a new addition . . .

Very near to being finished, the “mini me” you could say, to the beautiful mother design Redouté Roses . . . or perhaps better described as “a daughter” . Born out of necessity, or, just because I wanted every mother and daughter duo to be able to wear one together, or, because I really do think the slim-fit version of this big oversized sweater would be amazing too. I think I shall hand this one over to Jeff’s grand-daughter who is eleven, but also, I could knit one in an aran weight to fit me, and which I very much plan to do! Still on the needles so very puckered and unblocked of course. A finish forthcoming . . .

Sweater Success !

My beautiful younger niece met me at the castle today.

It was so spontaneous!

I am so lucky and grateful that she could do it, because she is leaving back to university in a few days . . .

. . . but even more so because it was such a cool morning

after an impossible record heat wave we’ve had.

She is at home in the castle walls,

having been here so many times to model the endless sweaters . . .

so gracefully, and so genuinely.

And she gave this new design much needed relevance and proportion

because of the super voluminous shaping.

Both looked so lovely when she wore them, but I gave her the grey one, as it is casual and played down, and she loved it the most! I think its everybody’s favorite actually.

Redouté Roses pattern was posted earlier today over here And so now I can put all the yarn away, clean up the loft for a clean slate, and go for a nice walk in the woods, because with the help of my niece’s spontaneous rush to Calistoga for an impromptu photo shoot at the castle, I am now done & dusted with the project. I do think I want to make another one day, cropped dramatically, that would be so fun! (See all posts in the series)

Redouté Roses: the pattern

“Redouté Roses” namesake is inspired from the botanical rose illustrations of Pierre-Joseph Redouté, about whom was posted previousy, it is a cardigan & pullover duo, colorwork seamless yokes. I was going for the opulent over-sized “screamin’ the Eighties” type sweater I was so impressed upon decades ago in my earliest knitting years, about which I posted in Wild Roses. In fact, one really must read the whole series of rose themed posts over again to understand the design process of my new Redouté Roses sweater.

I absolutely love the lavish acres of mohair & wool in this sweater design, but even though I designed and knit the prototypes with voluminous and long draping bodies, I’m thinking I’d like to make the next one cropped, to wear showing off more hip and waist, like for skirts, or just for the drama of it. It was definitely worth the work to hold 2 yarns together, and to make it in both a cardigan and pullover. The cardigan has a steek, in front of course, and the “after-thought” pullover has a colorwork insert in back of the yoke, which is in place of a steek, which is how I manage to write a single pattern for both, a completely arduous commitment, and as far as I know, is my own process and how I am designing sweaters now — a cardigan and pullover in one pattern. Because frankly, if you took two people who want to have a sweater, one would surely want a pullover, and the other prefer a buttoned cardigan. My nieces being the perfect example and why I developed this way of designing.

As for the colorwork chart, if you look closely at the motifs, there is my usual small border, merely suggestive of a garland of tiny new budding roses, bordering the bottom hem, the sleeves, and the yoke. Then there is what I see as a botanical “cut-view” illustration of the just-opening rose flower alternating with an about-to-burst fat rose bud, and perhaps this is my favorite part of the chart. Last, and least of all needing explanation is the center large border of sumptuous fully open rose blossoms, the kind that last only a day before the petals seem to all fall off at once.

Its the fuzzy mohair I can’t get over, but one can’t really absorb the scope of their opulence until modelled by a niece ! And I do hope that in the near future one or both of my nieces will model these sweaters, but as its been a solid wave of record heat most of September so far, and since this particular sweater duo is excessively hot and fuzzy, I can’t be sure of anything. Why not wait? Honestly, the rush to get this design finished inconveniently during a hellish California heat wave, with still-life photos having to suffice, is simply so that all of the rose loving knitters of the world will have something to cast on as soon as Autumn hits!

“Redouté Roses” is now live and available on Ravelry,

so you can check it out there for all the finer details!

(( See all posts in this rose themed series. ))

buttons, etc.

Sewing buttons and labels on finally . . . the cardigan is completely dry . . . oh joy of joys ! Do you think these are the right ones? I had to cut them off one of my shirts as I desperately needed 1″ shell buttons, they are lovely and seem just right. Also I went out to the garden devastated by last week’s 106F heat wave, but there were some roses, so I cut them and put them in jars and into the fridge. Frayed and dwarfed by our mountain climate, not sure if they will do, but I really don’t want to make a trip into town for a bouquet of roses to photograph. Shall I make do?

The botanical illustrations of Redouté.

