FO: Deco Cardigan

I never appreciated pastel shades until I went to Miami.

In the glittering sunlight of South Beach, pastel hues suddenly made sense, appearing luminous, shimmery, and luxurious. The impressions of a vacation can stay for a long time in one’s imagination, and whenever I think of Miami, I think of pale sand, pink hues, gold, white, sherbert, coral and aqua.

I noticed upon my return to the UK that in Reading we have our own Art Deco building here, (more a fa├žade, really) though it has not been decorated after the tasteful fashion of the 1970s/80s South Beach Art Deco Revivalists!* Though it does not exactly shimmer The Gillette Building** is a magnificent local sight and its salmon-pink walls do something to compensate for any lack of glittering sunshine that we may feel around these parts.

So taken was I with Kate’s post on completing her Deco cardigan design (and especially with her focus on the relationships between buildings and the body) that I immediately began to plot an elaborate merging of colour, architecture and knitwear, in a full-on Art Deco FO*** photoshoot extravaganza. The plan was to celebrate all of the joy of the Art Deco buildings in Miami using REFERENCES GALORE. The FO in question for said photoshoot would – naturally – be a Deco Cardigan in a pastel shade of yarn. The setting would have to be outside The Gillette Building.

I am not ashamed to admit that this knowledge played a role in my choice of yarn colour!

The momentum of the ART DECO FO PHOTOSHOOT EXTRAVAGANZA built in such a way that even the buttons eventually contained Art Deco references, being made of vintage glass, (possibly 1930s?) and curiously reminiscent of the light-fittings in Jerry’s Diner, Miami, (another classic Art Deco building).

Whilst reflecting on the unique appeal of Art Deco buildings, I found myself thinking about symmetry and proportions. The very same thing which appealed about the buildings I enjoyed photographing on my holiday last year was precisely the same thing I enjoyed whilst knitting Kate’s pattern; the sense of an internal logic and a geometric order to the design.

When I stare at the lines of a striking Art Deco building, I get the same kind of pleasure that I derived whilst knitting Deco from lining up the columns of stitches; picking up the stitches for the shoulders; following the instructions for the increases and decreases to give an elegant waistline, and creating all the bands and finishings.

It is something about lines, shapes and numbers all adding up to make something beautiful. Of course this is the case in all designs, but in Art Deco design, the maths are part of the aesthetic and not invisible engineering calculations and measurements.

The colour of the yarn was strangely mercurial. At times, I wondered if I had gone mad and my long-standing mistrust of pastels resurfaced; but then at other times, the beautiful Nile Green excelana 4-ply took on a mysterious blue-green glow, as if it is lit from within.

As ever, Mark was particularly supportive of my endeavours, and patiently followed me to The Gillette Building for some posing and Deco design appreciation.

Clearly, I am smitten with Art Deco and with my Deco cardigan. However, I am certainly not the first person to pose outside an Art Deco building in my finery, attesting to the magnificence of the architecture behind me! Behold, Barbara Baer Capitman; the original Art Deco exponent.

In the late 1970s, many of the old buildings around South Beach were in poor shape, badly neglected, and virtually condemned to be bulldozed. Barbara Baer Capitman spearheaded a campaign to save them, drumming up enthusiasm for the heritage and glamour of these beautiful old buildings. She rescued many Art Deco buildings from destruction and founded the Miami Design Preservation League. The pastel shades which now seem synonymous with the Art Deco style were part of her revival plans; architects painted details in such a way as to emphasise their distinctive, elegant finishings.

I am not sure if Capitman was a knitter, but I am sure she would approve of Kate’s Deco design as a befitting celebration of the buildings she worked hard to save, and I hope she wouldn’t mind that I called my cardigan “Barbara Baer Capitman” in memory of all the work she did (principally) for Art Deco, and maybe (as a side-effect) for pastels.

It was my intention to finish this cardigan for a Wedding I went to last weekend, in Venice, but that is another story.

Pattern design: Deco by Kate Davies
Yarn: Excelana 4-ply in Nile Green
Needles: 3mm knitpicks interchangeables
Ravelled: here

* The Art Deco buildings of Miami were all originally painted stark, minimalist, modernist white; the pastel colours which now emphasise the proportions and shapes of the Art Deco buildings were added in the 1980s as part of the revival of interest in the Art Deco style.
** Not to be confused with THE Gillette Building.
*** FO = Finished Object as in “recently completed hand-knitting project” for any non-knitting readers.

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