Today's post comes to you from Angela Hahn, designer of the wonderful Altocumulus. You can also find it here, on her blog. Check out some of her other Twist patterns as well, like Plaited Tam, Laredo, and Primrose Path.
I'm thrilled to have another pattern in Twist Collective! Here are some details about the design process and inspiration for Altocumulus, a lace shawl.
Triangular shawls are almost always shaped by increasing (or decreasing, depending on whether working bottom-up or top-down) along the center of the shawl, resulting in a mitered construction, where the two halves of the shawl stitch pattern angle toward each each other. It's no accident this shaping is popular-- not only is it a logical way to create a triangle, it can yield really gorgeous results. But when I created the design for Altocumulus, I was in the mood to try something different: a triangular shawl worked straight up from the bottom edge, with the triangular shape coming from rapid increases worked into a lace stitch pattern.
I knew I wanted to use a lace pattern based on the "half drop" principle, where pattern repeats are staggered (many leaf- and diamond-motif laces are constructed this way). At left is an example of a simple diamond/leaf stitch pattern (NOT the stitch pattern used in Altocumulus), constructed on the half drop principle: the full repeat is outlined in red, and the staggered half repeats in blue. This staggering often causes a diagonal flow to the lace, which I thought would adapt perfectly to the angled edges of a triangular shawl.
I found a lovely base stitch pattern in the Japanese "Knitting Patterns Book 300," a swirling design that reminded me of flames or peony petals. Each repeat was 20 stitches, and although the total repeat was 24 rows, that 24 rows was really made up of two sections of 12 rows each, with the stitch pattern simply staggered in the second section. So I knew that to create a repeatable increase along the bottom edges of the shawl, I would have to increase a total of 20 stitches every 12 rows: this would result in one repeat added every 12 rows, so that the repeats could be stacked on each other like bricks in a wall.
Then it was just a matter of trial and error, attempting to add yarnovers and sprinkle in judicious decreases so that I could get enough stitches increased while still maintaining as much of the movement of the original lace pattern as possible. 20 stitches every 12 rows is a rapid rate of increase, so while I had plenty of yarnovers to work with, I had to be choosy about where I placed my decreases. Once I had an edge increase repeat that I liked, I submitted the idea to Twist, and was delighted when they accepted it.
One major issue presented itself once I began working on the pattern sample: I realized that even with the rapid rate of increases along the edges, the edge stitches would have to be stretched to their limit while blocking, while the center of the shawl would be stretchier than the edges, tending to form a convex curve along the top edge of the shawl-- not the most shoulder-friendly shape for the wearer. To counter this tendency, I added decreases and a narrow ribbing along the top edge.
I pinned out the yarnovers along the edge while blocking (see above), but once unpinned, the edge did contract a bit, so I ended up with more of a swirled, textured edging than an open one (see below). I actually like it this way, and I also like the fact that the lace stitches on every row pull strongly on the fabric, giving it a slightly three-dimensional quality.
And the name? Altocumulus clouds are the type of clouds in a mackerel sky, and once I saw the shawl knitted up in the gorgeous gray-blue Acadia yarn (from the Fibre Company), that is what the fabric reminded me of. (It also reminded me of William Morris wallpaper, but I don't like the name William Morris so much....)