Cast On #knitsonikmittsalong!

Whoop whoop, it’s time to CAST ON for the #knitsonikmittsalong!!!

KNITSONIK mitts!!!
KNITSONIK mitts!!!

#knitsonikmittsalong factfile

Cast On date: 24/09/2016
Bind Off date: 24/10/2016
Brief: knit a pair of KNITSONIK Fingerless Mitts. Use the mitts as a canvas on which to develop your own stranded colourwork motifs and shading schemes using a shared inspiration source.
Inspiration source: there are two shared inspiration sources for this #knitsonikmittsalong and these are 1. the collection of Knitting Sheaths held in the Shetland Museum and Archives and 2. the Shetland Croft House Museum.
Where to find the pattern: a basic template + pattern for KNITSONIK Fingerless Mitts is provided in the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook. However, this pattern has also been redesigned to reflect each of the two Shetland themed inspiration sources. Patterns and books are stocked by Purlescence UK and Jamieson & Smith. You can buy the pattern as a standalone product, or in a kit along with 8 suggested shades of 2ply Jumper Weight Yarn, RRP £26.00.

Yarn: if you would like some help picking out your shades, the 8 shades recommended in the kits are as follow:

Shetland Knitting Sheaths held in the Shetland Museum and Archives
Shetland Knitting Sheaths held in the Shetland Museum and Archives

Option 1: SHETLAND KNITTING SHEATHS; J&S 2 ply Jumper Weight Yarn in shades: FC43, 77, 5, 9113, 1403, 93, FC47 and 142.

The Shetland Crofthouse Museum in Dunrossness
The Shetland Crofthouse Museum in Dunrossness

Option 2: SHETLAND CROFT HOUSE MUSEUM; J&S 2 ply Jumper Weight Yarn in shades: FC61, FC62, 121, FC45, 202, 29, 77 and 81.

However, you are OF COURSE free to work from stash with whatever yarn you prefer!

Share your work: the beauty of doing a #knitsonikmittsalong is that you can see other people’s progress in the KNITSONIK Ravelry Forum and on Twitter and instagram, using the hashtag #knitsonikmittsalong. This enables us to see each others’ work, to encourage one another, and to learn together about palettes, patterns and shading.
Shetland: Shetland is an amazing place with a rich, knitterly history. Knitting together from Shetland-based inspiration sources enables us to celebrate this place together in the most apposite medium of wool from its wondrous sheep.

A Shetland ram photographed at the Voe Show, August 2013
A Shetland ram photographed at the Voe Show, August 2013

Some trail blazers to inspire you!

Some comrades have already made a start; you can see their progress (and share your own) using the #knitsonikmittsalong hashtag. I don’t know about you, but I just love seeing the different ways in which people organise their creative process.

All mapped out for the #knitsonikmittsalong but I might need more yarn from @purlescenceuk

A photo posted by Catherine Hopkins (@chopkinsknits) on

Progress with swatching for the #knitsonikmittsalong might have to swap some colours about

A photo posted by Catherine Hopkins (@chopkinsknits) on

Pro-Tips for joining the #knitsonikmittsalong

If you are at Yarndale this weekend and would like a kit, you can pick one up from Purlescence. Please say hello to Sarah and Jonathan for me if you see them; they are on stand 110.

Purlescence - a palace of fun :)
Purlescence – a palace of fun :)

There is no exact hour for casting on as everyone is in different time zones, but let’s keep checking in on Ravelry, Twitter and Instagram, and sharing our progress as we go. Because I know some of you will ask, of course it’s totally fine to Cast On later; the deadlines are there to motivate and help and not to exclude anyone.

I confess that, though I am not normally excited about colouring in my charts with coloured pencils, the new book – A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book – released earlier this week by the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers, has got me all inspired to use a lot of colouring pencils for this #knitsonikmittsalong.
I have been preparing accordingly…

A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book, published by The Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers
A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book, published by The Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers
Pencil and Yarn Palettes to match...
Pencil and Yarn Palettes to match…
More yarn and pencil palettes to match...
More yarn and pencil palettes to match…

I hope to see some of you soon online, and I’ll be back tomorrow with a special sound piece created to celebrate the opening ceremony of Shetland Wool Week!

