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 make a long flight bearable: the knitter’s solution

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In the past five days, I have flown from London to Johannesburg and back again!  That is a seriously long way to fly for such a short period of time.  I was there on business (to teach a workshop) and so can’t even give you many impressions of the city; I had no time for sight-seeing.  I can tell you that everyone I met was super-friendly and that the students I taught were amazing – so dedicated and optimistic and smart!

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I approached the flight as any knitter would: what project would make the best airplane knitting?  I had finished up all the projects I had been working on so needed to find something new.  It had to be lightweight, take up no room in my handbag, and be fairly monotonous and repetitive.  There was one obvious choice.

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Last year, I bought a dozen balls of Rowan Kidsilk Eclipse in the colour Virgo, just after it was discontinued.  I used five balls to knit my Gossamer pullover, but put seven balls away with the intention of knitting another Reversible Cabled-Rib Shawl.  I knit one years ago, in a vibrant grass-green, and it remains one of the favorite things I have ever knit.  You can see it in this post, where my enthusiasm for the project is hard to miss.

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This shawl will be gorgeous in the Eclipse!  It knits up incredibly sheer, with lovely texture and movement.  The pattern was designed by Lily Chin for the Winter 1999/2000 edition of Vogue Knitting.  It has since been published in many anthologies of Vogue Knitting patterns and can also be purchased on Ravelry (link).  The green one took me over 18 months to knit!!!!  Not, I might add, because it is difficult, but because it is a boring and monotonous knit and kept getting put aside for more exciting projects.  I can say with absolute authority, however, that this shawl is worth every minute of knitting time.

I can also say, that with 4 more trips to Johannesburg planned this year, I am likely to finish this one in less time!  I have a good 18 inches done (unblocked), which means I have one-quarter of the shawl already knit.

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And now, I think, I deserve a nap!

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?