A few years back, when I had first started spinning and when I had barely learned to knit, a workplace friend of mine gave me a bag of combings saved from her Golden Retriever, Rudy. Rudy was a reddish Golden and was her faithful companion for many years. When I started spinning, I was drawn into what I later discovered were typical handspinning discussions, one of them being “can you spin my dog’s hair?” I admitted that, yes, eventually, I hoped to be able to spin all types of fiber, but at the point I was at, I was lucky to make useable yarn.
This discussion resulted in the bag of combings coming to me with the proviso that “maybe you could make something out of it.”
I had neither the skill nor the knowledge at the time, so the bag of combings languished in my stash. The workplace friend and I were downsized together from the Insurance Company with the Big Rock when they laid off 60% of the marketing department one day. We stayed in touch for a time, then got new jobs and drifted apart. Rudy went to the Rainbow Bridge. Every so often, I would turn up the bag of fiber when searching my stash for something and think, “I really should do something with that.”
During a recent destashing binge, I again turned up the bag of fiber. This time, I pulled it out and determined to spin it. As it was already combed, I was able to spin directly from the bag. It was long enough, but slippery, so spinning was a bit more painstaking than usual. I divided the bag approximately in half and spun two bobbins. I knew I was going to have to ply because the single strand just wasn’t holding together. Finished, I had a skein of approximately 150 yards. What to make with it was the next question.
I poured over Ravelry’s pattern finder where you can filter a search by yardage, needle size, yarn weight, pretty much however you want to slice and dice it. The resulting yarn already had a halo and I knew it would continue to bloom, so I wanted a largish needle size. The trouble is, I just couldn’t find anything that appealed to me in that short a yardage. And this was something that wasn’t going to frog easily, so I wanted to get it right the first time. I didn’t want to do a typical long scarf. I was hoping for a shawl with a lace pattern, not too busy, just something to add some interest. Finally, I knew where this was headed — I was going to wing it.
I had been doing some research on Shetland knitting and the hap shawls, so decided to do a very basic body with a edging of Old Shale. I started at the top of the center “spine” of increases, and also increased along the top edge, so 4 increases on each knit row. I wound up using a size 11 needle. The resulting fabric had a lovely hand to it and the yarn really handled and acted much like angora. The shawl wasn’t huge, but was just enough to go around your shoulders and knot the ends.
The Old Shale pattern is an old favorite, but I used the 18-stitch repeat directions given in Elizabeth Lovick’s book, ‘The Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting.” When I had about 10 yards left, I cast off with a stretchy cast-off, washed, and blocked. For whatever reason (and more seasoned knitters than I may know!), instead of staying in a triangle, the top edge tends to dip down on each side, giving a sort of moth-wing effect to the overall piece. However, having come from being a very inept knitter not so many years ago to reaching a place where I feel like I actually know what I might be doing, I was pleased with the final effort. I love the color of the yarn, especially the white and lighter striping. It reminds me so of the fiber’s source!
I parceled up the little shawl along with the little mini-skein and sent it off to Rudy’s owner with a little note to please not cry when she unwrapped it. She emailed me a few days later to say she hadn’t cried, but that she was thrilled to have a little bit of her beloved Rudy again, so much so that she has dubbed this her “Shawl Rudy.”