Monday, November 4, 2013

Downover Shawl

      At the Knitaway® in the Studio  last month we focused on triangular shawls and specifically on knitting in all directions and with many shaping methods.  The project for the workshop was the Downover Shawl, the pattern for which is now up in the Ravelry shop.  

Downover gets its name from a non-traditional construction, being made of one triangle that is knit from the top DOWN and one triangle that is knit up and worked sideways OVER to the tip.  Downover is knit in garter stitch with two-row stripes which highlight the shaping of a shawl.  While it sounds very straightforward, it got to be a curious knit when I encountered what appeared to be a mathematical anomaly, a hitch in the arithmetic, of figuring out the relationship of the picked up stitches in Triangle I to the knitted row in Triangle I.  Let me explain.
      One of the beauties of garter stitch is that it is square in a very good way; the number of stitches  equals the number of ridges in the fabric.  You could point out that a ridge is two rows and so the actual gauge is twice as many rows to the number of stitches in an inch, and I would have to agree.  The gauge of garter stitch is not square, the fabric is.  Due to the fact that garter stitch pulls up and condenses itself so nicely, two rows equal one ridge and therefore the number of stitches is the same as number of ridges (rows divided by two) in any given inch.  Makes life so easy when designing garments with garter stitch.  Need to pick up stitches along an edge?  Well then, picking up one stitch per ridge will give you the perfect number to create a proportionately fitting match;  there's none of this pick up two-thirds or three-quarters of the stitches, as is necessary with stockinette stitch, in order to avoid having a ruffled border or gathered sleeve.
    Knowing all this, I merrily picked up the stitches for Triangle II along the ridges of Triangle I, getting exactly the same number of stitches as the number of ridges, and figuring that if I decreased one stitch per ridge at the bottom edge, I'd end up with a symmetrically shaped shawl, knit in one piece and in two directions.  So neat, so tidy.  So wrong.
     As I decreased along, one stitch per ridge, Triangle II began to disappear much too quickly and at a disconcertingly steep angle.  Bummer. Rip out, Try again.  Where the decreases are placed can affect the shaping, even in good old square garter stitch, so I tried a couple more times, altering the placement and rate of the decreases.  Nope, not working.
      Ripping out once more (which comes with the territory of designing on the needles) I went online to consult with Pythagoras.  My reasoning was sound and my planning was confirmed by that ancient Greek master of triangles.  Then it dawned on me.  The edge I was picking up along was indeed made up of garter stitch ridges but these were ridges on the bias.

 Bias is a weird monkey in woven fabric and so it proves to be in garter stitch.  With this new realization, I used a sample piece to try out a couple more ideas for stitch number and decrease rate and found that the solution was simple and beautiful, elegant in fact, in a most scientific sense.  Are you ready?  Pick up the same number of stitches as rows and then decrease one stitch at the bottom edge every other ridge (every 4th row).  With the two-row (color "A" and "B") stripes, that means all decreases are done in the same color, making it even easier to remember where to decrease;  there is only one option, decrease at the beginning of the row every time you change to color "A".  If this sounds complex, worry not.  The knitting of Downover is a breeze.

Mini Downover Shawl from Knitaway® workshop

      Triangle II ended up with a lovely slope and a dramatically long tail.  Most importantly it had a fabulous fit and feel.  It was not what I expected, but it was more pleasing than what I had imagined and is a perfect example of why "designing on the needles" often creates more interesting detail than just designing on paper.  I am constantly amazed at how beautifully things work out when you allow them to become what they can be and refrain from forcing them to be "just" what you envision them to be.  Better than a nice symmetrical triangular shawl, Downover is asymmetrical and much more interesting.  In addition, the tension of the stitches picked up along the bias edge also adds a most flirtatious curve to the center back.  Another serendipitous gift.
      So by chance and through persistence a shawl was born.  I've got more ideas and designs brewing from this as garter stitch on the bias intrigues both my shawl-loving self and my inner geek.  Hope you enjoy it too, in the Downover Shawl.

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