I do have a recent thing about shawls and shawl knitting. I’ve already started yet another one. My latest project is the Feather and Fan Shawl from Meg Swansen’s A Gathering of Lace. This particular pattern was designed by Eugen Beugler. Here is a photograph of the shawl as seen in the book.
As you can see, it’s a circular shawl. You start knitting it from the center out. I’ve gotten just past the point where I could transfer the knitting to a circular needle.
I hear you muttering. “What the hell is she doing knitting yet another grey shawl? Is she nuts?” Don’t answer that. In my defense, this is yarn from my stash. Well, it’s yarn that was put in my stash recently during the yarn store close out sale. It’s the same yarn used in the book, a rarity for me, and it was very inexpensive. It’s Jamieson & Smith’s laceweight yarn and it’s surprisingly nice to work with.
It’s a relatively simple pattern once you get going — when I get to the main part of the shawl, there is patterning on every fourth row only. In other words, there will be three rounds of plain knitting, which makes this a portable and relatively mindless project. I am doing a slight variation of the shawl that is described in the book without, unfortunately, a good photograph to show you. In my variation, every third patterned segment on the main part of the shawl will be an eyelet cable pattern instead of the classic feather and fan.
The only tricky part of this shawl (and this is true of any of the square or round shawls knit from the center out) is getting started. I think I must be the least dexterous person on the planet — I have trouble getting a circle started on four needles when I only have two stitches on each needle. It’s fussy and futzy and annoying. Here is my method for anyone interested.
1. Circular cast on
You don’t have to use a special circular cast on, but I have found that it looks slightly nicer at the end. So I use the famous Emily Ocker cast on method. Here is a link to what I think is a good explanation (with good photographs) of how to do it.
Circular Cast On
Casting on doesn’t solve the problem of how to start knitting in the round on double pointed needles. I’ve tried everything from trying to arrange them on a table to throwing them at the wall after they get twisted and I get frustrated. (I don’t have a problem with socks or anything else that has a fair number of stitches. The difficulty comes from having so few stitches to work with when you are starting a shawl.) I’ve also tried the knitting with two circular needles method, but found that to be a bit clumsy and awkward with so few stitches as well.
So, I use the Magic Loop method.
2. Magic Loop Knitting
Magic Loop knitting is not something you necessarily want to do a lot of, but it works really well for starting a circular or square shawl. I knit using this method until I have enough stitches (after the increases that are a normal part of the shawl pattern) that I can distribute 8-10 stitches on each needle. I meant to take some photographs of this shawl at this stage and right after the transfer to the double pointed needles, but I got caught up in the knitting and forgot. Oops. However, I did find this handy video you can watch of how to do Magic Loop Knitting. It’s very clear; if you haven’t done it before I think this video is a great reference. If you search around on this site, she has videos on other techniques as well so you may want to bookmark it.
Magic Loop Knitting
Scroll slightly down. The Magic Loop technique is listed under Small Diameter Circular Knitting (along with other techniques). All you have to do is click on the video icon and the video should start automatically.