Strawberry Pie Shawl

5/6/08 One note I want to add: the shawls in my book, “Wrapped in Comfort: Knitted Lace Shawls,” were designed in part in reaction to my wishing that the Strawberry Pie shawl were designed better. This one’s okay, and the number of people who’ve told me they love theirs is why it’s still here on my site, but the newer patterns I think are frankly better. They form a V-neck in front which is both universally flattering and stays on well, and hang straight down from the yoke portion of the shawl, as compared to this one, which forms more of a J shape at each of the edges. That said, here goes. –Alison

First, how this came to be: the summer I was newly graduated from high school, I was dating Scott, a fine young man whose mom was not into baking, from what he told me; he could remember her having made chocolate chip cookies twice in his whole life. Me, I loved to bake, and I figured he would be easy to impress. I remember making him homemade bread, and I’m sure I made him chocolate chip cookies, too–if for no other reason than that in our home, that would almost have constituted a teenage rebellion, because Dad was allergic to chocolate but loved it. So there was never any in the house. My little sister and I blame that shortage, with a grin, for our own later chocoholism: kind of like Imelda Marcos’ childhood poverty and her later shoes fetish.

But one thing we did have a lot of was homemade jams and fresh-frozen fruit: every summer our family went to pick-your-own farms over by the Maryland mountains and picked many, many pounds of every variety you could think of. Strawberries in particular. We would pick over a hundred pounds of them in a morning, going home and making the best strawberry jam you ever tasted. We would fill the back of the station wagon, and the youngest of the six kids got to ride in the back, eating berries warm from the June sun all the way home. (“Hey! Leave us some!”)

This one time, I decided, after the jamming session was over, to make Scott a strawberry pie. How hard could it be. A layer of cream cheese on the bottom of the baked crust, strawberries on top, and the tin filled with pureed strawberries briefly cooked on the stove with just enough sugar and cornstarch to sweeten and gel, then cooled.

I forgot to prick the crust. I’d made it with my mom standing over me, teaching me how to mix the flour and butter just so so that it would come out just right: crisp, not hard, but also not falling apart. But I forgot to poke a fork all around, before putting it in the oven, to let the hot air escape evenly. It billowed up on one side–a lot. Oops. I nearly tossed it and started over–but Mom was busy by then with other things, and I just thought, oh what the heck. It’s not too bad. Being careful not to collapse it as I placed the strawberries over the baked cream cheese, I hoped it wouldn’t look too lopsided by the time I got done. Shorter berries go on this side.

I wanted to doorbell-ditch it. Scott’s folks had quite a long, narrow driveway, and at the end there was a ditch and a car-eating monster shrub hiding one edge of that ditch. I was driving my dad’s huge old Fleetwood Caddy, which had very little in the way of a rear window, a very long, blind ’69 boat. It had been, in its earlier life, a limousine for some embassy in D.C. I drove up that long expanse, ran to the door, dropped off the pie, rang the doorbell, fled back to the car at top speed, and started backing up. And up. And up.

Scott’s sister opened the door. She saw the pie, she saw me. She picked up the pie and simply watched, not knowing at all just what she was supposed to do: I couldn’t see, I had too much adrenalin pumping through me, and I absolutely couldn’t in that moment get that car back down that driveway evenly. I started to go into the bush. No good. Pull forward. Back up. Where’s that ditch?! Oh, oops. Pull forward. Try again. THAT didn’t work! Oh, man, they’ll kill me if I smashed that thing–there are the branches scraping the windshield, well, they look okay, anyway. Think I got it that time.

His sister stayed there on the doorstep the whole time, the strawberry pie in one hand, a look on her face of oh dear! mixed with trying not to laugh hysterically. Later I got a call from Scott: somebody had, um, dropped off a pie and not left a note. Perhaps that was me? Oh, just maybe! Who else do you think, fer cryin’ out loud, I wanted to burst out! Who else do you know with a car like that? Or that would drive like that!

