As I’ve written about many times, 2020 was a hard year for my creativity – it completely disappeared for the most part.
I think most people will have experienced the same thing as me. The pandemic really took over and forced my being into this survival mode where the best I could ask of myself was to do the minimal and concentrate on the little steps: get up in the morning; wash myself and do my hair; complete my day job; try to manage little chores and appointments; watch tv. Usual things that I loved, my hobbies, sort of went on of the window. I suppose this wasn’t unexpected really – it seems like a completely normal and valid reaction to what was going on around me – but it did leave me feeling a little bit bereft.
So I was really happy when I saw my creative inspiration button triggered one day after reading an email newsletter from A Yarn Story where they were talking about kits they had made from La Bien Aimee yarns for the Stillness Shawl by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade fame. I ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the pretty colours they out together in their kits but ultimately thought, “I really shouldn’t buy more yarn.”. So I left it and carried on with life. But weeks later, I still couldn’t get one kit or how good it would look in this shawl pattern out of my mind so I looked again and decided I was going to make a purchase!
That’s when the disaster struck!
So the yarns in the kit that I had fallen in love with where yarns by La Bien Aimee in the Loan, Pink Granite and Bois de Rose colourways (100% merino wool). The colours are more mottled, muted tonals, very delicate and subtle, that look painterly in a way when you knit with them. I thought they would look lovely with this pattern, just like A Yarn Story thought.
Unfortunately, after talking with the owner, one of the colours (Bois de Rose, a rose pink tonal) for the kit was out of stock at A Yarn Story. They were super helpful though and proposed me some alternatives but for me, they didn’t work. I’m very fussy about pink colours – pink is not a colour I generally like at all! I find it to be too peelie-wally (something that makes you look sick or washed out. A colour in this case) as we say in Scotland (There are few pink shades that look good on a very pale Scot, in my opinion!) and a lot of the pinks can look a bit cheap or inexpensive. Anyway, I decided that I would buy the other two yarns I needed from the kit as I was sure I would be able to find the pink yarn somewhere else, and I did from Loop London. Success!
I’ve worked with this range of yarns by La Bien Aimee before (see my Bendy Arrow shawl) and I enjoy working with it. It knits up well, it frogs well in my opinion if you need to fix a mistake somewhere, and it’s nice in the hands. It’s a bit pricey but it is an indie-dyed yarn from Paris, France, so it’s to be expected that the price reflects that when buying it in the UK. But oh my, the softness once it’s blocked! It’s so silky and really comfortable against the skin!
The Stillness Shawl is one of the newer shawl designs by Helen Stewart which has been designed for three different colours of yarns. I believe the shawl was originally a mystery make-along project where Stewart would release a part of the pattern every week or so and makers would be surprised by it taking form before their eyes. Personally, I like to know what things will look like before making it so I stumbled upon this pattern after the fact once I could see other examples of it but I was interested by the design.
I’m always a little hesitant about making shawls because I find shawl patterns in general can look old fashioned depending on the colours and stitch patterns. A lot of the patterns out there don’t really fit my clothing style, in my opinion, which is a shame because I do like making them overall. It just means I’m more picky when selecting patterns. Anyway each section of the Stillness Shawl uses a different stitch pattern or a little bit of lace or something to make it interesting and different from the section before, keeping you engaged and motivated to work on the project. I would say this pattern integrates a little of the traditional lace shawl stitch patterns and mixes them with more minimalist stitch patterns which makes this shawl pattern more modern and something people are more likely to use and wear. The ability to use three colours of yarns also makes this pattern highly adaptable – it would different each time you make it depending on the colour choices and order of colours used.
In any case I think that each of Stewart’s patterns teaches you a lot and improves your skills! I have made some of Stewart’s patterns before (see my A Dust of Snow shawl) and each time I learn a new stitch pattern and grow and develop my skills.
I also couldn’t talk about a Helen Stewart pattern without mentioning how well the pattern instructions are written. For me, her patterns are the best! It’s written in a way that actually helps you follow your progress and indicates how far you are through it. They are super clear and concise, which I think is really important for those knitters who are tackling something new to them by knitting one of these patterns. If I had to recommend shawl patterns to a newer knitter, without a doubt I would be recommending the Helen Stewart pattern catalogue!
Since the shawl is busy with its multiple colours, I wear it on days where my outfit is super plain so it can be the star. The shawl blocked out a lot bigger than I expected too so it’s great to drape over my shoulders while I’m working at my home office (otherwise known as the kitchen table!) during the day.
Have you made a Helen Stewart pattern before? What one is your favourite? Let’s chat about it in the comments below, I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations!
Shawl : the Stillness Shawl by Helen Stewart
Jeans: old Zara