Mary Ann Stephens

Mary Ann Stephens has a way with color and she shows it off beautifully with her Postwar Mittens, Sleepy Monkey, Polar Chullo and now with her extravagant Rosalia. This post combines two of Mary Ann's blog posts, found here and here, from her own site. 

My “Rosalia” is now out in the Winter 2010 edition of Twist Collective.


"Rosalia", by Mary Ann Stephens. See also Twist Collective Winter 2010.


The usual suspect in "Rosalia".


The departing view

Rose Medallion

What the heck is that thing???

When I was a child, unless it was Christmas or Easter, we were simply not allowed in the living room, which housed all manner of my mother's fascinating and delicate treasures. These treasures were not at all suited to inspection by a tree-climbing, rope-swinging, ball-playing tomboy like me,  so naturally, I could often be found there.  Among my favorites were her pieces of Rose Medallion, a type of 19th century Chinese porcelain awash in roses, depicting scenes from imperial life.  (Plus a few mysteries, too.  Can anyone tell me why this bowl features a belt stuffed in a pastry bag?  Or is that a hacksaw sheathed in a diaper?  What the heck IS that thing?!)

As a busy breakables investigator, it was obvious to me that everyone who was anyone had a kimono.  I vowed that someday, I would have one, too, one with plenty of deep, rosy pink in it!  Over the years, my dream of a full-length kimono silhouette became a bit more practical. The internet was a useful tool in reshaping this silhouette; I found happi coats – short,  practical variants of kimonos, made for festivals and adorned with mons (crests) on the back, to identify the festival goers. Rosalia lies somewhere between a Nordic cardigan and a Happi coat, complete with its very own mon.

Rosalia, back detail, copyright Mary Ann Stephens, 2010

Most of the motifs I knit are  either purely geometric or floral; Rosalia’s main motif is a combination of the two.  As I sat wrangling pixels in Excel charts, it occurred to me that the motifs I was favoring reminded me of two things: pomegranates, and stained glass windows.  More thoughts of stained glass brought to mind rose windows, the magnificent blossoms of stained glass that highlight the main entrances of many Gothic cathedrals.

pomegranatepomegranate top

As I charted out the crest, I felt like I was creating something entirely original; later, when I googled the images for rose windows, I noticed a striking resemblance to the one from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine,in upper Manhattan.  The rose window this New Yorker has seen innumerable times, unconsciously imprinted in my memory. Between the Rose Medallion and the rose windows, I knew it should be called “Rose-something”,  so it is named “Rosalia”, in honor of my Danish great-grandmother.

I used Dale of Norway Falk for my original Rosalia, mainly because of the great range of colors available in that line.  But there are plenty of other sport weight yarn options you could use, like Dale of Norway Heilo, which incidentally, is the yarn I would take to a desert island. As for colors, of course, you could knit Rosalia in whatever five colors strike your fancy.  Actually, you could get away with just 2 colors, if you’re so inclined. Although I love the vivid colors of the original, I kept imagining a little voice – with a heavy New York accent – saying “Dahlink, you need this in neutrals!”

There are 3 sleeve options in the pattern and the body length is also adjustable.  I really wanted to show you some of these variations, but after knitting my original, my arthritic hands weren’t thrilled with the idea of an encore.  Enter Debra Thayer, the most wonderful  test knitter I could ever ask for. Debra knit “Rosalia Encore” for me in Heilo, using charcoal grey, mist , grey heather, light steel blue,  and petrol.  She used the full-length sleeves with only one shoulder stripe and she added an extra repeat in the body length.  She used the middle size (as I did for my original) and incidentally, with her variations, used exactly the same amount of yarn as is called for in the largest size. Whichever variations you choose, I hope this pattern helps make your kimono dreams reality.

Rosalia Encore, the full length version of Rosalia by Mary Ann Stephens 2010

(That’s my husband’s shadow, to the right, and no, thankfully, he doesn’t really look anything like that!)

Rosalia Encore, the long version knit in Heilo yarn; copyright Mary Ann Stephens 2010