Tuesday, October 8, 2019

FO: Lady Russell Goes Cashmere

I'm sure you've noticed a trend in my last few posts - I've been doing a lot of knitting on very old projects. I've hinted around it all for months, but things have been extremely stressful for me as I'm getting a divorce. It is what it is, and I'm actually very good with it at this point, but at the beginning I found myself alone with my thoughts and time yet also pretty depressed and having no motivation to  plan any new projects. My old wips came in very handy during this time, and I managed to knock out several of the larger ones I had sitting around, which gives a nice boost not only as a finished item but also as one that had been guilting me for a long time in the corner of my mind. Anyway, after finishing my Dahlia Cardigan and Someone Else's Blanket, I reached for my next largest work in progress - this shawl.
This is the Lady Russell Shawl by Joy Gerhardt that was the cover project from Jane Austen Knits, Fall 2012. I used to collect all of the Jane Austen knits books back when I first started knitting, but this is the first project I actually made from any of them. I started this back in May of 2016 (!) according to Ravelry. I remember at the time I was looking for a new project to throw myself into, plus I had been to the temple and got a little chilly (possibly the first time that's ever happened to me there) and I thought it would be nice to knit myself a shawl in a white yarn to have with me there. Somehow I picked up this pattern magazine and made my decision immediately and cast on, not really thinking about the fact that I hate knitting shawls, lol. In my defense I might not have fully known that at the time since I had made so few, but I know this now - I'm not a shawl knitter. They feel like they will never end because each row takes longer and longer to knit as they just keep getting bigger. Maybe I should knit one that starts at the largest end and narrows down? Anyway, I made up my mind and started the project only to have to pull out the beginning section about 8 times before I finally did it correctly. I was determined, but after all the frustration just with getting going, I think I only did the first lace section on the chart before setting this aside for something more fun to make. I would pick this up on occasion between projects over the years, but I never got very far before setting it aside again. I know now that this is no fault of the pattern itself - it was just my dislike of knitting shawls. Anyway, I was determined in my stressed out haze to finish this project back in August, and I am so happy that I did :)
So this pattern features an all over lace pattern that is simple but lovely. You start off at the center top, making a traditional crescent shaped shawl, then you make short rows along the side edges that grow into elongated wrap pieces of the lace pattern, then you finish it all off with a ruffled edge. You can see the "wings" as I call them in the above photo. It was certainly an interesting construction as I had only ever made triangle shaped shawls before. I also like that this pattern was named for Lady Russell. She is from the book Persuasion and she's an older lady with lots of opinions on what is best for the friends in her life. Somehow this pattern fits her perfectly and I could see her wearing something like this, particularly in cashmere yarn as she would never settle for anything less.
The wing pieces make it possible for you to wear the shawl like this - knotted at center and wrapped around your shoulders, which I feel is very traditional and practical. I think the shape of this shawl definitely gives it the historic feel of Jane Austen Knits.
And it also looks lovely from the back while worn. I really love the lace pattern on this and how the fanned out V shapes continue occasionally on the eyelet lines that separate each section of the shawl. I guess this would be a good time to also talk about the yarn I made this with. So back in 2014, I got on a big "recycled yarn" kick. I would search for sweaters in my thrift store adventures that were traditionally seamed (as opposed to being serged at the shoulders) and could therefore be unraveled. I posted about my unraveling here and this yarn was from one of the sweaters I repurposed into yarn. This sweater was a Ralph Lauren 100% cashmere cable knit in a very fine lace weight gauge. The yarn was 2 ply, but in my unraveling process each strand came apart and I didn't know any better so I just separated the plies, lol. So this is just a single ply of cashmere yarn, which as you can imagine was extremely prone to breaking - as in so much breakage that I was worried I would rip the knitted areas before I finished making this, lol. Thankfully I have avoided such a disaster thus far, but between me accidentally pulling on the yarn too hard as well as all the times it broke while unwinding the sweater, I had SO MANY ENDS to weave in. It was worth it though for how light and airy yet warm this shawl is. It's quite surprising how cozy this feels on when you consider the yarn is more like a thick thread and the design is full of holes. I used 100 grams of this yarn for the shawl, so I have a bunch left, but we will see when I decide to pick it up again, lol. My guess is it will be a while. I wonder if I could try to ply them together again? Oooo, maybe later.
Another interesting thing about this yarn is that it turned out to be lace weight. Back when I first started this project, I thought it was fingering weight, which is what the pattern suggests using, so I didn't think anything about it. Now that I am more experienced, I know for a fact this is much smaller than fingering weight. Nearing the end of the project, I was worried the shawl would come out laughably small due to my smaller yarn. Thankfully that did not happen, lol. But the finished shawl is definitely a little smaller than the pattern example. I'm totally fine with this since I live in Florida and won't really be needing an enormous shawl to wrap up in, but it's something to consider if you try to knit this in a smaller yarn. I even used the suggested needle size, and thankfully again I did not end up with an unattractively loose gauge or anything like that. The yarn has a bit of a halo to it, so that seemed to make up for any spaces.
Here is a close up to show you what I mean. I did stretch this bad boy to the max while blocking (due to my fear of it being small), so the stitches are quite spread out, but I think it actually adds to the stitch definition. I think it's neat that you can see where each stitch is connected in the fan design. Another point I must mention is that ruffle. Holy cow, that ruffle. The final step to this shawl is to pick up along the entire edge and increase to give it that ruffle. I wound up with about 650 stitches on my needles. 650! And I had to knit 2 inches of that. Needless to say, it took AN AGE to finish. In reality it was only a few nights while watching movies, but man it felt like I would still be knitting this shawl next year. It did turn out really pretty though, and I love how the ruffle finishes it off. I just doubt I'll be signing up for any knitted ruffles for a while, lol.
As I do live in Florida, and as I don't want to only wear this in the temple, I knew I would need to play around with other ways to wear this shawl. I just don't have a very "shawl-friendly" wardrobe, I guess. So here I tied it around the back and tucked the edges up underneath, then pulled the shawl down around my shoulders. I think this is a very practical way to wear this for me. I can see it with a solid colored long sleeved shirt, the shawl being the focal point.
Sorry for the weird coloring on this photo, but this is the other way I will probably wear it frequently. This is with the wing pieces wrapped around and brought back to the front and tied underneath the drape. I like the informal feel this gives to the shawl and it definitely keeps my neck warm :) So all in all, this piece is much more versatile than I originally expected it to be.
So there you have it - the shawl that took forever! I'm very happy with how this turned out. It was a long time coming, and I now enjoy not only that I finished it at long last, but also that it will easily incorporate into my wardrobe during the cooler months and that it's such a dreamy and soft yarn. Since this was completed, I have started a new project (and I'm nearing the end now), so it seems my haze of wips has lifted. Here's to new futures with lovely knitwear :)

Yarn: 100 grams 2 ply cashmere repurposed from thrifted sweater - $1.00
Pattern: Lady Russell Shawl by Joy Gerhardt from Jane Austen Knits, Fall 2012
Time: 3 years, lol

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