Monday, 28 January 2013

The thistle shawl

Throughout my childhood, we used to go for long walks on Sundays, as most respectable families in the 70's. My favorite places to go hiking was a large rock with 3000 year old rock carvings at Penne, "Bøensbakken" at the end of a narrow fjord called Framvaren, and on one of the many Lista beaches. The beaches are especially beautiful during the winter, when you can walk on the sand without falling down and without getting sand in your shoes.

In the ditchs in the fields along the beaches grew thistles. They are really quite beautiful, with thick and spiky silver leaves and stems and with a lovely purple flower. When the flowers of thistles wither, they become burdocks, which get stuck everywhere. I especially remember one Sunday when my brother and I had a burdock fight. I do not remember the fight, but I remember very well how much harder it is to get the burdocks out of long than short hair.
Yet, I have always liked thistles. The plant may not be particularly welcoming, but the flowers are beautiful. And it's fascinating how well the burdocks adheres to almost any surface.

An Estonian pattern, which goes by the name of "The most beautiful lace pattern in the world" gives me associations to thistle flowers. I've used this pattern before, including in the center of "The Most Beautiful" Shawl in the world". You can find this pattern in Siri Reimann's book "The Haapsalu Shawl". In this shawl, "the most beautiful lace pattern in the world" is used on the outher border of the center. In the the middle of the center, I used a pattern called "Thistle Leaf Pattern", which I found in Barara G. Walker's book series "A Treasury of Knitting Patterns ".

In the rest of the center, between the leaf and the flowers, I used a classic Shetland lace patterns you may find in Sharron Miller's book "Heirloom Knitting", where the pattern is called "Small leaf". I've used this pattern in several shawls, and it gives a very airy lace, like a sea breeze. I have composed the pattern on the outher boarder myself around the flower of the thistle in a modified version of the "World's Most Beautiful lace pattern".

I have knitted the shawl in a very thin merino wool yarn called "Fine Merino". This lace shawl is almost invisible, like the smells of salty air. The problem with this yarn is, however, that it is so thin and lightweight that the shawl does not really falls as nicely as I had hoped. It was also a bit damp in the air when I took the picture, which led to the shawl loosing shape and elasticity.

In hindsight, I should perhaps have chosen a slightly heavier yarn to knit this shawl. I was, however, happy with the composition of the shawl. It is a bright, light and airy shawl, like a happy childhood memory of a Sunday stroll on the beach.

Friday, 18 January 2013

The most beautiful shawl in the world

The pattern used in this shawl became very famous in America, and is known as "the world's most beautiful lace pattern". Hundreds of shawls with this pattern were ordered from Haapsalu in Estonia to the United States. Personally, I think the pattern looks like the flower of a thistle. This is a very beautiful pattern and it's easy to see why it became so popular in the U.S..

This shawl is made up of a centre with the pattern known as the most beautiful in the world and an outer border. "The world's most beautiful lace pattern" can eg. be found in Siiri Reimanns book "The Haapsalu Shawl". I have chosen a classic Estonian rounded border as the pattern for the outer border. This pattern can be found in Nancy Bush's book "Knitted Laces of Estonia.

For this shawl, I have chosen a mixed silk and mohair yarn, called Alchemy of Haiku in a beige colour called 124m - Husk. If you do not have  much training knitting laces, this type of yarn can be a bit challenging, and it may be an idea to switch to a smooth and slightly more elastic wool yarn. It will probably bring forth the pattern a little better as well. However, laces knitted in such a thin and fluffy yarn becomes very beautiful, and the shawls are very warm, light and airy at the same time.

The world's most beautiful pattern requires some practise to knit, as the number of stitches changes across rounds. However, if you follow the pattern, the structure in the pattern will suddenly appear. After that, it's not as difficult to knit as it looked at first glance. If you have some experience in lace knitting, or is sufficiently motivated, it should be okay to knit this shawl. However, it might be an idea to knit a sample patch first, so you get the intuition of the pattern before starting on the actual shawl.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Brittle autumn leaves

The inspiration for much of what I have knitted lately comes from childhood and adolescent memories. Many of the older memories have been very clear to me lately.

I've always been fascinated by what I remember and what I forget. It's not always the memory of big events that are clear in retrospect. Sometimes it's the small things; such as the cool zipper on my jacket and the dandelions under the porch, from my very first childhood memory from when I was a little over a year. Or the light on the pier of my grandparents' house on Furuholmen outside Kragerø, when I was five and needed to go to the outhouse one summer night in the early 70's.

I have always thought that memories are like brittle autumn leaves. There are two types: those who fall down into large piles on the roads and lawns, and those who stick on to the twigs. The majority of leaves are of the first kind. They hold their shape for a while, but soon go to pieces and become a shapeless mass, and one can no longer distinguish the fragments of various leaves.

The second type is more rare, and may be found on the winter oak and on my neighbour's hedge (see photo at the left). These leaves stick on the twig throughout the winter although they are brown and dead, and do not fall down before new shoots come out the next spring. Such memories are almost as clear today thirty-five to forty years later, and I can still remember the smell of cats giving birth and freshly baked cookies. I have always believed that happiness is easier to find if there is a majority of good memories among the leaves of the winter oak.

When I was visiting London during the fall of 2011, I bought a beautiful silk and mohair yarn called Alchemy from Haiku. I bought different colours of this yarn and have knitted several shawls with it, including "A sensation of the forest." I also bought three bunches in a green brown colour (127e-strange fruit) that reminded me of autumn leaves that have fallen to the ground. I have thought a lot about old memories lately, and ended up knitting this shawl. In the centre of the shawl, I used an Estonian leaf motif called the birch leaf pattern. I have modifyed it slightly, so that it fits the shaping of the shawl. The bottom border is from another Estonian pattern, which I also found in Nancy Bush's book "Knitted laces of Estonia". It is the same pattern as in "The Crown Prince shawl".

This shawl is very easy to knit, but beautiful in all its simplicity. I do not know why all these old memories have come up recently. Maybe it's me being annoyed about becoming middle-aged or the associations I get when I am making all these shawls. Who knows. It is really not that important. For me, the important thing is that they give me the inspiration to create things. So maybe something good comes out of the fact that my body is withering away like brittle brown autumn leaves.