Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ta(l)king Shelter

There's an old joke about the weather here in the Hill Country. "Austin has four seasons: almost summer, summer, still summer, and Christmas." They're not lying. It's well into November, and I drank my coffee in shirtsleeves on the side porch this morning, on the lookout for mosquitoes. The customary wicked heat notwithstanding, Austinites do love their wool, and we're blessed with not one but several great yarn shops and a thriving craft community. One of those shops, Hill Country Weavers, was hand-picked by Jared Flood (a.k.a. Brooklyn Tweed) to be one of the brick-and-mortar flagship stores for his new yarn line, SHELTER, and the collection of new accessory patterns he's created especially for those yarns.

It's a product with an interesting story, and well worth reading about if you're hearing of it here first. Jared has put great care and effort into creating a yarn line made from American-raised wool that's dyed and milled in American facilities. It's his effort to help sustain and revitalize the centuries-old American textile industry, which I think is pretty cool. The hues and hand of the yarn are a wool-lover's dream, and Jared's new designs for it offer his usual combination of elegant style, luscious texture, and wearability.

You can surely imagine, therefore, how excited I was to be invited, along with an impressive group of other Austin-based designers, to contribute a pattern to a collection of new designs described as "Hill Country does SHELTER." Inspired in part by the beautiful creations of Church Mouse Yarns, another one of the brick-and-mortar SHELTER merchants, these new designs use all of the colors in the SHELTER range, with a distinctly Texas touch. Starting with some of Jared's favorite design elements--garter stitch, chevrons, texture that really sings--I swatched our sample skein in a motif called Welting Fantastic. (This being the Thanksgiving season, I'll express once again that I'm thankful for the Barbara Walker Treasury. Where would I be without it? I can open to almost any page and the designs practically create themselves.) This stitch is so easy to work, flat or in the round, and it creates wonderful effects in Shelter--a scalloped cast-on edge, a feather-light and drapey fabric with enough spring to keep it from sagging--and its pairing of rising increases and falling decreases is reminiscent of the gently rolling terrain for which the Hill Country around Austin is named. I immediately called dibs on the rich, grassy green color called Tent, and got to work sketching and prototyping a garment that would capture some of that famous Austin spirit. Here's my first stab at the design from my little sketchbook, which I always have with me:

That sketch and my original swatch, in turn, became this:

Hill Country Dress

Hey, it looks just like the picture! (Sometimes I even surprise myself when I do that.) I'll be sure to let y'all know when the collection becomes available--we're shooting to have it ready for in-store and online purchases before the holidays. That's perfect, because this below-the-knee length is eminently suitable for the brief Austin Christmas season. The pattern's written in such a way, though, that you can also make it in Almost Summer and Still Summer versions--a hip-length pullover and a mid-thigh tunic that would be great worn over leggings with your favorite cowboy boots. Three out of four ain't bad, right? So maybe for the holidays this year knitters everywhere will be telling one another: "Gimme Shelter!"


Megan B said...

Beautiful work!

Steven said...

You need to publish your sketchbooks!

Mary Beth at ✄ Yarn U ✄ iPhone app said...

I think this dress is the best. In red, it would be perfect for a Martini and a kiss under the mistletoe.

TT820 said...

Holy smokes, Mary Beth. That's a very festive vision indeed...positively ho-ho-HOT stuff! I love it.