Fast forward 27 years. Life has gone in many directions since then. Scott has a serious illness, and I, on the other side of the country, do too. When he told me his diagnosis, I knew from seeing what my own family had been going through that every member of his would have a lot to have to deal with. I wanted a way to reach out to them, to be there for them in whatever way I could from my distance. Somehow, one day it all came together and this pattern demanded to come to be as a shawl for his sister. And so I sketched, I wrote, I knitted. I modified the traditional eyelet that the Russian Orenburg Lace knitters call “strawberries,” (see Galina Khmeleva and Carol Noble’s book “Gossamer Webs”) so that the decreases would be more balanced, with ssk’s offsetting the k2tog’s. I knit a merino and silk shawl in pie-shaped wedges filled with strawberries, with a feather-and-fan edge for a fluted pie crust. May it billow in the wind with her as she wears it. Yes.

Scott’s mother, by the way, that day long ago, couldn’t get over that pie: as he later told me, she exclaimed, “She even made the crust!”

Anyone want a chocolate chip cookie?

Pattern Instructions

This makes a deep-crescent-shaped shawl that comes out as wide around at the bottom as a circle but is knit back and forth like a half circle, starting from the neck: so that when you wear it, it’s hanging straight down from the neck, not doubled over like a full circle would be. All your work shows, rather than being concealed in a doubled-over jumble (my prejudice on circular shawls.)

I’ve made this twice now, each time with two strands of laceweight yarn knitted together on size 6 needles. Gauge is not important; rather, achieving a balance between yarn and needles, a look you like, is. I particularly like Merino Oro yarn, an Italian import I used in the first shawl,(along with Grignasco Merinosilk) that is exquisitely soft; it’s not widely sold in the US, but The Rug and Yarn Hut in Campbell, CA is my local haunt, (ed note: it was. It’s closed now) and they carry (carried) it. I knitted these before I had a website, and therefore wasn’t paying close attention to how much yarn was left, but in each case the 1350-yard-long hanks I was using in tandem were enough, I didn’t have to add in a second pair of hanks.

Cast on 8 st very loosely.

Row 1: Yo, k1 across–16 st.

Purl all wrong side rows.

Row 3: *Yo, k2* across.

Row 5: *Yo, k3* across.

Continue until you have 80 st, ten each wedge. Yo, k2, yo, ssk, yo, k2tog, k4.

Next right side row: Yo, k1, ssk, yo, k3, yo, k2tog, k3.

Next ride side row: Yo, k4, yo, slip1-k2tog-pass1over, yo, k5.

Start a new strawberry every 14th row after the last one: you want to leave three stitches between strawberries at their widest points and end up with three stitches at the end of the wedge on the last row of the strawberry. (Or not. It’s up to you.)

After you’ve done five strawberries, continue doing a yo, k across each wedge until you’re up to 60 st per wedge. Then start in on the pie crust edge: k2tog twice, then yo k1 four times, then k2tog four times, all the way across, ending with a k2tog twice. Do three rows of stockinette, then repeat these four rows either three times or five, depending on your patience. Five looks better. Your basic feather-and-fan, although in a 12-st repeat rather than the 18-st repeat of the standard variety. Cast off. If the edges coming down from the neck as you wear it bug you, I picked up along them and did a k2tog, yo, all the way across, then a purl going back on the wrong side, casting off with the purl side; it neatened up the edge nicely.

chart for strawberry:

The dashes stand for k3 st. I’m trying to give a visual picture here. The * is the slip1-k2tog-psso.

On both of my shawls, I managed to somehow only put 12 rows rather than 14 between sets of strawberries #4 and #5. Nobody will ever notice but me, and I’m mystified how I managed to do that twice. Just don’t tell anybody, and they won’t know either. The one I managed to get a photo of was made after the one for Scott’s sister; it was done in Grignasco Extrafine, a merino laceweight which is particularly thin, knitted with a 55/45 cashmere/silk blend yarn from that was rather on the heavier side of laceweight; both were overdyed, separately, in a small amount of Jacquard acid dye in navy blue. I suppose that makes it a blueberry pie shawl. With less crust on this one.

One of the things about this project is that it’s mostly mindless stockinette as you go. I found it to be a good carry-around project. Enjoy!

© Copyright Alison J. Hyde 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007. All rights reserved.

Note to yarn store owners, there having been problems with copyright violations: you do not have my permission to print out copies of my patterns in your stores. Individuals only may print out copies at home for their own private and personal use. Questions may be addressed to me at spindyeknit AT gmail DOT cahm.