Pierre-Joseph Redouté (July 1759 – June 1840) was a Belgian botanist known for capturing the beauty of flowers, of roses in particular, with watercolor and engravings. Known as the “Raphael of flowers” he was perhaps the greatest botanical illustrator of all time.

I posted an illustration of the apricot back in June’s harvest , as a life science illustrator he did a variety of flowers and fruit. And do you recognize this particular Redouté Rose illustration which inspired the colorway of forthcoming latest design?

The latest sweater design in fact,

which has only to dry from blocking and buttons to be sewn on, then photographed.

In a blink I’ll be gleefully posting my finished long-awaited Redouté Roses sweaters!

(( See all posts in this series. ))

Wild Rose

There is a “wild” rose in my garden that I propagated from a cutting from an old rose bush that must have been wild planted a generation or more ago from a seed blown in the wind or dropped by bird, from what I imagine to be an old gardened estate on the mountain. Along side the road it grew very near where we live, and bloomed every spring. One day Jeff brought me a cut bloom from it, and after it was in a vase for a week or so, I planted it and I managed to eventually get it to propagate. The original bush along the roadside was burned in the wildfire and never came back, but I have its descendant, and here it is now, fifteen years or so later, in my garden, the wild rose . . .

Now for some backstory: The first knitting book I ever bought was in 1988, the time when I was just learning how to knit, and I use to stop in at our local Book Ends book shop down in the town center, and I can remember as if yesterday, the late afternoon in late Autumn that I found this just published book just on the shelf . . .

That first knitting book perished in the wildfire, but I had found a used one to replace it shortly after, for sentimental reasons, likely one of the the first knitting books I repurchased! Anyway, back then these were all patterns very exclusive and for experienced knitters only, yet I dreamed maybe I could learn to knit the complex intarsia roses, perhaps in tribute to my rose adoring mother I had just lost in early Autumn that year. Old-fashioned and wild roses are a bit of a theme in my life now looking back, and by suspicious coincidence, the first pattern in the book is named “Wild Roses” . . .

That is the backstory. Advance thirty something years and here I am, writing knitwear patterns, and yet still looking up to the big league knitwear designers as if I am still barely capable of knitting something from such glossy photo pages. Well actually, perhaps finally I am, although I had not even realized it until now this very moment, but here I am designing something in a similar vein. If it hasn’t made itself obvious in the last series of posts, I’ve been posting a lot about the world’s ever most floral wonder, the rose. I suppose that I have been dreaming about a rose themed knitting idea for about a year, and it was nearly a year ago that I made my first sketches of a fair isle chart of roses. Having picked it up again earlier this spring, I started to do the math, and make the chart fit a size run which is my usual style, too many sizes, and so I ended up making mistakes and changing my mind, and rewriting the pattern four times! FOUR! But just as I was bearing the weight of my creation , so many sizes, too many sizes ever to test knit and keep track of, and realizing that this indeed is a design for the person of romantic female persuasion, and shaved off the typical big sizes, and tiny sizes, for this is not a family sweater to be knit for everyone, but a sweater to be knit for a specific audience, women.

Narrowing down ever more now because I have made the decision over the weekend to make my own rose sweater also a one-size-fits-all, after having pulled out my First Knitting Book, it occurred to me that just like this big league designer of the Eighties, I can make my sweater also an opulent oversized garment. You see, decades ago, the norm for sweater design was so specific, to fit a very narrow range, and most patterns had one, if not two, maybe three sizes. They were mostly pieced garments, sewn together then finishes and flourishes added on after the sewing. This design is such the kind that any adult woman up to a 50 inch bust size can wear, the more it swims the better, and I am seeing that this is a very clever way of designing. This particular Wild Roses Sweater may loudly “scream the Eighties”, having a colossally boxy contour with big motifs knit intarsia (which I still have never tried) , drop sleeves, and maybe not representative or even a true template for my rose-themed sweater, but the luscious mohair and negative space which drapes around a person and makes her feel lovingly hugged by thousands of fuzzy warm stitches, is really beyond describing. And so I decided this weekend, that is what I am going to do, design “my” rose sweater for the opulent fit, using wool and mohair !

So now changing course completely and discarding six of the seven sizes and choosing the one size that fits all, I’m rolling along swatching anew, waiting for more skeins coming my way, of mohair-silk to hold along with the sport-weight wool I began the design knitting, and away I will go, meandering through a garden so meant to be, that I crave to be inside the gate. I’m very glad I pulled this book off my shelf on Friday, and very glad I’m writing all of this out, for sharing the design process is something I really am wanting to do. My latest swatch, with the mohair silk in the mix, a lovely ethereal halo . . .

