New pattern: Windcatcher

The Windcatcher shawl began as a collaboration with Nikki of Dark Harbour Yarn for last year’s Indie Untangled yarn club. The club’s theme was ‘Where We Knit’, and because Nikki and I both have a strong connection to Wellington NZ (it’s her home, and my former home), we decided on Wellington harbour as our inspiration. For a few years, I lived high on one of Wellington’s hills with a view of the water, and I spent a lot of time watching the birds, boats, and changing reflections while working on some of my very first knitting patterns.

Windcatcher 1

Wellington is known for its wind - it’s not uncommon for passengers to applaud when their plane lands safely! - so I designed a shawl with the shape of a sail, and a stitch pattern that echoes the rippling water. The harbour’s edge is a lovely place to go for a walk in the city - you can see more photos in my older posts tagged Wellington. The photo below, which I took a couple of years ago, was the inspiration for both my shawl and Nikki’s colourway, which she called In swings the tide.

Oriental Bay

The shawl’s shape and lacy stitch pattern make it possible to knit using only one skein of precious yarn - I used Dark Harbour Yarn’s Starboard Fingering, a blend of 70% merino and 30% silk, which gives it a wonderful sheen and drape. I really like using single-ply yarn for lace, because it holds blocking well, and it’s so soft and delicate.

Because the pattern was originally created for a yarn club (and would be a surprise to the subscribers), I tried to keep the stitch pattern relatively straightforward. You will only need a few different stitches - knits & purls, yarn-overs, and k2tog & ssk decreases.

Windcatcher 2

Windcatcher features:

  • asymmetrical triangular shape, worked from one point to the triangle’s opposite side

  • all-over textured lace pattern made up of simple stitches (k, p, yo, k2tog, ssk)

  • WS rows use only knits and purls

  • suitable for solid, semi-solid, or gently-speckled fingering-weight yarn

  • one size, easy to alter by changing the number of repeats

  • pattern includes full written instructions as well as charts.

Windcatcher 3

The Windcatcher shawl pattern is available on Ravelry.

Why 'Baroque Purls'?

I just made the switch from my old Instagram handle @amyvdlaar (an abbreviation of my name) to @baroquepurls, which I’ve been using on Ravelry for years. Now that I’m using Instagram as much as Ravelry, I decided it was high time my names on my two favourite sites matched, so that people can find and recognise me more easily. And I realised that while I’m at it, I should probably explain why I originally chose the name!

Baroque Purls (or baroquepurls) is a fusion of two of my number-one obsessions: music and knitting. Music has been a big part of my life, and as I get busier with other things (hello, knit design) I don’t want to lose track of that part of me. My musical backstory includes piano lessons as a kid and teenager, and majoring in music and maths at university, where I fell in love with music from the 17th and early 18th centuries - known as the Baroque era - and focussed my studies on it as much as I could.

My graduation album and MA thesis, about rhetoric in Baroque instrumental music.

My graduation album and MA thesis, about rhetoric in Baroque instrumental music.

(I can’t believe this was 15 years ago!)

(I can’t believe this was 15 years ago!)

During my postgrad years I dove into singing, taking voice lessons and beginning my decade-long love affair with singing in choirs, including the Choir of St Mary of the Angels and the Tudor Consort in Wellington.

These days I mostly listen to music rather than make it, but I’m still fixated on Baroque music, and my absolute faves are still J.S. Bach and Monteverdi.

This is why I love baroque music: it’s complex, it's emotional, and it has a lot of scope for improvisation, so no two performances are ever the same and each musician has a lot of freedom to truly make the piece their own. I love this aspect as a listener, and especially as a singer!

And this freedom of variation is also one of the things I love best about knitting. When you knit, you might be using the same pattern as another knitter, but chances are you'll be using a different colour, or yarn, or making a different size, or making modifications to the pattern to make your project suit you perfectly. Just like no two Handel arias are alike, no two shawls or sweaters are alike.

Come to think of it, the adjective ‘baroque’ actually describes my knitting style pretty well - exuberant detail is definitely what I like to see in a stitch pattern!

