1/18/2017 Virus Shawl

If the Big Thing in crochet this past holiday season was Messy Bun Hats (a trend I still don’t understand), the Big Thing this summer/fall was virus shawls.  They were all over the Crochet Addict Facebook forum and quite frankly got tiresome.  I question the usefulness and modernity of shawls in general, and wasn’t sure why everyone was so in love with this design in particular.

At some point during some holiday or other present-related event, I was gifted by a relation with three skeins of Caron Simply Soft Paints Oceana Yarn.

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While I appreciate people doing a nice thing for me and gifting me hobby-related materials, I would warn all non-yarn-crafty people that buying yarn for a crafter is a dangerous thing, with one exception.  It’s dangerous for the crafter because 1. we often have limited room to store our craft materials 2. if we find a project in which to use the yarn, there is typically either too much or not enough in the gift to finish said project 3. non-crafty people don’t know about types of yarn, weights of yarn, or matching yarn dye lots, and just grab skeins randomly off the shelves that they think look pretty, which is a huge headache for crafters and 4. often crafty people feel obligated to take the yarn that was gifted to them and make a present for the gifter out of it.  Although it may feel like a cop-out gift, if you want to buy me yarn and you don’t want to frustrate or obligate me to a project I wasn’t expecting (and you don’t want a crocheted gift in return), just get me a gift card to a hobby store.  That way I can happily go out and spend the card on yarn I actually can use and I can get exactly what I need for a project and no more.

That brings me to the exception to this don’t-buy-me-yarn rule.  I rarely keep or wear the stuff I crochet.  I don’t particularly want or like anything that I make; I like the act of creating the piece, and I enjoy the feeling of being able to give something to someone that they will enjoy.  I also like the feeling of conquering a new pattern.  So I LOVE it when someone commissions me to make them something and comes shopping with me to pick out the yarn that they want for the pattern.  If it’s something that I’ve made before and I know what I need to buy, it’s great when the person gives me money to purchase the yarn.  Since I don’t crochet stuff to support myself and consider it a labor of love, I don’t need money for the time I spend on making the project (with a few exceptions).  I would probably pay people to commission me for projects if it means I can keep myself busy and out of the fridge during long cold winter nights.

Crafter rule: don’t buy me yarn unless you want me to make something for you, and if so, you have to bring me with you to buy the yarn.

I’m sure many for-profit crocheters and yarn hoarders are falling off of their chairs in horror right now at my rule.  Some of the pictures posted of yarn stashes people have just blow my mind, literally entire walls filled floor to ceiling with a variety of colors and types of yarn. As for me, I’m annoyed at how much yarn I currently have in my house that’s going unused, and I think it adds up to maybe 30 skeins total.  I’d rather be missing yarn for a project and have to go out and buy a little than have so much that I could spend two lifetimes crocheting and never use it all.

This brings me back to my well-intentioned but misinformed family, who bought me three skeins of a soft, thin, very pretty yarn that I had no idea what to do with.  I can’t really make a stuffed animal from this yarn, it’s too thin.  The colors are beautiful, but three skeins is too many to just use up with a hat or scarf, and my entire family is sick of receiving handmade winter wear from me by now.  I’ve made cardigans and coverups from this type of yarn before and didn’t really want to do that again.  So I surfed the forum for ideas and came across Yet Another Virus Shawl Picture, and decided to try the pattern out.  Depending on the type and size of the shawl, 3 small skeins would definitely be enough to get it done.

I settled on the very popular Virus Shawl pattern posted on Ravelry, though you have to go through about a million clicks and websites in order to get to the actual pattern in english. I used my well-loved J hook and ignored any gauge suggestions – it would be as big as I felt like making or until the yarn ran out.  The pattern was slow going at the beginning, but once I hit rows 7-10 and the pattern started repeating itself I advanced to warp speed.  I kept a sticky note next to me with a pattern description for the repeat of the rows until I really had a handle on it, and after that the repeats became automatic.

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Official pattern photo, not my work!

Presumably it’s called a Virus Shawl because for every complete set of rows you crochet, the width of the shawl goes up exponentially, similar to a population of viruses every time they divide.  I enjoy a good science parallel in my hobbies!  You actually start with the single center back loop (in the rear center of either shawl photo) and increase by one set of loops on each side from there.  It works up very quickly, though by the time you get near the end it takes a long time and a lot of yarn to get through a single row.

This one is my work!

I have to say, it actually turned out…beautifully.  It’s soft and warm without being stifling.  It goes most of the way down your back when it’s wrapped around you, but there’s not a big heavy weight on your arms if you want to carry the shawl around.  The colors in the yarn don’t come through very well in the picture, they’re quite beautiful.

To give you an idea of the virus-ness of this shawl, all except for maybe the last three groups of rows took one skein.  The last three groups of rows took a majority of a second skein.  It really does get wide!  This is laid out across my dining room table, which is more than 4 feet long, and droops over each end.

Despite my loathing of joining a fad, I’m not opposed to making another virus shawl in the future, particularly if I can get my hands on some color-changing yarn (or simply engineer the color changes myself) as seen in the pattern sample photo.  Once you get the hang of this pattern it’s fun to make, and I enjoy projects where you can quickly see what the end result will look like.  This shawl will go to my friend Dianne as a Christmas present…I look forward to seeing what she thinks of it!

Now…what to do with the last 1.2 skeins of Oceana?

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