Gilded paradise

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I finished my gold shawl weeks ago, but waited until I was in Sicily to photograph it.  We were staying in an absolutely fantastic villa, called the Commenda di San Cologero, which is beyond gorgeous.  (It also has the nicest, most friendly staff you will ever meet.  I’ve stayed there twice now, and hope to return soon.)  It is on the eastern coast between Catania and Syracusa.  As you can see from these photos, it was a most beautiful backdrop for this lovely piece of knitting.

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The pattern is the #02 Reversible Cabled-Rib Shawl, by Lily Chin and originally from Vogue Knitting, Winter 1999/2000.  It can now be found on-line as well; check the Ravelry pattern page here for details.

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The shawl is knitted in the now discontinued yarn, Kidsilk Haze Eclipse, by Rowan Yarns in the colour Virgo.  It is a very lovely shade of beige gold.  If you don’t have any Eclipse saved up, don’t fret – Kidsilk Haze is readily available and works perfectly for this pattern.  (I have previously knit this shawl in Kidsilk Haze in a vibrant green, which you can see in this post.)

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Many people have commented on the repetitive (and endless) nature of this pattern.  If you look over the projects on Ravelry you will see that I am not the only one who called it “boring”.  (Although there are those who find it “meditative”).  It is essentially a very big shawl knit in 2×2 ribbing in lace-weight yarn with cable crossings every 12 rows.

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The first time I knit this pattern it took me 20 months to finish – it was so boring, I kept putting it aside to knit other things!  I finished this one in just over 4 months.  Perhaps this relative speed is because, having worn the green one countless times over the years, I know that the benefits outweigh the effort.   Perhaps, I am simply in a more “product knitting” place right now.  Or, dare I say it, perhaps I have been too lazy to cast new things on and thus managed to power through.   Whatever the case, the end product is absolutely worth it.

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In the above photo, Emma is wearing another project of mine, the Viajante shawl, which I knit in 2013; this was another endless, repetitive knit in lace-weight that produced a magical garment.  (We photographed this piece in Sicily as well; it will feature in an upcoming Wearability Wednesday post, so keep your eye out for it.)  Today just happens to be Emma’s 23rd birthday – Happy Birthday, gorgeous!

I am still planning a long travel post for you with lovely photos of our adventures in Sicily. It will have to wait until I get home, however.  I am, rather ironically, writing this post in the middle of the night in my hotel room in Malaysia while suffering terrible jet lag.

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See that smile in the above photo?  Well, you would be smiling, too.  It was the best holiday ever!

How to end your knitting year with a bang!

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Early last Fall, I decided to knit a sweater for my daughter, Emma, for Christmas.  Unlike my usual habit of making such decisions in December, I started planning in September, and thus was pretty much assured of success.  I hit a small problem almost immediately – I could not choose a pattern!  I have around a thousand sweater patterns in my favorites file, so it isn’t a problem of access or inspiration.  I think part of it is that Emma has a very clear sense of what she likes and what she doesn’t; she is supremely stylish  and particular.  Since I wanted the present to be a surprise, I couldn’t consult with her.

Just as I was about to despair on finding the absolutely right, perfect sweater for Emma, I remembered the skirt pattern Intolerable Cruelty (yes, that is its name; I would advise you perhaps not to google for it).  This skirt was designed by Ashley Moncrief and published in Knitty in 2006 (pre-Ravelry!!!).  I remember looking at it at the time with Emma and both of us commenting that it was a great design.

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I even had some yarn in my stash that I thought would work: Juniper Moon Farm Findley DK, a 50/50 blend of merino wool and mulberry silk in Grey.  The silk blend would give the skirt a nice drape, I thought, and grey is definitely a good colour for Emma.  I also didn’t want to use a hand-dyed yarn because I didn’t want to deal with dye variations and changing skeins.  I had bought this yarn last year from Loop in an effort to expand my yarn repertoire to some less expensive yarns.  Furthermore, because it was already in my stash, Kelly’s Rule of Creative Accounting meant it was free.

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Intolerable Cruely has been knit many times over the year (there are over 250 projects on Ravelry).  My general impression, looking over these projects, is that the skirt looks great on many different body types:  it is good for tall, willowy figures like Emma as well as for very curvy figures.  What I didn’t like about many of the projects, however, was the ruffle.  In the pattern the ruffle is knit in the same yarn as the skirt; with many yarns this ends up looking just a bit clunky.    I found myself thinking that a lighter-weight yarn would work much better.   I dragged Doug to the yarn shop, along with the half-knitted skirt, to pick out a lighter yarn for the ruffle.  We settled on this beautiful blue-grey shade of Kidsilk Haze.

