After I finished Striven, my husband took me to Bean Hollow, a fabulous beach outside of Pescadero, to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Somehow I feel this jacket is exactly suited to an ocean setting—the rough hewn rocks and sun bronzed ice plant and the deep blue of the ocean seemed to reflect all of the colors in the jacket.
But who am I kidding? I'm happy wearing Striven at the beach because its the only place in our darned temperate climate where I actually need something woolen to keep me warm! Ah the curse of being an avid wool knitter in sunny California.
We had a wonderful meal at Sams’ Chowder House further north in El Granada—Sam’s has become so popular because of their delicious New England style clam chowder and lobster roll that you now have to book a reservation way in advance! Here is a photo provided by the restaurant of their views at night--truly spectacular!
Not for us plebeians a night reservation, however. Due to the restaurant being so booked up, we had to settle for a nice lunch. Afterwards, we strolled out onto the harbor and looked out over the fishing boats. What a lovely time that was! However, it is one thing to dine in relaxation at a great seafood restaurant but then when you go outside and see the fishermen and their boats you start to appreciate the hard work and danger that went into the lovely meal that you just had. Crab is one of the delicacies of the coast, and crab fishery is quite a dangerous job from what I hear. It just goes to show that for every beautiful experience one has in life, there is a fair amount of thought and craft behind it.
Take the embroidery in Striven, for instance. Embroidery is a tricky business. The reason I like knitting is that it is an inexact science—you do not have to hold your needles perfectly even all of the time in order to get a good result. Embroidery is less forgiving. The stitches are raised and colored in contrast with the background, so they really stand out. But the textured, flecked tweed fabric of Striven was a dream for an inexperienced embroiderer like me to tackle, as the colors all ended up melting together a bit like an impressionist painting.
Most of us have done a tiny bit of duplicate stitching here and there to fill in a bad hole in a sweater, but embroidering an even vertical line on top of a surface is an entirely different challenge. It is the very verticality of the line that is your worst enemy as it demands symmetry which is difficult to provide with hand stitching. Below are a few reflections on how I coped with this in Striven:
Here is what the fabric looked like before I embroidered it:
I had never embroidered duplicate stitches verticallly before, but I followed the instructions on the following youtube video:
Anchoring my yarn at the back of the work, I worked one vertical line of embroidery at a time, following markers so I would not get confused. Here is a closeup of my first stitching line:
As you can see, my challenge there was to cover up the existing pink stitches with the yellow. the bars of blue inbetween were left intact because those are a natural part of the slipstitch pattern. It is difficult to entirely cover one color with another when using duplicate stitch, because the knitting stitches are more secure and integrated and the embroidery stitches have only one point of attachment from above. That is why the slip stitch background is such a genius idea. Since the background is not solid, but variegated, the eye does not notice if you have completely covered the stitch underneath. The eye is trained to see an indication of a line instead of a whole one because the other lines are broken as well by the slip stitch pattern. This is the only circumstance under which I would feel confident creating a vertical line with embroidery. It is just like a pointillist painting—we are compelled to fill in the dots when we look at shapes and colors and the slip stitch forces you to work harder to fill in the lines that are embroidered on as well.
In terms of technique with the duplicate stitching, one thing that I did learn is that it does help, after you insert your needle through the back of the stitch above,
to pull firmly on the thread before you return it to your point of origin in the center of the stitch below. That way you are hanging your embroidery more firmly and creating a plumper thread line to thoroughly cover the stitch beneath. Putting this tension on all of your embroidery stitches gives them an evenness and also helps them to melt into the fabric, which is the key goal of the plaid creation. My tentative beginning stitches where I had a light touch really stood out as alien to the knitted fabric, not to mention one stitch was longer and the next shorter and so on. Whereas the longer I did the embroidery and the tougher I got with pulling on the threads the better the embroidery integrated into the surface and the neater it looked. Of course you do not want to pull the thread too tightly, as that will defeat your purpose and thin the embroidery stitch, making it impossible for it to cover the color below. I suggest to anyone who is planning to do this duplicate stitching to test-embroider their gauge swatch first for practice.
Next up is the Gorgeous Madame Butterfly pattern, from Rowan’s Current Magazine 54. Talk about romance—this is like the ultimate Princess sweater. As you see, the castle is already provided:
It has been quite a challenge to get through the knitting combining the metallic yarn with kidsilk haze.
There is an odd crunchiness to the metallic yarn and it is not at all flexible so it has been hard on my hands. For that reason, I’ve been limiting my knitting to small doses in between other projects. I’m thinking this could be my perfect New Year’s Eve top! And rather like Repunzel in her castle, it is a lovely dream worth waiting for!