I am a big fan of antique Blue Willow transfer ware. I remember as a young adult entering a bedroom of dear friends who were both interior designers during a tour of their wondrous DC home. They had an assortment of antique blue and white platters, plates and saucers from the late 17th and early 18th centuries acquired in their travels to Europe. The bone porcelain pieces hung above their bed upon a backdrop of the perfect shade of buttercup yellow paint. It left an impression! They gave me a brief history of the pattern's origin and legend from 15th century China—be it fact or fiction. I've been a fan ever since. I could not only appreciate their dedication in finding the oldest and most beautiful original pieces they could find, but also the love and appreciation of every stain, nick and unearthing remembrance. It served as an allegory for their wonderful and well worn relationship. The china collection, which may at first seemed better suited for a dining room, suddenly became very apropos as a crown for their place of respite sanctuary.
Born August 9, 1910
Most of you also know I'm a big fan of one, Ms. Elizabeth Zimmermann. So, when I came upon a shawl pattern to commemorate the 100th year anniversary of her birth laden with thematic motifs representing her love for camping I knew I had to cast on. The "EZ 100th Anniversary Pi Shawl: Camping," is actually one of three shawls designed by Judy of Mwaa Knits. Judy is one talented lady and quite a smart knitter to boot. All of the repeats are in multiples of 8, 9 and 10 (the numbers of Ms. Zimmermann's birthday). How cool is that? Ms. EZ has regaled us with stories of knitting whilst fishing and camping in her books, which was evidently the main inspiration behind the shawl's design. Also, Ms. EZ's Pi shawl pattern, as written in "Knitter's Almanac," served as the base for the anniversary shawls. I'd like to think our "Mother of modern knitting" would be honored and proud!
click photo for a closer view
As much as I liked the shawl design as a whole, I was not particularly fond of the "paw prints" Haapsalu motif from the Estonian region. Instead, I started my Blue Willow shawl with a crocheted doily pattern I had been eyeing for years by Josie Barbier (entitled Cockscomb) in the book, Favorite Throws and Table Toppers to Crochet by Carol Alexander and distributed by Annie's Attic. Using a size 7 steel crochet hook and employing the "painted doily" technique, I crocheted the nucleus with 3 silk wrapped cotton/polyester sewing threads held together exchanging one thread at a time per 1-3 rounds to transition each color change. It's a wonderful technique and the term "painting" couldn't be more accurate. The undulating ombre effect that results is beautiful. I tried to pick not only the obvious colors of the Blue Willow china, but also the subtleties of grey, cream and aqua brought about by age, wear and the original copper plate transfer process.
Willow Leaves detail
I modified the doily pattern to achieve 144 stitches in the last round which was knit in mercerized, bedspread weight cotton, size 10. I then picked up the stitches with a size US 5 needle and knitted one round of (YO, K1) to double my stitches to 288 which is where the middle motif, "Slanting Twigs," begins in the anniversary shawl pattern. I'll be knitting the remainder of the pattern as written. I'm currently finishing the last two repeats of the "Willow Leaves" motif (my absolute favorite) in the white mercerized cotton. I will be including some transitional ecru and navy rounds before completing the lace border in white. I'll leave you with a few more glimpses and will be supplying more knitting details and photos in future posts, so stay tuned...TO BE CONTINUED