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I do think that the Kidsilk Haze gives a little life, not to mention lift, to the ruffle:

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I was to hit two more problems while knitting this.  The first is that Emma was 4706 miles away (as the crow flies).  I really struggled with making this using guesswork for the size.  I did have some basic measurements, but the whole process would have been a piece of cake if Emma were able to try it on every few inches.  My confidence levels would have been considerably higher as well.  I decided that Emma would need a size Small, but since my gauge was slightly bigger (23.5 stitches instead of 25), I knit the Extra Small to get a Small.  Emma is very tall, however, so I used the directions for the Medium size with respect to length.  I could have made it even longer, particularly the top portion, where the corseting is.

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The second, much more serious problem, was that I had only knit about 10 inches of the skirt when I developed a flare-up of DeQuervaine’s tenosynovitis in my left wrist, and had to stop knitting altogether for over eight weeks.  Even when I could start up again, I had to carefully curtail my knitting so as not to exacerbate my recovery.  I finished the skirt, except for blocking, on the 23rd of December!  (The girls arrived home on the 24th; how is that for timing?)

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The skirt is knit top-down in the round.  I usually find that elastic waists on hand-knit skirts are very clunky but I had no such problems here.  The waistband is astonishingly flat and smooth and works perfectly.

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Also, the shapings at the side of the skirt look really elegant in this yarn:

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I am really happy with how this turned out. The yarn changed quite a bit on washing, becoming much softer and slinkier; the drape is excellent.  The real stand-out feature of the skirt is the corseting up the back; the ribbon gives a great flirty kick to the design.  Note that the ribbon can be changed to match your outfit.

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This is a lovely, well-written pattern that has stood the test of time and which looks great on many different body types.  It looks good on models of all ages and with a wide range of personal styles.  Not only that, it is free!

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Emma had arrived for Christmas with a carry-on bag and had none of her usual party clothes or shoes to model with this.  Nevertheless, she managed to whip up something that looks great and Doug, as usual, did a good job with the camera.  I am relieved that it turned out so well.  This was really a case of of finishing off my knitting year with a bang!

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Gossamer modelled

Today, I can finally bring you some modelled shots of my Gossamer pullover.

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I wrote in an earlier post that a discussion thread on Ravelry about the beautiful yarn Rowan Kidsilk Haze Eclipse, which was being discontinued, led to an impulse purchase of a dozen balls in the gorgeous golden shade called Virgo.

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Because the yarn can be rather bling in certain lights, I wanted to keep the design very simple and stark.  Instead of trying to find a pattern to suit the thoughts in my head, I designed it myself as I knit. I think it is rather like a 1950s Sweater Girl pullover.  I call it Gossamer because it is as light as air.

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The fabric is extremely sheer and I shopped around for an appropriate tank to wear under it.  Just as I was finishing the pullover, I found a new Hanro tank design, in a creamy ivory lace that I thought would work perfectly.  (And which gave me the perfect excuse to splurge on Hanro.)  You can see what I mean in this shot:

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The lace tank gives just the right amount of cover without being intrusive and distracting the eye from the beautiful yarn.

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I knit this in pieces and seamed it together.  I think that with a fabric this delicate, the seam helps to give the pullover some structure and hopefully will help it to maintain its shape.  I didn’t use any fancy seaming technique for this – I just stitched it up rather quickly in mattress stitch.  The halo of the mohair means that the seam is soft and so is rather forgiving.  I think it looks great:

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Here you can see the set-in shoulders.  Again, I didn’t do anything fancy, just mattress-stitched the shoulder into place.

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I have been trying to decide whether to write this pattern up and make it available.  Even though the Kidsilk Haze Eclipse has been discontinued, this would work perfectly in Kidsilk Haze, which comes in so many beautiful colours.  What do you think?  Is it worth the effort?

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The thing I like best about this pullover is that it is so light – it weighs in at less that 125 grams.  It is the perfect travel sweater.  It won’t take up any weight in a suitcase, won’t show any wrinkles, and can add a bit of “Wow!” to a travel wardrobe.

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Ravelry made me do it!

A few weeks ago I was perusing the Rowan pages on Ravelry, and came across a discussion about discontinued yarns.  A number of Ravelers were expressing dismay over the discontinuation of Rowan’s Kidsilk Eclipse.  Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of Kidsilk, in all of its incarnations.  Here is one of my favorite projects ever, knit in Kidsilk Haze:

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And here is another, knit in Kidsilk Spray (now discontinued) for my lovely daughter, Emma:

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But I have had my head down lately, studying and working hard, and Kidsilk Eclipse has not hit my radar at all.  I had not even heard of it, and now it has been discontinued.

