Rosalia: a Fair Isle / Norwegian / Asian design

My “Rosalia” is now out in the Winter 2010 edition of Twist Collective.

blocked knitting, drying in the sun

"Rosalia", by Mary Ann Stephens. See Twist Collective Winter 2010.

knitting design Rosalia on designer Mary Ann Stephens

The usual suspect in "Rosalia".

Steeks finished off inside stranded knitting jacket "Rosalia"

The departing view. Check out the neat finish on the covered steek!

For those of you asking “What was she thinking?!?!?!?!”, I offer the following excuses:

knitting inspiration from Imperial China

What the heck is that thing???

When I was a child, unless it was Christmas or Easter, we simply were not allowed in the living room.  Period!  My mother’s living room housed all manner of fascinating treasures that were not at all suited to inspection by a tree-climbing, rope-swinging, ball-playing tomboy like me.  And so, naturally, I could often be found there, inspecting.  Among my favorites were her pieces of Rose Medallion, a type of 19th century Chinese export porcelain awash in roses, depicting all manner of captivating scenes from imperial life.  (Plus a few mysteries, too.  The above bowl is probably not the highest quality specimen, but it has always been a most confounding one. Can anyone tell me why this bowl features a belt stuffed in a pastry bag?  Or is that a hacksaw sheathed in a diaper?  Or…?  What the heck IS that thing?! And who knew we needed so many of them?!)

As a busy breakables investigator, it was obvious to this child that everyone who was anyone had a kimono.  I vowed that someday, I would have one, too.  Hopefully, it would be one with plenty of deep, rosy pink in it! (Is there anything that little girls love more than the color pink?)

These days, whether I’m standing over the stove, stirring dinner,  or shifting into drive, zipping kids around, the last thing I want to worry about is tripping on my sleeves…and I’m just the girl to do it!  Over the years, my full-length dream kimono’s silhouette, informed by an overactive imagination completely unencumbered by the petty strictures of reality, morphed into the shape of Rosalia: it became, in a word, Practical.

I’ll leave it to you to imagine some of the illustrative pitfalls that arose along that morphing journey. 😉 Fortunately, the internet provides a wealth of not only safe-from-a-distance inspiration for our wildest dreams, but a good dose of practical information, too.  Search around for kimonos and, eventually, you’ll find happi coats – short,  practical variants of kimonos, made for festivities and adorned with mons, or crests, on the back, to identify the festival goers.  I guess you could say Rosalia lies somewhere between a traditional Nordic cardigan and a traditional Happi coat, complete with its very own mon.

embroidery and knitting close up on Norwegian, Fair Isle and Asian influenced knitwear design

Most of the motifs I knit are  either purely geometric or floral; Rosalia’s main motif is a combination of the two.  As I sat at my desk, pixel wrangling charts in Excel (yep, I always do my charts in plain old Excel) it occurred to me that the motifs I was favoring reminded me of two things: pomegranates, with all of those tiny seeds within a circle…

pomegranatepomegranate top

…or stained glass windows, with circle upon circle inscribing diamonds in between.  More thoughts of stained glass brought to mind rose windows, the magnificent blossoms of stained glass that highlight the main entrances of many Gothic cathedrals.

It’s funny how the mind works when designing something: propelled by the excitement of an idea, we forge madly ahead, certain we’re creating something brand new, something entirely original, inspired from within, something never seen before.  That’s how I felt as I charted out the crest for the back of Rosalia.  It was my one-of-a-kind idea, never-seen-before motif. Until later, when I googled the images for rose windows.  See the one that’s most like Rosalia’s?  Yep, that’s it!  The one from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, nor far from here, right up there in upper Manhattan.  The rose window this New Yorker has seen the most.  LOL!

Now, for a name.  Between the Rose Medallion and the rose windows, obviously, it should be called “Rose-something”.  So, I named it “Pomegranate”.  Kate Gilbert, the wonderful creative director of Twist Collective, was kind enough to point out that the knitting world is already awash in “Pomegranates”.  And so, it is named “Rosalia”, in honor of my Danish great-grandmother. LOL again!

About twostrands

Traditional knitting with a colorful twist. Website =
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5 Responses to Rosalia: a Fair Isle / Norwegian / Asian design

  1. Terri Lipman says:

    Thank you!
    This photo is better than the one in the Twist Collective and I just love this sweater. Beautiful!

  2. Joanna says:

    It’s amazing! Both color and design are scrumptious.

  3. heidi says:

    it’s stunning! quite a piece of art!

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