Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pretty in Pink

I am emphatically *NOT* one of those gals who wear pink all the time, accessorize with pink and nothing else, and even make pink the focus of their home decor, because it's their favorite color and everyone else just has to deal with it. Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde, *moi*? Surely you jest... Nor are pale colors my normal milieu. As a child, I did admittedly choose bedding that was undeniably pink (no getting around that fact), but it was a bright, cheerful shade rather than anything pale and insipid. I simply won't go for insipid. The handful of roseate garments in my current wardrobe are all decidedly on the fuchsia/magenta/hot pink end of the spectrum as opposed to pastels/petal pink/mauve. The thing of it is that I am both a Leo (astrologically) and a Winter (in terms of my skin tone). Always on the lookout for dramatic contrasts, I naturally gravitate toward intense cool colors, including lots of black, set off by white or the occasional icy pastel, and the latter tend to be more blue/periwinkle/lavender than anything else.

So perhaps the fact that *two* of my lace projects this spring ended up being pink floral patterns might seem a tad out of character. But who cares, right? It's MY fiber fetish, thank you very much, and I can do as I like. There's nothing wrong with the occasional feminine flourish. And besides, neither one of the shawls in question would truly qualify as an Insipid Pink Object (IPO?) of the sort that is so rarely found in my vicinity. There are standards to be maintained, after all. ;-)

As mentioned here not long ago, I splurged with some of my Christmas money on two skeins of Twisted Sisters Lust (70% kid mohair, 30% silk) from the YarnMarket exclusive Impressionist Collection. One of these became my beloved Starry Night shawl, spangled with 6/0 beads of topaz and cobalt blue, and the other... Well, it was in a colorway called "Monet's Garden," as inspired by the painting "Pathway in Monet's Garden in Giverny" (1902). This beauty is a to-die-for blend of red and deep fuchsia, with the barest hint of orange flame — an item, in other words, that is utterly in keeping with my preferred color palette. I paired it with some of the largest beads I have ever used in knitting: 5/0 triangles in a shade called red iris that was a perfect match, if I do say so myself.

Fresh from the triumph of Starry Night and hoping to fashion a suitable companion piece in the red/violet colorway, I went hunting for another triangle shawl pattern, and eventually settled on the Echo Flowers Shawl design by Jenny Johnson Johnen. This is a top-down triangle featuring floral motifs that make heavy use of the Estonian lace technique whereby the base of a flower is formed by knitting 9 stitches into the same 3 loops, and then the petals are shaped and separated by yarn-overs and eventually finished off with double-decreases that bring the stitch-count back to where it started. The pattern called for nupps along the border as well, although I simply replaced them with beads.

I used 4.0 mm (US size 6) needles to ensure that the fabric would open up enough to overcome the bloom of the mohair. The knitting proved to be tremendously enjoyable, and it flew off my needles remarkably fast. In fact, I had the whole shawl finished in under two weeks!! Blocking proved a bit tricky, because the tension had to be carefully applied in order to stretch out all the flowers adequately. But I am delighted with the results and will definitely wear the shawl quite a bit, both for teaching and on other occasions. Here is the inevitable photo gallery, with pictures taken both during and after blocking. As always, click on any one of the images to take a closer look.

This shawl's finished dimensions are ~25” long at the center, with a 52” wingspan. Thankfully, it was the last remaining project completed in the past few months that I had not managed to blog about yet, which means that now only works-in-progress are left. *YIPEEEEEE*!!!! Hopefully, then, I should be able to get completely caught up relatively soon, which will be an enormous relief, I must say.

For of course the other pink project in my life is American Beauty, which is nowhere near completion as of yet. I have however made significant progress since my last update, despite pausing to start over, after realizing that (a) I had misread the chart for the edging, which is a snaky vine-lace that works counter-intuitively for those used to symmetrical patterns in the traditional mode, and (b) I had also not been using the proper technique for the centered double-decreases in the rosebud pattern that appears throughout the body of the shawl. Fortunately, I really did not have to undo much work or lose much time in the restart, and once I got going again it quickly grew. Indeed I have now completed more than 100 rows and am actually halfway through my third repeat of the larger rose motif that is truly my favorite aspect of the whole design.

Here is a closeup of this striking element, which appears in the original four times on each shoulder, nestled amid the smaller rosebuds in a diamond arrangement: first one at the top, then two side by side below it, and then one more centered beneath them. I am in fact so fond of the larger roses that I have decided to insert an extra series of them in my shawl: first one as written, then two, then *three* (following the same arrangement), then two again, and then one at last. I have carefully weighed my yarn at intervals and determined that, yes, I do have enough to add the extra repeats, and I think they will enhance the intricate look of the finished piece.

I am enjoying this project so much that I find I am in no hurry to finish it. In fact, the Aurora Whisper is such a supremely *glorious* example of both the spinner's and the dyer's arts, with such a magical, springy texture and symphony of colors, that I am seriously doing my best to savor the entire knitting process. Here are some additional photos taken first at an early stage (although after the restart), then a bit later, and finally just this afternoon, to show how it would be hard to pin the whole thing out anymore, since it has gotten quite bunched up even on a 32" circular needle.

The funny thing about this shawl from my own perspective is that I am already on the lookout for an actual, honest-to-God PASTEL PINK T-shirt or blouse to wear under it. Oh, *horrors.* How the mighty have fallen... ;-)

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