Behind the Design: Rose of Sharon

The idea for this shawl happened all at once, as these things often do. And it happened in church, as it often does to me. We were visiting the Church of the Ascension in that fancy area of Pittsburgh called Oakland, and over the side chapel I spotted this.

I was lucky to have my camera on me to snap a reference photo, and this fuzzy little image was what drove me to make the circular shawl that I call “Rose of Sharon.”

The term “Rose of Sharon” as a title for Jesus caught my attention. I don’t know how it got into my head as a Christological title; all that Wikipedia knows about it in relationship to Jesus is a song by Petra from 1985.

But it is a Biblical term, and a mysterious one at that. It turns up in at the start of the second chapter of the Song of Solomon. “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys,” said the King James Version, making a wild stab at what that particular Hebrew word for flower might mean. According to the Harper Bible Dictionary, the writer of the Song of Songs was probably thinking of a crocus-like flower that grows on the coasts of the Mediterranean, near which can be found the Sharon plain.

The “Rose” part of the pattern shows up most notably in the center. Following the rose window from Ascension, this section consists of a series of concentric quatrefoils of different types. (I do love quatrefoils; they seem to be everywhere I look in church architecture.)  At first I thought that the particularly open part of this center would look like Christmas trees, appropriate for the epiphany season. But now that it’s blocked, they look more like flying buttresses.

After that center section, I switched from a pi-shawl series of increases to increases integrated into the pattern. The “wings” were drawn directly from the rose window, filled with lily-of-the-valley motifs from Estonian lacework. Again, I wish I could claim this was planned, but I only discovered the Song of Songs reference while writing this post, which plants lily of the valleys right next to the rose of sharon.

The last floral influence is at the top of the column that separates each pair of wings. The rose window had a trefoil, which I could not replicate to save my life. So in the end, i decided to make it a tribute to the crocus, the reality behind the Biblical reference. This about the time for crocuses and snowdrops to start making an appearance around here, during the warm snaps that fool me during the depths of January and February.

I am often asked, what do you do with a circular shawl? How do you wear it? Or do you just put it on a circular table and admire it? I don’t actually own a circular table, and if I did, it would be too continually covered with books and papers and yarn labels and leftover bits of wool for me to admire anything on it. (I imagine, one day, being one of those lovely old ladies who has a house so clean she could display lace and storied knick-knacks on antique side-tables. Shush and let me dream.) But it is absolutely possible to wear a circular shawl. My favorite way is to fold it in half and drape it around my shoulders as above, with or without a shawl pin. You’d be shocked how helpfully warm it is, especially with the flimsy blouses they make for women these days.

When I’m feeling bolder, I open it up like this. It covers most of my arms, and I can still pin it in the front if I wish. This is particularly fun to do with a contrasting shirt underneath.

Yarn Review: I can say with all honesty that I am madly in love with Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light. At a generous put-up for a hand-dyed yarn at a very good price, if I were to be trapped on a desert island and could knit and re-knit nothing else for the rest of my life, it would be this stuff. It’s like knitting with butter. You can get it at local stores like Yarns Unlimited, or from some of the bigger (but still independently-owned) online retailers like Jimmy Beans.

So that’s the pretty side of the story behind Rose of Sharon. I hope you consider it next time you have a hankering for epic lace. It’s not that hard, really, but the pattern is 22 pages long. It’s because I give written instructions to go with all my charts, even when it’s unreasonable. Myself and two (intrepid, unspeakably incredible) test knitters, Sherrie and Connie, have been over both chart and written directions with a proverbial fine-toothed comb, to make your knitting ride as smooth as possible. If you want to hear about the blood, sweat, and tears that we all went through to get this far… come back tomorrow.

7 thoughts on “Behind the Design: Rose of Sharon

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