First, I have to say that up until recently I could not figure out why anyone would knit a shawl at all, since there are about as many stitches in one as there are in a sweater. Well, maybe not quite, but a sweater is more practical. Except if you're reading in bed and your shoulders are cold. Because then when you find yourself waking up with your Kindle on your stomach, "sleep screen" having long come on, and a crook in your neck because you fell asleep mid-sentence somewhere, you can just whisk a shawl off without sleeves getting in your way, and turn off the light.
Then I realized that shawls are just fun to make. Often they're lace which is both fun and frustrating. Lace knitting is often painstaking, I can already tell. But so many people do it, I know that it gets easier. I need to get comfortable with charts, because I think they're terrifying until you get used to them. I don't know, however, that I'll ever be one of those who wants to knit where every stitch is different, and let's throw in a couple of bobbles. NOT!
Okay, leave it to me to find something to bitch about. In this case, I already know that it's fit. I have been in several yarn stores, all of which love to show off their lace shawls. They're everywhere. Draped over couches, manequins (sp?), artfully strewn across tops of shelves, hanging on walls... sort of like patchwork quilts. They're pieces of art. However I've tried tons of them on, and all they want to do is fall off. They are beautiful spread out, wing tip to wing tip, but they aren't built to wrap around a sphere, let alone one with the architectural complexities of shoulders with a neck sticking out of them. Almost all the triangular shawls I've seen have a hump at the neck (should be concave because even a straight across hypotenuse doesn't wrap right). Then from there, the wings either go straight out (part of the straight hypotenuse) or (absolute insanity), they bend downward so the whole shawl looks like an eagle in a dive bomb configuration. This does not wrap around you, let alone stay put. Hah! You have to fight with it constantly to keep it on. And that's if you enjoy having it too small around your back. If you want to use a shawl pin, that'll trap it from falling off. But then you have huge gaps all around the neck because, once again, it's just not built to wrap around a sphere.
Onward to the circulars. Every one of them I've seen (and I've now looked at thousands of Project Pages) -- they might meet in the middle at the collar bone. Maaaaybe. But then they spread out wider and wider as they go down the front. This, of course, hides the boob area, but features the stomach. In fact, even if you have a flat stomach, it'll look pudgy under this A-shaped opening simply because the opening gets wider and wider (as though a pot belly is protruding through it).
So what I did was, I found a pattern that looked easy and quick. Relatively. It had potential. A circular shawl (half circle). I knew nothing about how a half circle would fit. Well, I just described it in the last paragraph. They don't fit well. Not only that, the finished project was stupidly small -- partly my fault, I used a smaller needle and a finer yarn than called for. I knew that, and I knew it would have issues. I tried to resolve those questions, but got frustrated with the advice I was getting, too. Listen to this: "Always trust the designer. If it doesn't turn out to be something you like, either gift it or frog it and try again."
Well, that was the prevailing logic I kept running into and it was maddening. More so from jealousy that obviously these people had nothing to do with their time except knit blindly, and then give away what they had or rip it back out again and just keep doing that over and over until finally MAYBE they would eventually stumble into something that worked. Very jealous. I don't have that kind of knitting time.
Anyway, I finished it "as written" and was very unhappy with it. Whereupon I vowed to enjoy the experience of frogging out HOURS of knitting, based on the premise that with every unraveled row, I would cement my resolve to understand shawl construction and do some serious surgery on that pattern until I would get something that fit around a sphere with protrusions sticking off of it.
First attempt: Things I like about it: It does not fit right "as is," but it definitely does if I fold over the center line and create a shawl collar. That's a start. Secondly, I abandoned the pattern's stitch count entirely. It called for a doubled stitch increase row on Row 20. It puckered. Too many stitches that early. So I moved my increase row farther down. Third, the original pattern simply didn't have enough stitches to go around (literally!) Even the ones made with the right grist yarn don't lay right. Only one that I saw did. So I added a lot more stitches. (Didn't know the pi shawl formula yet, this was by guess and by gander).
However, I wanted to do them in more increments than the original simply because I did not feel secure in committing to X number of stitches and having it need to last for a repeated number of rows (same size section) but each time at a different placement in the cone.
I love the Fibonacci sequence, because it's throughout nature and we're used to seeing it everywhere, even though we don't notice it. I mean, no one says, "Hey, look at the layers in the side of the mountain's rock formations. That's the Fibonacci number sequence! See it?" We don't notice it, but it's everywhere. The one thing I will never argue with is nature. These things don't happen overnight. It takes millions of years. And then throw in devine design, however you conceive of it. I spaced my increase bands based on the Fibonacci sequence. It's pretty, if nothing else.
So here's that first attempt.
First, NOT folded. As you see, it still makes the upside down V that's ever so NOT flattering to the female body! And my expression reflects how I feel about that. Do I look dumpy? Forget the sour face. Just look at the body. I don't think I'm dumpy. I definitely look dumpy here.
