Best yarn and pattern for knitting a shawl for hospital wear
November 28, 2018 8:12 AM   Subscribe

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer a week ago. It was caught very early and prognosis is very good but she will almost certainly be having a full double mastectomy, with a determination about radiation/chemotherapy after we know more. I offered to knit her a shawl to wear in the hospital and during recovery and she gratefully agreed, but my brain is overwhelmed right now and I am freezing on picking a pattern and yarn. What shawl should I knit, and with what yarn?

I am feeling paralyzed about making the BEST CHOICE re: pattern and yarn. Should it be triangular or rectangular or square or faraoese? Washable yarn, probably, but soft, so maybe a cotton blend?

Have you knit a shawl for someone for this specific purpose, and can you please recommend a pattern (preferably available through Ravelry) and/or really great yarn? I've been staring at patterns for three days and then my mind goes blank and I make no decision, so outsourcing it might help me actually get started.
posted by SeedStitch to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not a big fan of washable merino yarns for general purposes, but for hospital/convalescent use they make a lot of sense. Probably a rectangular shawl would be most versatile and practical, but a large triangle could also work. I'm guessing you have a relatively short timeline for getting it done, so I'd go at least worsted weight or heavier. With the time constraints, a simpler pattern is also better. Something solid for warmth, rather than lacy. Lichen & Moss?
posted by praemunire at 8:29 AM on November 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

There is an entire category of "shawls for cancer patients" in the Knitting Pattern world. One that is frequently-invoked on Ravelry is "Cloud On Her Shoulders", which is quick and has advice about what yarn to use.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:39 AM on November 28, 2018 [6 favorites]

I've had this Color Block Bias Wrap sitting in my favorites for awhile now--modern, angular color block in a bulky yarn. You can play around with colors your mom likes and it will knit up quickly and be nice and warm. I also think it avoids looking like a granny/invalid shawl, which might be mentally nice? (I appreciate the work and craft that goes in to intricate lace triangular shawls, but I always get a "would pair perfectly with a mobcap" vibe from them.)

As to yarn--soft, soft, soft. I'm kind of a snob about yarn/natural fibers/cashmere preferred when at all possible, but I know in doing chemo caps they are pretty insistent about no wool because it can be irritating, even to people who prior to chemo have no problem. I'd maybe look into baby yarns? Or things marketed as soft, e.g. Berroco Comfort.

An organization that distributes chemo caps, etc. has a list of recommended yarns.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 8:49 AM on November 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Funny, I was going to suggest Lichen and Moss too. It can be enlarged by extending the pattern repeats and working each repeat longer as well. Mine came out gigantic. It's a fingering weight pattern, but I can only imagine would scale to larger weights as well with fewer repeats and an appropriate sized needle.

And the "best" choice is a finished shawl, so don't stress about which pattern. I would suggest Knit Picks Biggo, a 50/50 SW wool/nylon mix in bulky. Swish DK, Worsted and Bulky are other lines from the same company that are 100% SW merino in various weights.
posted by Liesl at 8:52 AM on November 28, 2018

A super easy big triangle: Boneyard.
posted by clavicle at 9:39 AM on November 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

It's a fingering weight pattern, but I can only imagine would scale to larger weights as well with fewer repeats and an appropriate sized needle.

The description now says fingering to worsted, at least, though i can't vouch for it personally.
posted by praemunire at 10:57 AM on November 28, 2018

I had elbow surgery this past June and found Hitchhiker in Gauge Dye Works' Concrete and Tulips to be a super easy, super soothing knit. It's very soft to wear. I hope a similar combo brings some comfort to you and your mother!
posted by Stephanie Duy at 12:45 PM on November 28, 2018

Thanks, all. I'm going to do Boneyard in superwash Merino - she has requested that I make it in her grandkids' favorite colors, so I need a line with three different versions of purple in it, and I know Cascade 220 will work and wash well.
posted by SeedStitch at 10:39 AM on November 29, 2018

Late to the party, but when my Grandma was cold in her nursing home, I made Damson out of Baby Cashmerino (machine washable, butterlike and squooshy).
posted by kjs4 at 6:13 PM on November 29, 2018

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