Spring Meadows Shawl: Designing Behind the Scenes
Updated: Oct 29, 2020
The Spring Meadows Shawl all began with me deciding to walk into a yarn shop. It was September 2019, I'd just recently moved to Charlotte, NC, and the Charlotte Yarn Crawl was going on. I decided it was a really good excuse to meet the local yarn shop owners and see their shops, since it's not generally in my budget to go shopping at a LYS (local yarn shop).
(Note: The pattern is available for purchase on Ravelry, PatternVine, and LoveCrafts.)
I'd spent the day walking into each yarn shop, stunned by all of the beautiful yarns, and greeted with a simple (and mostly friendly) "Hello, how can I help you?" at each yarn shop, to which I responded "I'm just looking, thanks!" I didn't tell them there was absolutely no way I could afford to buy yarn from every shop I visited, and I was just taking advantage of the community event. Fibre Studio was different though. The staff member that greeted me was extremely friendly, welcoming, and eager to help. During our conversation, she asked me about the shawl that I was wearing (it was my first shawl design, Dancing in the Rain). Apparently, as I was looking at all of the amazing yarn and chatting with another customer, the staff member went back to tell the shop owner that I was a designer, and the shop owner came to the front of the store all excited. And that is how I received my first request to design something specific to a dyer's yarn!
Debbie is the owner of The Fibre Studio at Yarns to Dye For, which happens to be the closest LYS to where I live! (I've been thinking of going in for the weekly knitting group since September -- just because of the super sweet and friendly staff member -- but I didn't have any of their yarn to knit with, and then when I did have their yarn, I was knitting furiously to get the shawl complete. Am I just making excuses for myself?) Debbie and her team not only run a local yarn shop, but they also dye yarn!
When Debbie learned that I was a knitwear designer, she asked if I could design a shawl with her Fifty Shades of Gradient yarn. Of course, I was excited about the prospect (and a bit nervous). She asked if I could have it done within a couple of weeks for a show she was attending, and that wasn't possible for me (I was in the middle of designing my four-shawl Guiding Principles collection, and that wouldn't give me any time for test knitting), but she was still interested in having me create a design for the Carolina Fiber Fest in March.
A snip-it about the yarn: The Fifty Shades of Gradient yarns are a 113 gram/560 yard cake of hand-dyed yarn, and my shawl design was to be specifically designed for one cake.
As Debbie and I chatted back and forth on Instagram in the following months, I'd expressed that I'd like to design something spring-themed, and she asked what my favorite colors were (I tend to lean to blues, greens, and purples). In January, The Fibre Studio created a colorway to premier at the Carolina Fiber Fest, and that was the yarn I was to use for the shawl design. It is a beautiful progression from green to blue to purple, and the staff named it "Spring Meadow."
Prior to seeing the yarn, I'd decided that I wanted to create a trapezoidal-shaped wrap with a leaf motif bordering the long edges of the wrap. Once I received the yarn, I swatched up my ideas (above) to see how it looked with the yarn, which stitch motifs I wanted to use, and how far the yarn would go. After the first swatch, I discovered that I wouldn't have enough yarn to create a wrap of the length that I wanted, without making it so narrow that it looked like a scarf. I also discovered that I wanted the leaves to stack end to end on the border of the shawl (rather than being staggered) and fell in love with the bottom stitch pattern (shown in purple).
I then switched gears to create a shawl of a different shape. I'd never knit a boomerang-shaped shawl before, but it looked like a good way to get a lot of length out of one skein of yarn.
I was still in love with my slipped stitch garter substitute, but I decided I needed to choose between that and the garter stitch, and the garter required less yarn. Plus, the garter went better with the other stitch motifs. (I actually was quite tempted to just make the whole body of the shawl in that stitch motif, so that the whole shawl was just leaves and that squishy fun slipped stitch pattern, but I decided that was too boring for something that was supposed to be spring-themed!)
To me, the garter stitch sections resemble meadows (it reminds me of plain fields of grass), the dropped stitches resemble the rain, the leaves represent leaves, and the floral mesh lace is a reference to floral vines. I tried again and again to add another stitch motif in there (so there would be another pattern to alternate within the body of the shawl), but nothing looked quite right.
It was finally time to start the actual shawl! For the wrap, I'd planned to start with the green and end with the purple, but when I changed shapes, I wanted to start with the purple, so I could get the most out of it. After taking out the cast on on my first sample, I discovered it really would be impossible to start with the purple end. Because I'd received the yarn with little time to spare (I needed to design, swatch, write up the pattern, knit the sample, and try to get photos in just two weeks, so I could give my test knitters enough time to test the pattern), I didn't have time to unravel both swatches to get back to the purple yarn. This also meant that I ended up working with very crinkly yarn for much of the sample and had to just hope it was all going to block out correctly! I think the main thing it affected my tension.
A little behind the scenes: I only had one skein to work on for the project, so all of my swatches and the design had to come from the same cake. Typically I would break the yarn for the swatches and then alternate yarns to incorporate the swatch yarn back into the design sample. However, because of the gradient, I knew that wasn't an option, which made it interesting, because everything was always connected! And when I was working on my swatches, I had to be careful that I didn't accidentally rip out the work of one swatch while working on another!
Fortunately, everything turned out well, and I am very happy with the Spring Meadows Shawl! (And now you know just how original my name is! Typically my designs start from the name/concept that I have in mind, and this design process was completely different!)
So, what do you think? Did you like how I included all of the behind-the-scenes details this time? Did you realize how much went into a knitting pattern design?
To purchase the pattern, you can find the pattern on Ravelry, PatternVine, and LoveCrafts. If you are interested in seeing other projects that use the Spring Meadows Shawl pattern, be sure to check out the linked projects on Ravelry! If you are looking for color/yarn suggestions & recommendations, please check out my other Spring Meadows blog post here!