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Icelandic Shawl Notes

Notes on the making of Hyrna Herborgar
by Jackie E-S

Icelandic shawl laid flat

The beautiful book Three-Cornered and Long Shawls by Sigrídur Halldórsdóttir is the pattern source for the lovely Hyrna Herborgar shawl shown above. As of the April 2, 1998 edition by Louise Heite, only the Historical Introduction and General Instructions sections (pages 6 - 16) had been translated. In 1999 when I embarked on knitting the Hyrna Herboragar, there weren't yet any translations of the individual patterns. However; most of what I needed was in the portion already translated because it is general to most or all of the patterns.

Even the historical background was very interesting, but there was background technical information scattered throughout as well that I knew I was missing in the untranslated portions of the book. Louise additionally wrote me this in regard to the Hyrna Herborgar shawl, pages 72 - 73, and the author (cited here with permission):

The name of the shawl simply means "Herborg's Three-cornered Shawl". It was designed by Sigrídur Halldórsdóttir, who compiled the shawl book, as she says, "drawing inspiration from antique shawls and old tablecloths". Sigridur was probably the foremost textile arts teacher in Iceland for years and years, and was the chairperson of the handcrafts department at the Teacher's College of Iceland. Nearly every textile artist in the country learned either from her or from one of her students.

Before working knitting patterns from this book, I heartily recommend that you read all the translation notes. Particularly important are —

  1. The translations for all knitting symbols used in the charts. The chart symbols in the book begin on pg 12. Within the translation notes, Louise has deciphered all the knitting symbols in the same sequence given in the book. I wrote them into my book for easy reference later.
  2. How to read diagrams, e.g. charts for triangular shawls are written so that the diagram shows just one half, and the other half is to be knitted in a mirror-image.
  3. Characteristics of the Icelandic singles ("eingirni") yarn called for in several of the patterns i.e. 185 yds/oz which I inferred from the 6 m/g reference in the "Needles-casting on" topic of the General Instructions. This helped me estimate yardage requirements for the patterns calling for the singles yarn.

Notes specific to the Hyrna Herborgar shawl on pages 72 - 73.

Approximately 500 yds
Knitting needles 3.5 mm
Crochet hook 2.5 mm
Length at center is 62 cm (at least I think that's what all that means; it seemed reasonable that this was about 24" in length at center back of the triangle)

Suggested needle sizes are just that. Also, a lot depends on what fiber/yarn you use. For example I went down a needle size and used a corded silk, instead of the Icelandic wool singles. The silk is more compact and dense, whereas the Icelandic singles is fuzzy and lightly twisted and fulls nicely for the larger-sized needle. As anticipated, my result would be a slightly smaller shawl, but I was going to use it as a shoulder embellishment anyway (sort of like an elaborate collar).

Certainly, you should adjust your needles and/or yarn if you don't like what you are getting. One of the really nice things I like about patterns that start with just a few stitches, is that if you need to adjust needles and/or yarn, you don't have an investment in knitting time like you would in one that started on bunches of stitches.

Knitting the shawl:

Cast on 7 sts and knit 1 row. (this is the middle of the center back border edge and will be seamed later — it's barely noticeable!)

Begin chart. Symbols are as follows: (remember to see translation for full explanation — these typographical characters are not exact representations, so please use a little imagination <g>)

. = knit (k)

o = yarn over (yo) (oo = double yarn over)

\ = slip 1-knit 1-pass slipped stitch over (i.e. left slanting decrease; I used SSK)

/ = knit 2 stitches together (i.e. right slanting decrease - k2tog)

V = knit and purl into same stitch (i.e. increases 1 stitch)

X = garter stitch (knit on right side and wrong side)

’ (curly que apostrophe) = twisted knit stitch (i.e. knit 1 into back of stitch - k1b)

^ (upside down V) = slip 1-knit 2 stitches together-pass slipped stitch over (i.e. double decrease - sl1-k2tog-psso)

Nothing in a chart grid means that there isn't any stitch; therefore, just skip over any empty squares.