Baroque, adj. /bəˈrɒk, -ˈrəʊk/
1: of, relating to, or having the characteristics of a style of artistic expression prevalent especially in the 17th century that is marked generally by use of complex forms, bold ornamentation, and the juxtaposition of contrasting elements often conveying a sense of drama, movement, and tension
2: characterized by grotesqueness, extravagance, complexity, or flamboyance
3: irregularly shaped - used of gems - ‘a baroque pearl’
Origin: French, from Middle French barroque and Portuguese barocco, irregularly shaped pearl. First known use: 1765
— www.merriam-webster.com

New pattern: Oil Paint Cowl

The Oil Paint Cowl is a cosy cowl with textured colour-play inspired by the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. The all-over colourwork pattern uses the brilliant ‘marlisle’ technique pioneered by Anna Maltz, which adds textural contrast and colour-mixing to stranded colourwork. The foreground pattern of brushstrokes is stranded using one colour only, and the background is worked in garter stitch with both colours held together.

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Oil Paint Cowl 2.jpg

I was lucky enough to visit an amazing Van Gogh exhibition last year at the National Gallery of Victoria, and I snapped a few photos of details I liked - you can see some of my favourites below. The colours, textures, and movement of the paint ended up inspiring this cowl design. I suggest picking one of your own favourite paintings to help choose your yarn colours!

I knit my cowl using two skeins of Malabrigo Mechita (100% merino; 420yds/384m per 100g skein). To keep the brushstroke pattern well defined I chose the semi-solid colourway ‘Frank Ochre’ for the stranded stitches, which also shimmers beautifully in the marled garter stitch background. And to really bring out the impressionist painting effect, I chose the variegated colourway ‘Sheri’ for the background, to add extra richness and depth.

I also tested out the combination of Frank Ochre and Glitter, and the swatch reminds me of Van Gogh’s paintings of fading sunflowers. But in the end I went with Sheri for the background, because the cool tones give a livelier contrast with Frank Ochre.

Oil Paint Cowl swatches.jpg

Oil Paint Cowl features:

  • a cosy short cowl knit in the round from the bottom up

  • all-over marlisle colourwork pattern of stylised brushstrokes

  • techniques include stranded colourwork, and knitting in the round

  • suitable for solid or semi-solid fingering-weight yarn with contrast between the two colours

  • the background/MC also suits variegated yarn or colour gradients

  • one size, easy to alter by changing the number of repeats

  • pattern includes full written instructions as well as charts (made possible by the small 8-stitch repeat).

Oil Paint Cowl 3.jpg

The Oil Paint Cowl pattern is available on Ravelry.

New pattern: Whitewater Wrap

The Whitewater Wrap is a large rectangular shawl in flowing lace and restful garter stitch. My inspiration for the wrap is the waterfall in the middle of my hometown, Wairere falls in Whakatāne, a special place where I spent a lot of time exploring and climbing on the rocks as a kid.  

Whitewater Wrap 1.jpg

The wrap is divided in half diagonally, with lace on one side and garter stitch on the other, but it's constructed very simply - just knit from end, with a stitch marker keeping track of the boundary between the two stitch patterns. I found it a relaxing knit, with intuitive lace and simple knit-and-purl wrong-side rows.

The lace pattern is made up of flowing lines of yarnovers and decreases, with sinuous shapes appearing and disappearing between them. This movement in the lace causes the stockinette stitches to shift direction, catching the light at different angles for a shimmering effect.

Whitewater Wrap 2.jpg

To knit my sample I used three skeins of Sock Yarn from Wren & Ollie, a soft blend of 85% superwash merino and 15% nylon, in a beautiful and subtle colourway called ‘Glisten’. I love the extra depth the gentle speckles give to the stitch patterns!

Wren and Ollie yarn.jpg

Whitewater Wrap features:

  • rectangular shape, with the lace end slanted on the bias

  • half flowing lace, half restful garter stitch

  • knit in one piece from end to end

  • techniques include simple lace knitting (knit, purl, yarn-over, k2tog, ssk)

  • suitable for solid, semi-solid, or gently-speckled fingering-weight yarn

  • one size, easy to alter by changing the number of repeats

  • pattern includes full written instructions as well as charts.

Whitewater Wrap 3.jpg

The Whitewater Wrap pattern is available on Ravelry.