Melusine and a Different Way to Dye a Shawl

Via the Art Fire site, where I maintain my shop, I came across a new article describing a dye method I’d never thought of using on clothing. The tutorial contains a pattern for a pretty triangular lace shawl, and directions for handpainting it, with several interesting design variations. It also specifies an unusual method to set the dyes; hint: it involves a car! I’m not posting any photos because of copyright restrictions, but trust me, the results are stunning.  Check it out here.

The shawl is named “Melusine”, because of its ability to take on different colorations. I’ve included the myth of Melusine for you to think about as you’re knitting.

The Story of Melusine (Medieval France, 1394)

Melusine was the daughter of a fairy and a king. She grew up to become the fairy Queen of the forest of Colombiers in Poitou, France. One day, she and two of her subjects were guarding their sacred fountain when they were visited by a handsome young man, Raymond of Poitiers. He and Melusine talked all night,  and she agreed to become his bride, on the condition that Raymond promise that he would never see her on a Saturday. He agreed, and they married. Melusine brought her husband great wealth and prosperity. She built the fortress of Lusignan, so quickly that it appeared to be made by magic. Over time, Melusine built many more castles, fortresses, churches, towers and towns, each in a single night. She and Raymond had ten children, but each of them was flawed, with mismatched or missing eyes or ears, a lion’s foot, or huge teeth. In spite of their strange deformities, the children were strong, talented and loved throughout the land.

The family was very happy until Raymond’s brother paid them a visit and convinced him to be  suspicious about his wife’s Saturday absences. The next Saturday, Raymond sought Melusine, and found her taking a  bath. Spying on her,  he was shocked to see that she had the body and tail of a serpent from her waist down, but he said nothing.  One day, however, one of their sons attacked a monastery and killed one hundred monks, including one of his own brothers. Raymond angrily accused Melusine of contaminating his line with her serpent nature, and she knew that he had broken his betrothal promise.

Melusine, wailing, turned into a fifteen-foot serpent, circled the castle three times, then flew away. From that day, she would return at night to visit her children, then vanish. Raymond’s happiness was destroyed forever. It is said that the serpentine Melusine returned to fly, wailing, over the castle, whenever a count of Lusignan was born or died.  Among her children were the King of Cyprus, the King of Armenia, the King of Bohemia, the Duke of Luxembourg, and the Lord of Lusignan; her noble line  will reign until the end of the world (or until the French Revolution!)