Traigh: a shawl for autumn

Having long admired Kate Davies, I had always wanted to knit one of her designs, but they all seemed so far above my skill level as a knitter that I never dreamed of making a KDD garment of my own.

However, this year she released a small collection of simple knits called Shore that felt highly accessible and one pattern in particular caught my eye: Traigh. This, along with my temporarily living in the UK and becoming increasingly more aware of (and overwhelmed by) the growing number of British-made wool yarns created from British sheep, and with more time on my hands than usual, seemed like the perfect coming-together of circumstance to finally have a go at one of her patterns.

A tender yarn moment
A tender yarn moment

I visited the wonderful Ginger Twist Studio in Edinburgh and bought two skeins of beautiful, lustrous West Yorkshire Spinners 100% Wensleydale DK Gems in the colour “Cobalt” (about which I felt very strongly – you can see what I mean in the photo) and had intended them for the Brooklyn Tweed High Pines Cowl.

I quickly learned a lesson about pairing a yarn with a pattern. (A risk with respect to pattern-yarn pairing is one I decidedly did not take with my Riley shirt this summer.) The High Pines Cowl calls for Brooklyn Tweed Arbor, a 100% Targhee wool yarn. The slick, shiny nature of the Wensleydale with its halo (I am not sure if I am using this term correctly, but I mean the little strands of fibre that ‘float’ around the main twisted plies of yarn) was simply not producing the bold , dense, ribbed texture of the edging that is so stunning in the High Pines Cowl pattern. Instead, I was producing a very loose and open fabric. Can you just replace one wool yarn with another? Evidently not – no matter how beautiful.

WYS DK yarn from Ginger Twist
WYS 100% Wensleydale DK

Bummed out by this realisation, I ripped out the rather loose and weird-looking ribbing and then wondered what I could do with the lovely Wensleydale instead. (Given that I am carrying everything I own with me at the moment, my knitting decisions are very much about using the yarn that I have.) Then I saw Traigh.

The Traigh pattern calls for a fingering weight yarn, Kate Davies’ beautiful-looking Milarrochy Tweed, which is a 70% wool / 30% mohair blend. I’ve never worked with mohair (on its own or in a blend) but I know it has a woolly halo, and somehow looking at photos of the finished shawl or hap and its open lace I thought that what had been the trouble with the High Pines Cowl might work to my favour in Traigh.

Wary that I had only 450m of yarn (50m less than the pattern requires), I knew I’d have to make some minor pattern modifications to complete the project.

traigh math 1

Nothing that some math and doodles cannot help untangle. (The lovely ladies from the Pomcast have noted time and again that long train rides are good for knitting – I can vouch they are also excellent for knitting-related math-doodling. This particular endeavour took place on the train journey from Fort William to Edinburgh earlier this month.) Instead of making the hap with 24 diamond lace points, I made it with 21 points, sticking to a multiple of three since the hap is worked in three panels. (More details of my mods on my Ravelry project page.)

I knitted and blocked two swatches: the first with US 5 (3.75mm) needles which yielded 48 rows (24 garter ridges) and 20-21 stitches over 10 cm; and the second US 6 (4.0mm) needles which yielded 44 rows (22 garter ridges) & 17-18 stitches over 10cm. As the pattern called for 34 rows & 14 stitches over 10 cm, I decided to go with the larger needles and then stretch block the shawl to proper dimensions and gauge once complete.

At first I thought that the lace section was much too open, but I could see how the yarn might relax and even out with blocking and so I kept going. Mainly, I was just so thrilled to be knitting lace properly without constantly messing up (hot tip: I copied out the chart into my notebook and vigilantly tracked every single row), and eager to pick up the stitches of the completed lace panel and get to just some good mind-calming garter stitch.

Traigh shawl lace panel 3

My Traigh shawl is now finished and blocked (although not as aggressively as I’d hoped given my lack of regular blocking tools) and has already passed a few test runs: it works beautifully as a hap, a hood to protect against cold wind on a walk in the South Downs, and a stylish scarf.

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