Sweater Success !

My beautiful younger niece met me at the castle today.

It was so spontaneous!

I am so lucky and grateful, 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 of a shirt I had, one-inch shell, 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. ))

Abelene Speaks

Hi humans, its me Abelene the dress form. I have been in the closet a lot these days but Jen promised to let me give a progress report on her latest design, and so here I am. Its just a glimpse but I think it is so pretty, all smelling like roses and with a soft halo of the mohair, and the finish is near.

Jen says she thought she’d never make it through two 50 inch body hoops with their big long double cuff sleeves, holding two yarns together, and yet there still are the neck bands on both, the steek and button band on the cardigan. But she still has a week or so before her deadline smacks her in the back of the head. Just look at the grey one, I think this is my favorite . . .

Jen was really leaning into the stockinette stitches this summer, head down, committing to a one-size-fits-all “Screamin’ the Eighties” (sans shoulder pads) sort of design, but at the same time suffered a bit of self-doubt as always, worried incessantly about it all being a big clumsy design fail. In any case, the only way forward is to keep going, take the risk, and don’t give up. She wants still one day to knit up a finer gauge-substitution sample of the design, like in a dk weight in a size 38-40 inch, because she’s going to include the gauge substitution chart with the pattern. Just for now Jen is feeling a lot of knitting fatigue from two of these swimming sweaters, and told me she’d like to go back in the closet with me to escape. Funny lady.

Ta ta,

Abelene

anatomy of a rose . . .

Eighteenth century educational content here, sans actual text. Petals, seed pods, leaves, stalks and thorns . . . I so admire these old botanical illustrations, and you might ask “what is a botanical illustration?” It is the pre-photographic era of scientific documenting of flora, centuries ago taken very seriously in the life sciences, and the artists were scientists by trade. Can you imagine living in the Eighteenth Century and observing things in the world around you such as a rose, only by a tactile context, as from the actual wild, or in the garden? Maybe you might once in rare occasion see some illustrations in a book in a library, or if a person of privilege, you might actually own such a botanical book. But I find most curious and illuminating are the cut-views; just look at this illustration of the spiral fibrous cells of the stalks! Fiber made from the stalks of roses, by the way, happens to be readily available now as roving for spinning, but that is a subject for another day!

See all posts in this series.

Coming this Autumn . . .

Lady in Yellow: I’m serious. Do I look serious? I am, and it is because I am completely finished with these girdling knitteds buttoned to the point of strangulation, and cropped to my elbows and belly button. I tell you, I can not breath, nor eat even half a peanut butter sandwich and I’m starving! I am finished wearing things like this. Why is there nothing else available to knit that is comfortable and not ridiculously objectifying? Oh to be free, modern kind of free, free to move our arms, to bend over to pick up our own hand kerchiefs, and to feel confident to knit our own sweaters the way we want!

Lady in Green: Cheers Yellow, I can’t stand it anymore either. I am worried. Do I look worried? It is because year after year I can not find a single knitting pattern that is both beautiful as well as draping and oversized. I want to wear a big boxy sweater, and call it my boyfriend’s if anybody gives me hassle about it. Then I’ll eat three peanut butter sandwiches, because I am starving too! I tell you, I am completely fed up with one-skein pullovers, I want lavish knitting, acres of fluffy mohair & wool, with perhaps some botanical accent. Make it roses, I love roses. Where is the pattern I want? Is it in the pattern book you’re flipping through?

Lady in Yellow: None in this knitting pamphlet, and I’ve looked cover to cover. Well Green, we’re going to just have to protest I guess, go down to the Five And Dime and demand they carry knitting patterns we actually want to wear!

Lady in Green: I hear you Yellow! Lets go down to Woolworths this weekend and bring our knitting needles and threaten to poke the knitting department’s eyes out if they don’t get us some comfortable-to-wear knitting patterns with pretty colorwork, and that is big enough for our cousin Bertha to wear if she wants to.

Lady in Yellow: I’m in!

Lady in Green: Or we could join Ravelry then wait and see what’s coming around Autumn!

Lady in Yellow: Oh, that’s even a better idea, I’m in with that too!

Lady in Green: In fact, the new Fall Knitting Fashions are just now almost ready, so if we hold on another month, we might get lucky!

Lady in Yellow: And nobody gets their eyes poked with our knitting needles, better idea indeed, lets wait until September and see what Lady Luck brings!

(( See all posts in this series. ))

July

Knitting on the deep grey pullover of latest design, on a rare and beautiful grey cool July day, up until late afternoon when the clouds dispersed a bit. I’ve decided that regardless of the number of weeks it will take, this summer I want to knit a bunch of these sweaters, because I am really pleased with the design, so that will be me through to September, throwing stitches of mohair & wool, in a good mood. And another wall up for the shop, I was at the come-along cranking the pull rope and taking photos at the same time . . .

