Sunday, May 03, 2015

Exploration Station

This weekend, I finally finished the Exploration Station shawl from Stephen West.  

This large, beautiful, textured shawl was his mysteryKAL for 2014 and although I didn't take part at the time, as soon as I saw all the finished project photos popping up on Ravelry and Instagram, I knew I had to make one.

I've mentioned before that this shawl was the impetus for The Summer of the Single Skein KAL I hosted over the 2014/2015 Summer (Southern Hemisphere).  I had been looking for a good vehicle for combining a few of my lovely single skeins and what better project than a big shawl?

Incorporating four colours, the pattern suggests 3 be fairly close in value and 1 a high contrast.  I chose Waikiwi in a natural stone colour, Colinette Jitterbug in "Oyster Blush" and a variegated skein of Top Draw Sock from Skein in "Fig".  My contrast was a deep plummy skein of Cascade Heritage that I'd been saving for something special for a long time.

2015 shawl knitting texture summerofthesingleskein

The Waikiwi is a sock yarn from New Zealand that has merino, alpaca, possum and nylon in it's composition.  The combination of fibres gives a beautiful heather, especially in the lighter colours.  This heather perfectly stopped the cream from being too stark against the other colours in the mix.

The Jitterbug was probably the thickest of the four yarns, even though all are considered the same "weight" (fingering).  Because the shawl is worked on larger needles than normally used for this weight yarn, and incorporates a lot of textures, this slight difference wasn't terribly noticeable but I do feel the slight heaviness of the Jitterbug gives a good weight to the overall piece.

Out of the four skeins, the Cascade and the Skein were the closest match for softness and composition, and as luck would have it I think I have enough of both yarns left over to make a pair of two-tone socks.  There isn't much at all left of the Waikiwi, and a small amount only of the Jitterbug - perhaps enough for some contrast toes/heels, I'd say?

Stephen West is known for his love of squishy garter stitch, sweeping lines, and brioche (and goofy photoshoots!).  I really enjoyed the different textures on each section.  I can imagine it would have been pretty cool to work as a mystery KAL, actually.  My favourite was the brioche.  Although I ummed and ahhed about whether my designated yarns were the right combo, I'm glad I stuck to the combination as per pattern.  The effect is more subtle than some other versions, however I think in my shawl it works best.

All edges are finished with i-cord edgings which, again, I feel was a lovely detail finishing off the shawl.  It's the first of the WestKnits patterns I've knit, and it's also the largest shawl I've knit to date, with a wingspan of 1.4m.  I cant' wait to wrap myself up in it all snuggly and warm this winter.

I absolutely loved the construction of this shawl, and the attention to detail in the pattern from the designer.   At each step, there were clear and timely notations to reassure the knitter of the next section, and there were also stitch counts included at the break of each section - something I greatly appreciate in patterns, especially on this scale.  However, as good technically this pattern is, I think it's key strength lies in it's overall aesthetic and how well Stephen West has managed to bring all elements together.  

Mystery KAL's can be a bit of a risk, as the knitter takes a leap of faith with the designer as to the final outcome, and adding in the process of selecting colours without really knowing how they are going to fit together is another requirement of trust!  I think this pattern has hit all the right notes, on all accounts and judging by the fact there are over 2,000 projects on Ravelry alone; I'd say so do a lot of other people.  

I may be late to the WestKnits party, but I can say now I'm well and truly on-board!  Who else has knitted his designs?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on the experience. 


Caffeine Girl said...

That is a truly gorgeous shawl! Very dramatic. Are the pictures in black and white? I wasn't sure I was getting a good sense of the colors.

WildflowerWool said...

Absolutely beautiful! Great colours!

kgirlknits said...

Caffeine Girl - photos are in colour, might be showing up different on your screen?

rebecca said...

A triumph! I had a look through the projects on ravelry and i reckon yours is one of the few that really plays up the texture rather than the colour aspect. a really lovely set of yarns and colour choice.