The Country Summer Shawl: A Labor of Love

Detail of the Country Summer Shawl

At age nineteen, Sara Greer learned to crochet, and she never looked back! She's become a knitter, dyer, and spinner, learning to process many fibers, including her favorite exotics.

This is the story of Sara's Country Summer Shawl, featured in the fall 2014 issue of Spin-Off magazine. Sara dyed the fiber, spun it into a beautiful laceweight yarn, designed the pattern, and knit it up. Wow! This is a beautiful example of shawl knitting.

Here's Sara to take you through her process.

The Country Summer Shawl

I began this project at the end of summer 2013, my first full summer in the country. I enjoyed watching all the different stages the wheat goes through out here, from planting to harvesting to loading the trains headed to the mill.

When the Lace edition of Knitting Traditions came out last fall, it held a motif from Russian knitting that I hadn't seen before: wheat. I knew I had to make something with it. I started looking for other motifs and found strawberries and honeycomb, both big parts of a country summer, so the following shawl was born.

It is a long shawl, assembled in the traditional Russian way: one piece with no sewing. The edgings are worked as you go and the final two ends are joined in the traditional manner. The edging, called teeth, is a traditional five-hole tooth, with lace diamonds that remind me of the breezes out here. The outer border is the wheat motif, the inner border is strawberries, and the center is honeycomb.

All of the finished materials used, and the finished shawl


Shortly after moving to our new house, I pulled out some top to dye. I wet it out in water and placed it in Kool-Aid dye to soak. I then forgot about it and didn't set it until a couple of days later. It came out a great color, which I now call blueberry—more country summer. It seems that letting the top sit in the dye makes the fiber act as a filter. Some color particles float to the top, while others sink to the bottom. It only works well with grape, but I can't wait to see how it works with other fiber preparations.


I spun the top from one end to the other. I didn't use all 6 ounces, but dyeing the full quantity left plenty to shift the colors as I liked and to put away for repairs should they be needed later. I spun this top into a 2-ply laceweight yarn that is 34 wpi. I used my beetle-kill drop spindle, made by my husband.


The Country Summer Shawl

The shawl begins with a provisional cast-on so that you will have live stitches when it is time to pick up for the left edging. Use any provisional cast-on that you like. I cast on with waste yarn, and then started knitting with my project yarn. When it was time to pick up those stitches, I picked out the waste yarn.

The honeycomb and strawberry patterns both come from Galina Khmeleva's Gossamer Webs Design Collection (Interweave, 2000). The wheat pattern is from Knitting Traditions Fall 2013. I designed the diamond teeth using the Russian diagonals motif and a basic template for teeth that I've created based on Galina's edging designs.

The bottom edging is worked first: Cast on, work the bottom teeth, then pick up along the straight edge for the body. Working across the shawl, first work the edging, then the borders, then the center, then the borders, then the opposite edging. From one end to the other, work the outer border, add the inner border, then add the center; this is reversed at the other end. The top teeth are worked by joining to the top stitches as you go.

All the motifs are worked on the right side only except the honeycomb (center chart) and the wrong-side decrease of the teeth. Believe it or not, these motifs will become easy to feel and memorize. Read the chart from right to left on the right side and from left to right on the wrong side. If you are a true left-handed knitter as I am (the stitches are taken off the right needle and put onto the left), then read the chart in reverse. Charts have helped me to be a better lefty knitter.

—Sara Greer, from Spin-Off, Fall 2014

What a fantastic journey. All of the specifics, including how to replicate Sara's blueberry yarn dye, the details on spinning the yarn, and the knitting pattern itself, are in the Fall 2014 issue of Spin-Off. Subscribe today!


P.S. Have you taken a dying, spinning, knitting journey of your own? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

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