YOURS IN SHETLAND WOOL WEEK INSPIRATIONS, WOOL, KNITTING & SOUNDS,
FX

Guess what I'll be mostly wearing this week...
Guess what I’ll be mostly wearing this week…
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Shetland Wool Week… in the South!

Greetings, Comrades!

Since 2013, the turn towards Autumn has seen me sorting out final details for classes and deciding what to pack for Shetland Wool Week. This year – for several practical reasons – I’m not going (BOO!). Instead I shall be beavering away on multiple projects here, where I live, 800 miles South of what can only be described as one of the greatest woolly gatherings on Earth.

Kirsty Farquhar, Misa Hay and Selina May-Miller - team Shetland Wool Week, 2015, holding Donna Smith's Baa-ble hat and Baa-ble
Kirsty Farquhar, Misa Hay and Selina May-Miller – team Shetland Wool Week, 2015, holding Donna Smith’s Baa-ble hat and Baa-ble

The incredible team at Promote Shetland have turned Shetland Wool Week into a World Class Event featuring an exciting set of workshops; a rich activities programme; opportunities to meet Shetland sheep and to learn about the supply chain for Shetland wool; and – most importantly – an amazing chance to meet and learn from the supremely skilled wool workers of Shetland.

Jan Robertson at the Shetland Woolbrokers
Jan Robertson at the Shetland Woolbrokers

If you are in any doubt at all about how much I love Shetland and in particular, Shetland Wool Week, please watch my song, composed for Shetland Wool Week 2013.

I’m sad not to be going this year, and I’m also sure I’m not the only person with a serious dose of FOMO*. To remedy this, I’ve decided that if I can’t go to Wool Week then maybe I can bring a bit of Wool Week here. Towards that end, I’ll be writing much more about Shetland here in coming days with a particular Wool Week focus between 24th September – 2nd October. I’m also creating several Shetland-themed activities in which you can join in if you would like.

The first of these is a special KNITSONIK Mitts-a-long devised to coincide with Wool Week. As I am sure you know, Shetland Wool Week is the birthplace of my Quotidian Colourwork class, on which the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook is based. A highlight of my year is traveling to Shetland to teach this class and to meet with the wondrous knitters who attend and who are, like me, excited about translating everyday inspirations into stranded colourwork. I will dearly miss seeing what comrades do with yarn, pictures, imagination and needles, and the Mitts-a-long is a way of having a bit of that experience distantly.

A swatch produced at Shetland Wool Week in one of my classes at Jamieson & Smith
A swatch produced at Shetland Wool Week in one of my classes at Jamieson & Smith

As in previous Mitts-a-longs**, the idea is to work together from a shared inspiration source and to use the Fingerless Mitts template from the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook as a canvas on which to develop motifs and shading sequences. The official cast on date is September 24th, 2016, and the bind-off date is October 24th! The timing of the Mitts-a-long will hopefully enable us to converge in the KNITSONIK Ravelry group and the KNITSONIK Facebook group and to knit on our mitts while Shetland Wool Week is taking place.

For the Shetland Wool Week Mitts-a-long, I’ve produced two editions of my KNITSONIK Fingerless Mitts templates, each with a Shetland theme. One is based on Shetland Knitting Sheaths – about which I wrote last year – and the other is based on the Shetland Croft House Museum. I chose these inspiration sources because each of them speaks directly to Shetland’s knitting history and because I wanted to offer both a muted palette and also something very bright in order to suit different knitterly preferences.

Shetland Knitting Sheaths held in the Shetland Museum and Archives
Shetland Knitting Sheaths held in the Shetland Museum and Archives
The Shetland Croft House Museum in Dunrossness
The Shetland Croft House Museum in Dunrossness

The printed patterns contain clear instructions for knitting a pair of mitts; blank chart templates in which to sketch your own motifs; several inspiring photos from which to work; and links to a Dropbox folder in which you can find extra information about each inspiration source plus large copies of my photos to print out or keep on your phone or computer for easy reference while knitting.

