24 September 2009
Sometimes a technique gets a bad reputation. Intarsia is an example. A lot of knitters will not even try it, as they've already heard the horror stories. There are reasons not to love intarsia. It can sometimes be uneven. There are lots of loose strings during the knitting and lots of ends to weave in. And it can require a lot of concentration. Of course, this is mostly true if you are making complex picture knitting. But intarsia can be used to get some very nice decorative results without getting too complicated.
Several years ago I wanted to knit a ruana. I was initially inspired by the one in Cheryl Oberle's Folk Shawls book. At the time, I had a nice stash of Reynolds Fusion and was looking for an excuse to play with it. Reynolds had a pamphlet of four different scarf patterns, and that was an inspirational starting point. So I started with that, and knit a truncated diamond shape with diamond patterns. I taught that pattern once as a class. And I've worn this ruana again and again, to the point that today it has begun to felt a little bit. I didn't do any decreases or shaping around the neck. The fabric is open enough and flexible enough that it has acquired the proper shape over time just through being worn.
I knit a second version of the ruana, in which the diamonds became ogees. Again, I used Fusion, but in a neutral colorway that reminded me of undyed animal fiber. That shawl was donated appropriately to the ZooAtlanta Beastly Feast silent auction. I was almost sorry to donate it, because it turned out so lovely. The ogee shapes were graceful and flattering. And because the edge of the garment follows the ogee shape, those edges drape in a flattering manner. But then, Fusion was discontinued. It was a good yarn with some good design possibilities, but it hadn't attracted the sort of pattern support it needed. For example, one of the commercial patterns was for a sweater with a circular tie-dye motif in the center. (If you want to see this, search Fusion projects on Ravelry.) The motif itself was pretty, but let's face it, a target on the tummy is flattering on very few figures.
So during STITCHES South, I wore the ruana. With all the yarn vendors, I made it my mission to find a substitute for Fusion. Debi Light from The Whole Nine Yarns had even looked for me at one of the TNNA shows, without finding a perfect substitute. So I was most surprised and delighted when a Nashua representative brought Geologie to my attention. I had initially passed on it because Geologie doesn't have the long color changes of Fusion. But it is similar in both composition and recommended needle size/gauge. Using a variety of colorways produced a rather fine result. I had six skeins to work with rather than the ten I'd need for a ruana, so I made this oddly-shaped shawl instead. I am happy to show off how lovely this yarn can be. The colors are subtle and complex, almost like an Impressionist painting. And the jewel tones are quite rich. Something about the color combination and the ogees made me think of an Arabian night, so I named this pattern Scheherazade. There are some other colorways that are more neutral, almost like layered sandstone. I'm hoping to make another ogee ruana using those colors.
I'll be teaching this project as a class in November. Whether worked as a scarf, shawl, or ruana, the pattern is worked in long strips that are joined together by intarsia. I've worked out some "graph" paper that participants can use to plan the final shape of their projects. This is a pattern that I hope will someday be available commercially. But for now, I'm happy to share the pictures (and share the pattern if you take the class). And I hope the pictures will inspire others to design with Geologie.