Sloane's Elfriede FO + Forge Shawls for Newbies

Funny things happen when I'm between major-project deadlines. (Those of you who have known me a while know the result is usually random burst of hat designs between mid-October and late-November.) This fall, after I finished the sample for Marley, I thought I should finally try to do a little bit of that selfish knitting I promised myself I would start doing this year, and decided to cast on a project that's been on my "someday I should knit this" list forever: Shannon Cook's Elfriede shawl, originally published in Laine magazine in 2018. 

I'm a die-hard sweater knitter, and I am not, historically, much of a shawl person: while I actually wear the one shawl I designed a few years back a fair amount, I've never really been a shawl knitter. But, I'm a determined student of our craft, and am now pretty convinced that Forge on slightly-oversized needles produces a fabric I want to wrap myself up in constantly, so, I grabbed four skeins in Tobacco and my size 8 needles and set off on a journey through shawl world. 

I knit this over our socially distant holidays, through California's second lockdown, before, during, and after I finished the Warren sample, and finally finished it in early February. It has pretty much been on my person, in my bag, or on the back of my desk chair ever since. I had some moments of doubt in the knitting (not-so-pro tip: don't ever do the math on what percentage of a shawl you've knit by stitch count. Trust me.), I'm thrilled with the end result, and while I'll never abandon my first love of garment knitting, I'm significantly intrigued by shawl life.

Shannon has designed this shawl with a beautiful, simple lace pattern that was easy to read once I got going, and engaging enough to give me that "just one more row!" feeling that propelled me through what was admittedly quite a lot of knitting. (If you follow me on instagram, you also know that I apparently found the lace pattern so meditative that I...got distracted watching Outlander and managed to transpose one entire 8 row x 9 stitch motif one stitch to the left. Oops!) Forge's three-ply structure makes the central "spine" of the lace repeats (created by a sk2p decrease) really pop, and makes the yarnover eyelets really crisp in the blocked FO. The resulting shawl is gigantic, delightfully warm, and eye-catchingly textured, while Tobacco's warm, cordovan-brown color goes with pretty much everything in my wardrobe, which runs high to blues and greys.

[I asked the internet for some help on how to style the FO, which is somewhat gigantic in scale. Fortunately, some of our favorite Friends of the Flock are Serious Shawl People, and weighed in with some good advice.] 

So, what next? I'm working on a sample for our Spring 2021 collection now, but I'm already imagining future Forge shawl projects for late spring and early summer, when I'm typically on a sweater hiatus. For now, I'm leaving the actual shawl designing to the many wildly more experienced folks out there, so I took a brief trip through the Ravelry archives to try to find some strong candidates, beyond the wonderful shawls we've published for Forge in the past year. Here's what's on my list:

  • Super simple shawls: I'm mostly looking for warm and soothing here, so some of the obvious candidates are classic garter-or-stockinette shawls, maybe with a few hints of color changes or more ambitious textures. Options like cabinfour's Nordic Wind, Wapiti, and Pure, Sam Lamb's Wellington Worksock and Black River Blanket shawls, or something like Covered by Friend of the Flock Alicia Plummer are in this category.
  • Texture 201: Slightly more complicated, but nothing too exotic. Jill Zielinski's Making Comfort, designed for our wonderful friends at Wool + Honey, Melody Hoffman's Aito and Homestead, and Orlane Sucche's classic textured shawl recipe are all candidates here.
  • Cables and more complicated allover texture: Gretha Mensen's Dewy Ocean (among others -- she has many great options), Honey Moss, Winter Honey, and Hoarfrost from Andrea Mowry.

This list is heavily tailored towards my knitting proclivities: there's a huge universe out there of colorwork and stripes and exotic shaping and heavy allover texture that I haven't considered here, because I'm mostly looking for things that will be warm, soothing to knit, and that won't stress my sometimes-fragile wrists too much when the rows get long. I'd love to know what's on your best-of list for worsted weight shawls: what's a can't-miss for you? What techniques do you absolutely love? Drop a comment below and let me know, and (spoiler alert) stay tuned for a new shawl in Forge from a new indie designer friend of ours coming next week!

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