In closing, I am interested now in learning the techniques influenced by my earliest memories of my mother knitting in the evenings of long ago, coffee table with strewn about magazines dated late 70’s and 80’s, all of the separate knitted pieces which at the time made no sense to me until my mother had sewn them all together. Although the sweater I’m designing coming up is seamless one-piece design, I feel compelled to design a few pieced things in the near future, and above all, narrow the field by writing fewer sizes in a pattern as the big league designers did back then. A simplistic low-stress approach that seriously appeals to my nature now after having satisfied the niche of knitting all-inclusive sizes and styles over the last decade, now it is time to revisit my roots, and now is the time to take that first step into the garden, down a path that is inevitably the way forward.

See all posts in this series.

Throwing the stitches . . .

Gauge figured after cutting the steek of a two repeat colorwork & shaped test swatch, and I started on the body, with a little floral border, so sweet. Many days of knitting undyed natural main color body and sleeves, and then the colorwork yoke, which will be finished in a blink I’m confident. I’m way ahead of deadline here, not that there is really even a deadline, just that my youngest niece would love to model it before she goes back to university this late summer. Thinking it may be a cardigan and after-thought pullover in a style I have not to date managed to design, a thing which is very feminine. The cardigan will be slightly cropped for skirts, possibly contrast edging, possibly Dorset buttons, maybe, or maybe not, but I just feel like pulling out all the stops on this one. The pullover version I will create much more played down, and the whole affect will be kind of like two sisters who are very different from each other. But for now its just a glimpse of a floral idea as I swim in bodies of wool in the scorching California heat, as the mercury rises and the days near to the summer solstice!

( See all posts in this series.)

The colors of old rose illustrations.

I haven’t yet been able to start my colorwork swatch because I haven’t yet been satisfied with the colors from the parcel that came yesterday. The colors from the factory are rarely just right, so again time for a quick over-dye.

I happen to have some natural beige of this yarn, so I overdyed a skein of it with pink, and another skein of it with gold and a pinch of emerald, trying for the color of extra virgin olive oil. Lets see if this will work better, for the palette I’m wanting is rather particular, of the old botanical illustrations. The tarnished brass is the color I’m looking for the lighter leaf tone we’ll see. Right now the skeins are wet, will be much less vivid and a lot lighter when dry.

But, I wasn’t perfectly satisfied with the over-dyed pink, as it was then too similar to the medium pink from the factory yarn, and so I dipped in tea for a bit last night, but rushed it because at the same time I was getting dinner ready. Having dried out on the line by morning, it was back to the kitchen, for it was still was not perfect. So, again early as I was making coffee I was brewing tea for another tea over-dye, to make it still duller & darker than the medium rose factory shade. Over-dying finished, here is the palette I’m going to be working with, four shades of rose, and three shades of leaf..

The main body will be natural white, um, “old paper white” I guess you could call it, as I am striving for a palette something like this late eighteenth century botanical illustration . . .

Now I’m casting on for my colorwork swatch,

and I’ll look forward to posting soon how that is going!

(( See all posts in this series. ))

rose notes . . .

One of my rose bushes has so many blossoms on it this Spring, heavy cupped peach colored blossoms so fragrant. It is an English climbing rose I planted in the garden for Emma’s fourteenth birthday, when we were living in the tiny house while our house was being rebuilt. I am a real fan of highly fragrant roses, loving particularly the varietals with fruity scent, because when I pick a small jar of them and bring into the house, they just fill the room with a fragrant natural beauty. And this afternoon I made myself a rose “soda” and drank it while calculating notes for a future rose-themed sweater design. After picking a few blossoms it occurred to me to try to steep the petals in sugar syrup, making a rose syrup. And it doesn’t take long at all, really just a few hours, for its now the late afternoon, and I’m enjoying the most unusual refreshing drink, with delicious rose floral notes. Here’s how I made rose syrup, which you can just mix with sparkling water and have a winner drink:

  1. Pluck petals off of a couple of roses, and place fresh petals in a pyrex liquid measure.
  2. Boil up a small amount of simple syrup, equal parts water to sugar, enough to cover the petals.
  3. Pour over petals and let steep for a couple of hours, after which you’ll really begin to taste the rose infusion, which always surprises me.
  4. Pour through fine sieve into a jar or bottle, and store in the fridge (into one of the bottles I put some dried rose petals too)