine warmth in the icier corners of the buildings.

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I cast on for this project on my birthday as a fun little treat for myself and have been picking it up over the last few months when I needed some simple garter knitting. All in all, this was a pretty straightforward pattern to knit. The most difficult part of the pattern was actually the first section, which contains the larger bits of black garter stitch with the white patterned sections. The white patterned sections were really easy to work—it was the longer plain garter sections that were a pain.

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I think the big issue was just that the increase pattern in this section didn’t feel very intuitive and the black garter stitch made it pretty difficult to keep track of the various increases and decreases I was working. I had to rip back a couple of times while working the first part of the pattern because my stitch counts were off. Thankfully, things felt much more intuitive and got a lot easier once I got into the striped section in the middle.

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This was the first time that I’ve used one of Craftsy’s exclusive yarns. This kit specifically uses Cloudborn Fibers Highland Sport, which is a basic, workhorse highland wool. It’s a nice yarn—it feels sturdy and springy while knitting and it relaxes and softens a bit during blocking. I’m glad I went with the black, white, and charcoal kit. It should be very wearable with my black- and gray-dominant wardrobe.

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