I wanted to walk straight on through the red grass and over the edge of the world, which could not be very far away. The light air about me told me that the world ended here: only the ground and sun and sky were left, and if one went a little farther there would be only sun and sky, and one would float off into them, like the tawny hawks which sailed over our heads making slow shadows on the grass. While grandmother took the pitchfork we found standing in one of the rows and dug potatoes, while I picked them up out of the soft brown earth and put them into the bag, I kept looking up at the hawks that were doing what I might so easily do.- Willa Cather, My Antonia
...a light shawlette inspired by the wide, waving fields and circling hawks of bygone times in the American heartland. I can imagine a schoolteacher in Cather's Black Hawk, Nebraska throwing just such a light shawl over her shoulders on her walk home from the schoolhouse in the early fall, after releasing Jim Burden and Antonia Shimerda from their lessons into the prairie wilds.
(As always, click on all images for a larger view.)
I knew I wanted to include a small shawl pattern in my upcoming accessories booklet - one that would, hopefully, be workable from one skein of sock yarn. As it turns out, the Antonia pattern includes two separate versions: a standard, triangular shawlette that can be worked with a single skein, and a slightly larger, L-shaped version that takes just over one skein (you can see the shape in the first photo above). I've never seen an L-shaped shawl before, but it's actually an excellent use of yarn; with only slightly more yardage than my triangular version, I got a much larger-seeming garment - one that overlaps easily in front, and hangs further down the wearer's back.
(I thought the idea of buttoning the shawl's edging onto a blouse was pretty clever - do people do this? It leaves your hands free.)
My Antonia versions are both worked in Fleece Artist Sea Wool, which Erin at Eat.Sleep.Knit suggested, and which is a new love of mine. I knew I wanted something with the spring of merino but with a slight sheen, and Sea Wool turned out to be exactly what I was envisioning. The colorway, "Brick," is the perfect mostly-solid to show off the two lace motifs used in Antonia. And although "brick" sounds more like a red, the orangey-wheat quality of this yarn evokes perfectly, for me, the red scrub grasses and prairies of Cather's novel.
I structured the whole pattern around this scalloped edging: the entire bottom edge is cast on first, and the edging worked before the body of the shawl. I loved the adaptability of shaping created by the scallops; the initial bottom corner of the triangle is created by inserting more purl stitches in between the ridges of the center shell, and decreasing them all out by the top.
After the edging is worked, the shawl is shaped by centered decreases, with panels of a second lace motif converging at the mid-point of the shawl. I'm trying to err on the side of making this workable for the maximum number of people, so the pattern actually features written-out instructions for each row of both versions. This means the finished pattern may look huge and intimidating, but take it from me - it's really not. My test-knitters are finding that, after working a few repeats of the panel lace motif, the knitting gets a lot more intuitive and their speed picks right up.
This is the second-to-last pattern in the accessories collection, and I'm starting to feel like we're closing in on having the thing ready to release. I have some reflections about releasing things in chunks rather than individually, and what I've learned from the process, but I'll leave those for another time. For now, I hope you enjoy Antonia; she's being test-knit right now and should be on the market before too long!