Photo Note: We will, for the time being, ignore that it is pulled too far forward so the front bottom edge looks poochy, it doesn't normally. This was a windy day, we were very short on time and the shawl pin was whisked right off the LYS counter, "borrowed" for photo and unceremoniously jammed in cockeyed. And customers were coming in, and the LYS owner was my photographer. (That spells "quick photo, don't sweat the fine lining.")
And time out. We will also ignore that unlike sourpuss expression in the first photo above, I am now smiling and standing just a tad less frumpily (new word). I'm acknowledging all that because of unfair influences. Smiling vs. looking unhappy. I'm thinking of those commercials where someone is doing something like dumping pasta out of a pot of water, and every cook knows how to do that, but in the commercial for selling a pot with a drainer hole on it, the "before" footage of that woman turns the old pot upside down about 2 feet over the sink so that pasta bloops right into the sink, and boiling water splashes everywhere. She's frowning greatly, but mostly she's showing abject pain because she's burning the crap out of her hands and steam is melting her glasses, and then she also trips from jumping back too fast in pain -- all because she didn't have that drain pot that you can order, and if you order it in the next 5 minutes, you get seven of them (cough, choke...) "Free!!!, just pay separate shipping and handling!!" which is so overmarked that it pays for each and every one of the pots they stack up on your doorstep because now they're making their money on sheer volume because you can't buy just one. And then we see her happily draining the pot, smiling to herself as though she's ever so clever, because all the water is coming out of a spout now, well away from her hands and nothing's melting her glasses because now she can see out of them.
So anyway, forget that I'm smiling and standing in the mimic of a model-y stance.
And this shows the thing laid out flat.
Well, BONG!! So what does that folding create? Bigger than a half-circle, that's for sure. Maybe somewhere between 5/8ths and 3/4. Closer to 3/4. That's all fine and good.
HOWEVER! There are other forces here. When you think about it, there are two angles involved in a shawl. One is the part that lays on your body. That goes from the neck to where a shoulder seam would land on a sweater. That's one hell of a high rate of increase. The circumference has a gigantic growth rate, in every inch from your collar bone downward about 3-4 inches. But once it gets to the point of your shoulder? Wham. The rate of increase suddenly changes. And now you have to add gravity because from that point on, the thing is no longer laying on your body, it's now hanging off of it. Specifically, your shoulders.
I'm working on my second rendition of that same pattern now. That may seem boring, but hey, if I'm going to be screwing with proportions, the last thing I want to do is also vary the pattern. I need something as a constant. Just sayin'.
This one, however, takes the above into account with a little more methodology involved. And when I did the math on this one, I now had Elizabeth Zimmermann's pi shawl formula revealed to me. Oh, was I EVER glad to find a math model to play with because I didn't know it existed before. (Time Out: I love that Zimmermann woman. Too bad she had to die because if she were on Ravelry, she would RULE.) Cat Bordhi is one of my living heros. And since socks are where so many of her inventions come from, I just know that if I were a sock knitter, I'd be prostrate at her feet (secretly getting a closeup of her heel turns. She's brilliant.)
Once this second shawl is off my needles, wetted out, blocked and dry, I will definitely photo it because it won't be with me long since it's destined to live elsewhere. I hope I can deciper my construction design notes because so far, so good -- this sucker fits! It plunks onto your shoulders, meets in the middle under the neck, and then it just keeps meeting in the middle with a vertical line down the front, all the way down. I also did some strategic placement of ganged up increases, and those are working out well too. The other thing I did was veer from the formula by creating a wider starting point, then quickly reverting to a smaller math model for the rest of the computations.
I will be thrilled once I translate all my construction notes because I'm dying to see the percentages of increase at each point. I have a feeling they might surprise me. Some of this was still arrived at by guess and by gander because some of the questions I had were answered wrong, and I know that, I just don't know for sure whether they are partly right (and they may be). I think, from what I've seen, there might be a lot of misinterpretation of EZ's pi shawl formula in a number of designs that are out there.
Shawl construction appears easy.
It is NOT.
I would rather convert a dog sweater to a human sweater than tinker with shawl construction. No, I take it back. I would rather tinker with shawl construction because it's really challenging, at least to me. And I am not brilliant so this is how I amuse myself.
But when you think about it, nothing holds a shawl down or anchors it (e.g., sleeves). A shawl's fit depends entirely on construction and the incremental proportions which define its shape. Add to that, that every stitch you start with gets exponentially increased. One stitch toward too many on Row 2 is going to become 16 sts by Row 50. And add the angle changes on the body which changes the whole game? And gravity entering into it part way along? It's one of those things where, for it to fit right, naturally, that's the only way it really does fit right. You can overpower a bad fit with shawl pins and folding away gaps, but that's what you're doing. Overpowering a bad fit.