Saturday, November 16, 2013

Double Refraction Shawl

      Yet another triangular shawl came off my needles for October's Knitaway in the Studio.  The Double Refraction Shawl, now up in the Ravelry shop, is one amusing piece of striped knitting fun.

     I might be prejudiced, but the pattern has gotten "thumbs up" from a great knitter (Maggie R you know who you are!) and I think you'll find it is pretty satisfying to watch it take shape.  Yarn overs and short rows are the techniques for this one, and while I like to think the variations in the Dancing Colors yarn helps (Double Refraction is a great showcase for hand dyed yarns), the shift of the angles is what gives it the visual bang.
      The name, Double Refraction, comes from a term used in optics to describe the visual "bending" of light as it passes through certain substances.  We've all seen refraction when a stick (or cooking spoon) looks like it has been broken or bent when stuck into water; pull it out, it's straight.  That's refraction in action.

         If you wear glasses, your prescription has a "refraction index" as part of it to account for the bending of the light rays as they pass through the lenses.  Glass is a liquid after all.  Refraction is everywhere!

Double refraction equals double vision!
        Now here comes the cool stuff.  Double refraction happens when light is passed through a specific crystal, optical calcite, for example, which actually bends the light in two different directions.  Why? because light is made up of two rays, a vertical ray and a horizontal ray, and the molecular structure of calcite forces the two rays to pass through it at different velocities.  Two different velocities, two different angles.  Double Refraction!  The angles in the shawl (to my eye at least) are very similar in appearance to this optical sensation. 

       The above photos are of my own personal piece of optical calcite (which has been recently mistaken, most humorously, for an ice cube) purchased right before October's Knitaway, when I visited the Rock Hut in Leadville, CO.  I got it simply because I like the way it makes rainbows.  I hadn't a clue about the Double Refraction link at the time.  Serendipity!
        All this explaining is just by way of indulging my inner geek and for that I beg your pardon.  To make a Double Refraction Shawl, no scientific knowledge (beyond your already wonderful knitting skills) is needed.  Its all garter stitch, change colors every two rows, remember your yo's and short rows...done!  One thing I'll tell you now, though.  The second "wing" is worked in purled garter stitch.  Has to be done so to get the "wings" to mirror each other.  Knitting has it's mysteries too.
      And for those of you who also have inner geeks, check out this great, and geeky, video.
      Double Refraction indeed!


  1. I would like to knit this in fingering weight with, perhaps, a size 5 needle for a smaller scarf-like accessory. Do you think that will work

    1. Absolutely! Should look wonderful.