J, an amazing member of our store staff, has walked us through the creation of the Color Affection Shawl, and the lessons to be learned along the way. His stunning finished project and choice of colors are inspiring!
I chose Valley Yarns Charlemont to knit Color Affection by Veera Välämaki. It is actually a fairly mindless knit over all; garter stitch (not one purl) with easy short rows and M1 increases. These two design elements along with the color changes make this a great knit to practice some techniques.
Lesson One: Color
The striping is thin with the only large blocks of color at the neckline and along the bottom edge. Even a tonal variation like that of Charlemont Kettle-Dyed may take away from the impact solid colors will have.
I chose to use Charlemont, not because it’s a Valley Yarn, but for its look and feel – the softness and slight sheen, as well as the color palette. I really enjoyed working with this yarn. It really softens after blocking and there is something quite nice about a wool/silk blend, especially for shawls. (The colors I used are soft grape, purple passion, and dusk.)
It’s always a great idea to take black and white photos of the yarns you want to use when selecting colors. I can’t recommend this enough, especially for this knit. It makes it much easier to see if your shades are light, medium, and dark, which helps determine contrast. Also, every now and again pick a color that you think you shouldn’t, sometimes you’ll be surprised.
Lesson Two: M1 (Make 1)
This pattern calls for many M1L and M1R increases throughout. While these are not a favorite of many knitters, this shawl provides a great chance for practice. (Click here to see the video of this technique.)
Parallel lesson: kfb (Knit into the front and back)
Go ahead and read the notes on Ravelry. There is a lot of debate! In mine, I did both types of increases, and good luck telling me where each is. The bottom line is to choose whichever works best for you, but practice and try. (You can’t get better if you don’t try!) June Hemmons Hiatt and I talked about making mistakes being how one really learns. (Did I mention that I met her the other day and she was amazing! She signed my copy of Principles of Knitting, I have pictures.)
Lesson Three: Easy short rows
What do I mean by easy short rows? Wrap and turn without picking up the wraps. The Wrap & Turn (W&T) is a good technique to learn, and it may come up again in your knitting queue, especially in sweater patterns. This particular pattern does not have you “pick up wraps,” so it’s a great primer. The short rows also make this knit quick in the middle, when it really needs to feel like you’re making progress. When you get to the border edge you will realize just how many stitches you created.
Lesson Four: Two and three colors at once.
Carrying the yarn up the work is fairly trouble free in this pattern. To carry up the colors, I slipped the first stitch off the left hand needle and onto the right, then I wrapped the two non-working colors around the left needle and placed that first stitch back on the left needle. I worked the first stitch, skipped those carried yarns, let them fall off the needle and continued working the row. This helps to neatly trap the carried yarns.
Note: Appropriate tension on the carried yarn is key, neither too loose nor too tight. I did not do a slip-stitch edge, mainly because I forgot, this will add a little to the complexity of carrying up the colors, (consider it advanced technique!)
Lesson Five: Blocking unique shapes.
There also seems to be a minor debate among Ravellers regarding whether this is a crescent shape shawl or a half-circle shawl. Put simply, if you follow the advice of making and dropping yarnovers to loosen up the edge, it will be easier to block a straight neckline which will create a half-circle shape. However, if you keep with the way the pattern is written, it makes for a tight edge and eases blocking it into a crescent shape.
What the pattern says: “block in shape using wires and pins.” So I say, the shape is in how you place your wires. She never really specifies a shape in the pattern and honestly I don’t think she should. Either way it will turn out lovely. It’s also kind of enormous! I blocked mine on our futon/giant blocking mat, measuring about six feet across and nearly three feet at its largest depth.
I loved working with Valley Yarns Charlemont and I’m so happy I have quite a bit left over from each skein for other projects.