Shawl Knitting Workshop

Well, on Thursday 10th November we held our shawl knitting workshop at Hopton House in Shropshire. Four lovely ladies had booked in for the day and obviously the first thing needed was tea (or coffee) and cake. Karen’s lemon drizzle and banana bread were set upon with enthusiasm and we sat round the fire, introduced ourselves and went over our knitting history. I passed round some examples of different weights of yarn and explained a lot of them were from independent dyers and were often very limited editions. They’re like pets, you have to take them out and stroke them now and then!

We started by learning a bit about the history of shawls and how to wear one. I had taken along a number of shawls and scarves I’d knitted to demonstrate different techniques, one so hot off the needles I hadn’t even had time to weave in the ends 😀. I explained how to follow the pattern and we spent some time learning about using charts and how to read them and not to fear the complicated look of them. A chart is really just a map of the stitches on your needle – some people can’t bear them and others find they can’t use written instructions. The shawl I had chosen was Milkweed by Laura Chau and was well written with both charts and stitch by stitch instructions. Then it was time to get started!


Everyone had a goody bag with their chosen colour of Malbrigo sock yarn, which we had left in the skein so the participants could see the colour. This of course meant we had to wind the yarn which, on reflection, I think we’ll do in advance next time as it does take time. 

Anyway eventually we got down to it and I demonstrated the long-tail cast on which is a nice easy cast on especially as Milkweed only needs 7 stitches! Triangular shawls start at the top centre usually and work out and down – it was great to see the tiny shawls start to grow. 


After more tea and cake we spent a solid hour or so knitting, learning the techniques of yarn overs and centred double decreases and put in our first lifelines. A lifeline is a thinner piece of yarn that threads through and holds the knitting in case you have to unravel things and we did find them useful once or twice! 

Next it was time for lunch which was of course delicious. Homemade soup and homemade bread – cold meats, cheese, smoked salmon and salads – Karen’s food and hospitality is a big feature of these knitting days. 


After lunch there was much clicking of needles  and some challenges encountered and overcome. I trotted round everyone to help with queries and sometimes fixing the occasional mistake . Making mistakes is part of the knitting process – it will and does happen, even to experienced knitters and learning to fix things or sometimes to fudge them does take time. I reminded the knitting course participants of two favourite sayings – 1) no point having a handmade item that looks as if it has come from a factory and 2) the Amish often make a deliberate mistake in their quilting to remind themselves that only God is perfect. With these comforting thoughts we knitted on until eventually it was home time. 


I think everyone enjoyed their day at Hopton House – the views are stunning and of course if you and a friend wish to stay over, there’s some lovely luxurious bedrooms and delicious breakfast available too. 

Next week we have the colourwork knitting class and that promises to be a fun day knitting a beret and exploring colour and Fair Isle knitting. I’ll leave you with some other photos of happy knitters!

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