"midja" means "center". So work the chart from right to left, work the center stitch once, then work the chart left to right reversing as necessary for mirror image of the other side of the triangle. For example, reverse the ssk and k2tog's after the center stitch. And also any others in these types of patterns. I discovered recently that this is a charting technique that is also used in Shetland Lace (e.g. Hazel Carter's book on Shetland Lace Knitting from Charts) - i.e. charting just to the middle of a pattern motif and then letting the knitter figure out the pattern in reverse. Sometimes it takes a little concentration :) If in doubt, get out your graph paper and pencil and write it out. That's what I do if it starts to be too much to mentally abstract in my head!

Even-numbered (right side) rows are given on the chart. "umf" means row.

For the odd-numbered rows, knit the stitches designated as garter stitch, p1 then k1 into a double yo (i.e. "oo" of a previous row), and purl all the other stitches.

For example:

row 2 (RS): k3, double yo, k1 in back of stitch, double yo, k3.

row 3 (WS): k3, p then k into double yo, p1, p then k into double yo, k3.

Correction for row 8: (this is the only correction I encountered)

Change the \ / sequence to 2 twisted stitches i.e.

k2, k2tog, yo, k1b, k1, double yo, k1, k1b, k1b, double yo, k1, k1b, yo, sl1-k2tog-psso, yo, k1b, k1, double yo, k1b, k1b, k1, double yo, k1, k1b, yo, SSK, k2.

Beginning with row 28, repeat rows 20 - 27 three more times. The last pattern row (i.e. equivalent to row 26) is the same as the row 50 that is charted. They did this to make the transition to the next set of patterns easier. As of row 27 you have 83 stitches. After row 51 you have 155 stitches (77 + 1 + 77). Look at the first part of the 2nd paragraph of the Icelandic text. This is what that says (I think, at least it worked out for me!) The pattern is so defined in this area, that it's going to be pretty easy to see if you are off. Basically you just keep doing what you've been doing, and it magically grows. Of course if you want to keep stitch counts, I think that's a good idea, too. From the chart you can tell how many stitches you are increasing each row. For each repeat of rows 20 - 27, you will have increased by 12 sts on each side of the center for a total of 24 on the row.

Starting with row 74 and going through row 101, you should repeat rows 70 - 73.

I must admit that I didn't like the way that part was charted. It is correct, but just took too much of my attention to follow for an extended number of rows once you got past the transitioning from the previous pattern. (The reasons they had it charted this way is because of the rows transitioning into rows 70 - 73.)

Here is the simplified rendition I used, in case you find it helpful. (the []'s indicate the beginning and end of the pattern stitch repeats.)

’ o . . . o [^ o . . . o] ^ o . . . o x x x (Row 72)

’ o . o . [. \ o . o /] . . o . o x x x (Row 70)

There are two line 104's. Although they seem to be different, look again closely. Other than the "endurt" (i.e. repeat) sections showing differently, they are the same. It is charted this way to help in the transition to setting up the lovely border section.

After row 105 you have 299 stitches (149 + 1 + 149).

After row 127, the live stitches are crocheted off in groups of 3 and 5 stitches as indicated. I believe that the text specifies to chain 8 between groups. I think you want to chain the number of stitches that gives you the look you want. I personally liked fewer (can't remember whether it was 5 or 6). Also, I used a smaller crochet hook because of the silk, it gave me a firmer, tidier edge that I liked.

Icelandic Shawl pinned out for blocking
Sorry for poor photo quality. This picture was taken with a much older camera. And it was night and the hall where I had the blocking board standing was poorly lit.

Thank you for interest. I am here to serve you and help keep your knitting a pleasurable experience. If you have questions or need assistance with purchasing or knitting my HeartStrings patterns, let me know. Sincerely, Jackie E-S

Email address: jackie@heartstringsfiberarts.com
Phone: 678-262-6338 or 877-764-2747 (toll-free in US)
Postal address: HeartStrings, Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer, 53 Parlange Drive, Destrehan LA 70047-2133 USA

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Last revised Tuesday, 05-Mar-2013 21:29:30 CST