Shetland Knitting Sheaths Mitts-a-long pattern (cover detail)
Shetland Knitting Sheaths Mitts-a-long pattern (cover detail)
Shetland Croft House Museum Mitts-a-long pattern (cover detail)
Shetland Croft House Museum Mitts-a-long pattern (cover detail)

I’ll tell you more about the Knitting Sheaths and the Crofthouse Museum in coming days but, for now, if you want to join in the KNITSONIK Mitts-a-long as part of my Shetland Wool Week in the South celebrations, the best way to get your hands on a kit is to order from my friends at Jamieson & Smith or Purlescence. Kits cost £26 each, and contain 8 specially chosen shades of Jamieson & Smith 2 ply Jumper Weight Yarn plus a printed paper pattern.

I hope to MITTS-A-LONG WITH YOU THIS AUTUMN!
Yours in Shetland Wool,
Fx

*Fear Of Missing Out
**To understand how a KNITSONIK Mitts-a-long works, you might enjoy this video that documents that last one we did on the theme of Magnolias:

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IT’S GOT KNITSONIK ON IT!

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Some of you may remember that in the TURBO THANK YOU episode of the KNITSONIK podcast, Mark Stanley, my wondrous comrade, debuted his first composition; it was a bold and celebratory a capella jingle to which he envisaged a video montage of everything I have monogrammed with my KNITSONIK logo. I have recently used my new found video-making skillz to bring his vision to life, and am thrilled to present IT’S GOT KNITSONIK ON IT: THE MUSIC VIDEO.

If you like the idea of things that have KNITSONIK on them, you can now also happily own your very own KNITSONIK tote bag. It’s got KNITSONIK on it, and you can squish a magnificent quantity of J&S yarn balls inside, if you so wish.

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As a knitter with a penchant for carrying around an unholy quantity of yarn balls at any one time, I do appreciate a roomy tote. This one has a gusset to ensure plenty of storage room for all your yarn and notions as it’s 38cm wide x 43cm high x 10cm deep. It’s sewn from natural, unbleached cotton and… did I mention? It’s got KNITSONIK on it.

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Pick yours up here for £6.50 + P&P: http://knitsonik.bigcartel.com/

YOURS IN MASSIVE BAGS OF WOOL,
FX

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KNITSONIK on the Fruity Knitting Podcast

If you’ve been watching the KNITSONIK YouTube Channel, you’ll know I’m having a blast learning to make videos. I’m completely inspired by the wondrous possibilities for combining knitting and sound and I love how easily I can show colours and images, but also underscore them with recordings from the extensive KNITSONIK archives. Basically, I WANT TO MAKE ALL THE VIDEOS ALL THE TIME.

A couple of weeks ago I learnt more about video production through being interviewed over Skype for the Fruity Knitting Podcast. This video podcast is produced by Andrea and Andrew who do an amazing job of assembling their episodes and who really maximise the visual possibilities of the medium. I’ve watched a few episodes now and they are a visual and knitterly feast! Like any of the sweaters that Andrea and Andrew knit, their podcast is lovely to look at and has been well made. A knitterly eye is evident in how they edit and assemble all the footage and everything you’d like to see in detail is clearly shown. Andrea and Andrew are Australians living in Germany and podcasting regularly from their Offenbach studio. It was a huge pleasure to be a part of episode 12, and I loved talking to them about my interest in knitting and sounds; how I became interested in the provenance of wool; and why artists are necessarily practical people. I especially love Andrea’s amazing stranded colourwork sweater (it’s a beautiful Jade Starmore pattern, adapted to fit Andrew) and was thrilled to hear some of my field recordings in the final edit. Listen out for Cranes in Estonia; creaking gates in Cumbria and Terns in Shetland, as well as a couple of KNITSONIK songs and jingles.

