In Wales as in many parts of the world there is a tradition of baby wearing. As with other cultures, the Welsh have their own way of baby carrying. This is the siôl fagu (pronounced ‘shorl vagi’)or nursing shawl though ‘magu’ literally means ‘rearing’. The good thing about this method of carrying your baby is that you are left with one and sometimes two free hands if you do it right and some women have been known to feed their babies while using the shawl. This is something I never achieved without losing some of my modesty.
When I had Flower back in 2009, my grandmother gave me a large crocheted shawl that she had made herself. It was beautiful. I’ve stored it safe now for Flower to use with her own children. (When I get five minutes I’ll dig it out and take a photo for this pattern.) Nan showed me how to carry the baby in the shawl as her mother had taught her. There are many examples on YouTube of how to wear a nursing shawl. If you want detailed instructions on how to wear a nursing shawl, I found this tutorial the best.
The nursing shawl isn’t just for baby wearing though. It has numerous uses. It can be used to shade the baby in the summer. To cover the baby in the crib or push chair when it’s cold. As a play mat when you’re at relatives houses. It’s big enough to swaddle your baby in when it’s cold. And what I used it for the most, to cover yourself up when breastfeeding in public. It really is a useful thing to have.
When inspiration struck to design a knitted nursing shawl, I researched the history of nursing shawls. I was really surprised to find that most nursing shawls were traditionally woven with pure Welsh wool whereas in my family they are traditionally crocheted. I know what you’re thinking! Why aren’t you designing a crochet pattern of a nursing shawl?!? The thing is: I’ve been crocheting for 8 years and I still love crochet. In fact, I have a few crochet patterns rolling around my head that I’ll be sharing soon. Most of these will be free. And I am planning on designing a crochet version of this shawl. However, I wanted to step out of my comfort zone with this design. I wanted to make a knitted design because there are none out there and I wanted to challenge myself.
So while I was at RiverSystem’s parents at the beginning of August, I sat down and drew out my pattern idea. I wanted to use a lace knitting design and I decided that I would start with a simple design for my first attempt.
I decided to design a heart pattern because I just thought that it was appropriate. You love your baby with all your heart and the baby is held close to your heart in the shawl. I rushed out to Wlkinson to get some squared paper so I could chart my design.
I started working with my bargain 2ply yarn that I got in Bernardo’s a few months ago. However, I felt it would take too long to knit up so I changed my mind. I was also worried about whether or not it would hold up under the pressure of use. Then I remembered a few weeks ago that I had a black cone of Forsell Shamal 4ply which I had bought to make socks with but I’d decided it would be too warm for socks. I thought it would be ideal for my nursing shawl. I’ve suggested an alternative yarn for the pattern though because the yarn I’m using is discontinued. I’m using 4mm circular needles and 6 stitch markers to define the boundary between pattern motifs. I’m also using some scrap yarn as a lifelong after each row of motifs so I can pull it out easily if I make a mistake.
Each motif measures 144cm2. I worked out that I needed 8 motifs in each row and column to make it roughly 1 metre square. I’m currently knitting up my sample shawl and I have a group of test knitters that are plugging away at it. I’m hoping to release the pattern in Spring 2017.
When I’ve finished my sample, I’ll be photographing it and listingit in my Etsy shop so keep an eye out if you want to buy it.
I’ve been knitting this in various cafés and lots of people have admired my work. A friend gave me some Woolcraft Gold Baby 4ply that I intend to use to knit another.
Anyhoo, I must head off to finish RiverSystem’s first Zigzagular sock! It’s been on the back burner while I’ve been designing my Autumnal Dog Walk Cowl which is now for sale in my Etsy shop for £15 plus P&P. I’ve already had orders for two! I’m so excited!