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!

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.

dsc03740

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 I tried to work each clue in its entirety before the release of the next clue, but I got a little behind. Here are a few Instagram pics highlighting my progress:

img_5287img_5286

ntag8515

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!

Dotted Rays for Days

Typically I like to keep my knitting projects planned and orderly. This project, however, sprang from the sheer impulse to join the Dotted Rays KAL on Instagram. Not wise. But who wants to be wise ALL the time?

DSC02815

I started the Dotted Rays shawl (pattern by West Knits) with the naivete that I would use only yarn from my stash (below). Tosh DK in Citrus would segment my double wedges, and all would be perfect. Right? Not quite.

DSC02359

The beginning was quick and fun, and the rays sprouted like weeds as I moved from one color to the next–even though I had decided to knit two rays/wedges per color. From the center out (below) the yarns are Tosh DK in Citrus and The Flying Kettle Blimp DK in the colorways Ice Faerie, Dobby and Bees Knees. I then added The Flying Kettle Pokeberry but had to blend in some Tosh DK Lepidoptera, as the former was a mini skein.

DSC02371

The wedges continued to knit up quickly, and a friend even complimented the shawl so sweetly that I told her she could have it. So the shawl became a gift for Karen MaCall–a master knitter, designer and spinner also known as @karenmacalldesigns on Instagram. She quickly decided she’d knit me a shawl as well, so we agreed upon a shawl exchange. Fun! Little did I know, Karen would throw together one of her beautiful shawl designs in what seemed like minutes and ship it my way in a flash, along with some of her delicious homespun yarn and several Agate stitch markers that she also made. (Seriously, my jaw dropped when I opened the package.) In the meantime, I tried to knit furiously on her Dotted Rays. Coffee helps! Below I have added Tosh DK in Modern Fair Isle blended with some Malabrigo Worsted in Natural, followed by Tosk DK Fathom and Mare, which I had to blend together as well.

DSC02561

Finally I reached the final color (the last two wedges of the pattern), which ended up using over two-and-a-half skeins of yarn! The colors are Tosh Vintage Glass Bottom Boat blended with Havirland Lexington DK Butterfly Garden. These last two wedges were VAST, and then there was a 10-mile I-cord bind-off, so I had to grab some more GBB and Citrus.

DSC02667

But at last, here we are! All EIGHT FEET of this massive shawl–the Dotted Rays for Days, as I’ve named her–blocked and finished and glowing in the afternoon clouds. Alas, there was no sun but enough light to see the well-placed holes. Kudos to my husband Andy for climbing trees and threading rope through the branches, just so the holes could be displayed properly.

DSC02809

DSC02810

Now she’s on her way to Karen’s house, where she can be enjoyed as a shawl or blanket. As with all West Knits patterns, it was an incredible journey.

DSC02816DSC02814

Sports Shorts

When I found these Sports shorts in a search on Ravelry, I knew I absolutely had to knit myself a pair. It’s a West Knits pattern, so of course they’re stylish and flattering, and let’s face it–shorts are fast. What other wearable, non-accessory type of garment can be knit so quickly?

The pattern calls for Quince and Co yarn in their worsted wool, Lark. Quince and Co is 100% American and 100% natural. I’ve only ever knit with the Lark weight, but I find it to be of a very high quality. While not as soft as merino, it’s a sturdy yarn with a texture that feels unprocessed, yet knits up cozy.  I’m a big Quince and Co fan! For my Sports, I chose the colorways “Kumlien’s Gull” and “Poppy.”

The pattern for these Sports shorts is well-written and fuss-free. The most complicated aspects are the short row butt shaping and seaming. However, the side slits are not written to be mirrored, so it’s a little annoying that this issue was never corrected. Still, I gave the pattern 5 stars on Ravelry because the fit cannot be beat. (And because a gracious Ravelry user offered a correction for the right leg slit, which I followed. See my notes on my Ravelry Sports project page.)

Sports

These Sports are my second pair of knit shorts, and I must say this pattern is superior to the other. In fact, I plan to knit myself another pair in a more vibrant color scheme, although those will have to wait because my plate for this year is already spilling over.