For several weeks now I’ve been thinking rather a lot about shawls; their history, their function and their design potential
I’ve written before about The Norwich Shawl and it’s glorious history. Queen Victoria commissioned two Norwich shawls after admiring them at the 1851 Great Exhibition and for much of the 19th century decorative woven shawls were the ‘on trend’ accessory for women of all social classes.
It’s also fascinating to track the demise of this once ‘must have’ wardrobe staple as fashions evolved and the shawl became almost obsolete in fashionable society. For the last few years of the 19th century, and for most of the 20th century, shawls became a rather self-effacing accessory, associated with the elderly, the frail and the ubiquitous huddled masses en route to an unknown future.
In the 21st century, it is still a brave designer that sends models swathed in shawls down the runways of London Fashion week; and I love Burberry Prorsum for having the courage to do this two years running.
A shawl presents infinite possibilities. It is a conceptual blank canvas that can be any shape, size, colour or gender. It can be functional or decorative; high fashion or utility. A shawl has the power to comfort and make the wearer feel warm, safe and protected. Like a shell, but soft and forgiving. Being wrapped in a fabulous shawl is a gentle and tender embrace.
Fringed prayer shawls feature in Judaism and there is now, particularly in the USA, a movement for knitting or crocheting a more generic ‘prayer shawl’ which is blessed and given to someone in need of comfort. I was reminded of this recently when I was contacted by Anne McCrudden about the Shawl Hugs project she has started. Shawl Hugs is a project for anyone to make shawls for people who are going through a tough time “ they may be experiencing physical or mental health problems, going through bereavement or struggling in some way.”
“Shawls can be tangible symbols of love and support. They can be warm hugs of happiness and empathy; a place of escape to relax, rest and renew; something to hold on to when all else is slipping away. Wrapping another in a shawl made of your loving thoughts is a gift not only for the person who receives it, but for yourself as well.”
The project includes live workshop events where anyone can drop buy, learn to knit or crochet, pick up a pattern and get started on their own, unique, shawl. The next event is on Thursday 12th May and you can find out more about it here.
This is such a great way to connect with others, and in my own work at The Mercerie I also used a shawl, earlier this year, as a way to connect with people all over the world.
In February I launched my first on line CROCHET-ALONG which ran over 6 weeks and I was amazed and delighted by what happened. I loved watching the progress of so many variations of the Folklore Shawl. I was stunned by how fast some of you work (yes, that’s you Lee!) and thrilled to see so many different colour variations – take a look at some of the projects…..they are so beautiful.
I adore this blue version by Lee.
Marion’s multicoloured version is just fabulous – I’m going to try this….
Lee managed to make TWO!!!
Heather was the first to finish…..
Aimi hooked up her black and red version pretty quickly too.
Oh – and here’s mine. Shamefully still unfinished!
If you made a shawl as part of this CAL; wrap yourself up in it……and that’s a big hug from me to say THANK YOU!
Ps. I’m running a ‘Joining Motifs’ crochet workshop on May 14th if you’d like to give this pattern a go – but need a little help getting started.