Having spent the past few months trying to get to grips with video myself, I can really appreciate the work that goes into producing the Fruity Knitting Podcast and I hope you’ll enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed being interviewed for it! Also, my friend Jeni Reid appears in the KNITTERS OF THE WORLD segment, with amazing hair and, I think, filmed by the charismatic Leona of Fluph in Dundee. I love their segment and the brief appearance of Jeni’s handspun PINGLEWIN!

Watch the podcast is what I’m saying.
Yours in SOUNDS + IMAGES,
Fx

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The Jamieson & Smith Yarn Shades Song

Greetings, comrades!

If you’ve ever been to one of my Quotidian Colourwork classes, you may have noticed that several years of swatching with their flagship 2 ply Jumper Weight yarn range has left the shade numbers somewhat, erm, ingrained in my brain. When I’m swatching and charting designs from everyday inspirations, I confess I begin to see J&S yarn shades everywhere.

I was thinking of that when a series of links on Twitter led me to a phone app* that will “read” any image and give you suggested, related Pantone colours like so:

Screenshot_20160809-145859

I love the simple way in which this app presents a palette based on any given image, and it is very close to my own way of seeing the world. However to me the above image reads like 34, 79, 1280, FC17 and 203 with some 77 for those hard black shadows, and perhaps a touch of 23 and FC7…

BUT I DIGRESS.

Today I want to tell you about a video I’ve created for my YouTube channel which celebrates finding J&S Yarn Shade colours in the everyday world and then knitting with them – a concept more deeply expanded in my book, the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook.The song is called the Jamieson & Smith Yarn Shades Song and you can watch it here.

I’m having a busy summer working on several projects that I can’t tell you about just yet; I’ll be back soon with news and sounds and knitting and announcements but, in the meantime, I hope you enjoy my song! If you’re missing the KNITSONIK Podcast, you can hear me and my sounds in several other places, including The Last Outpost produced by Kerry Purcell and Woman’s Hour for which I was interviewed as part of a chain during Listener Week. Some of my work is also on display at the Open Data Institute in London as part of the Data As Culture – Thinking Out Loud exhibition that launched there in July.

For now, I am yours in J&S YARN SHADES and SONGS!!!
FX

*The app I am using is available for free on some Android platforms and is called Pantonera. I cannot advise for other phone models and apps, but there do seem to be lots of both free and paid options for applications that will parse photos into Pantone colour swatches…

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Magnolia Mittsalong – now on YouTube!

Greetings, Comrades!

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s post, the video I’ve been working on most recently is now available to view on YouTube. It documents the process and outcomes of the Magnolia-themed #knitsonikmittsalong that took place this spring.

In the video you can expect to see my gurning face and wildly gesticulating hands, loads of enthusiasm for colours and patterns and shading, and FANTASTIC finished projects such as these glorious mitts, knitted by Sarahhandson.

Beautiful magnolia themed mitts, knit by Sarahhandson
Beautiful magnolia themed mitts, knit by Sarahhandson

About the video…

For the structure of the video, I took on board a comment from turtlebird26 in the KNITSONIK Ravelry group:

“My favourite part is seeing the progression – photo, sketch, and then several iterations of the knitting”.

I looked at the inspiration source for the mitts, then at at our different palettes, patterns and shading sequences. I included some feedback on the amazing mitts and swatches produced for the #KNITSONIKMITTSALONG… The result has turned out far too long at 15:28, but I’ve been working on it for over a week already and did not want to delay its release any further!

I’m still trying to understand what I can leave up to the camera and what I should explain absolutely clearly with words; the explanations and text were cut down with each successive filming and editing session, but it feels to me like I could still improve. Finding the right pace for talking is tricky too; I don’t want to rush too much but is it too slow as is?

Please tell me!

About the sounds in the video…

SONIK buddies may be interested to hear that the video includes a field-recording from the part of Pembrokeshire where I saw and photographed that beautiful Magnolia tree!

