Friday, November 19, 2010

Midnight Scarf

When I decided to design Midnight Scarf, I had in mind the idea of a garden at midnight - something dark and tangled and mysterious. There was also a favourite lace stitch that I wanted to use. I altered the stitch a little, to get the shape of a creeping vine and away I went!  The combination of the deep blue and purple colourway of the Fantastic Knitting Zephyr lace weight yarn and the trailing vine stitch worked perfectly.  Something very mysterious was evolving. Now, I needed a "finish" to the scarf.

The lace stitch had a two stitch "panel" in the repeat which could be "opened-up". As a result, I ended up doubling the stitches towards the end of the scarf, which created a loose ruffle. Think of a vine that covers a wall. It starts from a thin trunk and spreads everywhere.

In my mind, as I was knitting the scarf, I had visions of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil", a book that I actually read while vacationing in Hilton Head - about an hour outside of Savannah Georgia - the setting of the story. There were lots of mysterious happenings in graveyards covered with vines throughout the book.

I also had the lines of a poem by Tennyson - "Come into the garden, Maud...." running through my head.

The absence of light or the presence of just a hint of light, creates an eerie feeling. I wanted to capture this sense of the darkest of light - lace at midnight in Midnight Scarf.

In spite of its mysterious overtones, Midnight scarf is very easy to knit. It begins with a provisional cast on at the centre back. The scarf is knit down to the ruffle and then cast off. Repeat for the other half of the scarf.

Night in a November Garden
Unravelling the mystery of lace.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Midday Scarf

I am fascinated by sunshine. The song by John Denver describes the feeling perfectly - "Sunshine almost always makes me high." Midday Scarf is the sun at high noon! The description "midday" actually comes from the line of another song, this one, by Noel Coward - "Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun." I was trying to capture the intense heat of midday in lace.

Why? Yes, I know most people retreat to the shade or their air conditioning when it gets so hot that the earth shimmers as the heat rises. But I have visions of the desert or the tropics that need that heat to be what they are and the intense red-yellow-orange colourway said it all.

The picot edge captures the trails of rising heat - the energy of the sun bouncing back from the earth. The diamond design with the double yarn overs is the "eye of heaven." It is the persistant presence of the sun, beaming, radiating, glowing as a many faceted diamond directly above us. Wear it on a cold day in November and feel the heat!

Midday begins by making 5 individual picots and then joining them together. The diamond motif is then worked to the centre back. Repeat the process for the second half of the scarf. Join the two sections with a three needle bind off or by grafting and you have Midday Scarf. It is knit with one skein of Fantastic Knitting Zephyr lace weight yarn in the colourway - Midday. It's a very striking colourway and the bands of hot red, orange and yellow suggest again the heat rising from the earth. Go mad!! Knit a hot summer's day in lace to wear on a cold day in winter!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sunshine Scarf

When I finished the 10 scarves in the Forest Scarves series, I was searching around for another theme. We had this wonderful hand dyed Fantastic Knitting Zephyr lace weight yarn and a little voice inside of me kept saying, "light". Lace, of course, needs light to look it's best. Different sources of light create different effects, think of candlelight, moonlight, sunlight....and so on. That was it! I decided that I wanted to explore the idea of light and lace.

Sunshine wasn't the first scarf that I designed in the series, but it is one of my favourites!

I knew that I wanted a design that looked a lot like a prism. Prisms reflect sunlight in magical ways. I also love the way the sun streams down and then shatters into tiny sparkles when it hits the earth. I wanted to capture these images in lace.

There were a few stitches, which when combined together looked a lot like a prism. I added a few interim stitches to separate the sunbeams, then increased for the ruffle. I chose an open mesh stitch for this finish to suggest the sunlight breaking into a million pieces on contact with the earth - don't we always want to catch sunbeams, elusive though they are! Here's your chance! Knit Sunshine Scarf!

This scarf begins with a provisional cast on at the centre back and then the lace is worked down to the ruffle at each end, much like the sun streams down from the sky.

