We got up early, and drove down to the Borders. It was a beautiful crisp morning.
When we arrived in Lauder, the sun was already turning the frost into a magical, dewy haze.
Today, the Autumn colours seemed even more deeply saturated. I want to knit everything in these tapestry blues and golds.
While Bruce and I were enjoying our morning walk, Tom was making preparations. . .
Off he goes!
Ah, Cross Country season . . .
The leaves are turning.
In the hedgerow, just a few berries remain . . .
. . . and there is a decided nip in the air.
But I am ready for Autumn. I have a new hat . . .
. . .and mittens.
These lovely things were not knitted by me, but by my friend, Sandra Manson. I know Sandra from Jamieson & Smith, and she is a legendary knitter and designer. Sandra has an amazing feel for pattern, and a superlative eye for colour. Over the past year or so, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, and swatching with, the rich and varied palette of Jamieson & Smith Jumper weight, testing out interesting combinations, permutations, and encountering its many intriguing, mercurial or troublesome shades. Sandra has been knitting with Jamieson & Smith jumper weight for many years, and she knows its palette forwards and backwards. I feel we speak the same knitterly language. On my last visit to Shetland, I had the pleasure of seeing several of Sandra’s swatches and finished garments — some of which really blew my mind. I find something almost thrilling in seeing one shade working alongside another in unexpected combination, and Sandra clearly feels the same. I could rattle on about the potential of this shade and that with her for many hours — I suppose, put simply, we are both colour nerds.
I love the swirling raised crown decreases and the pleasing solidity of that mid-green (which is shade 118, for those who are interested). Sandra said that, when she’d finished knitting, the patterns and colours reminded her of Easter eggs and picket fences. I can see exactly what she means.
One of the (very minor) frustrations of designing is that I am often unable to wear my samples (if I want them to stay looking their best). But this Autumn, I shall wear Sandra’s hat and mittens with pride!
Thankyou, Sandra x
Just popping in to show you a few photos of the new BMC sample which will be coming with me to Woolfest. I wrote the pattern for two sizes of cowl – small and large. The large one you may have already seen, and this is the small. This size is worked over 7 repeats of the pattern (as opposed to 26) which means that you only have to cast on 147 stitches (as opposed to, ahem, 546).
This sample is worked up in Jamieson & Smith Jumper Weight, and I just love it. The colours in the J&S palette are really complex: one never quite knows, until one starts knitting, just how they are going to appear, or speak to one another. Separate, in the ball, the shades look so distinct, but knitted up together they perform a kind of muted alchemy. The combination in the finished object appears, to me at least, quiet and subtle, like something that has been naturally dyed.
I have never worked with shade FC24 before – that fresh, pale green that forms the cockleshell – but it is rapidly becoming one of my J&S colour favourites.
Anyway, I’ll have a few kits in this colourway with me at Woolfest (each kit contains enough to make a large and a small cowl if you are so inclined). I’ll also have kits for Sheep Heid , Rams and Yowes, Tír Chonaill, and the Sheep Carousel. I’ve been receiving a number of emails and tweets about the availability of the latter: if you are coming to Woolfest, I’m going to do my best to ensure there are enough kits to go round, and I’m also making arrangements for postal and overseas orders. More of this anon.
I’m going to take a proper break now – so I won’t be available to answer any queries until June 26th. See you in a week or so!
Just popping in to say hello. I have been under the weather for the past week, and am now really rather unwell, and a bit grumpy to boot. I think I was getting used to my “normal” being a wee bit better than this . . . now, suddenly, I am back to feeling too tired to dress myself and it is really frustrating! There are things to be done!
At least there are some things which don’t require too much physical effort. Like playing around with this soft, Springtime palette, for example. . .
I often find myself feeling grateful for the solace-giving, restorative powers of sheepy wool and needles. When one is feeling ropey, knitting really comes into its own, I think.
These end-of-February days are rather grey and dreich. Here is some colour to brighten them . . .
The yarn is my new favourite stuff to knit with. (So soft! So richly saturated! You’ll hear more about it soon!)
The swatch is one of several I’ve been making for the “Steek Sandwich” workshop I shall be leading at This is Knit in April. (That’s steek, not steak)
The daffodil bulbs are on my window sill
The bowl is from Emma Bridgewater’s new Walk in the Park range. (My favourite Bridgewater design since ‘Blue Hen.’)
