I base most of my knitting on the fact that nature never makes a mistake when putting colors together. Most of my choices spring from these endless juxtapositions: the cream floating in a cup of cocoa, the purple-black center in a salmon-pink poppy, the bands of orange and green tree buds on the mountain in spring.
In her little book On Beauty and Being Just, Elaine Scarry says, “Beauty prompts a copy of itself.” No matter where we find it, there is something about the beautiful that makes us want to echo it. My work is that attempt.
Most natural dyes work best on woolen fiber. But many people (including me) have mild or extreme wool sensitivities, or don’t have time to do the careful washing wool requires. So I also knit with synthetics, silk, cotton, and wool/acrylic blends that are machine washable. Washing instructions are always included.
The prototype for the saw-tooth design in most of my sweaters came from wanting to make a warm work sweater for my husband, a carpenter and sawyer. I love this crisp and clean pattern, and find that it works well in pastel shades as well as high-contrast color schemes. The linked triangles of this pattern also showcase my plant-dyed woolen yarns, like chips in a mosaic.
The idea for my triangular shawls came from a square rayon scarf a friend gave me years ago. I relished the comfort of this small folded scarf around my shoulders, and have been working on variations of that design ever since, in various fibers and shades. Just like the hats in Dr. Suess’ book The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, my shawls have slowly become fancier as time goes on; both the body and edging of the shawl are my playgrounds for experimenting with different patterns and effects.
Every shawl I make has some warmth to it. The larger shawls, especially the woolen ones, are very cozy, like small blankets you might leave on a favorite reading chair, or folded on your pillow for reading in bed. The smaller ones, or those made with finer threads, are more decorative than warming. But even an airy acrylic boucle shrug can take off a chill.
Whichever fiber I use, I’ve found that the long point of the traditional back-pointed shawl can get stuck unbecomingly on the derrieres of some of us, or get stuck under you when you’re done reading in bed and just want to go to sleep without horsing extra yardage out from underneath yourself. Long points can also create drag at the back of the shawl and slowly pull it off your shoulders—all very annoying.
So I’ve truncated many of my shawls at the back, and invented a decorative and practical double-button (like a cuff-link) to keep them on; this little gizmo can be popped out and moved anywhere along the edge of the shawl to anchor it where you want. You can change the effect by using putting the fancy or plain button face out. Sometimes I’ve built an entire shawl around an incredible button I want to showcase.
My clothespin bag got so old that the pins were falling through the holes, so I made a new one and shared it on Facebook. Friends started ordering them, and my newest line of textiles was born! I raid my fabric and button stash for these vintage style bags, so no two are exactly alike.