Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Knit-in-the-Dark/Bedside/Dishcloth Shawl

I have this urge to write out some of my old patterns so I can find them in one place. Thus, this old pattern of mine for a simple triangular shawl. As far as I can tell, I first posted it to the knitted-lace list back in 1998, though it's possible it went to the old knitlist a few years before that. I've probably shared it around since then.

At the time, I needed some mindless stress relief. I had some yarn I didn't know what to do with -- maybe not quite enough for a sweater, but a pretty good pile in spite of that. I needed something soothing that could be knit in the dark if necessary. Something that could be knit while sitting with a sick relative, in a hospital, at an airport, at a boring meeting... Well, you get the idea.

Thus, the dishcloth shawl. It's not an original idea, of course. It's a very, very old concept. It is based on the classic garter-stitch dishcloth, except that one never decreases the triangle back down into a square (if you do, and you certainly can, you'll end up with a very nice square shawl). This plan for a simple triangular garter stitch shawl is published in many places, each time with a bit of a twist. One of the famous internet shawls of this type is the Truly Tasha shawl (also known as the Tasha Tudor shawl) by Nancy Bush, for example. My version of this shawl is as simple as I could make it, since I needed something as simple as possible.

I've knit many of these over the years. They're dull, which is absolutely soothing when the rest of your life is suffering from an excess of non-dullness. They're warm if you knit them from thick yarn, which I usually do.

The Dishcloth Shawl (also known as the knit-in-the-dark shawl or the bedside shawl)

Pick some likely yarn and needles. It's a shawl -- who cares about gauge? You can unravel and try again with a different yarn/needle combo after a few inches if you don't like your initial choice.

Cast on 5 stitches.

All rows: knit 2, yarnover, knit to end.

When the shawl is big enough, or you're almost out of yarn, or you're bored and can't stand it any longer, cast off.

That's it.

The only attention you need to pay to this shawl is that yarnover for the third stitch of the row. After that, you can zone out for the rest of the row. If you have enough attention to spare, you can double-check at the end of the row to make sure you're knitting into a yarnover in the third stitch from the end. If it's missing, create it on the fly by picking up the running thread between the second and third stitches and knitting that. If you miss a few yarnovers here and there, no one will notice.

I usually slip the first stitch of each row for my selvedge, but it's certainly not necessary if you don't want to.

What you end up with is a garter stitch triangle with an eyelet running up the two sides. It starts at the tip and gets bigger and bigger, deeper and wider, with each row. The first hundred or so rows go fairly quickly. After you get past about 200 rows, each row starts to seem endless. I usually call it quits well before 300 rows.

If you're feeling ambitious, you can do a row of *yo, k2tog* a few rows before you cast off in order to match the eyelets along the other sides. Or you can add fringe when you're done. Or you can add a lace edging. Or you can put in an interesting eyelet pattern as you knit the thing -- an occasional row of *yo, k2tog* would be both simple and lovely, for example. Or you can change yarns, knit colorful stripes, or anything else you can imagine.

Or you can simply knit, keeping your fingers busy while your mind is otherwise occupied. That's what I usually do.

I still have several of these around the house. The next time I drag out the camera, I'll take a photo to share.


I've finished my Orenburg honeycomb lace scarf. I'll try to get a photo at some point. I've started some fingerless mitts for my offspring using a pattern in the Fall 2010 Knitscene. It's not the most clearly-written pattern in existence, but it is attractive enough to be worth reading between the lines. I'll post my thoughts if/when they get done.

The next lace project may be a lace scarf pattern from an old issue of Interweave Knits. I'd probably use the leftovers from that long-ago cable and lace rectangular stole I did. We shall see.

I'm also starting the dithering process on the next sweater. I'm thinking a gansey. But I often think that. I'm swatching some ideas with the yarn I'm thinking of using. The yarn is handspun, brown, somewhat fuzzy. So, if it becomes a gansey, the patterns must be simple enough to show up in a somewhat fuzzy yarn. I can still use a gansey construction even if I don't include fancy texture patterns. Garter and reverse stockinette both show up well.

A friend on a list mentioned the Elizabeth Zimmermann Adult Surprise Sweater. Hmmm.... I have a pile of yarn -- pencil roving, actually -- that might work for this. However, the yarn requirements are daunting. Do I really need 2000 yards? And, if so, do I have 2000 yards of anything? One of these years, I'd like to make one using EZ's method of using every little bit of odds and ends from the leftovers basket.

I could stand to start another dishcloth shawl. I should go stash-diving to see what I have that needs to get used up.

And that's enough dithering for me for one day!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank You for the easy "knit n the dark" project. I can't wait to read through the rest of your ideas.