Lace is light, life, energy and sunbeams!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Periwinkle Scarf

In my original two-design publication, Periwinkle was called Myrtle - it sounded better with Moss, as Moss and Myrtle. However as a scarf design on its own - Periwinkle sounds better, I think. Anyway, what is in a name? It is the same lovely plant with bluey-purple flowers - "periwinkle blue" is a colour that runs through songs and stories and Myrtle is the old world variant immortalized by the Ancient Greeks.

Myrtle means love - everlasting love, as in marriage and is often used in Europe to decorate churches for weddings. I love the concept of going into nature and gathering up bits and pieces to bring indoors and enjoy. The naturalists would hate me and I don't disturb the forest - I pick what I can from my crowded garden.

In Periwinkle, I tried to capture the masses of leaves shielding shy blue flowers. Carpets of Myrtle are very lacey and intricate - stabilizing this growth habit in lace repeats was a challenge!
Periwinkle is knit from the bottom cast-on edge to the centre in two sections and then joined together with a three-needle bind-off or grafted. This scarf was knit in Fantastic Knitting Zephyr lace weight in Violet - Enjoy!

Moss Scarf

I was on a roll!! The forest scarf series might never end!! I had the lacey canopy of trees and now I needed the carpets!! The mosses and ground covers that cushion the foot and soften the rock. First there was Moss Scarf. This project needed a very simple stitch. It had to be dense like a blanket of moss and yet lacey enough to suggest the small flowers that sometimes appear on mosses.

I found a little knot stitch that allowed me to construct the scarf simply by casting on and casting off - how easy is that! - oh yes and to work some 75 repeats of the pattern in between.

I was also able to block dainty picots at both edges of the scarf and Eureka! a design for the most beginning of lace knitters - it really just gets you use to working with fine yarn.

My next challenge will be to create Lichen in lace - think of the possibilities.

Pine Scarf

To me Pine trees are not as tall as Fir trees, unless you want to argue that a Jack Pine is taller than a Douglas Fir - but I will leave that to the Arborists. The main stitch in Pine Scarf is from a stitch in one of Barbara Walker's stitch dictionaries; but the stitch had patterning on the return row and I am a lazy knitter and like to have my "veg" time so I re-did the stitch with purl return rows and patterned knit rows. The pattern is actually called "Coral Pattern" - re-designed as a pine tree - nothing is really that far away!

In knitting the swatch I saw a Scotch Pine emerge. Scotch Pines are Christmas Trees - this would be perfect. Pine scarf is a triangular scarf knit from the top down and looks lovely under the collar of a blouse. It was knit in Fantastic Knitting Zephyr lace weight yarn in Juniper

I loved the pine motif so much that I have resolved to do another scarf or stole using it and beading it like a Christmas Tree - oh the whimsey of lace.

Fir Scarf

One thought lead to another and the more I imagined a forest the more I knew that I just had to add the tall canopy of trees that form the walls and roof - the supporting structure of the scene. There are many different types of evergreen trees in the Canadian Boreal forests, so I classified them simply as Pine and Fir.

Fir scarf is based on the repetition of a basic fir tree motif in three sizes. Evergreen forests have trees at every stage of growth from seedlings to very mature trees. I tried to capture these growth stages and the density of the trees in the pattern repeats.

The picots on the cast on edges were a nod to the lacey shapes of the firs and their delicate needle clusters. Fir was knit in Fantastic Knitting Zephyr lace weight in Jade. It begins with five separate picots which are then joined to work the main part of the scarf. The scarf is actually worked in two sections and then joined with a three-needle bind-off or grafted.
I just loved knitting the fir motif. It was like walking in the woods - needle exercises!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Stream Scarf

Forests have water - ponds and streams and marshy areas, so I had to have Stream Scarf as part of the Forest Scarves Series. I love streams. They are so fresh and lively. They babble, splash and jump almost like children. I chose Aegean Blue which is a lighter shade of blue than Marine Blue and I think just a little more youthful.

I then had to find a lace stitch that had the energy of a stream. I found a zig-zag stitch that I opened up with some yarn-ons and stream was born. I decided to start with a provisional cast-on because I wanted the scarf to be wider at each end, a little like a stream that slows down and spills over when it reaches a pond. Finally I picked a picot cast-off to finish the "flair" - a little like the sprays of water that splash up from small rapids.

