Summer Solstice Lace Shawl

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Hello again everyone! Yesterday was the summer solstice, a day I really love. The sun doesn’t go down until about 9pm here, the days are hot and the evenings are warm and beautiful… *sigh* I love summer.

On Saturday I finally finished a shawl I was working on way back in February. I actually cast off the shawl in February, but I didn’t consider it finished—it was all white, and I knew I wanted to dye it. Saturday was the perfect opportunity to do that. My spinning/knitting group has an annual dye day in the summer up at the alpaca ranch, where we all bring various things to dye, usually yarn and fiber, and go crazy. Handpainting, kettle-dyeing, ombré… it’s all there. Naturally, I brought my shawl to work on.

Here’s the “before” picture, with obligatory cat photobomb (Tigger and Maggie like to drink out of the faucet, and they’re always hoping I’ll turn it on for them.) I gave it a quick steam-iron block just to see the size and drape of the shawl. Not bad!

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This is step 1 of the dyeing process. At home, before dye day, I kettle-dyed the shawl using a Jacquard acid dye in the color “brilliant blue.” When in doubt, use brilliant blue! I’ve used it a couple of times and it is truly brilliant. I overdyed a handwoven scarf once with it, and it practically glows.

The kettle-dyeing process is the most lazy of dyeing methods. Essentially, I mixed up the dyestock (a cup of boiling water + scoop of dye powder), poured it into the dyepot full of water, and tossed in the shawl. As the water heats up and simmers for a while, the dye strikes the fibers. I did stir the shawl around a little, but mostly I ignored it. This is how the uneven mottling of the kettle-dye is accomplished—if the dye can’t reach all the fibers evenly, it will strike in different concentrations. If I’d been aiming for a solid color, I would have had to make sure the shawl was fully immersed and had room for the dyestock to penetrate fully and evenly (with more stirring.)

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(Some of the visible mottling is from the dyejob, some from the tree-dappled light.)

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And this was the final result. I handpainted on a Procion (?) dye called “Twilight”, which is a darker blue, starting at the top center and lightening gradually toward the edge. Then I added a little shading on some of the “V” shapes at the edge. The result is something beautifully shaded all over. It’s hard to get this in a yarn-dyed process; this sort of big-picture color manipulation is best done after the object is constructed.

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Once the shawl was rinsed and mostly dry, I steam-blocked it with my iron. I do sometimes do a full wet-block with lace, where the piece is soaked and then pinned out, but this shawl does well with only a steam block, and I didn’t need it to be much bigger (a benefit of wet-blocking.) The scallops are done by ironing towards the edge—you want to use a fair amount of pressure to push the edging out, and a LOT of steam. It gets almost as good a result as pinning the scallops, with a lot less effort. Also, steam-ironing is great for lace—it gives the piece an incredible drape that you don’t get any other way. Even when I wet-block, I also steam iron to get that drape effect.

How to iron out the edging scallops:

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Result: ironed on the right, unironed on the left. Remember, no matter how you do it, always block your lace! The yarn needs to be opened up to show off the pattern.

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I’m very pleased with the result of this shawl. It’s large enough to be comfortably warm, has lovely drape, and is my absolute favorite color. (It’s what color my hair is supposed to be—but the blue in my hair fades much faster than the shawl blue will!) Of course, a wool/cashmere shawl is not the most suitable garment for the summer solstice, but it will be great to have on hand when things start cooling down!

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The pattern for this shawl is Vernal Equinox. The yarn is Knit Picks’ Capretta (80% merino wool, 10% cashmere, 10% nylon) originally in cream.

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