Titania’s Shawl for Mom’s Birthday

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Flipping through the Summer 2017 edition of Interweave Knits magazine, I spotted the lacy Titania’s Shawl by Susanna Ic. I had not knit anything from Interweave in quite some time, and I was intrigued by this shawl, envisioning it would make an elegant new piece for my mom’s ever growing knit wardrobe.

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The pattern calls for Hand Maiden Fine Yarn Lace Silk, and yes, it is 100% silk. Only one skein is needed, and in fact I had a quarter-skein or so left over. Given the pattern name, Ic was clearly inspired by the Shakespearean play A Midsummer Night’s Dream when creating Titania’s Shawl. For those unfamiliar with the play, the character Titania is queen of the fairies, and undoubtedly her regal refinement heavily influenced the shawl’s design. (We’ll not focus on the fact that Titania is humiliatingly made to fall in love with a donkey…) Ic could have named her shawl after any Shakespearean work, but it just so happens that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of my all-time favorite plays, so I quickly showed the shawl to my mom to see what she thought. As expected, she loved it!

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After winding the skein of silk for what felt like an eternity, I set to work on the shawl. The pattern also calls for beads, so after discussing with my mom we chose pearl Rocailles seed beads by Miyuki of Japan, which I purchased from Fire Mountain Gems and Beads. The pearl beads complement the shawl’s elegance while also weighing down the bottom section. In my humble opinion all lace shawls should be weighed down with beads, and Ic clearly knows her stuff. This method of beading uses a teeny crochet hook to insert the beads into the work as you knit along. Below is a video I made for Instagram demonstrating this process. (I apologize for the graininess.)

Working on this project gave me the perfect opportunity to break in my new Blue Moon trundle bag from Madder Root. The quality of this bag cannot be beat.

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After much tedious yet satisfying lace and bead work, she’s done! For knitting, blocking isn’t always a must, but with lace it is an absolute necessity. Blocking spreads and sets the lace, which would otherwise appear as above–a jumbled mess.

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Look! My bashful mom modeled her birthday shawl for me and even let me take a picture. If there’s anyone who can pull off an elegant silk shawl with distressed jeans, it’s my mom. She couldn’t do ugly if she tried.

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Happy Birthday, Mom! Love you!!!

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Rebel Two Shawl

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At the beginning of the year Lesley Anne Robinson released her Rebel shawl pattern in honor of Princess Leia, a beloved Star Wars character played by actress Carrie Fisher, whose death late last year shook the world. It was not until I was exiting the theater with my family after viewing Rogue One for the first time that I learned of her death. Having just watched her on the big screen–a dear and familiar character playing in a fresh story line–I was quite impacted by the news. I was devastated. Needless to say, I added Lesley’s Rebel shawl to my queue immediately following its release.

The original Rebel shawl is a one-color brioche project (which I would have added to my queue regardless of its association with Carrie Fisher), but soon after Lesley started posting teasers of a gorgeous two-color version (Rebel Two) to be released in May. I was more than a little anxious to knit this version and started it promptly after it became available. Both versions can be purchased here.

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I selected yarns from my stash for this project: Hedgehog Fibres Sock in colorway “Bramble” for the main color and Old Rusted Chair 2 Ply Sock in colorway “Strange Magic” for the contrast color.  I had been saving my skein of Bramble for something special–something not socks because I find that the Hedgehog Sock yarn has too little twist for my liking in socks. The Old Rusted Chair yarn is more versatile and would have been suited just fine for socks, but it paired and contrasted so nicely with the Bramble that I declared these two a combo and set to work.

Below is a video I originally posted on Instagram demonstrating the Twisted German Cast-On, which is the method called for in the Rebel shawl pattern.

Progress…

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One of the best things, if not the best thing, about two-color brioche is the automatic reversibility you get with such a project (see above). With reversibility comes flexibility. Do I want to wear a mostly pale-toned shawl today, or do I want a nice dark one to stand out against an already pale ensemble? Choices are good!

Lesley Anne Robinson (aka Knit Graffiti Designs) never ceases to amaze me with her creativity and excellent pattern writing. Of all brioche projects I have knit, hers are the most clearly written, so if you are new to brioche and want to give it a go I highly recommend choosing one of Lesley’s patterns. To view all of her designs visit her Ravelry page here.

Many thanks to my patient daughter for modeling my completed Rebel Two shawl!

