Keep Calm Shawl
I am a lover of yarn, and therefore it is almost inconceivable to me that until recently I was blissfully unaware of the beautiful hand-dyed cotton yarns made by MoYa and Colours of Grace. (In my defense both of these brands are made in South Africa and are not easy to find here in the UK. In fact, I ended up ordering mine from Yarn in a Barn, a web site also based in South Africa, who have a wonderful selection of these brands, among others.)
As I am wont to do, I ordered these yarns without a specific project in mind, (something we sometimes refer to as stash building but in reality is just another form of hoarding.) I ordered lots of my favourite blues along with some greens and a lot of earthy browns and a few other random colours thrown in just because.
When my order arrived a couple of weeks later the gorgeousness of the colours in person took my breath away. I've seen the MoYa colours described as "chalky" and that is indeed an apt description. In fact, I think the finished projects have a pastel chalk-like quality to them. For this reason I've found I love the blending effect from using several shades of the same colour.
These yarns also have a rustic texture, which I love. They look and feel like cotton should, with all the nuances and imperfections, (along with a little vegetation here and there), that one might expect from natural fibres that haven't been messed with too much. As an added bonus they arrive already caked with an easy to find starting point so you can get right down to making!
By now I had decided to make a small lap blanket. After the monster project that was my Octoghan blanket, (which is big enough for my bed), I wanted something that would be great for cuddling up with in my favourite chair....but I'll write more on the blanket later because once I had finished the motifs for the blanket I realized I had plenty of yarn left over to make a shawl, because, well, shawls!
These yarns are really the star of any show, (or shawl), you put them in, so I decided to go for a less is more approach. I wanted something that would show off both the colour and the texture of the yarns, be wearable and versatile, and not be specific to any season. Ultimately I decided to revisit a shawl I had made before, which was based on the Flash Your Stash Shawl by Laura Strutt.
I say "based on" because I didn't actually follow the pattern, but rather just looked at the photos and kind of did my own thing. If you like to use a pattern, though, that one will give you an end result very similar to my shawl. Here is how I made mine:
4.5mm hook or size that best suits your yarn and crochet style
300 grams of DK weight cotton yarn - I used a combination of MoYa Cotton DK and Colours of Grace Rachel in 12 colours (5 shades of earthy neutrals ranging from Stone to Pecan; 6 shades of blues and blue greens; and Colours of Grace Flaxen for the edging).
About 100 grams for main section, about 170 grams for decorative rows, about 30 grams for edging.
This project is a great stash buster, but I do recommend doing a little planning before you jump in. I think the top section of the shawl is best in one colour, or a slow ombre effect using increasingly darker shades of the same or a similar colour. I would also go for something that will make your contrast colours later in the shawl really pop...for me this is usually a neutral. This is not the place to go mad with variegated yarns or lots of contrasting colours...save those for later! I used about 100 grams in total for this section.
Keep in mind that your shawl continues to grow with each row, therefore you will need more yarn to complete a row towards the end, where you will start to need about 15-20 grams per row. The edging took about 25-30 grams, (sorry I didn't weigh everything out -- naughty me!)
The shawl begins with a basic top down triangular construction in double crochet stitches, with increases on each row, (2 on each end and two in the center for a total of 6 stitches increased every row). If you have a favourite basic shawl pattern you could use that or there are many free patterns to be found online, just be consistent with your increases throughout the entire shawl.
I worked the double crochet rows until the shawl measured about 16 inches top to bottom in the center and used four different colours for that part of the shawl. You could do it all in one colour or in more colours...I'd think it out before you start though and make it work with your stash.
The next section was simply alternating double crochet rows with a row of 1dc, ch1, sk1, (continuing to increase on each end and in center). This is where I started to introduce the blue, using the lightest shade for the 1dc, ch1, sk1 rows and the darkest shade that was part of my top section colours. You may also want to identify a "right side" and "wrong side" for your shawl. I consider the row where I work the 1dc, ch1, sk1 to be the right side and kept that consistent for the remainder of the shawl.
From this point on I let the colours and amounts I had of each, along with a desire for variations and texture, to dictate the remainder of the shawl with one or more rows of dc between the decorative stitch rows. This is where you can really get creative with colour and texture! For this particular shawl I've stuck with the ombre theme, but in the past I've used a variety of colours in this section with great results.
I used a puff stitch on one row, a sc row, (squeezing out one last row in one colour), and a hdc, ch1, sk1, etc on those decorative stitch rows. I did an 19 additional rows after the main body section, but you can do more or less depending on your desired dimensions.
Again, be aware of the right side of your shawl and the amount of yarn you have in any given colour to plan each section of the shawl. To ease the segue from one color to another I often alternated the new colour with the last colour for a row or two. And remember to continue doing your increases throughout. Or, just follow a pattern if you're not that adventurous...there is absolutely no shame in that!
When it came time for the edging I was initially torn between using a colour that was already in the shawl or going out on a limb with the Colours of Grace Flaxen colour. I'm so glad I went with the Flaxen because it's one of my favourite parts of the shawl. It just gives it that extra pop, saying "surprise!" without making your head spin.
For the edging I did one round of sc, (3sc in corners), around the entire shawl, and then
did what I call my "faux picot" edge, (I'm lazy that way and not a huge fan of true picot anyway), sc, ch2, sc all in same stitch, skip 1, and repeat around the shawl, with sc, ch2, sc, ch2, sc in the corners, (you may have to do a little fudging near the corners -- I promise no one will notice). Combined with the yarn this edging has a nice rustic texture, which I think is the perfect finishing touch for this shawl.
After weaving in the ends I lightly blocked the shawl by pinning it out, lightly spritzing it with a water bottle to dampen it, and then letting it dry for about 24 hours. With cotton the change isn't dramatic, it just evens things out and gives your project a more finished look.
The final result is a comfy, casual shawl that will look equally good draped over your shoulders on a summer day or wrapped around your neck on a chilly evening. It doesn't scream "look at me!", but instead subtly whispers, "this is what casual elegance looks like". I think it will be a great accessory for jeans and tshirts or a linen dress!