My sister was invited to a rather posh wedding a while ago. She really had nothing suitable to wear – she lives in trackies and trainers and has virtually nothing else. Over the years of trackiedom she’d also lost all sense of glamour, colour, shape, etc and had a hard time finding something to wear. She hadn’t even tried on clothes in the shop in about 9 years! Since her evil ex took over her life and decreed that any attempt at looking nice clearly meant she was trying to pick up other men…
In the end she found something that tbh sounded like a trackie dress – i.e., thoroughly lacking in oomph. More phmoo really. Blackish-brown, straight-fitting (which means loose on her), nothing interesting in the way of pattern, fabric, embellishment.
About a week beforehand, she was complaining on the phone to me that she was worried that it wasn’t ‘grand’ enough for the bash, wondering if she should go out and look for something else. And I had an inspiration. I had some lovely glossy black eyelash yarn that I’d bought intending to make myself a shrug, but I hadn’t got round to it. Without saying a word to her about this, I figured if I really went for it, I could make it up over the weekend, post it on Monday, and she’d have it Wednesday at the latest. I got off the phone as fast as possible, mumbling something about her not being an important member of the wedding party or anything, who was going to notice what she wore, yada yada. Whipped out the needles and yarn and cast on loosely – Long-tail Cast-On works for me.
The pattern is based loosely around one that I lost yonks ago, no idea where I got it in the first place. It is however burned into my brain for all eternity. Well, sort of. Start by casting on 34st, increase 1st on BOTH ends of every 3rd row by making 1 (M1) into the second st from either end, until there’s a total of 50st. Then continue straight for the required length, and start decreasing (k2tog the 2nd and 3rd sts from either end) on every 3rd row until there are 34st left, cast off. See? easy peasy.
I do not, of course, remember the yarn weight, needle size, gauge… But shrugs are flexible! That is the beauty of the things! They do not HAVE to have wrist-length sleeves, they CAN be a bit skimpy, so even if you totally foul up the gauge, or don’t have the measurements of the recipient, or any of the millions of other things that can go wrong, it doesn’t matter!! A shrug in its simplest form is just a wide rectangle, long enough on its long side to go across the recipient’s back – but if it isn’t, just borrow a bit off each sleeve so they’re shorter. It doesn’t matter. I do have one handy hint though – if it’s to be a surprise gift, you can get a rough idea of the right size by finding out how TALL the recipient is. The distance from fingertip to fingertip of outstretched arms is equal to height. Knock off 6-8in for the length of the (adult) hands and you have an idea how long the shrug should be from cuff to cuff.
For example, I’m 5’6″, with biggish hands, roughly 7in.
5’6″ = 66in, minus 2 hands at 7in each (14in) = 52″ from wrist to wrist.
Anything shorter than this is fine for a shrug.
I think it was a simple lace pattern – yarn-over between stitches on one row, drop the yarn-over on the next, repeat till you’re fit to be tied with boredom – but, obviously, I is not jiggy wit da boredom. As the groovy young things say. And the effect of any lace stitch is wasted with eyelash anyway, as the fluffs hide everything but the ‘hole’. So I used one 10mm needle to simulate the yarn-over rows and a 4mm needle for the ‘drop’ rows.
Wow! Two top tips in one post!
I only did the lacy bit up to approximately the elbows, then switched to two 4mm needles for the section over the upper arms and back, then back to the 10mm and 4mm needles for the other sleeve. Suspended bind-off gives a nice loose edge for this project. Sew up the lacy section of both sleeves right up to about 1-2in of the non-lacy middle section. The type of sewing up doesn’t really matter, as the fluffiness of the yarn disguises the neatiness/tidiness of the stitchwork – I’ve even crocheted up the sleeves on some of these shrugs and it’s not noticeable. Then, to tart it up a bit, I threaded a length of 1in black ribbon through the top row of holes in the lace and tied it in a bow opposite the seam – the bow is then on the outside of the arm. Finito!
Sister was thrilled with it, and got loads of compliments at the wedding. So much so that she went all Hyacinth Bucket and told people that she had a “little woman” run it up for her! and no, she didn’t really want to say who, or how much her “treasure” charged. Mainly because she had no idea how much something like that WOULD cost, although I think she was alarmed at the figures people were suggesting, to try to winkle the info out of her – “was it more than £150? that’s what X charged for my twinset last year and it wasn’t this nice”, etc. (Sis and I are both frequently alarmed by what people will pay for clothes that aren’t anything special. The tight-fisted gene is a terrible curse sometimes). She even got asked if the entire ensemble was run up by her “little woman”!
Not bad for a Primark outfit and a few balls of yarn from a poundshop…