Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Lessons in Horticulture

Today, my knitting friends, we have a lesson in horitculture. I call your attention to the pictures to your left, most of which I took this afternoon in my garden. The first picture is of one of my most favorite spring- blooming perennials, the bleeding heart (dicentra spectabilis). It's thing of beauty to be sure. I started out with one plant and she has expanded now to five(3 nice-sized, 2 little bitty babies). That's also the advantage of many perennials. if you are patient, a small initial investment pays off with big dividends down the road (sounds kinda like lace knitting, doesn't it?)

Okay, so that's the fancy flower. Next we have the humble Hosta, a gold standard hosta with pretty variegated leaves. My one plant that I bought on sale at the end of the season 6 or 7 years ago is now about 8 plants filling shady spots under towering tulip poplar trees. Hostas are great shade plants, but are hardly spectacular since they are mostly about the leaves. And my point in posting this picture is to call your attention to the leaves.

Next we have picture number three which is also a bleeding heart. This version is dicentra eximina more commonly known as the native bleeding heart. This plant grows wild in my beloved Great Smoky Mountains although I had to plant mine. I have one nice-sized and 2 baby plants thus far. One of the great features of this wildflower is that it has beautiful flowers *and* beautiful foilage. Hence, this picture has both bleeding hearts and leaves.

By now you may be wondering what this has to do with knitting. The next, very blurry picture offers a hint. This is my 1st pi shawl, which I finished off with a bleeding heart edging. The pattern was a modification of the bleeding heart stitch in the Barbara Walker Treasury of Charted patterns (whichever volume that was, don't ask me 'cuz I had to give the books back to the library). I sort of created a way to make this stitch form nice little points so its a great way to finish off any lace project (this is a key point-hint, hint)

And now we have the last picture, also a bit blurry (anyone want to gift me a *good* digital camera?). I am so proud of this red shawl--it's Kiri, my first ever lace knit shawl. Kiri may be the most famous lace shawl pattern out there right now because 1) it's a great design and a good 1st lace shawl knit, and 2) it's a freebie on the web. A leaf motif is the basis for Kiri, a very nice *leaf* design that is good for shawls and such.

So why this lesson on horticulture? Is there a point to the comparing of bleeding hearts and leaves? Well, yes. Call it a lesson learned in the adventures of designing my own lace shawl pattern. I was looking for another lace pattern to finish off my shoulder shawl design after I frogged my first attempt. That's when I remembered how much I liked the bleeding heart pattern in my pi shawl. So I pulled out my sketchbook and retrieved the graphs. Yup, they were a perfect match. I transcribed it to my current design and started knitting. After the first repeat was done I took a closer look at what I was doing (it's a challenge in the deeply hued variegated yarn) and thought, this looks different. This looks more like the leaves in Kiri. That's when it dawned on me. The pi shawl was knit in the round--every row of the bleeding heart pattern was lace. Kiri was knit back and forth with the return rows being all purl stitches. Guess what the difference is between leaves and bleeding hearts? You guessed it, a row of purl stitches. Horticulture for knitters: lesson learned!

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