I am definitely looking forward to the finish of Jeff’s rebuilt shop. But as it is a weekend job for him on his spare time, it won’t be soon, hopefully by the end of Autumn (?) I have for many years wanted to make some knitting & spinning related items, but no rush on that, for now the knitting is all I can manage. Really.

Edit in: A lullaby sung at bedtime of the fog pouring over the ridge, from the Pacific ocean, thirty something miles from Bodega, and moving rather swiftly! I was in heaven as I watched a while, mesmerized about it as though it were an undulating living thing, before falling asleep. Cresting at 2600 feet, then sinking down the northeast face of Mt Veeder into the Napa Valley, drink it in poor fire ravaged Redwoods and Douglas firs! I may be playing optimistic, but I tend to think . . . to hope . . . that the weather is in our favor this summer, as we are all strung out to the max, over the mercury rising with extremely dry days, and when the wind kicks up, anxiety spirals into dread. Yes, let the wind instead, push us some wispy clouds of little drizzly drops as this. A lullaby indeed, and it was a good deep sleep.

balm

The mess of making, of designing, of starting over again, then again, and pencils, tape measure, calculator and notes strewn about the table. The yarn really gets used up and I feel no closer today to being well on my way than I was in the beginning of this design. The body of the prototype is getting the wrong gauge despite the fact that I made a correct swatch, this only means that one can’t really swatch for a project until all two-hundred-and-forty-seven stitches are on the needles, and I’ve done several days of knitting, then and only then will the elusive stitch gauge reveal itself. Well blast, so I’ll set aside the paper white cardigan prototype for now, and work on the greyed down pullover prototype in a set of larger needles, and I’m sure I’ll get gauge from which I wrote the pattern! Keeping this design journal going, if only to entertain myself in the process of design, and glad that I am. My summer is going to be busy with these two, possibly a third one (in the light grey on the right). In closing I’ll say that we’re having a patch of very lovely cool foggy mornings and cool days and that is the most healing balm of all! That, and the fact that Jeff (and Juno) are at last rebuilding his workshop!

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.)

Colors nearly perfect.

Over-dying finished, here is the palette I’m going to be working with, four shades of rose, and three shades of leaf. After my last over-dye, posted The color of old rose illustrations I was not happy 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. Brewing another thirty minutes in a dye bath of tea, the end result is some rather beat up yarn, but I don’t mind, because now the shade is nearly perfect, and in this case more important than the yarns roughed up texture, for it is only a few rounds going to be used in a yoke colorwork. 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. ))

The colors of old rose illustrations.

I haven’t yet been able to start my colorwork swatch because I am not perfectly satisfied with the colors from the parcel that came yesterday. For one, I think I need a fourth rose shade, another medium rose shade, but duller than the medium shade in the stack. Also the two greens are much too alike, and I think I want the lighter one to be the main leaf green, with a light golden green accent (or I may just have three leaf tones). 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.

( See all posts in this series.)

rose notes . . .

One of my rose bushes has so many blossoms on it this Spring, it is an English climbing rose I planted in the garden for Emma’s fourteenth birthday, when we were in the last stretch living in the tiny house while our house was being rebuilt, and so it is at last established somewhat, with heavy cupped peach colored blossoms so fragrant. I am a real fan of highly fragrant roses, which I inherited from my mother, 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 simplistic beauty. And this afternoon I made myself a rose “soda” and drank it while calculating notes for a sweater design. From organic rose blossoms, fresh-picked from my garden early this morning while out watering, when 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, I hope you try it too:

  1. Pluck petals off of roses, and place fresh petals in a pyrex liquid measure.
  2. Boil up some simple syrup, equal parts water to sugar.
  3. Pour the hot syrup over petals , stir, let steep for at least 4 hours. After a few hours you’ll really begin to taste the rose infusion, its pretty obvious, which always surprises me.
  4. Pour through sieve & funnel into a jar or bottle, and store in the fridge.

Pour a nice sparkling mineral water over ice, and splash a bit of the syrup to taste, and I think you’ll be impressed. I made an experiment with these two bottles of rose petal sugar syrup; one I used fresh petals and strained them out as they turn brown and mushy, but another I took dried petals I saved from a jar I keep in with my spices for cooking, the darker blossoms are a very strong old-fashioned rose scent, and they kept their color quite nicely, so I left them in the bottle, and there’s no question what the syrup is and it won’t be needing a label.  You might be interested in checking out the post years ago when I made rose icecream . . .  Sweet As A Rose from the archives. 

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