Monday, January 25, 2010

Nutcracker Snow Queen

Readers who have been following my projects for a while will remember that I finished my Queen of the Night cowl on Hallowe'en. Inspired by Mozart opera and based on Rosemary Hill's magnificent Ice Queen design (Knitty, Winter 2007), it immediately became a staple of my wardrobe, because it is not only snazzy & stylish but amazingly warm too, and it goes with just about everything. I wear it *a lot* in this blustery winter weather.

Just look at all that sparkle!! (And click for a larger view). More or less by accident, I ended up placing beads every 4 rows, rather than every 8 (as the pattern suggests), and I added the maximum number of beads every time as well, rather than alternating between more and fewer. Who says professors always read the fine print?!!

But you can't have too much bling, right?

In point of fact, I really love the glamour of the silver-lined crystal beads in all their profusion, especially because they contrast so dramatically with the inky blackness of the mohair/silk fabric. The designer said it herself: "Wearing it makes you feel like a movie star!" This cowl gets attention, especially when I wear it outside, pulled up around my face and over my hair. But when I come in and let it hang down around my neck and throat, it stretches out a good deal under the weight of all those beads, growing larger in diameter and shallower from top to bottom. After a while, I actually have trouble pulling it up to cover my head again. Mind you, it quickly returns to its original shape if I take it off and shake it out and/or let it hang vertically for a bit, but I have come to the conclusion that it works best as a warm and luxurious neck-piece rather than strictly as a head covering.

Fortunately, I happened to have another skein of the same delicious Silk Cloud yarn in the pale gray color known as Mist, as well as a container of 6/0 silver-lined beads with the AB (aurora borealis) coating...

And so I proudly present my second Ice Queen, which I decided to name after the magical pas-de-deux from the end of the 1st act of the Nutcracker Suite. As a child enrolled in ballet classes, I had the good fortune to join in a local Nutcracker production for a number of years. I fell in LOVE with the snow scene and would watch it from the wings every chance that I got. I remember that the choreography of the pas-de-deux came to a glorious climax as the Snow Queen ran to her King and he hoisted her effortlessly onto his shoulder and held her there aloft. I have never seen anything more quintessentially Romantic in the deepest, richest, truest sense. The soaring strains of Tchaikovsky's magnficent music still give me goose bumps to this very day.

Unlike its dark sister, this silvery cowl is specifically meant to be worn outdoors as a head covering in winter weather. So to ensure that it would fit easily over my decidedly fluffy hair while continuing to drape over my shoulders, I added 2-3 inches to its length. I was also *very* careful to get the bead placement exactly right this time around, so that a single container of beads would suffice and the fabric would not be weighed down too much. Indeed despite the risk of over-taxing the mohair, I even decided to go back and redo a sizable portion of the cowl when I discovered a mistake that I had made early on. Fortunately, with gentle handling the fibers proved very resilient and bounced back remarkably well, so that you would never know I had resorted to such measures.

I am *thrilled* with the results. Click on the photo above to take a closer look. The beads have an airy, ethereal quality that suits the yarn to *perfection*.