Please, just don’t call it a shawl

It's not a shawl, OK? It's a SCARF.

In Boston, I bought some Berroco Ultra Alpaca with the intention of copying Maritza’s beautiful mittens for Minty. Unfortunately, I did not pay close enough attention to what Maritza said about the pattern before buying fingering instead of worsted weight yarn.

What is one to do with 800 yds of fingering weight yarn that is, by my estimation, unsuitable for socks? Knit a shawl. Right. Have I shared my views on shawls? I am going to get so much hate mail for this. Here we go, this is what I think about shawls:

I do not knit shawls and neither should you.

Please don’t mistake me, I find them stunningly beautiful, technically challenging, and supremely intricate. It is not that I do not value the knitting prowess of the shawl – I do! However, I have yet to see anyone under the age of 80 successfully wear a triangular or circular shawl. As an avid product knitter, I never knit for the process, I knit for the wearable garment. Hence, the shawl appeals little to me. Is that fair enough?

Nevertheless, I returned home with 800 yards of fingering weight yarn with no intended use for it. What to do? Anything but lace would drag on and on forever at a fine gauge. After a quick Ravelry search, I settled on Eunny Jang’s rectangular Print O’ the Wave Stole (Ravelry link) but decided to make it narrower, more stole-like and less shawl-like. After all, I would not want to have to explain to you why I have just knitted a shawl, right? Right.

The not-shawl

Just before starting the edging, I did some quick math to determine how much of the yarn I would likely use. To my surprise, math says I will run out of yarn. But I have so much right now! Will I really run out? Furthermore, math says I will need 0.71 oz of a third skein. What should I do?

1) Call Windsor Button to see if I can track down a third skein before knitting the edging.

2) Knit the edging and buy more yarn only if/when I run out.

3) Go to a wedding in Phoenix this weekend with another project, leaving the yarn eating not-shawl to stew at home.

You can imagine what I chose. See you Monday!

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23 comments so far

  1. Janet on

    I understand your shawl philosophy. That’s why I’ve begun collecting rectangular/stole/scarf patterns rather than triangular patterns (I tend to do more collecting than knitting!). I’ve recently seen some really nice adaptations of shawl patterns (ie: Clapotis)into narrower scarves. The fact that they’re knit in lace or fingering weight yarn makes them drapier and easier to wrap nicely than scarves made of heavier yarns.

  2. Danielle on

    That’s a beautiful non-stole you’ve chosen. If you decide that you need more yarn, I’m happy to pop into Windsor Button and pick up a skein for you if they have it — just let me know!

  3. Phoebe on

    Ha, it’s funny because it’s true. Well, mostly – while I can’t say I’ve *never* seen someone under 80 pull off a shawl, because I have, it is rather difficult, and I think most people who just throw a lacy shawl over their jeans and sweatshirts look really odd. You have to be really really careful, but it can be done properly without making you look like a grandma. But if you don’t like the look anyway, then rectangular-stole away! I’ve been meaning to make Eunny’s stole, so I’ll be looking forward to seeing yours. Good luck!

  4. Elisabeth on

    I made that stole for my sister-in-law and did it according to all directions with fingering weight yarn. I can’t tell you for sure how much of the yarn I used up in the end, but I do know that the edging takes quite a bit of yarn. I remember thinking that I would have a ton of yarn left over and I ended up just having a small fairly useless amount of yarn left over (I think the ball ended up being about the size of an egg or so–this may be useless information, but for whatever reason this ball of yarn has been in the pocket of the coat I wear in the Fall for a few years, I just never bother to take it out. It is really pretty green wool?!). Oh, I used two skein of Blackberry Ridge fingering weight wool if that is at all helpful for you to know.

  5. Michelle on

    I totally agree with you on the shawl business. Came up with my own adaptation that I am very happy with. My sister had me wear a halter dress for her wedding, and I wanted to cover skin during the reception to get back in my “modesty comfort zone.” So I knit a lacy 16″x47″ rectangle, turned it once and seamed one short end to the end of one long end, making my own V-backed moebius. Look ma, no hands to hold this baby on, and it doesn’t make me look like Grandma!

  6. Cassy on

    I definitely agree about the shawls with one exception. I’ve seen people make mini triangular shawls and wear them as scarves. I like the way that looks and it doesn’t scream “GRANNY!”

  7. Elinor on

    I disagree! Respectfully, of course. =D I love shawls, and I love knitting them and how they look, and so on. But I do agree that over jeans and a t-shirt is an outrageous way to wear them. Want to see under-80-and-looking-good-in-a-shawl?

    Yes, it’s for a special occasion (my graduation), but now while I may not wear it again for a while, the product does hold in it so much meaning and importance for me. So there!

    I love your scarf/not-shawl. It’s gorgeous.