Magnolias_01

I uploaded the sound to my all time favourite collective sound project, the aporee sound maps, and comrade Vincent Duseigne – a fellow user of aporee – informs me that the birds you can hear are as follow;

Robin
Carrion crow
Common chiffchaff
Common wood pigeon
More far, a great tit
44s : I think an angry green woodpecker, but it’s quite far
1:16 : blackbird beginning
1:32 : shortly a common chaffinch
1:47 : a very young blackbird
2:00 : great spotted woodpecker
2:21 : wren
3:16 : humans ;-)

I heart the generosity of the global community of recordists who use aporee!!!

Your Thoughts

If you fancy a 15 minute multimedia journey into the microcosm of the Magnolia #knitsonikmittsalong, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

YOURS IN VIDEOS,

FX

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KNITSONIK YouTube Channel

Greetings, Comrades.

Things have been very quiet around here for two reasons. Firstly, I have been learning new skillz.

For several months I have been quietly researching how to set up my own online school; I’m envisaging a digital palace of ideas where you can study the KNITSONIK System through different tutorials and creative projects, and where I can bring together my passions for knitting stranded colourwork and working with recorded sound.

A major reason for taking the self-publishing route with my book was that it allowed me to maintain creative control of the content, and to include things that a mainstream publisher might not have allowed! (I’m looking at YOU, beaten up EDIROL R-09 and YOU, dirty old tarmac road…)…

EDDIE my affectionately nicknamed EDIROL R-09 digital sound recorder
EDDIE my affectionately nicknamed EDIROL R-09 digital sound recorder

…having investigated different options, I’ve decided to create all the lessons myself using a combination of PDF downloads, new knitting content, and high quality videos. I love teaching, and one of the most important things is being able to respond to, and learn from, students; to me it is essential that I am able to change the format of my online classes if they aren’t working, and to respond instantly and creatively to feedback from students. I’ve therefore decided to use a platform that provides a beautiful structure for lessons, but which will also allow me to present my content however I like. My plan in coming months involves developing content that you can play and replay in your own time and lessons that can be fitted in around busy lives. If you are interested in attending the KNITSONIK school, the best way to keep on top of developments is to sign up to my mailing list.

In the meantime there is much to learn about scripting; lighting; framing; cutting between different types of shots; and presenting to a camera… There are also a language or media questions regarding how much to leave to visuals; how much to leave to sound; how much to say in words; and how much to say with captions.

While I’m finding my way with all these things, YouTube is an amazing place to share my adventures with this medium. Making videos is also an amazing way to celebrate and big-up the projects and work I love. For instance, Estonian Knitting; an amazing tome produced by my friends in Estonia – the Saara Publishing House. I reviewed Estonian Knitting in the first of many FELIX LEARNS VIDEO YouTube releases. At 07:47 it’s a bit on the long side but I hope you enjoy it, and the glimpses it provides of this highly recommended book about Estonian Knitting!

Estonia is just one of several amazing European countries in which I have had the privilege to work. I feel immeasurably enriched by my exposure to Estonian knitting and culture (the same is true of my time in Ireland and Belgium) and my adventures in such places were made possible because of the freedom of movement afforded to me as a proud citizen of the European Union.

The second reason I’ve been quiet is that, like many of my much-loved friends in KNITWERLD, I voted to remain in the EU last Thursday.

Because this was a vote concerning citizenship, the referendum campaigns and results have touched deeply on core issues of identity. For me, being in the European Union was connected broadly with cherished ideals of tolerance, multiculturalism and liberalism. The victory of the LEAVE win feels like a regression to less tolerant, multicultural and liberal times… in short, it feels like the destruction of the values I hold dear.

Ill-vs-Good

I have much to say on all this and I shall say it on my other blog which has always been a more personal space.

If you are reading this and are one of my EU buddies, please know that I did not vote to leave.
And please know that if you are a non-UK national living in the UK, KNITSONIK WELCOMES YOU.

I VOTED REMAIN

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Karie Westermann and This Thing of Paper

Hello!

As promised yesterday, today I have Karie Westermann here on the KNITSONIK blog speaking about her forthcoming tome, This Thing of Paper. In case you have not heard about This Thing of Paper, it is a knitting book inspired by Johannes Gutenberg and his invention of the printing press. Karie has been working with primary sources ranging from 14th century illuminated manuscripts to 16th century embroidery manuals and the book will contain ten knitting projects with accompanying essays.

