Friday, August 14, 2009


Honestly, who *isn't* fascinated by the ethereal glow of sunlight through stained glass??

The image hyperlinked in my rhetorical question above comes, of course, from the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. I will NEVER forget the moment (Was it really more than 20 years ago? Sheesh!) when I first stepped into that exquisite little Gothic treasure house and looked up. The play of light was quite literally breathtaking — and now my knitting can reflect some of that same saturation of color, thanks to designer Madeline Langan of Knitting Dreams. I have one project already going and another about to start, with a promise of more to come...

The first project is a lovely felted beret with a stained glass motif, done entirely with yarns from my stash (YIPPEE!!). I happened to have some Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride (85% wool, 15% mohair) left over from two long-ago sweaters. What fun to be putting those remnants to good use after all these years. It may not be exactly the same rainbow color scheme as the original, but I think that the intense jewel tones of magenta, mauve, periwinkle, royal blue, teal, and emerald green will produce an authentic stained glass effect. Click on the image to the right to take a closer look at the yarn.

Here is what the work-in-progress looks like so far. The beret is a quick knit in the round on US size 10 (6 mm) needles, moving upwards from the base toward the center of the crown. The stained glass pattern consists of brightly colored fan shapes made one at a time in six decreasing rounds, each outlined in black. I have just started the third round of fans (in periwinkle), and I am very excited about how it looks so far. Click on the image to the right for a larger view.

This is a great pattern, well-written and easy to follow. I expect to finish the beret in fairly short order. The instructions call for a dinner plate to be inserted into the crown after felting to help it dry in the correct shape. That part should be particularly fun!! I can't wait to have a nice warm felted hat this winter, and if all goes well, I should be able to make one or two more of these as Christmas presents.

The second project meanwhile is going to take a lot longer, especially in the planning stages but also to knit, simply because it will be a larger piece. It is the Bar Harbor Shell Bag.

This beauty — and the potential for others like it — has been on my mind for most of the summer. After a *LOT* of shopping around on-line, I ordered a total of eight skeins of Noro Kureyon in six different shades (#40, #163 x2, #219, #220, #240, #250 x2), mostly from Paradise Fibers, but also from Yarnela and The Knitting Garden. The pattern calls for only 5 or 6 skeins, but I really wanted a wide range of colors (especially reds, greens, blues, pinks, and purples) with a minimum of waste. As always, click on the image to take a closer look.

Thanks to the vagaries of the postal service, it took two or three weeks for everything that I ordered to arrive, but now that all the skeins are finally here, I will soon start dissecting them and organizing the various pieces by color into their proper families, so that I can pick and choose exactly the right shades. I definitely have enough material for more than one project, but my plan is to knit one bag first, and then see what I have left. Then I can easily order more yarn in the colors required for a second bag.

There are so many intriguing possibilities here... For instance, I thought about arranging the colors at random (as the designer suggests for her Stained Glass Fan Bag), but for this first adventure, I think I will put them in rows, perhaps also imitating the alternation between dark-to-light and light-to-dark that I have always been so fond of in this beloved crocheted afghan that I finished in the 8th grade. The original pattern is long gone, I'm afraid, but it came from a women's magazine sold at the grocery store. One of these days I may get around to reproducing it, but for now all I have is the finished object, which has been a favorite of mine for decades.

The possibilities for drawing needlework inspiration from the world of stained glass are limitless, and I fully intend to enjoy myself here. No deadlines or time-pressure, or worrying about what anyone else will think, just a wishing-well of gorgeous color that I can dip into and explore ad libitum. EXACTLY the sort of escapist pleasure, in other words, that a stressed out professor will undoubtedly need from time to time when the new semester gets into full swing and everything starts happening all at once. :-)

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