The hand-coloured prints are the work of the quite brilliant Suzanne Norris. I love Suzanne’s designs – precise, evocative – and I also love the thoughtful way she writes about process. These are from her Amateur Naturalist’s Specimen Collection and you can read about the process of creating them in three parts, beginning here.
Continuing the colour-related theme, here is a tank I made quite a while ago, as a sort of exercise in shading. At Woolfest last year, I bought four colours of some lovely Artisan Threads BFL. One was a soft rose, and the other three were slightly different shades of green/grey.
As you can see, the three green/grey shades seem quite tonally close. . . it is only when you examine the skeins and their slight variations that you see how different the colours are. For example, at a distance, the unwound skein on the far left, looks very similar to the one second from right, but their composition is not the same at all. Here, in two photos that are true to their actual colours, is second-from-right:
and here is far-left:
Close up, you can see that second-from-right is more greyish, with lots of brown and yellow tones, while far-left is much more determinedly green, with pinkish-purplish hints running through it. I suppose it is the use of the same natural dyes in different combinations, as much as the variegations from the dyeing method, that make these skeins so complex . . . and this stuff must be what dyers think about all the time. . . anyway, I loved both the proximity and the distance of the colours in these skeins, and wanted to knit something to show them off. So I worked a few swatches, developed a shaded-stripe sequence from my four colours, and then knit a tank following Wendy Bernard’s great top-down instructions in Custom Knits. This is an interesting method: you begin provisionally; start knitting flat at the back underarms; work up and over the shoulders, then down the front, before joining back to front at the underarms, and working down to the bottom edging. This was the first time I’d tried this construction, and I rather liked it. But I am such a sucker for the speed and rhythm of stockinette in the round that I would be tempted to work bottom-up and steek the armholes, simply to avoid the purls . . . (I seem to be in a strange phase in which I only want to knit tubes of varying dimensions).
To avoid a gazillion ends, I just carried the four colours up the side, weaving them in as I went. Once I had the basic tank, I decided to try some more shaded effects on the ribbed edgings, with four colours of kidsilk haze that were reasonably close to the four artisan thread shades. I knit two strands of the KSH together, which helped to blend and soften the colour transitions:
I don’t much like knitting with KSH, but it is good for this sort of thing.
I find BFL a very curious fibre: it is obviously woolly, but it is so smooth, that when working with it it, one sometimes feels like one is knitting with cotton. The fabric it has produced here is so flat and matt and neat that it almost looks machine knit (in comparison to my usual hand-knitted surfaces, anyway). I love the depth of colour in the muted stripes I ended up with:
Anyway, the end result was a simple, close-fitting tank which shaded the colours quite nicely, and which was softened around the edges with a fuzzy mohair halo. It could be the stripes, the colours, or just the basic nature of the garment, but I think that the tank has a worn, old-Boden feel to it, if you know what I mean.
Perhaps you are wondering why I’ve not mentioned the shaded tank before. The truth is that I conceived a peculiar dislike to it, and it has been buried at the back of my wardrobe for several months. I finished it on January 31st, and on that day, wore it for the first time. The following day, I got up and had a stroke. That event was, of course, nothing to do with this garment, and I’m not even sure myself why it gives me the heebies, (because it was the last thing I knitted or something?) Anyway, I have decided that this is mere foolishness, and that the shaded tank needs to come out into the open. It is perfect for these lovely late summer days, which I am spending outside in our tiny strip of shared garden. Yes, you can see mead mountain from the back of our flat – the sight of it always makes me happy.
I saw The Illusionist yesterday, and thought that Arthur’s Seat, and, indeed, Edinburgh as a whole really looked stunning. Chomet captured the light and distinctive vistas of the city amazingly well, and there was something quite curious about seeing the very cinema I was sitting in appear in animated form in front of me on the screen…The film is terribly sentimental, of course, and though the animation is beautiful and unique and knocks the socks off CGI, I’m not sure how good it is at suggesting the fundamentally physical humour of Tati… but like Chomet’s other work, the best thing about it is how absorbingly his aesthetic is used to create a feeling. The feeling of this film was of something about to end, and it captured that very well indeed.
