Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hyrna Herborgar aka the Lemming shawl from the Icelandic shawl book

This is a terrible photo of the lovely Hyrna Herborgar shawl from the Icelandic shawl book, Three-Cornered and Long Shawls, by Sigridur Halldórsdóttir (translation by Marilyn van Keppel). The Hyrna Herborgar shawl is one of the most popular shawls in the book. Lots and lots of people have made it -- here are a few more. (I could have kept going for quite a while...) I feel rather like a lemming, following the crowd, except that it really is a fun shawl and how could I resist?

I will upload a better photo if and when I manage to take one. The shawl turned out rather larger than I had expected, and thus it's hard to get the whole thing in one shot without too much distortion.

Here's a close-up of the center. It shows most of the relevant details. I've tried to take a photo of the yarn, but have so far failed quite miserably. It's brown. It's slightly fuzzy yet appealingly shiny. It's fairly fine. You can use your imagination from there.

This shawl was tremendously fun to knit. It doesn't take much yarn, though the amount given in the book seems a bit low. It's quick to knit. I finished it in only a few weeks of casual knitting, interspersed with several other projects. The lace patterning is easy yet interesting and effective. It's stockinette based, which requires purling back on the wrong-side rows. The lace ladders, diamonds, and fans are popular lace motifs that show up in a lot of other knitted lace designs.

The pattern chart is easy to follow if you've done much knitting from non-English-language lace-knitting charts. The pattern translation is competent and complete. Marilyn van Keppel gives you all the relevant information about each pattern and the general knitting notes.

As most who knit it find out, the Hyrna Herborgar shawl often requires more yarn than the pattern claims. I found this out the hard way, when my first attempt reached the halfway point in the yarn before the halfway point in the shawl. OK, on to Plan B with a different batch of yarn... My second and final version ended up using somewhere between 500 and 600 yards. Most people say that the shawl is fairly small, but mine ending up blocking a lot larger than I expected. I am small, but the point is still below my butt.
The best part about this shawl, for me, was using my own handspun for it.  Every time I knit with my handspun, I fall in love with my handspun all over again.  It's sappy, but I can't help it.  The stuff I used was some kind of mystery wool roving bought from a friend, maybe 4 ounces of shiny brown wool.  I had about 600-650 yards of two-ply.  It wasn't the most perfect yarn in the world, but it was mine.

It's so satisfying to have a project come together like that. The yarn was perfect for the project, and the project was fun to knit.

This shawl is very doily-like in its sensibilities. If you like knitting doilies, you'd probably enjoy knitting this shawl. If you like knitting this shawl, you may very well enjoy knitting doilies. At the very least, you'd probably enjoy converting appropriate doily patterns into shawl patterns.

This shawl ended up needing more blocking than I usually give lace shawls. Pinning it out really opened up the lace and hugely increased the size of the shawl. It ended up being larger than even my largest doily-blocking board. I put a bunch of cardboard boxes and pieces next to each other to get the entire thing pinned out. I didn't even block it all that hard, not compared to most cotton doilies.

Size Variations

For many people, the Hyrna Herborgar shawl does end up being a bit too small. While I was knitting it, I noticed several places where the shawl size could be increased. You could also use these ideas as starting points for totally different shawls using different kinds of patterns.

The shawl has three levels of motifs. The inner level is a series of feather-like motifs, formed by columns of a lace ladder stitch. The middle level is a background pattern of lace diamonds. The outer level consists of fans made from motifs that resemble the feather motifs. The fans are separated by diamond motifs that decrease with every row.

The first place where you can increase the size of the shawl is in the feather motif area. The shawl uses a fairly simple increase pattern that can continue indefinitely. It transitions quite easily to the middle diamond motif section with no further work. I can imagine a shawl that is nothing but feather motifs, or perhaps feathers that end at different levels instead of all on the same row.

The second place where you can increase the size of the shawl is in the diamond section. Again, the increase pattern is very simple and straightforward. The main thing about this particular shawl is that you need to stop the increasing at a point where you have the right multiple of diamonds to accommodate the outer fans. In this shawl, you need five diamonds between each fan. (And, for those of you who have the pattern, notice the slight kludge that occurs at the center of the final two rows.)

The diamond pattern by itself would make a wonderful shawl, either as a simple triangle or a half-square triangle or as a square. There's at least one like that in the Icelandic book. It's the cover pattern, a half-square triangle with color stripes and an outward-knit border to finish. I'd probably add a sideways-knit lace edging to finish instead of or in addition to an outward knit border.

The final place where one can increase the size of the shawl is in the outer fan motifs. There are two ways one can do this. The first way is to simply add more fan motifs. Continue increasing the diamond-lace section until there are 5 more diamonds per side for every fan motif you want to add (plus one more motif for the fan itself). The second way is to make the fan motifs deeper. Instead of having 5 diamonds between each fan motif, you can have 7 or 9. You'll have to make sure you have enough diamonds, of course. At some point, you may have stitch count issues if you make the fans too deep. But I think 7 or 9 should work.


Here is the semi-obligatory shot of the shawl being modeled on a semi-willing subject. I'll upload something better when I can find a more willing subject and get a nicer photo.

Would I make this shawl again? Sure! Would I make others from the Icelandic lace book? Yes! I don't actually know what my next project from this book would be, though. There is the group doing the knit-along with the Thórdís shawl pattern from Piecework. That shawl is also in Three-Cornered and Long Shawls. I like other patterns from the book better. Since I have several other shawls I'd like to do first, I won't worry about it.

One of these days I'll do a brief book review of Three Cornered and Long Shawls. Summary: if you like shawls and if you like ethnic knitting patterns, you'll like this book.


Lynda said...

Wow, that's handspun?? That is lovely. You must spin a VERY even thread.
I have the book but haven't knit from it yet. I did see that a lot of people are enjoying knitting the Hyrna. Maybe me too?

The Doily Underground said...

Thank you!

Yes, it is indeed handspun. I find that the quality of the fiber prep influences the evenness of the yarn. Some of my handspun is incredibly even. Some is incredibly uneven. The roving I used for this particular batch of yarn was very well-prepared and thus was easy to spin evenly.

As for doing the Hyrna Herborgar -- go for it! It's a lot of fun and it looks very impressive when you've finished.

Marcy said...

I love the photo. The shadow and the lace are almost equally insubstantial.

Jane said...

Your shawl is spectacular! Many will indeed knit this shawl but yours will always be unique as you spun the yarn up yourself. Quite breathtaking.

The Doily Underground said...


I wish I could claim that the shadow thing was deliberate. It was a happy accident. The shadow gives a better view of the shawl than the actual shawl.

I love knitting with my handspun. I am lucky enough to be able to spin fairly fine yarns when I want to. I'm also perfectly content making lacy shawls from thicker yarns. I have several other batches of handspun destined to be turned into lace.

I still have the initial batch of yarn I used for this but didn't have enough of. It looked great. Too bad it didn't work out.

Maribel said...

This is one wonderful shawl. I'm interested on the expanded translation of this pattern, especially that I'm learnign how to knit. This would be a great challenge. Great blog.

Is there a crochet version for this pattern?