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Today we welcome Marnie MacLean to the blog to share her process on creating the Montpelier shawl!

When Kate sent me the yarn for Montpelier I was overjoyed. I’ve never worked with a palette of colors like this and the yarn was softer than I would have ever guessed. There were a few factors in coming up with a design that I felt were important.

The first was that the design should use most of the yardage (1330 yards / 1200 meters) provided, without getting so close to the full amount that subtle gauge differences would result in yarn shortages for other knitters. I thought a three-quarter-circle shawl made sense for this as I can generally make a good sized half-circle shawl with around 600-800 yards so a shawl that is about 50% larger should use enough of the available yarn to make the yarn worth purchasing, while keeping the shawl radius within a wearable range.

The second thing I was worried about was combining all the colors in a way that allows each beautiful shade to shine while working them together in a harmonious manner.

Prism Marino Mia Private Palette Dyed Exclusively for WEBS comes in 6 individual shades and a multi combining all shades in one skein

I spent a lot of time trying to decide how the color scheme should flow. Should I do narrow stripes throughout? Dark against light? Green against blue? Totally random? It helped me to play around with the colors on my computer.

Combining the six individual shades in various configurations

I tend to prefer things that seem more orderly and I ultimately decided that I liked flowing from the blues to the greens in a somewhat gradient-like fashion. I was a bit unsure whether to treat the gray as a neutral barrier between or a part of the blue spectrum. The colors are so complex and interesting that they can really be categorized in multiple ways, but I felt like treating gray as a mid-tone in the blues was most appealing as the darkest blue shade was already tipping over into a deep spruce green, so it made more sense as a transitional shade.

The next step was to decide how much visual weight I wanted each color to have. The rows of circular shawls that are knit from the center-out, get longer and longer as you go which means that each skein produces fewer rows than the skein before. This means that visually, the first color used will stand out the most and each subsequent skein would appear to take up less and less space.

Deciding whether to start the color from the blue or green side of the color array

Since I love the sky blue shade, I really wanted to make that color stand out. When thinking about what the colors looked like to me, I felt like the blue-to-green progression could be a beautiful lake surrounded by lush greenery or a stunning mountain with rolling foothills.

Once I had my color order, I got to designing the stitch patterns. The blue areas would be a mix of lace and twisted stitches that might call to mind streams or hiking trails or ripples in the water. A bit of striping between shades helps to make the color changes less severe, and mimic the border to come. With the final shade of blue, the stitch pattern moves from a stockinette background to ribbing

Shades of blue worked in a simple lace and twisted-stitch pattern

When I moved to the green shades, I felt the colors had a less obviously flow from one shade to the next so I decided to change the color on every row and work in stripes. The stitch count is increased in several intervals to produce a gradually-widening ribbed pattern, that feels weighty enough to drape and move elegantly when worn.  

But there’s still one more skein left, I haven’t even mentioned. That seventh skein takes all the previous shades and combines them into one glorious frankenskein of color. It’s the skein that ties all other skeins together and I knew it’d be the perfect way to finish off the shawl. The pattern calls for a picot bind-off which takes a little while to complete, but results in little bobbles of color all around the shawl edge that won’t constrict the ruffled effect of the fluted ribbing. It’s a great treatment for people who are prone to too-tight bind-offs.

Striped ribbed border worked in three shades of green and finished with a multi-colored picot bind-off

While I’m always glad to get my samples back a few months after publication, I’m particularly excited for this piece as it really was fun to wear for my at-home photo shoot. I think Montpelier will end up in regular rotation. And if you listen to WEBS’s podcast, you’ll know that this yarn will be coming other colorways in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled for that. You might also enjoy this blog post from the makers of the yarn who discuss the inspiration for this colorway.

You can find Marnie on Instagram, Facebook, and her website