  8. gleek on

    i believe that you chose #3 :) i would check ravelry to see if anyone has the yarn.. but i love shawls! i actually do use the two that i have but i get cold easily.

  9. Becky on

    I agree totally and am glad you said it so well. I especially dislike circular shawls, which always look as if one is wearing a tablecloth. But a stole, which is really just a wide scarf, is another story entirely! Beautiful!

  10. Harper on

    I feel your pain. I have 1200 yards of ultra alpaca fine [sorry, different color] I bought to knit a mystery stole. Then since it was a first time for lace and beading I was so slow I got to see the whole pattern before I was out of clue 1 and I really didn’t like the design. And realized that I really don’t like ‘fancy’ designs — give me a nice repetitive or geometric pattern. However, I do think shawls, etc can be worn without looking odd as long as the person wearing them does so with panache. The people who are continually fussing and adjusting because they don’t feel right in a shawl don’t look right.

  11. Laura on

    I ponder the shawl question a lot. I remember a discussion of the Jemima Puddleduck syndrome on In defense of triangle shawls,I try to stick to those that are not too long and I tend to wear the point on the front, down my neck or slightly on the side.
    Blog photos of shawls worn not just with jeans but with a short sleeve t-shirt peeking through the lacework haven’t helped with their image!
    As for your yardage dilemma, I’d be tempted to embark on the edging first and see how far my yarn takes me.

  12. Ann on

    The stole is looking great. I wear my shawls as scarfs most of the time but I just love knitting lace.

  13. Tamara on

    Next time you have 800 or so yards of laceweight that you do not want to make a shawl with, try a laceweight version of the Zephyr girl’s ‘Wicked’. I knit it with Fleece Artist BFL; it took much less that 1 skein (1000 m per skein) and knit up quite quickly top down, in the round.

  14. Chris on

    I love how shawls look in the abstract. I do have a small triangular shawl at work to toss on my shoulders when it gets chilly. I have to admit I actually like that (easier than a sweater! esp when I don’t actually need a sweater) and don’t particularly care how successful the look is when I’m coding in my cubicle.

  15. Cara on

    I’m well under 80 (even under 40) and I wear shawls routinely. In Florida, they are usually the perfect weight when a sweater or jacket is too much. My favorite rectangular shawl goes everywhere with me. However, I’ve decided triangular shawls are only for dressy clothes. Between my husband’s job and my own we end up at several black tie events a year, and the room is always over air conditioned for the men in their suits while the women in their dresses freeze. A really nice silk shawl works where a sweater would be very out of place, and it makes me the envy of all the other women with goose bumps.

  16. materfamilias on

    De-lurking to say that I feel the same way you do about shawls, yet I’ve made both Miriam Felton’s Icarus and the Rowan Birch — While I will sometimes (rarely) wear them shawl-like, I find that their lightness means I can easily wear them as a scarf, either folding the triangle point down to the base, then folding in once or twice more ’til I have a long slim scarf shape. Or I drape the triangle in front and throw the ends ’round my neck and forward to the other side, again scarf-like. I suspect you’ll love yours and get way more wear than you’d imagined. It’s looking beautiful already

  17. Schrodinger on

    I made a shawl once, then basically wore it as a scarf wrapped around my neck. What you have is looking gorgeous.

  18. Amy on

    I think they’re fine for formal-wear, actually. But I’m not one to throw them on in the office.

    Just think of it as an heirloom? ;-)

  19. tiennie on

    It is beautiful whatever you choose to call it!

  20. jenna on

    Ha ha. :) I’m always a little perplexed at how often I see hip young knitters working the triangular lace shawl. I just figured they were WAAAAY hipper than me. Shawls aren’t exactly my um, “cup of tea,” either. (Product knitter 4-eva!)

  21. Jennie on

    Clearly, Elinor, you have never seen me rock my swallowtail, which I wear pretty much daily from October to April (come to think of it, perhaps it’s time to knit another).

  22. Kathie on

    Hi Elinor…love your SCARF!!!!You said you made it narrower…how many stitches did you cast on and knit with?…did you need more than the 2 skeins of Ultra Alpaca? I totally agree with you…I can’t stand shawl’s…unless they’re on your grandmother who’s 80 years old or older!

  23. Diane on

    I lurve lace and mostly in shawls/stoles. I’ve done the stole/scarf you’re making and the edging does take a lot of yarn.

    As to the triangular shawl, I think it’s all in how you carry it off. I have a Charlotte’s Web one that I made early on with multiple colors of Koigu. I thought I’d never wear it because it is BRIGHT. Then I brought it to knitting group and another knitter fell in love with it and tried it on with jeans. She tied it differently and wore it with panache. Course, she’s 6 inches taller than me and 30 pounds lighter, so that had a lot to do with it.

    Now I do mostly stoles or square shawls in laceweight. Someone someday will like them.

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