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The Hawkeye Healing Shawl

Roll along Iowa, Don't ever yield,
Always a winner be!
Get that ball, Give your all, For dear Old Gold...
- "Roll Along Iowa," written by John Woodman

Every autumn, just before our leafy trees burst into yellows and reds, there are Saturdays, known here in Iowa City as football Saturdays, when our little town glories forth in black and gold, the team colors of University of Iowa Hawkeyes. The rest of the year, we enjoy a no less subdued, but slightly more scattered showing of black and gold t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, hats, and scarves. Several times a week, on my way to the grocery store, I pass Herky the Hawk, a black and gold stature of the football team's mascot. Iowa is the Hawkeye state. And Iowa City, home of the Hawkeyes, is a black and gold town.

As friends and neighbors prepare for the football season, purchase tickets, and plan tailgating parties, the Preemie Project's volunteer stitchers join in the team spirit. Locally based, they hold an annual "Hawkeye Donation". On the Friday before the first home football game, black and gold preemie hats, booties, and blankets are distributed to the University of Iowa’s Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, conveniently located across the street from the football stadium. The event is enthusiastically awaited by both staff and families.

Hawkeye ShawlUnderstanding all this, should it be any surprise that this spring I find myself, for the first time in my long knitting life, stitching the black and gold? A Hawkeye healing shawl for a very special fan.

News travels fast in our town. A village, my husband Rody calls it. So at coffee with a friend I heard the news. An acquaintance was ill. Her diagnosis--life changing. On a walk later that week, another friend filled me in the details. I offered a healing shawl.

"What colors do you think she'd like?"

"Black and gold. She's a huge Hawkeye fan."

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"Absolutely. She'll love it."

We continued our walk, switching the conversation to our work, and searching the woods for cardinals and the hopeful greens of an early spring.

Back at home, I worried the shawl. Team colors were fine for game days and athletic apparel, even sweet tiny preemie hats, but a healing shawl? Could black and gold be softened into colors of comfort?

It so happened that I had some lovely Superwash Merino in Dijon, a warm "old" gold. I'd let it cheerfully dominate and be accented with the more somber black. Knitting it on size 8 needles, two sizes up from the ball band suggestion, gave a gauge of 4 stitches per inch and a gentle drape. The finished shawl was cozy, easy to shoulder on. The black and gold, the colors I had needlessly worried over, added a familiar and friendly feel.

Making a Hawkeye healing shawl is the closest I have come to my town and my alma mater’s football culture. Stepping in with needles in hand seems a fine way to begin.

The rules of the game are still beyond me. But the shawl will belong to a soul who knows about tackles, touchdowns, and winning scores. And this fall, on home game Saturdays, when our very air pulses with excitement, I'll be hoping with my all knitter's heart, that in good health and fine spirits, she'll shed her other cloak of identity, her illness, and find her place in the black and gold sea of the cheering crowd. Go Hawks!

Stadium Notes:


The Hawkeye Healing Shawl, a bottom up a triangle, is easily adaptable to any team, school or camp colors. By continuing the pattern, you can make it as large as you like.

Recommended yarn: LB Collection Superwash Merino, two skeins main color, one complimentary color
Gauge: 16 stitches per 4 inches (4 stitches to the inch)
Suggested dimensions: approx. 48 inches across top, 22 (unblocked) inches from top to bottom triangle tip.

General instructions:
Cast on seven stitches in main color.
Row 1: K2 (knit 2), pm (place marker), yo (yarn over), k1, yo, pm, k1, pm, yo, k1, yo, pm, k2.
Row 2: Knit, making sure to pick up the yarn overs and knit them.
Row 3: K2, sm (slip marker), yo, k to marker, yo, sm, k1, sm, yo, k to marker, yo, k2.
Row 4: Knit, making sure to pick up the yarn overs and knit them.

Repeat Row 3 and 4. Four stitches are added every other row.
Knit ten rows in Main Color, then two in Complementary Color. Continue to desired length.

Bind off loosely. Weave in ends.


Click here for the Natural Comfort Shawl pattern.

This pattern can be used with LB Superwash Merino, an I or J hook, and adding a contrasting color stripe every 1.25 inches or as desired.


The Preemie Project:
The Preemie Project is expanding their Hawkeye Donation Drive this year. They are accepting hats, booties, and blankets in Iowa State Cyclone and Hawkeye-themed colors. Donations will be distributed to both the University of Iowa Hospital and Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines on September 8th before the Cyclone-Hawkeye game.

Hats and booties can be sized 1-3lb up to 9-11 lb according to their measurements guide. Follow their website and Facebook page for updates.
Mail donations by: August 27th
Mail to: The Preemie Project, PO Box 1310, Iowa City, IA 52244

Authored by

Michelle Edwards is the author/illustrator of A KNITTER'S HOME COMPANION and many award-winning children's books including CHICKEN MAN and STINKY STERN FOREVER. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys talking about books in schools throughout the US and beyond. Her newest book, Room for the Baby, will be available from Random House in Fall 2012. Visit Michelle Edwards at her website or on Facebook.
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