If you have not yet visited Karie’s Kickstarter page, I hope today’s discussion will inspire you to pop over there for some intriguing glimpses at what promises to be a beautiful, thoughtful and unique book combining Karie’s passions.

I just love the buzz and enthusiasm surrounding this project – hurrah for all the backers who have ensured that this book is really happening!

Myself and Karie found we had much to discuss so I will dive straight in with the caveat that you might want to FETCH TEA before sitting down to read this!

Felix: As you may know, I like to work with knitting and sounds and am always searching for interesting connections between the two. I’ve found that once you go deep into something like that, there are all sorts of lovely links. I wonder if it is a little bit similar for you with books, and if you could talk a bit about the correlations for you between knitting and books; what are some of the different ways in which their relationship will manifest in This Thing of Paper?

Karie: I come to knitting from a literary background – a theoretical literary background, really – and I think that shapes the way I view knitting.

Because I teach a lot and I talk a lot about the importance of swatching, I always draw attention to how handwriting and knitting relate. We all have the same tools – whether that be a pen & paper or specific yarn & needles – but the end result is always slightly different. Both our handwriting and our knitting a fabric change depending upon circumstances: is this writer or knitter tired? stressed? tipsy? The movement of our hands change over time as well. Mark-making is so very individual – and there are autobiographical notes to all this mark-making too.

So there is that basic connection.

I also think about writing, reading, books, and knitting in another way. Quite apart from the whole textile/text collision, I was also struck by something the French philosopher Jacques Derrida wrote about the reading eye and how we follow written words on a page. He had this whole (somewhat dubious) theory about how Neolithic farmers tilled the fields and how writing grew out of those lines enforced by mankind on the landscape; how the movement of the reading eye can be traced back to farming. I’d argue that you could say the same way about textiles were worked: the movement of a shuttle moving across a loom, for instance.

But we do have very specific ways of engaging with both text and textile: in the Western world, our reading eye moves from left to right – and I’ve had pattern support queries where the problems genuinely arise because people were reading their knitted textiles (and charts) in a similar left-to-right fashion when in fact knitting is worked from right to left.

There is a lot of scholarly work being done about ‘the hand’ and ‘handling’ that can be applied to both knitting and books. I definitely do not think they are as separate or different as they may appear.

Teaser_image TTOP

Felix: I was very intrigued by an image on your pinterest board showing the palette available to mediaeval manuscript illuminators and wondered how you have approached your design palette for This Thing of Paper?

illuminated border

Karie: It was such a joy to work on this colour palette. With my previous collection, Doggerland, I was limited by the very few material remains that had survived from Mesolithic times. As a result, the palette was very limited and very influenced by nature: flint stones, mud, green seaweed, lichen etc. With this collection, I had a lot more source material! So much of it has been digitised as well, so I was able to get very close to the sources.

However, I think many people don’t realise that richly decorated manuscripts are relatively rare objects that were made for an elite few. Illuminated manuscripts are gorgeous – but maybe not as representative as you’d think. I started looking at the way ordinary manuscripts looked: the play between surface decoration and the background. The idea of negative space became really important to me.

Once you begin to move away from illuminated manuscripts and begin to look at early printed books (which is actually where my real passion lies), the colour palette becomes even more intriguing. You start noticing things like rubrication – red handwriting inserted into printed books – and I started thinking about the colour red. Why was it significant? Woodcuts begin to be inserted and they are usually hand-tinted. That interested me as well.

And then when you hit the 16th century and printed books have become increasingly common, the colour palette is really quite limited. You have the cream colours of aged paper and the dark brown ink. Occasionally red lettering appears, but getting a second colour onto a printed page is a technical feat.

So, I had a core colour palette and then three different colour stories where you have this really rich mineral-derived colour palette but also very beautiful, subdued colours. And the way they interact with one another is really interesting.

Felix: I also wonder about the other ways in which the BOOKISH-ness of books has inspired your designs; are there more physical elements – paper, pages, ink etc. – that have also informed your plans?

