I’m back from a wonderful trip to Columbus, OH for The National NeedleArts Association trade show and I’m feeling exceptionally energized by all the fascinating, talented people I met. When so much of your work is solitary it’s really nice to get out and mix with other people who do the same solitary thing.
Now that I’m home, it’s back to the solitary work. I’m so pleased to finally have this piece ready to share.
The Burning Love Earwarmer takes its name from that of the traditional Bavarian motif used at the center of the piece.
This pattern is a re-envisioning of something I created a number of years ago, when I was really quite new to knitting. While trolling the Schoolhouse Press website for interesting books, I came across Maria Erlbacher’s Twisted Stitch Knitting. This was my first encounter with Bavarian Twisted Stitch Knitting and I was immediately taken with its repertoire of striking, sculptural motifs. I ordered it straight away and for many weeks I paged through it again and again. Around the same time I offered to knit something for a dear friend and she requested a headband that would keep her ears warm and her hair out of her eyes when riding her bike to work. I thought back to the impressive calf-gussets on the stockings featured in my new book and an idea was born. Why not create a headband that availed itself of the Bavarian concept of growing the pattern organically along with the shaping of the piece? I chose the Burning Love motif for the center of the pattern, surrounded it with motifs commonly used in the calf-shapings shown in the book and added a seed stitch border to keep the piece looking tidy. I made a version for my friend in a green cashmere/merino single and one for myself in a gray.
We were both very pleased with our headbands and mine has been in and out of my various bags and pockets for years–it takes up almost no room and it’s exceptionally warm so I find it to be a very useful accessory when you might need a little extra protection for your ears.
When I set out reknit this piece, I wanted a yarn that would be very soft but which would still have sufficient stitch definition. After a great deal of experimentation, I chose Woolfolk’s fingering weight merino, Tynd, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. In fact, the process of knitting this sample turned out to be one of my most enjoyable knitting projects in recent memory.
I have to admit that when I thought about working Bavarian twisted stitch patterns in flat knitting, where stitches twist and travel on both right AND wrong side rows, I was more than a little daunted. I tried to cast my mind back and imagine how I did that as a relatively inexperienced knitter. I even thought about rewriting the piece for knitting in the round, adding a plain back side. But then I sat down to knit the piece with a glossy strand of Tynd and some super-sharp Addi lace needles and I was immediately hooked. The piece is so small and the pattern so engrossing that I found myself wanting to see what would happen next on each successive row. And like all stitches in knitting, your hands and brain adapt to become more efficient the more you repeat the same actions. You most certainly have to pay attention to your work but the piece grows quickly and the result is incredibly pleasing. It’s like re-reading your favorite passage in a book or skipping to the last five minutes of Mahler’s Second Symphony–a short, intense burst of some of the most beautiful stitch patterns in the history of knitting worked into a piece that I hope you will find as useful as I do.
I must say, the Tynd was pure pleasure to work with. Be sure to wet block or treat the headband with a generous shot of steam to reveal the full halo and luster this yarn has to offer.
It was my mother’s brilliant idea to try the pattern in Zealana Performa Rimu DK, another favorite of mine. This came out beautifully as well so the pattern now includes instructions for both a fingering weight and a dk weight version of the piece. The Rimu is designed to be durable as well as soft so if you use your headband for outdoor exertions (I often wear mine while running in nippy weather), then Rimu could be a good choice. My mother experimented with knitting back backwards for this project so that she was working flat but always looking at the right side of the work. She was very happy with the result and I plan to try it on my next one. Here is her lovely sample:
I hope that part of the appeal of this pattern will be as a way to incorporate Bavarian Twisted Stitches into an everyday item. These stitch patterns take time to work and they deserve to be included in a piece that will actually be worn–given contemporary fashions, I think that most people will probably find themselves using a headband slightly more often than, say, traditional Bavarian knee-high stockings. (Full-disclosure, I knit these legwarmers for myself and a friend and we both wear them all the time in the winter. I think they are a very successful modernization of traditional stockings and it was certainly a very satisfying pattern to knit. And trust me, if it’s cold enough to need that much wool around your legs you’re not going to worry too much if you stand out in a crowd).
So here it is at last, the Burning Love Earwarmer. I knit mine sitting outside in the spring sunshine–I hope some of you might do the same. Get the pattern here.