Book Review: Folk Shawls

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Book Review: Folk Shawls

Folk Shawls: 25 knitting patterns and tales from around the world

by Cheryl Oberle

“Folk Shawls” is a beautiful book that enchanted me from the first time I saw it. Presented are 25 patterns for knitted shawls, organised by their country of origin and with tales of  the history and folklore of each region, including the historical importance of textiles to that society.

Naturally the combination of fibre arts and traditional tales is one that appeals to me. I really appreciated knowing the background, the cultural context and the development of the designs Cheryl Oberle presents. There is lots here to learn. Did you know the Faroe Islands were named after fairies; in fact Faroese in Old Norwegian means “Fairyland”? Me neither! I learnt of the red shawls of the English Victorian wool peddlers, and the traditional South American ruana, favoured by weavers as its rectangular construction negated the need to cut the precious woven cloth. Some of the shawl designs traditionally would have been knitted, some were woven and have inspired the patterns presented here. Each pattern comes with detailed instructions, charted where lace patterns make up some or all of the designs, and a stunning colour photograph.

I have yet to work any of the designs, but the Icelandic feather and fan triangular shawl is in the pipeline. It is worked in natural sheep’s wool colours, for which I have chosen black, grey and white wool breeds from around the British Isles. This will be the first time I’ve planned a project right from the fleece stage, so I have a lot of spinning ahead of me.

There is something in this book for everyone. The styles cover triangular, square and rectangular shawls, small and large, fine lace to sturdy garter stitch, each of them beautiful, practical and meaningful. The last word goes to the author herself:

To those who say “I don’t wear shawls” my answer is “That’s because you haven’t met the right shawl!” I hope you find it here.

Published by Interweave Press LLC, 2000.

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