For some reason I couldn't stop myself keeping putting this one down and finding something else (anything else!) to do. It took me a while to work out what was wrong.
It wasn't the yarn. That's MadelineTosh lace in colourway Baltic.
It wasn't the pattern. I've been carrying the piece of now rather scrappy-looking graph paper about with me, drawing and adding to make it exactly how I pictured it in my head.
Finally I worked out what the issue was. It was the needles.
My go-to knitting needles are my HiyaHiya sharp interchangeable circulars. I love them. No, let me clarify. I LOVE THEM! They are exactly what I look for in a knitting needle. Sharp points, 5" tips long enough for my knitting style (I hold the needles way back away from the end and I've found some circular needle tips just aren't long enough for me), smooth joins between cable and tip, and super-slick surface to allow the stitches to slide around quickly and easily.
However, those weren't the needles I'd been using this time. The problem was that I had started this shawl while I was still working on my Elphaba jumper and both needed the same size needle tips, 3.25mm. I only have one pair in that size. I'd looked online at the website of the retailer where I usually buy my HiyaHiya's (Athenbys.com - I can recommend them, their customer service is excellent!) and unfortunately on that day, the 3.25mm needle tips were out of stock.
I ought to have waited a day or two for the tips to come back into stock. Oh yes, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Instead I pulled out my other two sets of 3.25mm circulars. I started out with my metal ones but quickly abandoned them, because the join isn't smooth (it's a peculiarity of the brand but there's a little pinch at the point where the cable joins the needle which is fine for DK or thicker, but lace weight yarn snags at it at every.single.stitch). I abandoned that one as unsuitable before I had worked beyond the first inch.
Instead I went to my remaining 3.25mm needles, bamboo ones. Now, don't get me wrong. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with the needles themselves. Addi Bamboo circular needles are well-made, the cables are just flexible enough, the joins are smooth, and the bamboo is smooth. (I've had other cheap bamboo needles before that needed going over with sandpaper to get rid of splinters!) I used these needles on this project on and off for two months before it dawned on me that they just weren't meant to go together. Like chicken and jam, or ice cream and ketchup, great alone, incompatible together! And it was only the freeing-up of the HiyaHiyas and putting them on to this project that made me notice where I had been going wrong with the Addis.
I like my HiyaHiyas because they are very slick and very sharp. The Addis are smooth for bamboo, but bamboo needles are in themselves inherently "grabby". That's excellent if you're working with a very slippery yarn and need something that's going to hold the stitches to stop them from escaping, but wool is sticky enough that it will stay on the needles by itself. And while the Addis are fairly pointy for bamboo tips, they just aren't as sharp as the points on the HiyaHiyas, and when you're knitting three together, or purling two together through the back loop, you need something with a very sharp point on it.
To illustrate, here are the three needles in question. The first one is the metal circular. For a metal needle, it's also not terribly pointy. The second is the bamboo one, pointier than the first but still not quite pointy enough, and just too grabby. The last is the HiyaHiya sharp, definitely lives up to its name!