Karie: Yes! When I was a young girl, I had penpals from all over the world and this one girl used to send me her letters in beautiful, beautiful envelopes. She really spawned an obsession: I began doing calligraphy which led to collecting typefaces back when I got my first computer. And so I’ve always been really interested in the materiality of books and what’s known as paratextuality – all these small elements that turn a text into a book like pagination, footnotes, title pages, end papers etc.

The designs in This Thing of Paper really reflect that. Each design is inspired by an aspect of book production – every pattern is part of a book both figuratively and literally.

Teaser_image_TTOP3

Felix: Like I was saying yesterday, I find books like This Thing of Paper really exciting because they offer ways of connecting knitting with other interests, and ways of embedding extra meaning into everyday garments. I am fascinated by the idea that knitted garments can contain a sort of personal symbolism, or connect everyday clothes with stories and identity; I wondered if you could say a bit about what it means to you to produce knitting patterns that – while being wearable, knittable designs – have these links to wider concepts?

Karie: As a designer I really struggle to not tell stories. The way my design process works is quite laborious: I start with a story or a concept I want to communicate. I then work my way towards a design that communicates what I want to way whilst still being an accessible, easy-to-wear piece. Sometimes it can take me months to go from concept to workable design – thankfully I do have a lot of ideas and stories, so I have a steady workflow.

With Doggerland, I wanted people to reflect upon what it means to be human and how we define ourselves in the landscapes around us (and inside us). Some people just loved the pretty patterns and that’s okay too. Once I release a pattern, I cannot control how other people interpret it or modify it – and I find that so exciting that other people write/knit their own stories into a framework I have provided.

This Thing of Paper is the second part of what I tentatively think of as a trilogy of works about what it means to be human and how we relate to the world. This time I will be writing about objects and how we experience the world through our bodies. It is so exciting that knitting as a medium can both be a story-telling exercise and something that keeps us warm. I’m quite thankful that people seem to appreciate what I’m trying to do – mostly because I don’t know how to create things in any other way!

Teaser_image TTOP2

Felix: There have been quite a few crowd-funding projects for very individual styles of knitting books – including, ahem, my own Kickstarter campaign and related book! Taking the crowd-funding route allowed me to put my own stamp on the book, and to include elements that no traditional publisher would have allowed, such as including a dirty old A-road and my beaten up old Edirol R-09 field-recording device as an inspiration source for stranded colourwork. There was some risk involved in ignoring traditional conventions of beauty to include these things. However, since I published my book, I have received feedback indicating that people really enjoy seeing mundane and everyday things cast in an inspirational light, which makes me glad that I took those risks. To me it seems that taking the crowdfunding route for This Thing of Paper will enable you to produce the book exactly as you want to, and to put your distinctive own stamp on it! Can you tell us a bit about how you will use that extra freedom, and perhaps about some maverick element of the book that you are sure you wouldn’t be allowed to include, if working with a mainstream publisher?

Karie: One of the things I love about contemporary knitting is how broad a church it is. You have mainstream craft publications written for casual knitters who like a quick chunky hat; you have gorgeous small press magazines catering to knitters who like luxurious high-end projects; you have capital-K knitters who go on retreats & visit indie yarn festivals; you have people like Deirdre Nelson who use knitting as an art practise. I love how there is room for many, many different takes on what knitting and being a knitter means.

I chose crowd-funding because I know that a mainstream publisher would have found a knitting book about the invention of the printing press a tough sell. I used to work for a yarn company and I have worked with several mainstream publishers over the years, and they need to make numbers work in a whole other way to how me as an indie designer can make it work. I can take creative risks because I don’t need 20,000 people to buy the book. It is a privilege to work on a small scale and I can get away with much more such as writing semi-literary essays in a knitting context and designing projects inspired by footnotes in 15th century Latin treatises or blemished paper in 16th century pamphlets.