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Hollows Shawl for Mother’s Day

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When I decided to knit my mom a shawl for Mother’s Day I had no specific pattern in mind–which conveniently allowed me to relish making good use of the pattern search tool on Ravelry. After a little exploring I narrowed it down to a few shawls and ultimately decided on the Hollows Shawl by mandarine’s. While I had not previously knit a pattern by this author I was drawn to the simple ebb and flow design and felt strongly that my mom would enjoy this tranquil shawl.

I believed a soft color would be best for Hollows, and it occurred to me that I had not yet knit my mom anything in baby blue–though it is one of her favorite colors. I quickly headed straight over to the Quince and Co website, feeling confident they would carry the shade I had in mind in their Finch fingering weight yarn. I was right!

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The colorway is called “Stream,” but to me it’s appearance is more reminiscent of a cloud-and-sky soup on a less than vibrant day. It’s a lovely subdued shade that complements the calmness of the design, and vice versa.

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The simplicity of the pattern combined with its graceful eyelets and wavy lines (created by knitting short rows) seemed somewhat in contrast with the jagged picot edging called for in the instructions. I’m not a fan of picot, not to mention the work it requires as a bind off, and I also suspected my mom would not care for it either. Therefore I left it out and worked a simple bind off instead at the last eyelet-completing row (see below).

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I’m very happy with the results, and now that my mom has seen it I can proudly report that she is delighted with her Hollows shawl. Happy (early) Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

The Eyeball Shawl

Is there anything better than a gigantic knit eyeball? I say no!

With one quick glance we all know it’s a West Knits pattern. Like most all of Stephen’s patterns the Eyeball Shawl is bold, eccentric and brilliant–did I say eccentric? In fact many of his patterns are a bit too eccentric for me, simply because I don’t like to dress in a way that calls attention to myself. Slap a neutral-colored knit over my body, and I will gladly fade into the background. That being said, I thoroughly enjoy working with bright colors and striking patterns, and perhaps one day I will burst from my shell in a massive display of color. Baby steps.

 

Yarn selection for this shawl was tricky. The pupil and iris are the focal point (pun intended) of the shawl, and I wanted them to contrast with each other but also coordinate with the white of the eye in a pleasing way. I did a great deal of color research and ultimately decided on the following yarns for what I consider to be the perfect eyeball trinity (from left to right): Old Rusted Chair Sock in “Blue-Eyed Floozy”; Woolen Boon Boon Classic in “I Heart Lisa Frank”; and LITLG (Life in the Long Grass) Fine Sock in “Stone Collector.”

Aside from the entirely (and delightfully) in-the-round construction and beauty of this pattern, the Eyeball Shawl called to me as more than a mere shawl knitting project. I have always been fascinated by the eye as a symbol, and knitting a colorful, jumbo eyeball was an opportunity on which I could not pass.

Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.

–Helen Keller

I find these words astonishing. How did Keller’s blindness increase her vision, rather than abate it? Doubtless her disability taught her that the eye is much more than an organ for absorbing the images around us. The eye conveys how we feel. It cries. It laughs. It can even glower. The eye is the window to the soul, the lens to the mind; it is a powerful transmitter of who we are. As has probably been said before, almost as much can be seen from the outside of the eye looking in as from the inside looking out.

Keller’s words resonate strongly with my teachings to my children: Be confident. Face reality. Communicate how you feel. Be true. All of these things are important because they define our relationships with the people in our lives. Nothing could be more meaningful.

Now–while I think this shawl looks amazing draped and blinking over the shoulders–do I wear it, or hang it in my living room to watch over my family? Decisions…The all-seeing knit shawl–that’s a first!

My Find Your Fade–Neapolitan, Anyone?

 

If you’re a knitter on Instagram then you’ve undoubtedly heard about the Find Your Fade shawl pattern that is making its rounds on a LOT of posts lately. This lacy gradient shawl was designed by Andrea Mowry (@dreareneeknits), who initiated a KAL for the project on January 1st. From then on (if not before) Find Your Fade has spread like wildfire, or like the flu, but a flu that is good for your crafty soul.

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When it came time to start my Fade I was longing to work with neutrals, and I wanted to create a subtle gradient. I had tried to find yarn in my stash to use, but that was a disaster and would have resulted in a very messy-looking shawl. Fortunately a light bulb went off in my head reminding me of Quince and Co’s delicious array of easy gradient building yarns, so I skipped over to their site and decided on these colorways, below and in order from start to finish (left to right): Shell, Dogwood, Petal, Canvas, Chanterelle, Twig and Root.

