As the book launch party looms ever closer, it’s time to take a look at another design from Echoes of Heather and Stone. This is the beautiful Shamrock by Justyna Lorkowska. Justyna joins us on the blog today to share her design inspiration, her creative background and some tips for making your version of Shamrock:
Hi Justyna, Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative background?
I live with my husband and two kids in Torun, which is a very pretty and picturesque town in the centre of Poland. My family participates in the “knitty” adventure a lot. My husband is a yarn dyer too. When we first met he was a PhD student majoring in biophysics, but somehow, being surrounded by yarn all the time, he grew into the knitting industry.
Although now I mostly knit, I actually began crocheting first. When I was a young girl but watched my mom with her knitting needles all the time, and my transition to knitting somehow happened on its own. I observed her and tried to copy what she was doing, and this is probably why I knit a little bit differently. She had been taught by her mother-in-law (my grandma) whose family came from the East. Thus I’ve knit Eastern Uncrossed method since childhood.
Probably like many designers, my knitting career happened sort of by accident. Although I’ve been knitting on and off since childhood, I never treated it seriously in my previous life as an English teacher, where I enjoyed explaining tenses and articles to kids and adults. I came back to knitting several years ago after having my first baby. At first, it was just clothes for my kids, accessories and occasional garments for myself. Then started to let the needles inspire me. Finally, I began jotting down my own instructions, and as other knitters saw and liked what I created, little by little it became my life.
Can you tell us about your design process for Shamrock?
Very often the inspiration comes from the skein I’m holding in my hand. Just like many knitters out there I love expanding my stash and I’m always on the lookout for beautiful yarns. Sometimes they sit in my stash quite a while before I recognize their intended destinies. Then I see a stitch pattern which captures me, and I dive into the stash to find its yarn mate. This happened when I touched Nua – I immediately knew it was destined to become a delicately cabled pullover with a generous cowl. I must say I’m very happy with how it looks and feels, and my close friends can confirm that’s a rare thing
Within Echoes of Heather & Stone can you tell us about your inspiration for the design and then how it translates to your finished piece?
This pullover mimics the irresistible softness of Ireland’s verdant clover fields and incorporates a delicately subtle cable design reminiscent of the more pronounced Aran stitch patterns long associated with Irish sweaters. The dropped shoulders, relaxed fit and generous cowl are all intended to be casual and comforting – a lovely sweater for wandering the moors or snuggling in.
Where did the name of the pattern come from? (I know this seems obvious but there could be a reason you love shamrocks or a personal story behind it. Readers love more personal reasons/answers).
The term shamrock comes from an Irish word simply meaning “little plant,” and botanically speaking it refers to a variety a three-leaved species, most often a type of clover. Over centuries this tiny floral has become a mighty symbol, attributed not only to St. Patrick and Ireland but to scores of organisations around the world. I actually had been connected to Ireland many years before I started designing (this story has lots of love drama in it and needs a bottle of wine to be told, haha!) and Irish symbols are close to my heart.
What level of knitting experience would you need to knit this sweater? Is it one that you would recommend to adventurous beginners?
Adventurous beginners, who are not afraid of working with all-over cabling? Yes. If they can do short rows, that’s a double yes. The sweater is worked in the round from bottom upwards, with some short rows applied at the shoulders and sleeves caps for a better fit. There aren’t many of them and they are hidden in very simple stitch patterns (and not in cabling) so they shouldn’t be very difficult to grasp.
When knitting Shamrock, do you have any tips for knitters to take care or watch out for?
Make sure to mark your “spot” on the chart and be careful to turn the cables in the right direction. Don’t ask me how I know that, haha!
The sweater is knitted with Nua yarn, do you have any tips for knitters working a sweater with Nua?
Nua is a fabulous blend of merino, linen and yak. The linen content means the sweater, after washing, will slightly stretch lengthwise. In order to match the gauge the most accurately, I recommend hanging the swatch to dry. Pin it vertically to some cork board, attach pegs to the bottom and wait for it to dry. Once you unblock and wait for a couple of days to measure, it will be easier for you to judge if you need to change needles and if the fabric is ok.