The Story of a Literary Knit

It began with the perfect skein of yarn.

It had wonderful provenance – it was Daisy Sock by Posh Yarn – 80% merino and 20% bamboo; it was named ‘Promenade’ – and I live on The Promenade; and because I saw a colour in the mix that was the best colour match I had ever seen for my collection of Virago Modern Classics.

I placed my order, and when it arrived it was just as lovely as I hoped. I had to rest it on that bookcase, and there it sat for a very log time. Partly because it has become part of the scenery and partly because I was never quite sure what I should do with it.


A month or so ago I was inspired by a knit-along. Picture This invited knitters to draw inspiration, in any for they chose, from a painting or a photograph or of any kind of image at all.

I’d been thinking along those sort of lines ever since I made my Nut Hap, and I have some big plans, but, because I have a sweater in progress that I really want to wear soon, I knew that this was time to keep things simple.

That skein caught my eye, and so I decided that the Virago bookcase would be my image, and that as I was in the middle of reading Dorothy Richardson’s ‘Pilgrimage’ I would knit her a shawl!

The pattern that I thought would suit her – and me – was Simmer Dim by Gudrun Johnson. It’s interesting without being obvious, feminine without being girly, and just a little bit different to the norm.

I love the traditional Shetland construction – the pattern begins with a garter stitch triangle, with yarn-overs at the end of each row to make the triangle grow and to create loops that you pick up after casting off your triangle, to knit the rest of your shawl outwards.


It was lovely, mindless knitting, and my triangle was wonderfully stretchy. There really is something about garter stitch!

The next phase had bands of garter stitch and bands of stocking stitch, with lots of increases along the way, and changes of needle size that make the knitting look like rather more that it actually was.

The pattern was very well written. I don’t do this kind of knitting often, and I did find that  had the wrong number of stitches at one point, but it was easy to out things right and all was well at the end of the section.

The phase that came next was zig-zag lace. It was so simple, but I forgot what I was doing when the increases changed direction and went horrible wrong. It was my fault entirely – lack of concentration – so I went back and did it again and it came out perfectly.

All I had left was a picot bind-off. It was simple, it was effective, but it took ages.

Then I had a crumpled heap of knitting!


I wasn’t worried – I know that’s what you get when you knit on needles that are a little too big for it.

When I draped the shawl over the bookcase I was very pleased with it, and I was sure that it would grow beautifully when I blocked it.


I am so glad that I bought some blocking wires, and that I just had to run them through, measure and pin them in place. I can’t say that it was quick, but it was definitely quicker than pinning out each picot.

Here’s the finished shawl, draped over the inspirational bookcase.


I can say that I like it, but I can’t quite say that I love it.

I think that the pattern and the yarn are mismatched. My yarn was very smooth, and I think a yarn with a little halo would help the increases to blend into the knitting a little more. And, because the yarn is very unforgiving, I can see a few little mistakes. Not things that many people would spot, but another knitter might, and I know they’re there.

(I knitted this same pattern years ago, in a yarn with a little mohair, and I love that version.)

More worryingly, the yarn snapped in a couple of places after blocking. It wasn’t that I over-stretched it. I was carfeul but it was my fault.

I really should have known better than to keep yarn in a room with an Aga for a long period of time, and, though there was nothing obviously amiss when I knitted, it wasn’t as lovely as I had thought it might be, and I think that it must have dried out rather more than was good for it.

I was able to repair the damage, but I realised that this probably wasn’t going to be a shawl for wearing.

Lesson learned!

I’m going to drape my new shawl over the bookcase.

I’ll think that I could unravel and re-knit it one day. But I probably won’t.

I’m glad that I finally knitted that skein; and, though it wasn’t quite what I planned, I rather like that it still adorns the Virago bookcase.

My sweater is progressing nicely.

And I have another literary knit in mind, but that’a another story for another day.

14 thoughts on “The Story of a Literary Knit

  1. The shawls looks absolutely beautiful to me, and the colour is gorgeous. And your shelves are really rather wonderful too! I’m sure that Dorothy would have been honoured to have you produce the shawl for her.


  2. Gorgeous post – sumptuous yarn and such a good story! And so many Viragos! I am in the process of preparing to knit again after a long break. Things have changed so much since I was a dedicated knitter; I shall have to catch up a bit. I love this shawl, Jane, and I’m saving the pattern. I’m very tempted to make it – but my first project is already decided on. The shawl would work well with it though…. 😉


  3. What a stunning shawl, Jane! I love the way you wove the yarn together with your love of Viragos, and I think you’re spot on about the shawl suiting Dorothy Richardson. It’s finely and intricately wrought without being fussy or frivolous. Beautiful.


  4. This is so lovely. I adore the colours, and how they match the Viragoes and the Richardson volumes – and the purply feel brings to mind the Suffragette colours, too!


  5. I really love this post, I do like the pattern for the shawl but think I understand what you mean about the yarn needing a little more texture – it is so refreshing to read a post about knitting that doesn’t quite work as expected, although I’m quite sure you could wear the shawl if the Virago shelf can do without it for a while.


  6. I love everything about this, Jane – your choice of inspiration, your beautiful yarn selection, your quality knitting and a few laughs along the way – in the spirit of ‘been there’, esp re the storage of your yarn (ouch!). Bravo on all counts 🙂


Comments are closed.