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These selections highlight an important realization for me: I love to wear neutrals, but they are not as fun to knit up as the bright and exciting speckles I have come to cherish. I’ve concluded that while I enjoy knitting with bright colors the most, the odd contradiction that I don’t necessarily like wearing the brights makes it a bit challenging sometimes when I’m choosing the colors for a project. Then there’s the project itself to consider: Which colors will best suit the design? For me the color-deciding process is nothing short of exhausting, but at least I know I am not alone. (Krissy, I am thinking of you!)

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In the end I am very happy with my dainty, “elegant” (as my friend Maiko put it) shawl, which will coordinate with almost all the outfits (as my friend Corrie observed). Thank you to these three ladies–Krissy, Maiko and Corrie–for a fun KAL!

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If you are at all interested in this project I recommend searching the FindYourFade hashtag on Instagram. There are some tremendously gorgeous Fades out there, and I have yet to see a Fade I do not like. While you’re at it, go ahead and follow Krissy @aftermidnightends, Maiko @hikozoart and Corrie @corriekingsley, whose posts never fail to inspire. And since I never drop names in this way let me go ahead and add my good friend Adriana @nanoadri, whose knitting account is equally awesome.
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The picture above shows the back side of the shawl, which is my favorite side. When working garter stitch and fading colors, the results are less stripey on the reverse side, creating a smoother gradient. Next time I make this project I may weave in my ends on the right side, although that would subtract from the beauty of the shifting double decrease spine.

To see more details about my project visit my Ravelry page here. Knit on!

Sizzle Pop Shawl

I wanted to knit this two-color brioche stunner the second it was released (earlier this year), but contrary to my normal behavior I ruminated on it awhile rather than jumping right in. The pattern is called Sizzle Pop and is authored by Lesley Robinson (Knit Graffiti). Seeing as this is my third completed Lesley Robinson pattern I am becoming quite the fan–as should you all.

At some point it struck me that with the right colors this shawl would make a lovely Christmas gift for my mom. I set to work searching for the perfect yarn and came up with “Dirty Denim” Superwash Sock 80/20 by Spun Right Round, which I found in my stash. For the deeper, contrasting color I chose the colorway “Eclipse” in Black Trillium Fibres Pebble Sock.

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I went with the smaller, triangle version and used size 5 needles rather than size 4. I followed the pattern precisely until I reached the final two rows when I realized I would not have enough Dirty Denim to finish, so I bound off at that point, two rows shy. It did not affect the overall look of the shawl, and I am thrilled with the outcome. I cannot wait for my mom to open her fabulous, blue brioche shawl!

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Westknits 2016 MKAL: Building Blocks Shawl

For the second year in a row, I found myself leaping into the wildly popular Westknits MKAL (Mystery Knit Along). If you are as yet unfamiliar with Westknits, where have you been–locked up in a basement? The host of the MKAL and face behind Westknits is the sensational Stephen West, whose patterns are almost always cutting edge and at the top of the knit fashion industry. You often see shots of him sporting mascara and modeling his flashy knits, or on Instagram alongside excited knitters in various yarn shops he visits as he goes about his travels. Stephen is adored by the global knitting community, and wherever he goes he makes a splash.

Like many knitters, I am drawn to sensational knits, and I cannot always resist the urge to participate in a MKAL–certainly not a Westknits MKAL. Accordingly, with about a week to spare, I scrambled onto Jimmy Beans Wool and picked my colors for the 2016 Westknits MKAL. (I went with Madelinetosh Tosh Sport yarn.) I am not a big fan of red, but this year I decided to work outside of my comfort zone and selected four colors that coordinated nicely, though I was not crazy about all of them. Below are my colors, in order from left to right: Optic, Heartbeat, Havana and Leopard.

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At first I was unsure how this MKAL would go–but that’s the essence of a MKAL, right? The MKAL consisted of four clues with one clue released each week, and while I tried to work each clue in its entirety before the release of the next clue I got a little behind. Here are a few Instagram pics highlighting my progress:

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Each clue instructed to increase stitches and add strips (or blocks) of yarn knit up in different ways, including striping, garter, stockinette, reverse stockinette and brioche. Eventually I finished working all the clues for the Medium size, although I did run out of yarn for the final strip of Optic. (Imagine a sad, devastated-looking emoji here.)

dsc04082In the end I fell in love with this project, especially after seeing so many fabulous results on Instagram. However, I knew the red was not me and that I would be reluctant to wear my shawl, so I decided to gift my Building Blocks to my good friend Adriana (@nanoadri on Instagram) because she loves red and loves the shawl, and most importantly, I think the world of her!