Have you knit with The Fibre Company's Meadow yet? A blend of merino wool, llama, silk, and linen, Meadow is a breath of fresh air in the lace knitting world. The wool, llama and silk give the luxurious warmth and softness that Fibre Company yarns are known for, while the linen adds crisp sheen and depth to the knitted fabric.
Here at Verb, we've been knitting along with Courtney Kelley's Meadowsweet Mystery Shawl, a fun introduction to knitting with Meadow (thanks to everyone who participated in the Knit-Along!). Some participants were Mystery KAL fanatics; others, like me, were knitting their first mystery project.
As a knitter who loves to plan, swatch, and deliberate until I find the perfect project, a mystery pattern was an exercise in letting go. Imagine knitting several rows of intricate lace, without having any idea what they'd look like. Leading a community of knitters onward into lace oblivion requires a huge amount of forethought and careful planning on the part of the designer. Luckily, Courtney was up to the task, providing KAL-ers with clear charts, as well as a mini-lesson in lace knitting and design with each clue. As the KAL wrapped up, I asked Courtney Kelley a few questions about Meadow, her shawl design, and her new-found interest in mystery knitting.
HD: People love The Fibre Company yarns. Can you tell us a little about the fiber blends you come up with? In particular, how did you design Meadow? Meadow is such a unique yarn, a blend of merino, llama, silk and linen. What do you like best about knitting with such an unusual blend of fibers? How did this influence your design?
CK: Kate and I spent a long time developing Meadow, years in fact! We often begin yarn development with a sort of theoretical, "Wouldn't it be great if we had a yarn that was..." As always, we want to make yarn that is incredibly soft, but we wanted a lace yarn that was unlike anything else on the market, something with a rustic look and a super luxurious feel. The little bit of linen we added accomplished that beautifully. In addition, it lends a pleasant crispness to the final blocked sweater or shawl. The stiffness of the linen softens with washing, and doesn't feel stiff while knitting, because it's surrounded by all those other fibers. It does help the integrity of the final garment's wear as well. I dislike a floppy and lifeless shawl, personally, and sometimes all of those lovely soft fibers like super fine alpaca or cashmere can be too soft.
Have you designed “mystery” patterns before the Meadowsweet Mystery KAL? Does the design process change when designing a mystery KAL, as opposed to a “regular” pattern? What do you enjoy in particular about mystery patterns, and knit-alongs?
I had never ever done anything like this before. I was in the middle of just designing a lace shawl for Meadow, when I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with fellow designer Laura Nelkin of Nelkin Designs, who has had enormous success with KALs and MKALs for years. She filled me in on how it worked, why people would ever want to knit something they had never seen, and gave me the push I needed to give it a try for myself! The design process did change when my publishing focus changed, from just a regular old pattern to a KAL. I really wanted the MKAL to have distinct "sections" for each clue, so each week there is a variation or pattern modification made. Kate Osborn gave us the idea to develop the MKAL further by making it have a built in mini-workshop aspect. So, not only does the knitter get the pattern, they get material to help them understand the design process and teaches them some new tips and tricks to make their lace knitting easier and more successful. I really liked the community aspect of the KAL, and in KALs in general. Ravelry is such a great forum for this sort of knitting, and without the group forums and the ability to share photos in one place I think it would be much harder to pull off. Gotta give props to Jess and Casey! But, to be honest, I had never participated in a MKAL before -- not being the sort of person who is comfortable knitting something sight unseen. The trust of the participants and their excitement was totally addictive though, and I don't think the Meadowsweet Shawl will be the last MKAL you'll see from The Fibre Company, or Kelbourne Woolens!
Thanks Courtney! We love Meadow and we're addicts, too! If you'd like to see a sample of the Meadowsweet Shawl, and lots of beautiful colors of The Fibre Company's newest yarn, Meadow, stop by the store! -HD