Updated: Jul 2, 2021
One of the last times we visited our local zoo, we found ourselves lingering in the aviary because our son was absolutely tickled with a little duck that was swimming back and forth and bathing itself. I wandered about a bit and my attention landed on an injured bird that was hopping about on just one foot. It held the other close to its body. It was just a gull, but watching it, it slowly dawned on me that really, this was an unexpectedly beautiful bird.
Non-breeding adult Herring Gulls have tan streaks through the white feathers on their heads (with a very striking pale yellow eye) that immediately reminded me of speckled yarn, of course. Their bodies are a soft dove gray and their wingtips are black. If you'd like to see more pictures and learn more about them, check out https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Herring_Gull/id#.
I know that isn't the clearest picture, but it was the best I could get at the distance with my phone at the time. I do wish I'd had my camera! But watching this unassuming little bird, while my kid giggled at ducks a few feet away, I couldn't help but start thinking about how I could take this moment, this recognition of simple beauty, and transform it into a tangible design. And then, the V shape hit me.
Now, I admit it! It's a bit on the nose, right? But I just couldn't help myself! And so, right there in the zoo, I started imagining how this piece might come to life. Luckily, Steve at Leading Men Fiber Arts was totally on board with this little idea of mine and even though I suggested we could work up the design in a more fabulous colorway (I confess I want to see this in some vibrant parrot inspired colors!), he said he really loved the Herring Gull inspiration and so we stuck with my original plan AND he and Andy dyed up their fabulous new Sand Dollar colorway for me so I could have my neutral colors WITH the tan speckles that started this whole idea!
COULD I possibly have been more excited!? Probably not. When I first dreamed this up, one of my first thoughts was, "This is TOO simple. Too ... PLAIN." But then I would remind myself that people love neutrals! And THEN I got to celebrate that I was going to get to bring this design to life almost exactly how I first envisioned it!! And I gotta tell you, that's pretty awesome. One of the things I've found myself most frustrated with in my designs for magazines is that I lose some of that creative control. So seeing this come into existence almost exactly how I first imagined it was pretty damn fulfilling.
Here's a look at my initial concept swatch and sketch:
Yes, it was really eight months ago! Honestly, if I can take a design from concept to published pattern in less than a year, I'm pretty tickled. Everything always takes more time than I think it will! Swatching, figuring, designing, sometimes finding and ordering the right yarn, writing the pattern, actually CROCHETING the piece and then blocking it and then photographing it, editing the pictures, formatting everything within the pattern (I HATE formatting), creating a chart, sometimes doing photo tutorials and/or a video tutorial and THEN, technical editing, pattern testers actually CROCHETING it - even just setting everything up for testing and uploading it to Ravelry and Etsy and writing a blog and an email and social media posts... And if it's for a magazine? Then it gets even MORE exciting!
But I'm rambling. Let's take a look!
The stitch pattern in this V shaped wrap begins with simple single and double crochets worked in a modification of the linen stitch for superb drape. After the divide, we move into a more textured section of crossed double crochet stitches for the body of the wings. The wingtips are finished with high texture front post treble crochet stitches in the last few rows, which are reminiscent of the lines of feathers when spread out, and picots are worked every other stitch on the very last row for a nice finishing touch.
I planned out color changes to reflect the proportions that felt right to represent the Herring Gull, and so you'll find yardage estimates for those proportions, but in truth, you can change colors and even transition from the first stitch pattern to the second at any point you wish! Well, after the wing divide for the crossed double crochet stitches unless you fancy modifying the pattern - which, if you wanted to, you could absolutely work this as a full triangle shawl instead of the V shape. But then you wouldn't be able to do this fabulous posing!
I always feel silly with my little photo shoots, but I must admit a got a hearty laugh out of this video clip! It was SO windy that day. Somehow I have a knack for trying to do photo shoots on windy days! But hey, add a little black and white filter and it's not so bad, right!?
All right, let's chat about the details a bit.
STITCHES & TECHNIQUES:
Crossed double crochet stitches
Front post stitches
Increases and decreases (defined in pattern)
Standing/chainless stitches optional (defined in pattern)
Before blocking: rows 1–18 should measure approximately 4” (10 cm) wide and 3 3/8” (8.5 cm) deep.
After blocking: 24” (61 cm) triangle point depth, 60” (152 cm) from point to wingtip, 11” (28 cm) each wing width.
Show Stopper by Leading Men Fiber Arts (100 g, 463 yds [423 m]), fingering weight (1: super fine) yarn, 75% superwash merino and 25% nylon
C1: Sand Dollar (120 g, 556 yds [508 m])
C2: Bare Necessities (50 g, 231 yds [211 m])
C3: Smoke on the Water (200 g, 926 yds [847 m])
C4: Darkest Hour (20 g, 92 yds [84 m])
C/2 (2.75 mm) crochet hook
Now. I'll tell you exactly how much yarn I used for my sample, and I'll also tell you that Show Stopper comes in full 100g skeins as well as 50g and 20g minis, which was one of the reasons why I reached out to Steve and Andy for this project! SO. What this means is that you can start out with a full skein for the triangle point but THEN, after you split for the two wings, you can get mini skeins in pairs for the two sides! Then there's no fussing with either guessing or weighing your yarn when you're about halfway through the skein to make sure you have enough left for the second side - or even worse, working from both sides of the yarn at the same time. That can become a mess!
So if I were to do that parrot colorscheme? I'd start with 100 g of red and add a 20 g mini to split for the two wings (I used 114 g of C1 in the sample). Then I'd get yellow and green in pairs of 20 g minis (or maybe 50g yellow and 20 g green) and just work through those until I ran out of yarn, both together counting as C2 (the number of repeats would change). THEN I'd switch to blue to work through C3 with however many repeats I could get with a pair of 50 g skeins. And then I'd go back to red with another pair of 20 g minis to finish it out as C4. Gosh, that would be so fun!
Here's my actual usage from the sample:
C1: Sand Dollar (114 g, 528 yds [483 m])
C2: Bare Necessities (40 g, 185 yds [169 m])
C3: Smoke on the Water (198 g, 917 yds [839 m])
C4: Darkest Hour (18 g, 84 yds [77 m])
I have an average to snug tension, so if your stitches tend to be on the looser side, you probably want to increase your yardage with 50 g skeins instead 20 g skeins and it might not hurt to grab a little extra for your C3. With your leftovers, you could always make a Specklewerk Cowl! ;)
The pattern itself includes a color coded symbol chart in addition to detailed instructions for all special stitches, to include the crossed double crochet stitches, front post trebles, decreases, picots, and even my favorite standing and chainless stitch options. Oh! There's also a schematic/coloring sheet to help you plan out your color changes!
It is available for purchase via Ravelry as well as through my Etsy shop AND I am absolutely delighted to share that there will be kits available from Leading Men Fiber Arts as well! You can use coupon code BIRDLOVERS to save 10% on any pattern purchase now through 30 June 2021 at 11:59 pm ET.
Over the next few days I hope to add a few more goodies to my Etsy shop, including some stitch markers and the cowl that I made with the leftovers PLUS some cool artwork that I did after being inspired to play with the simplicity of black and white again! So be sure to check back into the Etsy shop soon!