Oh yes, I mustn’t forget to mention that I called this tank Tey, as when I was knitting it, I was also re-reading a stack of Josephine Tey novels. It is ravelled here.
Also…I returned to the colours of the hedgerow for the tortoise and hare gloves. Swatch success at last! More soon. . .
I’m playing with a number of colourwork ideas at the moment. I always find it interesting to see the sometimes unpredictable ways that colours behave in a swatch – shades in the skein, that you might think would contrast sharply, often seem to swallow each other up when knitted. My personal colour palette is dominated by muted and dull shades, and I have to fight a natural tendency to knit everything in blues, greys and greens… anyway, as I’m working through my ideas, I thought I’d show you some swatches and design thoughts that didn’t quite work out.
My first thought for the dollheid tam was to knit it the same colourway as the paper dolls sweater, but in reverse. I love the high contrast extremely here in the corrugated rib, but on the tam top the combination of cream with indigo blue was a bit too intense…
Now the clone-dolls are slightly freaky anyway, but here they took on the strange aspect of jolly ghosties, which was perhaps not so desirable. The light-on-dark colourway also meant that the whole of the tam top was dominated by large areas of negative space. It felt quite unbalanced – so in the final prototype, I went with a slightly more subtle colourway of rose and burgundy against fawn, and used dark-on-light rather than light on dark. This looked much better.
You may also remember this hat from last year:
Comparing it to the dollheid, It has the opposite problem of too little contrast. The Alice Starmore colours are so sneakily blended, that each shade speaks to another in sometimes unexpected ways. This is good for creating a shifting, slightly luminous effect, but bad if you actually want to see the pattern. It is not a success – you can’t make out the peeries properly or discern the changes in background colour – but despite all this, it really is my favourite hat: I love its muted grey-pinks and fawns – and I wear it all the time.
Here is a hat that you won’t have seen before. I knitted it over a year ago, and it is an example of one of those occasions where the concept dominated, and, in the end, scuppered the design….I began with the name – NUTKIN – which in anybody’s book should be a great name for a hat – and the idea was of red squirrels in a pine forest, seeking out their winter hoard. The forest worked out reasonably well, but there were other problems which meant that Nutkin was set aside. Photographing the hat against our kitchen wall gives the fabric much more contrast than it has in actuality. . . it is the wonderful Alice Starmore yarn again, and the lighter shade actually contains strands of the darker one: great for a subtle blended effect, but not so great when you want a pattern to show up very distinctly. And quite apart from the colourwork not achieving quite what I had wanted it to, this hat had other issues…my squirrels didn’t really look like squirrels; the rate of decrease on the crown was not quite right, and, once knitted up, what I had intended to suggest a hoard of NUTZ seemed to resolve itself into something else entirely. I just couldn’t shake the idea that the top of my head resembled a giant nipple…
so Nutkin bit the dust.
Here is one of the swatches I’ve been knitting for my tortoise and hare gloves (coming soon!).
I am knitting the gloves in J&S jumper weight (it is such a joy to work with this yarn again!) and have been wanting to use that marled blue shade (FC61) as the background. I love this colour, but like many blues, it seems to intensify when you knit it over large areas of fabric, and it is also an unbelievably greedy shade, swallowing up whole spectrums in its wake. The wine and rust that I’ve used for the beasties create plenty of contrast, but I’ve found it impossible to get any suitable colour to work against the blue in the zig-zag peerie. This is the fourth colourway I’ve tried, and each time, the peerie disappears into the background, particularly when you look at the swatch from a distance. My problem is, I think, that I am simply too attached to the marled blue, and am trying to make it play the wrong role here as a background shade. I do like the autumnal feel of this palette, though, so am going to mix it up and try again.
Like Nutkin, the Tortoise and Hare is a design whose concept dictates that the foreground colours really need to stand out against the background – the bottom line is that you need to be able to see a tortoise and a hare. All of my colourwork designs so far have been along these high-contrast lines. Curiously, though, at the moment, I’m finding myself quite interested in design ideas where shading is more important and which might allow one to play with a palette in a way that would show off the subtly-spun colours of yarns like the J&S or the Alice Starmore at their very best.
Do you find that your personal palette is dominated by a colour or particular range of colours? I’d be interested to hear.