I feel *almost* guilty admitting this, but I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of Anna Dalvi's Ancient Egypt in Lace and Color at TNNA this June, and it just blew me away. I'd admired Anna's work in Shaping Shawls, and the opportunity to see her new work was exciting. I also had the opportunity to see one of her new pieces worn on the show floor: the astonishing Ra and Apep shawl! It's like wearing the sun itself! I'm in love.
Her new book, Ancient Egypt in Lace and Color, is available from Cooperative Press and features twelve stunning patterns that explore the colors and motifs of ancient Egypt. I had the opportunity to interview Anna herself about her work this week. Make sure to read through to the end for details of how to win a free copy of Ancient Egypt in Lace and Color!
- Anna, this book is so elegant and unique. Could you tell us a little about your inspiration for Ancient Egypt in Lace and Color?
I've always enjoyed myths and fairy tales and wanted to design a collection of patterns accompanied by the stories that inspired them. I do enjoy Ancient Egyptian Myths, and when I found out that colour had great symbolic significance in the ancient Egyptian arts and myths, I thought it would be really nice to use the symbolic meaning of the colours as a driving force for the designs.
For example, when I look at green yarn, I often think of foliage. But in the Old Kingdom green was the colour of vegetation and life, but also the colour of death. So instead of honing in on plants, I designed shawls on the theme of Osiris (the king of the dead) and the Fields of Malachite (the land of the blessed dead).
There were 6 main colours used in the Egyptian art of the Old Kingdom; green, red, white, black, yellow and blue. The book contains two shawls in each colour.
- How long did this book take you to write, from your conception of the idea to completion?
It took about 16 months from the time that I honed in on Egyptian Mythology to when the book was completed.
- Could you walk us through the design process of one of the patterns from this collection? What does your workflow on a pattern look like?
Let's talk about Osiris. When reading about the colour green, I found that Osiris was often depicted with green skin. So I wanted to find a story about Osiris and design a shawl on that theme. I read a number of different myths about Osiris, and one that really captured my imagination was the story about how Seth trapped Osiris and killed him in his bid to take over as the king of Egypt. Seth tricked Osiris into lying down in a coffin and nailed it shut. Osiris died and the coffin was thrown into the Nile, where it drifted down the river until it hit the shore close to a cedar tree. Isis (Osiris' wife) searched for the coffin and brought it home. When Seth saw the coffin, he became afraid and snuck in one night and opened it, lifted out his brother's body and ripped it into 14 pieces - one for each full moon during a year. The 14 pieces were spread over Egypt, so that Isis would not find them.
But Isis was persistent and wandered Egypt for many years, searching for the pieces. Finally she had gathered 13 of the 14 pieces. But the last piece - the phallus - had been consumed by a fish. So she fashioned a phallus out of gold, and brought Osiris back to life. They spent one passionate night together, so that she could carry his child. After that, Osiris died and became the king of the dead.
I thought it was a very evocative story, and decided to design a shawl with the 13 full moons, the fish, and the cedar tree where Osiris' coffin got stuck. And once the shawl was finished, it would really be a conversation piece, because…. well, the fish is really a rather humorous part of the story.
And knitters are so creative. I thought it was wonderful that someone knit a G-rated version of the shawl, without the fish.
- Do you have any plans for your next book?
I am planning a collection of patterns inspired by Norse myths, gods and heroes. I have already released several patterns on this theme, but it is near and dear to my heart, so it will definitely be revisited again and again.
- How did you end up knitting so much lace? Where did your love affair with lace knitting begin?
I tend to like patterns where you have to pay attention. I get bored with copious amounts of stockinette or garter stitch, and I want there to be some kind of pattern to play with, be it colour work, cables or lace. Lace is very versatile, and with just a few different types of stitches - knits, purls, yarn overs and decreases - you can create really complex patterns.
One of the first lace patterns I ever knit was a mystery KAL (knitalong) hosted by Melanie Gobbons. It was a lot of fun and as soon as the KAL ended, I started looking for a new one. I couldn't find one, so I thought I'd just host my own - how hard could it be to design a lace shawl? The result was Mystic Waters and a KAL with 1,400+ participants. The rest is history.
- Do you have any advice for fledgling designers?
I think my best advice is just do it. There is no reason to be afraid of knitting, because, really….. what's the worst thing that can happen? So feel free to experiment and try new things. Worst case you'll have to rip back. I frog liberally (and never use a lifeline, which I probably shouldn't admit). If I don't like what I see, I rip back and redesign.
Getting patterns written down so that other people can follow them is a lot harder than designing for your own enjoyment. To reduce errors, I suggest writing down the pattern before knitting it, and then try to follow it and adjust as you go. For me, writing down the pattern after I've knit the sample introduces a lot of errors.
- What was the first project you ever knit? Do you still have it?
I couldn't say. I learned to knit as a child. Later in school when we were supposed to learn how to knit, I could pick a more advanced project than the standard scarf, since I already knew how to knit. I knit a pair of woollen socks (with heels) in bright-orange-and-hot-pink yarn. I wore them once, and then they shrunk in the wash. They must have gotten lost somewhere along the way.
- Silliest question of the interview: Anna, what's your favorite color? (If you don't have just one, what's your favorite color today?)
I do enjoy variety, and like most colours. But I always keep coming back to deep dark reds. And black.
- We know you're always working on something new! Where can knitters find out more about you and your future plans?
My website is http://www.knitandknag.com/ and it has all my patterns, news about upcoming KALs, and a blog where I keep posting about what's new.
Thanks for joining us, Anna!
We are happy to announce that to celebrate the release of Anna's newest book, we'll be giving away a copy of Ancient Egypt in Lace and Color to one lucky reader! All you need to do is take a look at the patterns, listed here on Ravelry, and then leave us a comment below, telling us which shawl you'd knit first if you were to win!
Be sure to leave us either your Ravelry name or a good email address in your comment so that we can contact you if you're the lucky winner!
We'll use the Random Number Generator to pick a winner from the entries at noon Eastern time on Tuesday, the 18th on September.
Good luck, everyone!