Rainforest Swallowtail


Aside from the Clapotis, which is technically a wrap anyway, the Swallowtail Shawl is the most popular shawl on Ravelry by a large margin. Over 3,500 people have made it, whereas the second most popular shawl has only racked up 1,700 Ravelers. I figured, therefore, that it was (a) idiotproof, and (b) wearable, which made it a perfect candidate for my first lace shawl pattern. I’d had this idea in the back of my head for a month or so, but the Swallowtail suddenly leaped to the front of my queue, hopping over several already-in-progress projects, when I discovered Handmaiden Sea Silk in the Rainforest colorway. One skein would provide exactly enough for the Swallowtail, and the rich combination of greens was irresistible. Recalling both my Irish heritage and my forest-dwelling childhood, it called to me in a voice that said “drop everything and knit me now.” Its voice was so loud that I went ahead and bought a shawl pin before I even cast on; the one pictured above was hadmade by Nicholas and Felice on Etsy. It’s made of aluminum, so it’s nearly weightless (which is perfect for a shawl pin), and it’s gorgeous!


Here’s the shawl on the blocking wires. The color is less true (it looks browner & less vivid here), but you can see the stitch work better. This was, by the way, the first time I’d used blocking wires and I am never, ever looking back. I bought them a month or so ago when it became clear that there was going to be a lot of lace in my future, and I’m so very glad I did — pinning this out would have taken three times as long without them. I still don’t have a proper blocking board, as you can see, but these ghetto-fabulous flattened cardboard boxes have been serving me well, and they’re fully modular. (As in, I can duct-tape them into whatever configuration I need.)

Anyway, the Swallowtail Shawl was a surprisingly easy knit. All of the lace patterns were pretty easy to memorize, and as long as I paid a little bit of attention it wasn’t hard to figure out whether and how I’d screwed up soon enough that it wasn’t a disaster. The only really serious ripping moment came when I had a massive loss of confidence in how I’d been knitting the nupps, fearing that I’d been missing loops in my p5togs. Fortunately, I’d placed a lifeline at the end of the budding lace pattern. In my second try at the nupps, I used the cheater’s method: instead of p5tog, I slipped the first 3 stiches, then did p2tog and passed the 3 slipped stitches over. This way, I could make damn sure that each and every loop in the nupp was accounted for.

There was, however, one terrible moment when I dropped the stitch that had been holding a nupp together. Ravelry to the rescue! After a panicked search, I found this great link for “emergency nupp surgery” — it looked a little dodgy when I was actually doing it, but as soon as I was a few rows away I couldn’t find the surgeried nupp anymore, and now that the piece is blocked I’d say it’s definitely undetectable. Yay!


So I’m incredibly happy with my Swallowtail, but what remains to be seen is: will I actually ever wear a lace shawl? It’s a fussy, delicate garment and moreover it’s kind of old-lady-core. The fact that I’m itching to cast on another one right away (Knitty’s Laminaria; I want to make it in silver) despite the fact that this question has yet to be resolved has led me to the realization that I definitely am a “process” knitter — what Debbie Stoller calls a “hurts so good” knitter, the kind of knitter who looks at a pattern and thinks “I’d like to knit that” before she thinks “I’d like to wear that.”

Well, there are worse things to be. I do try to think about what I will actually wear, and some of my pieces (like my Dollar and a Half Cardigan, which I will eventually get to in my “flashback” series) see a lot of action, but I do have a whole shelf in my closet devoted to knits that rarely if ever see the light of day, even though they came out perfectly well.

That’s all for today. I should have another lace project done and ready for you to look at in just a few days! (Hint: it’s something you’ve seen before).

10 thoughts on “Rainforest Swallowtail

  1. Hi Erin! I added you to my feed-reader. What a gorgeous shawl! I actually think it looks great against your white t-shirt. It makes the outfit a little dressy, and if anyone can make old lady styles look cool, it’s you. 😉

  2. wow, I’m so impressed, I saw that shawl,, loved it, couldn’t live without it, bought the yarn, ordered the pattern, got it, read it, and threw it away! . . . . . . gawd, you did such a good job. You should be so proud! Great color also! Wow!

  3. Your shawl looks awesome! I’m so glad that the nupp surgery helped. 🙂 I wear my swallowtail mostly as a scarf (mine has similar dimensions) with my winter jacket. looks lovely and is nice and warm as needed. You know, just as a wearing idea. 🙂

  4. So I went back to Ravelry to see your other projects, I ended up back here, I love “old-lady-core” and plan to steel that too. (Meaning, I’m going to steel your Laminaria repeat strategy.) Your swallowtail is very lovely and, again, the color is just gorgeous. If you want to laugh at the triangular shawl phenomenon some more, and don’t mind some cursing, check out RandomCyn’s (ravelry userid) blog. In here latest post, she starts out listing all reasons she would have never knitted a triangular lace shawl, and concludes :”If you aren’t knitting a triangular lace shawl right now, you are doing it wrong!” It is hilarious.


  5. Pingback: Geometric Shawl « doublepointed

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