When I first saw the Artichaut Shawl in 2009, I gasped. It literally took my breath away for an instant. (“Artichaut” is French for “artichoke.” The lace pattern is an interpretation of the artichoke plant and fruit.) When designer Anne Hanson posted her own photos, highlighting the intricately scalloped edge, I knew I had to have one. Go look at the pictures, go on. I’ll wait.
Sorry about the crummy wide shot – I had 15 min (while the fish sticks were baking and the girls were playing outside) to tape the shawl to the wall and snap a few. IRL, the shawl is straight across the top, not pointy.
My shawl is made from a 3-ply handspun fingering-weight blend of camel and tussah silk (50/50). Singles were spun on a Bosworth mini and plied on a David Reed Smith Judi. I have a lot of pleasant memories of sitting in Meredith’s room at night, spindling away on my camel and silk, while Matt read bedtime stories out loud. I remember being hugely pregnant and having to sit with my knees spread to make room for my enormous belly. Meredith was still only 1 at the time and would watch me spin, sometimes reaching out to stroke the soft top as we listened to Matt’s voice.
The yarn, originally creamy off-white, was dyed by the ever-fabulous Kim of The Woolen Rabbit. I’m a big fan of Kim’s work, as you may recall, and I so appreciate that she is willing to work with yarns that aren’t part of her regular stock. You’re awesome, Kim! Thanks so much!!!
I can’t find the colorway on her site right now, but when I e-mailed her back in 2010 with a description of the colors I wanted (“artichoke-like colorway, something that is mostly greenish grey with purple and pink”), she said she could make it up in “Rosemary and Thyme.” And it was exactly what I had been hoping for. I regret that I lack the photography skills to show the true colors of the yarn, but trust me, it is gorgeous.
This shawl is, no question, the most complicated thing I’ve ever knit. Both sides are patterned with knit and purl stitches, k2togs, ssks, p2togs, p2tog through back loops, and single and double yarnovers. (It’s not one of those shawls that have the all-purl even-numbered rows.) That means the symbols on the chart have different meaning, depending on whether you’re on an odd or even row. I found the symbol-switching curiously hard to keep track of – whaddya mean it’s a knit stitch, that dot means purl… oh, right. Multiply that confusion by all the different-slanting decreases and such, and it’s not a project to work on late at night after a long day at work.
Furthermore, the different parts of the chart (border, edge of main, main repeat, center, main repeat, edge of main repeat, border) are not mapped out in a mirror image; instead, you backtrack to the relevant section and then skip forward to the end as needed. Although the nonlinear path allows the chart to fit very conveniently on a single page (whereas a mirror image chart would require 2 pages), it took time for me to adjust to and remember the flow of the different sections.
I had initially attempted this shortly after Jordan and Casey were born but found that I was too feeble-minded from sleep deprivation and general exhaustion to knit without frequent mistakes (I was back at work full-time by then, breastfeeding 2 babies, potty-training a toddler, AND had to keep the house pristine because it was on the market). It wasn’t gonna happen, so I set it aside for a year. This eventually became my lunchtime project – I’d hop on the treadmill and knit whilst walking 2 mph. (Why not, right?) Toward the end, when each row was quite long, I could knit only 4 rows in an hour. Casting off, I used a size US10 needle (6 mm). I first cast off the regular way with the larger needle but found it was still too tight for the eyelets in the scallop to really show. I tinked the entire cast off and tried again using the the surprisingly stretchy bind off. MUCH better.
Blocking was a 2-stage process. First, I washed it, squeezed out the water, threaded it with blocking wires, and pinned it out. It dried overnight. I then removed each pin and pulled the wires back even farther, to maximize the area of the shawl. Each eyelet of each scallop was pinned (I ran out of pins! Had to go buy more… and then ran out again!). After all was repinned, I plugged in my iron and steamed the bejeezus out of it. It dried overnight, and I wove in the final ends and called it finished.
Parting shot – I leave you with a picture of my girl Jordan jumping for joy at the county fair. I pretty much felt like that when the project was done. This shawl was 4 years in the making… and so totally worth it. I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out.