Stream scarf is a quick knit. It can be made longer and wider into a stole and it can be knit in any number of colours. I knit it in Fantastic Knitting Zephyr lace weight and it is one of my favourites!
The picture on the right was taken in winter in Sunnybrook park in Toronto. It was a challenge getting just the right angle for the shot and not sinking up to my waist in snow. I am beginning to ignore the stares of the walkers and joggers - wondering "who is that woman hanging scarves in trees. "
Ahh - The rituals of lace!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pond Scarf

The wilderness park just north of Mt. Tremblant (Trembling Mountain) in the Laurentians is a wonderful place for nature walks and more strenuous hikes. In fact you can choose hikes from 1 hour long to over 24hrs long. You don't have to sleep walk - just pitch a tent and carry on the next day!

I have done several of the shorter walks. My favourite is the 3hr walk around Lac des Femmes. When I decided to expand the Forest Scarves series, I just thought back to my trips around this lake. It is a very thickly forested area with lots of trees, hills, streams, ponds, ferns, flowers...the list goes on. It is a natural habitat for Blue Heron and White Tailed Deer to name just a few of the animals.

Pond Scarf is Lac des Femmes in lace. The lake, really more like a large pond, is fringed with reeds and dotted with water lilies. Spiders and beetles make lacey ripples on the blue, black surface of the water and loons call.

I chose Fantastic Knitting Zephyr lace weight in Blueberry for the colour, though the scarf could be knit in any number of colours from misty greys to lighter blues and golds. I simplified again a stitch that had patterning on the return row and it ended up looking quite like a lily pad. Pond scarf is worked a little like Fern Scarf in that it has a centre panel and side borders that form from a beginning rectangle. The rectangle stitch looks like the water spiders! I decided to finish the shawl with a lace stitch that resembled an organized tangle of reeds.

There is something about the ecosystem of a pond that inspires awe. So many tiny microcosm each dependant on one another. Destroy one and the whole thing falls apart - like knitted lace - each stitch is so dependent on the other.

Knit lace - be one with the natural world!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fern Scarf

Fern scarf is a very popular scarf. It is slightly more difficult than the regular top down triangular scarf in that it starts with a small rectangle. Stitches are picked up along the sides of the rectangle to work the side (top) borders and the original rectangle is continued down the centre back of the scarf to form the centre panel. The border and centre panel stitches are then repeated in the bottom border.
There are many, many different types of ferns. The most common and the one that I took the border idea from is the "Fiddlehead" fern. This fern has a distinctive arrowhead appearance after the fiddlehead opens - hence the arrowhead lace stitch.

The main stitch is actually a variation of a stitch that had patterning on the return row; but I decided to just purl the return row and work the patterning on the right side only. The stitch resembles the leaves of the maidenhair fern - a very delicate lacey plant that I used to have in the garden. I'm not sure what happened to it. I'm glad that I was able to preserve it in lace.

Fern scarf was knit with Fantastic Knitting Zephyr lace

weight in Bottle Green. I have seen it done in violet - think of evening shadows in the forest - many other colours can be used as well.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Flower Scarf

The Flower Scarf is one of my favourites. I love all the scarves; but, there is something about flowers that takes me back to my grandmother's garden or to hikes with my family on Sunday afternoons in Spring, where a small violet here or there made the day! Flower scarf is not difficult. You cast on - knit to the end and cast off. Yes you do decrease and increase for the ruffles - but these are easy.

The lace design is one very simple flower stitch. This motif is worked as garter stitch in the border and as stocking stitch for the main part of the scarf. Knit Flower Scarf in pink and it's Impatience, in purple, a Violet, in yellow, Forsythia, in white, Arabis, and in green, it is all those flowers that we mistake for leaves and as a result are often overlooked.

I plant Lady's Mantle and Bells of Ireland for their green flowers and I have often thought that, if we indeed had previous lives, I might have been a green Cymbidium. (And you...?) Flowers, like children, are our eternity and lace is what we pass on, making our work, dare I say ourselves, eternal!

Knit Flower scarf and keep Spring with you, whenever you need it.

