Design in progress: creating the Melusine scarf


Recently I had an opportunity to design a knitting pattern using Brooklyn Handspun sock yarn. I had been kicking around the idea of designing a beaded lace scarf for a while, and was planning to use some pink Spritely Goods yarn in my stash. But creating the pattern for Brooklyn Handspun sounded like fun. I’ll do something else with the Spritely Goods.

During my projects lately, I generally put periodic updates on my Ravelry page for the project so as not to clutter up the blog, but I thought it would be interesting to post about the process of designing this pattern.

The beginning of the design process

It started out with a bunch of rough sketches and ideas, some of which are pictured here. I knew I wanted lace, and I knew I wanted to bead it, and that was about all I knew. So I looked through my stitch dictionaries to get some ideas. I found one stitch pattern I liked, but it just wasn’t what I wanted for this project. So I went back to the drawing board — or graph paper, since that’s my favorite pattern brainstorming medium.

I sketched some shapes and lines, and soon found myself alternating between a vine and leaf pattern and a repeating wavy line and tail pattern. Both are drawn from medieval decorative motifs (those who know me aren’t the least bit surprised). I settled on one that I liked, and started trying to figure out how to make it happen in lace.

You see, I’ve never designed lace before. I’ve knitted some. And I’ve designed with lace. But designing the lace itself was a mystery to me. This is not unusual, really. I typically create patterns as a means of working out some concept or technique I want to learn but have not tried before. To learn to design lace, it seems the most fun and rewarding to just jump right in the deep end and do it.

I learned a ton from Eunny Jang’s Majoring in Lace posts. There was another page I found helpful as well, but now I can’t find it. So based on what I had learned, I started swatching with some Wildfoote sock yarn I had on hand. (This is the purple stuff in the picture.) It was sloppy, and I had to make a couple of changes, but the swatch mostly worked, so I figured I would try it with the real yarn.

This is where things got interesting. I started thinking about the name for the pattern, and since the motif was based on medieval motifs, I wanted a name to reflect that. A name popped into my head: Melusine.

Melusine was a character in a book I remembered from childhood, The Maude Reed Tale by Norah Lofts. I remembered loving the book, about a medieval girl sent away to a great household to learn how to be a proper medieval Lady, and I always thought the name was beautiful, but I remembered very little about it.

I did remember that Melusine was a name for a heraldic charge, but I could not remember which one. So off to Wikipedia I went, and found that Melusine is “a figure of European legends and folklore, a feminine spirit of fresh waters in sacred springs and rivers.” Well, that sounds like a cool inspiration for my scarf, I thought. Then I looked at some more pictures of melusines, and laughed. Why, you ask? Because this is a melusine:

The Starbucks Logo
Photo by ATIS547 on Flickr. Creative Commons

Yep, the Starbucks logo. We see it every day, or at least, part of it. (I live not all that far from SBUX’ corporate headquarters, and they have the top of the melusine’s head atop the clock tower there.)

Then the yarn showed up from Brooklyn Handspun — in the colorway “Flash Flood.” Hmm. A watery colorway, and a pattern named after a kind of mermaid with two tails? Perfect. It was all coming together so well. And then I looked at the pattern again… and realized I’d designed a repeating motif with two tails. Clearly, it was meant to be Melusine, coffee connection or no. So Melusine it is. And I ordered a copy of The Maude Reed Tale so I could reread it. (I’ve now reread it, and it’s a lovely little story. Very short; I wish it were longer. But I recommend it.)

Since then I have altered the pattern based on my experiences while knitting it, and to fix an error that Karen found while test-knitting, and I think I’ve come up with something I am happy with. It’s fairly simple lace; nothing too complicated for most knitters. I love the effect of the seed beads; they look like little raindrops reflecting the light. I’ve knitted the first half of the scarf, so what’s left now is to decide what to do for the second half. In honor of the pattern’s name, I think it will end in — you guessed it — two tails.

Currently my expectation is that the pattern will knit to about 50″ unblocked, 60″ or more blocked, and require roughly 2 ounces of light fingering weight yarn (roughly 240 yards). You would also need about 200 6/0 seed beads. If you’re interested in knitting this, stay tuned here and I’ll post when the pattern is available.

In progress: Melusine scarf

6 thoughts on “Design in progress: creating the Melusine scarf

  1. I’m blown away! I wondered what Melusine was all about, so now I know….love the mermaid, the two tails, the watery colorway.

    I’m rambling…just finished feeding kids for the night and need to catch up on some sleep so I can wake up at 4:00 a.m. and feed them again.

  2. I LOVED the Maud Reed Tale when I was a kid. I loaned my copy out and it disappeard. I found you when I was searching for a replacement. It’s quite the coincidence in that I’m an obsessed knitter and really enjoy lace patterns (and have a thing for mermaids). This is lovely and I’m sure it will be a wonderful scarf.

  3. wow! as soon as i read “melusine” i saw the starbuck’s logo, i LOVE melusines, i like to think of myself as one.
    i have my own corner at starbucks too :>

  4. Hi –

    Beautiful scarf! I’ve added the pattern to my Ravelry queue and shopping basket. I am on a hunt for the book. I requested our university library to purchase it if possible.


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