Every January I start a project for me -- it is my antidote to the frantic and generous and did I say frantic Christmas rush of productivity for my loved ones and other people's loved ones that usually begins in the Studio in early November and seems to last waaay longer than a mere two months. This year I opted for a shawl and I am quite a fan of Elizabeth Zimmerman's Pi Are Square Shawl. The bad news is that I'm not going to give you the directions to Elizabeth's Pi Are Square Shawl because she covers it herself beautifully in her book Knitting Around which is currently on sale at Knit Picks and has not only this wonderful pattern but many others and also some very amusing writing about Elizabeth's life. The Pi shawl is a relaxing knit with plenty of garter stitch, and yet still has enough room for innovation to keep you awake. It is a perfect blend of Oatmeal Knitting (comforting and bland) and Thinking Woman's Knitting (Lace, shaping and keeping your wits about you). It is also an excellent shawl for wearing because the shape and the weight keep it on your shoulders without you having to be constantly clutching at it. I use mine out amongst the people and in the kitchen over my nightgown. It is very useful to me.
The yarn I chose is from Peacefleece and is their sport weight in Sheplova Mushroom. Click on Sheplova Mushroom to buy your own, or to choose from some of the other lovely colors. I am a long time fan of Peacefleece for both the quality of their products and the quality of their business plan, and you will find references to them through out my blog and site. I use their yarn for my French Schoolgirl Cardigan, the Latvian Mittens and Socks, and my Shopping Shawl, for example. This picture is a Studio Shot of the remarkable Martha Mai, the essential coffee set up in the background, and the Shawl for Me on the blocking board. Note the blocking wires, which are invaluable for blocking lace shawls. You can get these at Knitpicks for a reasonable price -- or, as one of my Studio Knitters commented, you can just stop by the studio with your finished project and use mine!
These are photos of the Shape Shifter in the original version. I love this design. It works just the way I imagined it would and is the perfect traveling garment. In one direction it's a coat. If you turn it upside down it's a jacket with a hood. It's a blanket on the plane or a bathrobe in the hotel. It's a cozy curl up on the bed and read garment, or a glamorous wear it with a dress and boots kind of thing. The simple garter stitch is flexible and the texture really highlights the color shifts of a hand dyed yarn. You can find this pattern on my Pattern page or on Ravelry or on the ThreadsofMeaning site on Etsy. There is one problem, however, with the prototype version of the Shape Shifter.
The original version is knit from a hand dyed pure alpaca. Alpaca is a very soft and drapey fiber and, as a consequence, the original Shape Shifter has a regrettable tendency to grow in length as you are wearing it. I have long wanted to try it again with a pure wool, which would have more bounce and elasticity and would mitigate the getting longer as you wear it problem. So I ordered this bulky pure wool from Webs this past week and, as usual, the service from Webs was excellent and the price was very good. The problem??? Not loving the color. So all 20 balls got skeined up on the Niddy Noddy and put to pre-soak in Citric Acid and water. They are going into the dye pots today. I'm thinking I'll over dye with a Kelly Green and maybe some Turquoise which should give me a lovely Teal color. I'll keep you updated as I progress.
And here is the update. This is the result of over dyeing the grey blue in the picture above with Kelly Green and Turquoise. There is still some of the grey blue peeking through, the shifting greens and brighter blues are there, and a serendipitous lavender/lilac color has also managed to show up. I do want to point out that this is not exactly the results that I was anticipating. I thought I would get a duller teal color and I could get closer to what I intended by over dyeing with some Forest Green and/or a thin wash of black. But I am going to let this hang around the studio for a while and see if I like it better than what I had in mind in the first place. This is one of the prerequisites of happy hand dyeing .... an open mind that likes to be pleasantly surprised. Actually that may be one of the prerequisites of a happy life now that I think of it.
At the first part of the year I taught a Hawaiian Applique Class at OLLI (Osher Livelong Learning Institute) here in Portland. I love teaching these classes because the students are older (have to be 50+ to join OLLI) and they invariably teach me things I didn't know so the learning goes both ways. Also the venue is only steps away from my house and they pay me in class vouchers and Longfellow Books gift certificates. And you can't get better pay then free classes and free books -- at least not if you're me. This beautiful picture is of Carol Jenkins finished Hawaiian Applique quilt block. I hand dye these designs onto cotton fabric, and then I offered the option of using an off white linen for the background fabric. Carol did an elegant job of stitching here and the combination of the natural colored linen and the hand dyed leaves looks very Old World Hawaiian to me.
Here I've folded back the corner of the wall hanging to show the batik fabric that Carol pulled from her stash to use for backing. I am very taken with this choice. The batik enhances the "something old" feeling of this piece. Carol and I are calling this way of finishing a wall hanging but this simple square is very flexible in how you can use it. You can hang it on a wall, certainly. But it is also very beautiful in the middle of a table with a vase of flowers in the center. This is really a lovely look that the centered symmetry of the Hawaiian design really enhances. You can put it on the back of your wingback chair -- sort of like a lovely tropical kind of Victorian antimacassar (those doilies that Victorian ladies put on the backs of their upholstered chairs to protect them from gentlemen's macassar hair oil. I also have been known to hang this sort of thing in a window.