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Headshot of designer Barbara Benson

Barbara Benson's first design with Twist is a doozy. Courant is an epic stole that uses mosaic knitting *and* lace to achieve a unique and gorgeous effect. It might not be TV knitting, but gosh it's pretty. You can also find this post on her blog, here. I can't wait to see the color combinations knitters will choose!! 






What do you want to hear about? Do you want to have a detailed description of the pattern proposal process and the wonderful experience that was working with Twist Collective? Or do you want to peer into the dusty corners to try and understand the slightly off mind that would even dream of combining these two techniques? Maybe you want to see my relatively pitiful attempt at a “fashion sketch” that is required for pretty much all proposals?


Or do you just want to see the pretty pictures? Because we can totally do that!



closeup of Courant shawl wrapped around model's neck.



I was waiting impatiently to see how the photography for this shawl turned out … and I was not disappointed. I hope you love it too. This pattern involved quite a bit of indulging myself. If you hadn’t noticed, I like to push the boundaries a bit, break a rule here and there. One day I was visiting my best friend (who is a knitter of course) and I started paging through her copy of The Haapsalu Shawl and, just like any knitter, was in awe of the beauty of these intricate stitches.



closeup of stitch pattern, lace and colorwork


But can I leave well enough alone? Hah! Never. Where I stray from being on the “normal” side of things is that my first thought was “how can I make this two color?” The review I linked to refers to the book as “The Estonian Barbara Walker” which explains a great deal, considering my obsession with Walker’s Mosaic knitting concepts. Long story short (don’t laugh) I spent a great deal of time figuring out how to make this happen.



full shot of modeled Courant shawl



And this was the result. I will be forever grateful to Twist Collective for being willing to publish such a adventurous pattern. The entire issue is absolutely beautiful and if you haven’t taken a look at it yet, you should. I will be here when you get back.


It is a big piece, my biggest to date. I am not going to lie, it is a lot of knitting. But it was nothing that even resembled a chore because of the unbelievable yarn I had to work with. The incomparable Miss Babs supplied the perfect blend of Merino and Silk in her fingering weight Shiruku in the colors Helen of Troy and Cygnus. In my proposal to Twist I was fairly adamant that they yarn needed to contain silk. This was necessary for a couple of reasons.


The slip stitch color-work technique used in the pattern creates a situation where there is a lot of compaction of the stitches. If you have handled any “traditional” mosaic work it can be quite … dense. Much of my development time has been centered around figuring out ways to thwart this tendency. One solution I have arrived at is knitting at a larger gauge than normal. A second component is the lace itself; adding in holes creates a more bendy fabric. The silk is the final component.


Silk has fine drape and allows the fabric to move and flow just as a shawl should. It also has very little memory so it improves the shawl’s ability to retain its shape once it has been blocked. Now, you might ask “Why not just go 100% silk?” which is a good question. Silk tends to be a very well defined yarn and the stitches stand out individually. Which is not precisely what I wanted. My yarn needed some floofiness, some bloom. It needed to fill in a bit so that the color-work had more of a presence.  So the Merino/Silk blend is perfect! And shucks if I didn’t have to knit with it. The sacrifices I make for y’all. 






I want to wrap things up by sending a special Thank You out to the awesome Raveler CathyG. The knitting of this shawl took place during my jaunt around the MidWest and she was kind enough to allow me to take over an entire room in her house to block this big guy. Crawling around on the floor with someone is an excellent bonding experience and I was pleased to have it with you!