January 18, 2016

Skull Shawl

This post is about working on a Christmas present, or a birthday present... as those dates are very close for this special person.

I saw this pattern for a skull shawl on Ravelry and knew straight away that I wanted to make one for her. It's a tiny bit gothy, but pretty and lace at the same time. I had originally thought about doing it in a solid black color... but I figured the design might get lost or be a bit boring. On a trip wandering through Joann Fabrics I saw this super cool looking yarn. It is a little shiny and has a lovely ombre in dusty gray, blue, and black. It's called Red Heart Boutique Midnight. If Red Heart keeps making such cool yarns, I might have to change my opinion of their stuff... just stay away from Super Saver.

The problem is that the original pattern is in some other language and a little hard to follow even in its translation to English. Thank goodness that Julia Marquart on Ravelry was kind enough to make video tutorials on each row of the pattern. She did modify the shawl to have a solid center rather than more skulls, but I kind of like it better.

I started off following the videos exactly, but after getting to the 11th row or so, I realized that I had done two things wrong. My shawl was ending up very large. First, I was using the Boutique yarn, which is a medium weight yarn where as the pattern calls for a sport weight which is much thinner. Second, the pattern calls for a 3.5mm hook, but I had gone up to a 4mm hoping that it would be alright for the larger yarn, but close enough to work.

I guess I could have gotten new yarn, but I really liked the stuff I had, so I decided to pull a Tim Gunn and "Make It Work".  I started over with the second skein to see if the changes I make would result in a smaller result than the first one. This time I used a 3.75mm hook which was the smallest that would still work the yarn right. To combat the large spaces that I did not like, I also reduced the number of chains usually by 2 where ever they came up in the pattern (so if it said chain 6, I did 4, if it said 9 I did 7, etc). To further shrink it down, I also went from 4dc in a "block" to 3dc.

It takes about a hour and a half to get through the first skull motif and of course the rows just get longer and longer from there. The good thing is that at row 13 they start repeating sections of the first couple of rows to get more skulls on either side of the blocks in the center. This section of blocks between motifs just increases by one for each row, so after you get the hang of how the motif is made it is actually pretty easy to figure out the rows after that.

The shawl worked up pretty fast over the course of a week or so. As I got closer to the end of the second skein, I realized I might not have enough to finish off the last motif, but I kept going to see how close I could get, hoping that it would turn out alright. Two rows later I felt sure it was not going to happen so I took several rows back out and filled out the rest of the shawl with blocks instead of starting new motifs. I also thought about getting a third skein, but she's a petite girl and I didn't want this to be a blanket on her.

Done! I can't tell if the skulls are getting lost or not. I also feel like this is much wider than long, and that bothers me a little, but I guess it is a shawl and not a blanket.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Finished size: 50" long along the shoulders, by 32" along an edge to the point.