It’s time! I can FINALLY talk about my Alhambra Shawl design, because I released it earlier this week on Ravelry!
First of all, let me explain the name of this shawl. I had, way back when, decided to create a collection of designs based on the theme of “medieval places.” I wanted my collection to include inspirational locations both inside and outside of medieval western Christendom. In my academic life, I study the presence and influence of Islam on medieval “Europe” (and even this term is problematic, when talking about the Middle Ages!), so I decided that the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain would be a perfect source of inspiration for one of my designs!
I have never visited the Alhambra, nor have I traveled to Spain, but I have traveled quite a bit in North Africa and the Middle East, so I am well aware of the breathtaking beauty of medieval Islamic architectural design – the unfathomably intricate carving that makes massive stone look like a frothy, lighter-than-air confection, the dizzying geometric patterns, the beauty of the Arabic script incorporated as an architectural element. It’s hard to believe these magnificent works were created by human hands!
Architectural elements of the Alhambra palace, Granada, Spain. Photo credit: Löwe 48 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
Domed muqarnas, Two Sisters Hall, Alhambra palace, Granada, Spain. Photo credit: Jebulon / CC0
One look at these amazing stone carvings convinced me that the only way to replicate this airy, delicate feel would be through lace design. I’m not a big lace designer. I prefer cablework and colorwork. But I’m always up for a challenge, so I scoured through lace stitch dictionaries and shawl patterns to come up with the perfect combination of stitches to capture the hanging “stalactites” and beautiful pierced carvings of the Alhambra.
My Alhambra shawl is very generously sized – this isn’t meant as a cowl or quick shoulder covering. I wanted it to be both light and warm, and it will offer good coverage over a strappy gown on cool evenings.
I also wanted to choose the perfect colorway: something on the warm side of neutral, evoking the buff stonework of the Alhambra. I had purchased the perfect, affordable laceweight merino, Knit Picks Shadow Lace, in the perfect colorway: Oyster Heather. Unfortunately, Knit Picks discontinued that particular colorway after my purchase. They have since reinstated Shadow Lace, which I recommend as a good staple of laceweight yarn. Most of their new colorways are on the cool side, so if you’d like to replicate this shawl more precisely, I would instead recommend Valley Yarns 2/14 Alpaca Silk in Fawn. A very affordable option, since one cone will do the trick!
I am happy with the results of this project. I don’t think I’ll become a full-time lace knitter any time soon, but I did enjoy the challenge of integrating these stitches into a cohesive design and learning about shawl construction! And I do feel like the final product captures the essence of medieval al-Andalus (Islamic Spain) as I had hoped it would! Even the photo shoot was fun, since I don’t usually dress up for my knitting shoots!
Before releasing my pattern, I wanted to do another test knit of the shawl, just to make sure the charts and written instructions were accurate. I sifted through my stash for a cone of something or other, and found what turned out to be more of a cobweb weight in a terracotta color. I wasn’t worried about gauge or final product, so I just went with it. The design isn’t really ideal for cobweb weight yarn, and I should have gone down several sizes on the needle, but I was able to test all the charts, and everything worked out perfectly.
The color doesn’t exactly shout “Alhambra,” but it does remind me of the terracotta clay so prevalent in Marrakech, Morocco!
I hope you’ll enjoy this shawl and give it some love on Ravelry. I have some new designs in the works, so I’ll keep posting as we navigate this strange, strange moment in history!