One of my favourite poems is by Ogden Nash. He wrote a poem entitled "To a Lady Who Thinks She Is Thirty". The poem is lovely - but the last line is worth repeating - after chiding Miranda(the lady) for her shortsightedness he ends by saying - "How old is Spring, Miranda?"

Knit lace. Stay young!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Leaf Scarf

Tree Scarf just naturally lead to Leaf Scarf. I could have chosen green for the leaf; but I had already used Sage for Tree. I'm not sure why I didn't use Charcoal, Suede or Sable for the bark; perhaps I wanted something soft and mossy. For this scarf, though, I did want a Spring/Summer leaf, not a Fall one, so I chose Daffodil from one of the 42 colours of Fantastic Knitting Zephyr lace weight yarn. A favourite time of year, for me, is that first week or so of May, when the tiny leaves start on the trees and the world is suddenly a yellow- green. I wanted to capture that concept of Leaf in the scarf so I used yellow and a small leaf pattern.

There are lots of leaf patterns in lace. Many tend to be quite regular and structured. Those first leaves of Spring are small, fragile and very lacey. The branches on which they sprout are a tangle of arcs and crosses, so I needed a lace pattern that suggested this random energy. Barbara Walker's collection of knitting stitches is an invaluable resource. The pattern I chose required some purling together of stitches on the return row. But the work wasn't too mind bending, so I knew that an intermediate knitter could manage this.

Next, the scarf needed a lacey border. There is a variation of feather and fan called Swiss Fan that has a small branching or arc to its stitches, so I decided to create a border around the entire leaf section with this fan stitch. The scarf is worked in two sections and joined at the centre back with either a three-needle bind off or Kitchener Stitch.

When I graft lace, I pin the two sections to be grafted out on a blocking board facing each other. I then slowly remove the needles or blocking wires just a little, pinning down the few live stitches that are released. I then graft them together. I repeat this process until both sections are seamlessly :) joined!

I joined the original scarf with a three-needle bind-off and it looks just lovely, so you can take your pick. Leaf scarf makes a pretty shoulder cover-up.
Don't limit yourself to the colours I mentioned earlier, either. Leaves in the moonlight can be blue, silver or grey and then there are all the colours of the Autumn leaves. Buy extra yarn, cast on more stitches and turn Leaf Scarf into a stole. Make the border twice as wide and twice as long, if you are going to do this, for porportion.

It's the end of February to-day and snowy and cold up here. I just want to run out side and see leaves! Where is that scarf? It's a great substitute!

Nature and Lace

I am often asked where I get my ideas for the lace scarves and shawls that I design. I decided to create a blog to work through some of these ideas. I hope it helps.

First, I like to work with groups of ideas. I find that one idea leads to another much easier this way. Also, I like a continuity to what I do. You will often see stitches repeated, perhaps in several variations within any one of my lace projects. Again for continuity, I rarely use more than 3 different stitch patterns in any one garment.

My first complete series or groupings is the Forest Scarves and my first design within that series is the "Tree Scarf."

Tree Scarf began with the idea of trying to capture the texture of bark in lace. I have a Sugar Maple tree in my back yarn. Its bark is a vertical pattern of grooves. I began flipping through stitch dictionaries looking for - OK, a "groovy" pattern. The drop stitch pattern I choose said vertical grooved bark to me. Now I needed a lacey start and finish. The classic bird's eye pattern was a tough choice because there were so many gorgeous patterns to choose from. I decided on Bird's Eye because it's an old Shetland lace pattern and trees are old. Birds nest in trees. Plus the openness of the design could look both like the leaves and debris that collects at the bottom of the tree as well as those leaves and branches that form the top expanse of the tree.

It was only when I took a picture of the finished scarf in a cherry tree, also in the garden, that I noticed a completely different bark pattern.

I have begun to look closely at the bark pattern of trees. I guess that Botanists do this all the time. Anyway, every tree is different. Perhaps there will be more tree scarves in future.

Tree was knit in Fantastic Knitting Zephyr lace weight yarn - colour sage. Tree, of course, can be worked in lots of different colours - sable, suede, darker greens, golds. You decide.