I then came across a comment from Leah, who writes the lovely knitting blog Fashion: Yarn Style.  She said:

“I have never seen anything to equal the gold shade of Kidsilk Haze eclipse! I am knitting a pullover in it right now, and every time I pull out my knitting a ton of people gather around! The yarn is that beautiful.”

I thought to myself “If Leah thinks it is beautiful and unique, then it must be true.”  I have absolute faith in Ravelers.  Then, I thought to myself “I wonder if I can still find any of it for sale here in the UK?”  The first site I found had sold out, but then I located some at Derramores.  And then, somehow, mysteriously, my credit card was in my hand, and I ordered a dozen balls!  How could that have happened?

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The yarn arrived and it is lovely and gossamer light.

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The colour is hard to describe.  The gold metallic thread is very gold and shiny, but only in certain lights; otherwise it is quite muted.  But the mohair thread is a lovely, pale champagne, more beige than gold, and provides enough subtlety for the gold to bounce off of.  It gets more beautiful, but also more interesting each time I look at it.

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Of course, one cannot receive 12 balls of Kidsilk, be it Haze or Eclipse, and not want to instantly cast on.  This is definitely going to slow down my progress on my Escher cardigan, but I plead knitigating circumstances here: Ravelry made me do it!

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Green, glorious green!

Today is Wednesday and it’s time for another Wearability Wednesday post.  For those not in the know, this is an occasional series on the blog where I look back at something I’ve knit and examine it from a Wearability standpoint: do I actually wear it?  How do I style it? Has it stood up to wear?  The focus of today’s WW post is the absolutely gorgeous cabled rib shawl:

5084935078_0e4f0c0bca_zThis shawl was designed by Lily M. Chin and published in the Winter 1999/2000 edition of Vogue Knitting (where it is called #02 Reversible Cabled-Rib Shawl); you can find the Ravelry link here.  I think it is likely that this is the single most-worn item of any I have ever knitted.  I love everything about it.

5084343247_710cb2e8ab_zIt is not a knit for the easily bored.  Knitting this takes endurance.  It is not a difficult or complicated knit.  It is, however, very long and repetitive.  This might be why the project took me so long to finish.  I fell in love with it when I first saw it.  (Thanks, Mom, for shipping copies of Vogue Knitting to me all over the world for so many years!)  I waited until October of 2008 to cast on, however.  This may have been aided by the fact that by then I lived in England and I could purchase Kidsilk Haze from my local department store.

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I didn’t finish knitting it until July 2010.  It of course does not take  22 months to knit this unless you keep throwing it into a box and letting it sit for months on end while working on other projects.  I did this at least three times due to extreme boredom and tedium.  If you plan on knitting this, do as I say not as I do:  This shawl will be one of the best things you ever knit!  DO NOT consign it to your WIP pile.  Plow ahead and finish it and you will never regret it.

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Why do I love this shawl?  I love its delicacy; if you hold it up to the light it is practically transparent.  It is surprisingly warm.  The cables give it a sense of movement and fluidity.  It is very long and can be worn in so many ways, draped over the arms, wrapped two to three times around the neck, tossed over your shoulder.  It looks great with jeans and a t-shirt, it looks fabulous and classy with a dress.  I wear it in all seasons, as a shawl and as a scarf.  I bundle up in it in the winter and wear it on a summer’s evening.

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What do I love most about this shawl?  It’s colour.  It is green, glorious green!  I never get tired of this colour.  It cheers me up on dreary days.  It adds impact to a simple outfit.  It stands out in a crowd.  It gets noticed.  It is uplifting.  As Kermit the Frog sings:

But green’s the color of spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like a mountain
Or important like a river
Or tall like a tree

from “Bein’ green” by Joe Raposo

I frequently think about knitting another one.  Yes, it really is worth all of that effort.  My only hesitation is to find the perfect colour to knit it in.  I have seen beautiful examples of this knit in the palest of colours – pearl grey, ivory, soft pink.  It is truly lovely in these soft shades.  But I want something vibrant and alive – a rich, deep red, a gorgeous purple, even brilliant oranges and yellows (not my usual choices) appeal.  When I first saw this green sitting in with the Kidsilk Haze in the shop, I had to buy it.  My choice was made before I even was aware of it.  So, I suppose I am waiting for a colour to grab me by the throat and say “Knit me!  Knit ME!”

