Thinking, Thinking, Thinking…

… about designing a square shawl. I am not sure how this obsession got activated, but that is neither here nor there now that I am obsessed. I don’t have many square shawls in my Ravelry queue, but the ones I do have are lovely. There’s Spanish Armada from MMario; Oregon by Joan Schrouder, which is actually an octagon due to the corner shaping; Snowflakes in Cedarwoods by Anne Hanson (look at the stitch detail); and Medallion Square from Gossamer Webs, which I own.

Maybe it’s the spaciousness of these shawls that appeals to me. They’re sort of anti-socks. Like socks, they offer potential for all kinds on interesting stitch combinations, but where socks leave one asking “how many design elements can I cram in before the whole thing implodes/makes me want to poke my eyes out with my own knitting needles?,” the square shawl stretches out luxuriantly, odalesque-like, even. It offers plenty of room for the possibilities one can dream up, with long stretches of each and every chosen stitch.

The unfortunate corollary to this wealth of space is that a square shawl can eat one up time-wise. I can play with sock designs and try all sorts of things out because even if I decide the piece is a complete flop, I haven’t lost more than a night or three of knitting. However, if a square shawl design turns out to be less than satisfactory—how much of my life will I have wasted away before this becomes apparent to me?

I have some ideas. I’d like a textured, rather than a lacy center, so that the shawl can really help keep one warm. I want to use yarn overs at the starts of rows and perhaps an initial provisional cast-on to prepare for the picking up of stitches as I move to the borders. The lace stitches in the borders should be strongly differentiated, rather than variations on a single theme.

Part of the solution may be more time on Ravelry (we all need excuses for that, don’t we?). If I look at enough square shawls by others, I’ll probably have an easier time separating the truly good ideas from the errors in judgment.

Certainly it wouldn’t hurt to knit up one or two of the square shawls in my queue. This means the design will be a while in coming, but I’ll have a better sense of not just what designs I like, but of what kinds of written directions are/aren’t helpful. And doing this would give me a chance to go stash-diving in the lace bin.

What words of wisdom do you have? How would you define the square shawl aesthetic? What works? What doesn’t? Can you point to designs that you find particularly successful?

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