As much as I love fancy lace, complicated cables, and intricate stranded colorwork, few knitting projects are as comforting and relaxing to me as a plain shawl. Plain doesn't have to mean boring, however.
My latest design started when Ginny of FatCatKnits sent me a skein of yarn in a wildly variegated colorway and asked me to design something with it. First I tried a cowl in stitch pattern that involved lots of increasing and decreasing, but I could see after only a few rounds that it wasn't working. Similarly, I crossed off the idea of lace because I knew that any stitch pattern would get completely lost in all the changing colors. At that point, I realized that I was overthinking things. Just as a wild sock yarn looks best in a simple sock, so too would this yarn look best in a simple shawl.
For the first sample, I stuck with garter stitch. Garter has been described as ugly, simplistic, too basic, and so on, but I love the bounciness and stretch it has. And it happens to work really well with a yarn that's highly variegated, because you can see pops of all the colors.
I started this shawl like a regular top-down triangle, but after a certain number of increases, I shifted the location of the middle increases. Then I added some more. Then I shifted them yet again. The result is what I'm calling a rounded trapezoid shape, and while it's a little more challenging to block with blocking wires (thank goodness I have a couple that are thin and very flexible), it's a shape that sits really nicely on the shoulders.
As soon as I finished up the first sample, I knew I wanted to knit up another in stockinette, using yarnovers for the increases for a lacier look. It was the perfect opportunity to use up a skein of handspun that had been sitting in my stash for years because it seemed too precious, a three-ply fingering weight that was spun from a shipment of the Crown Mountain Farms fiber club back in 2010 or so. This version is a bit less colorful, but I love it, too.
Two Roads Diverged is easy enough for a beginner knitter to complete yet engaging enough for an advanced knitter to enjoy. It's perfect for that skein of sock yarn in your stash that's been taunting you for buying it because it's so pretty but not using it because you think it will be too busy. If you've got a skein of handspun that's a weird length, this shawl is perfect because you can stop at any time, and if you have an especially large skein, you can follow the established increase pattern to make it as large as you want. And while it's designed for fingering weight, there's no reason you couldn't use any other weight of yarn. I think it would make a spectacularly cozy shawl worked in worsted or bulky, for instance.
The pattern includes instructions for both versions of the shawl, garter and stockinette. Both start with a garter tab; the garter version uses directional increases (m1L and m1R), while the stockinette version uses yarnover increases. Both versions are finished with a picot bind off, but if you don't care for it, it's very simple to substitute the bind off of your choice (I find that the picots add a little weight to the edge of the shawl, which -- particularly in the case of the stockinette version -- helps to keep the bottom edge from flipping up).
*If the name of this pattern sounds a little familiar, it's because I've shamelessly borrowed from my favorite poet, Robert Frost. It's the first three words of his poem "The Road Not Taken."