4-IMG_2638I have also seen many examples of this knit in different yarns including some worsted weight wools.  To me, however, this shawl demands a light, soft, beautiful mohair – it is made for Kidsilk Haze.  I think that if you are going to spend thousands of hours knitting in virtually endless ribbing (perhaps a slight exaggeration) to produce a garment that you will wear countless times, then you should splurge and buy the very best.

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Not a month goes by when I don’t wear this shawl.  The photos from my back garden (with me in a white t-shirt) where taken by Emma in October 2010.  The photos in Tucson (black dress) are from April 2012, while the one on the bridge (purple turtleneck) was taken on campus a few metres from my office, just last week.  Here is one taken yesterday (as you may be able to tell, we are having an unseasonably warm February):

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Well, dear readers, that’s it for this edition of Wearability Wednesday.   Lily Chin’s Reversible Cabled Rib Shawl is a completely successful knit in every way; one that is both beautifully wearable and that wears beautifully.

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In a Hazy Kidsilk Haze Daze

I have been thinking a lot about Kidsilk Haze.  I love this yarn; so pretty, so soft, so light, so warm.  I was in London this weekend, and stopped by Loop (a great yarn shop in Islington).  They have Kidsilk displayed on a rod on the wall, one ball of each colour threaded through the rod.  Such beautiful shades; I love their pastels, but I am wild about the deep jewel tones.  I have also been wishing to knit myself a new pullover in Kidsilk Haze. To properly set up this discussion, I must show you a really unflattering photo of me.  In 2007, I knit myself a pullover from Kidsilk Haze in a deep, vibrant purple.  The sweater, called Rosa, was designed by Lois Daykin, and published in Rowan 40.

Though the photo is terrible, you can see that the sweater itself is lovely.  I wore this sweater everywhere for a few years.  I love that it can be very dressy, but can also be worn with jeans.  I especially love that it is light as a feather, but surprisingly warm.

The problem with this sweater is that I knit it too big. I measured carefully and followed Rowan’s size guide exactly and knit to gauge.   I have noticed over the years that Rowan patterns run big; there is an enormous amount of positive ease built into their patterns.  And actually, when you look at the photos in their pattern books, the sweaters are always enormous on the models, so this isn’t exactly a case of false advertising.  These young, attractive Rowan models lounging around the countryside and country manor houses in sweaters three sizes too big for them always look like beautiful, tousled, artistic waifs lost in their big, snuggly sweaters.  On everyone else, they just look like sweaters that don’t fit.  I have come to the conclusion that, when knitting a Rowan pattern, you should always go down a size.  Or two.  Or three.

So my Rosa sweater, while deeply loved, was clearly too big, and once I lost a bit of weight, was way too big.  I have been thinking for some time now of knitting another one in a size 10 instead of a 14 (really, a 14; what was I thinking?)

Since knitting Rosa, I have made four other projects with Kidsilk Haze, each of which I love to bits.  First, also in 2007, I made the River Lacy Wrap, designed by Sharon Miller and published in Rowan 38.  It was my first piece of lacework.

Then I knit the absolutely fabulous Reversible Cable-Ribbed Shawl, by Lily Chin, published in Vogue Knitting Winter 1999/2000.  I think this may be my all-time favorite of all my knits, and will be the subject of a future Wearability Wednesday post.  But here is a teaser photo, so you can begin to see it’s greatness.  (Don’t you love this green?  Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a thing for green.)

I then made the Smoulder pullover for Emma, which I blogged about here.  Smoulder was designed by Kim Hargreaves and published in her collection, Whisper.   The yarn is held double in this pattern, making it  much warmer, thicker and cushier, but still light as air.  This sweater was sort of a pain to knit, because it was knit on two different sized needles, but you cannot argue with the results. It looks great.

Using the leftovers from the Smoulder sweater, I knit a cowl for my sister-in-law, Vivian, which I blogged about here.

Clearly, it is time to knit myself a pullover in Kidsilk Haze.  I have been torn for a while between knitting another Rosa, perhaps in a deep red, or finding another pattern to make with this yarn.  Recently, I came across this:

This pullover combines Kidsilk Haze with beads.  I think it is beautiful.  It is designed by Martin Story and published in Parisian Nights (by Rowan).  I am thinking maybe this is what I need for my next Kidsilk Haze fix.  I love this colour – sort of a cross between grey and taupe – but I can imagine this in a dark red, or a soft pearl grey, a rich golden yellow or  a very pale pink, or maybe in a classic black.  Kidsilk comes in so many colours.  Beads come in endless varieties; imagine the possibilities.  What do you think?