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Speckled Tonic by The Lace Eater

A crescent shawl designed to highlight Speckled yarns, Speckled Tonic is a pure lace beauty and will be accessible to anyone falling under its charm.

Mary-Anne tells us about her designing process...

  • Can you please introduce yourself for our French readers?

Hi, I'm Mary-Anne and I live in Christchurch New Zealand. My exploration into knitwear design started in a very unusual way. Beginning in September 2010 our city was rocked by a multitude of devastating earthquakes which ultimately ended in most of the central city being destroyed. As you can probably imagine, these events were shocking beyond all imagination. As I witnessed the city falling into ruin behind barricades, and the wreckage in my own residential area, I felt an overwhelming desire to create something to mark this point in my life. Noticing the proliferation of weeds behind the barricades I decided to design a shawl depicting weeds. That shawl, Regenerate, was accepted by Knitty.com and published in their spring / summer 2014 issue. Fast forward many years, and our city is now being rebuilt and I've published over 20 patterns on Ravelry! I literally had no idea back in those dark shaky days that I would be designing lace shawls for knitters to enjoy, but I love doing it so much!

  • How many years have you knit and who taught you?

Like many people I was taught how to knit by my mother. I remember knitting a jacket when I was about 9 years old in a chunky yarn, and I guess I was fairly determined to complete it because I have memories of wearing that jacket in my classroom and being pretty pleased with myself!

  • How would you define your style?

Growing up on a farm, I'm a fairly practical person, and I guess that experience lead to my love of the natural world. As a result, my designs usually feature very organic looking motifs - flowers and surprisingly, insects! I bore easily when it comes to knitting so I try to design shawls that do not involve repeating charts. Each row tends to be unique, so there's no issue with getting bored. My Lace Eater shawl, for example, grows organically from a central cable motif to an elaborate and constantly shifting lace edge. However, I know people also like to relax with their knitting after a hard day's work, so I also design comparatively simple shawls with small lace motifs like Speckle Tonic. Speckle yarns are so addictive! I love them so much I was determined to come up with a pattern that had a little speckle, but where that speckle didn't obscure the lace, and I think Speckle Tonic does just that. And it's a pretty soothing knit.

  • When you create a new shawl, where do you start from?

Interesting question - I often wonder that myself! That first shawl, Regenerate, was inspired by the devastation caused by a natural event, and the regenerative properties of the natural world itself. Now I find that when I'm designing motifs for a shawl, other potential motifs pop up in my swatches (I have hundreds of swatches!) and I put them aside to explore in the next design. So really, the process of designing lace and cable motifs for one shawl usually informs at least one other. I adore Estonian stitch patterns, and I love the organic and sinuous twisting of cables, so I spend quite a bit of time knitting swatch after swatch exploring what I can do with a combination of each. I usually swatch in combination with charting in a spreadsheet. I guess I think in charts - they are very important to my design process.

  • You knit a lot of lace. Do you sometimes make mistake while knitting these complex designs or do you have a trick to share with us (to avoid mistakes) ?

Yes indeed I make mistakes - at the moment I'm working with yarn that has a lot of silk in it, so it's very slippery and I seem to drop a surprising number of stitches. I've become fairly confident in picking up stitches that have laddered a few rows down because I've knit so much i know how the stitches were originally constructed so i don't have to un-knit back to the dropped point. Sometimes though I find it too difficult to reconstruct dropped stitches and it's actually much faster to lay the piece out on a table and pull it gently off the needles. I usually pull back to the last correct row, picking up the stitches on that last correct row as I slowly undo it. This is surprisingly easy when the yarn is 100% wool as the fuzzy nature of wool means the stitches do not slide out from each other so easily. Silk however, is more difficult! It sounds scary to take a lace shawl off the needles, but it really isn't if you lay it down on a table. I've taken an entire half knit shawl off the needles, ripped back a number of rows and picked up the last correct row in about 30- 45 minutes.
Otherwise I guess the most important trick to knitting lace is being able to read your knitting so you can see that you have made a mistake on the row you are knitting, rather than realizing you've made a mistake a few rows down. This is why I like charts so much - the chart shows the flow of the lace within the symbols themselves. You can see how a line of decreases come together or diverge, and I try to produce charts that demonstrate this. So while my charts might look quite large, I think they are easier to follow that many small repeating lace patterns where the logic of the lace often can't be seen until you've completed a few repeats of the chart.

Speckled Tonic

I made kits for this shawl, for my French customers. Though I did not create English kits pages, I can very well make tailor-made kits for this shawl (as for my French customers by the way) with the English pdf. Do not hesitate to contact me if you are interested in an English version of the kit.

Thanks a lot to Mary-Anne for the sincerity of her work and for sharing it with PurPle Laines.