Thanks to Karie for dropping by today and sharing your vision for your forthcoming book! This post is part of a tour continuing on from Jacqueline’s lovely tutorial on making your own notebookyesterday, and traveling tomorrow to the blog of Clare Devine. You can find a full list of all the posts created during the blog tour here and, taken together, the posts offer a rich insight into the creative community to which Karie belongs, and to which This Thing of Paper will contribute.

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Thoughts on self-publishing and crowd-funding

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Tomorrow I’m welcoming Karie Westermann to the KNITSONIK blog for a Q&A about her wondrous forthcoming book, This Thing of Paper. This Thing of Paper is to be a self-published collection of knitting patterns with accompanying essays and it takes its inspiration from Johannes Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press. This book project smashed its initial funding goal on Kickstarter in just 25 hours, proving among several things that knitters are more enthusiastic than ever about knitting books which come with stories and essays to inspire as well as with patterns to knit.

I discovered Karie’s work through her amazing Doggerland collection which I admired for its joined-up approach to knitting, pattern, wool, texture and a deep sense of place. Donna Druchunas also loved Doggerland and wrote about it favourably in a post that was memorably subtitled “how knitting books can change the world, if knitting designer/authors have the balls to take it up a notch“.

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I’ve been thinking about Donna’s words a lot lately, and particularly about what she wrote about the potentially vast scope of knitting books. Happily, a couple of years since she wrote that post, I feel many designer/authors are as she puts it “taking things up a notch”. The definition of “knitting book” is being radically expanded by the distinctive voices and visions of independent designers. In an age of online communities, self-publishing and crowd-funding it is no longer necessary to make books solely targeting a mass-market and, because of this, there seem to be more books – like Karie’s – that have a very specific focus; that come in the voice and flavour of their maker; and that speak passionately to a small crowd, rather than blandly to a big one. This is largely due to the fact that there are lots of amazing, passionate and generous knitters out there who actively support the creation of such new books either by contributing encouragement, information or financial backing. Also, knitters bring knitting books alive by putting their contents to use once they are published. On the back of her own fresh and distinctive tome, Anna Maltz describes the online knitting community beautifully as “making the world more interesting with every stitch” which I think is a great summary of the current moment.

A few thousand books sold direct to the public without middlemen or an enormous publishing apparatus in between can sustain book ideas today that would have been difficult to fund just a few years ago.

There is little chance that my own book would have been published in its present form by a mainstream publisher. Photos of tarmac, the inclusion of a link to an online sound map, and the goofy, hand-drawn image I created envisioning the book at the start of my Kickstarter Campaign would almost certainly not have been allowed! In her amazingly thoughtful review, Ysolda wrote that if the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook had not been self-published it may “have lost some of what makes it so special”.

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For me, the crowd-funding process not only gave me the funds I needed to make the book happen but also the confidence to stay true to my vision; my amazing backers showed me in their thoughtful feedback and comments that I could indeed publish the book I wanted to make and that it could include tarmac and weeds.

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Kate Davies, author of several well-loved and distinctive self-published knitting books, has written thoughtfully about presenting knitting patterns in an expanded context; I love how she describes her creative process for Colours of Shetland in this piece about self-publishing;

When I decided to produce Colours of Shetland, what really drew me to doing things myself was that I could hopefully make the kind of book that would be a very hard sell to a mainstream publisher, but which I knew I would love to create, and which I also felt that knitters would hopefully want to read. By creating my own books, I could write about archaeology and knitting, puffins and jazz and lighthouses . . . and knitting. I could even write about Danish foreign policy and its representation in one of my favourite television series. . . and knitting. Creating your own books as a small publisher means that you retain control of all aspects of the process, from how things look on the page to the paper quality of the page itself.

Several books later, Kate has just published The Book of HAPS which promises, like her previous work, to contextualise wondrous knitting patterns with inspiring essays and gorgeous images. I love the personality with which Kate imprints her books and the presence of “puffins and jazz and lighthouses … and knitting” all together. She joins such themes joyously within her creative process and her knitwear designs, and respectfully connects her exuberant contemporary garments with the knitterly labour and traditions of the past.

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The common theme of knitting can connect topics that seem at first disparate, and can also provide a very distinctive lens through which to reconsider familiar things. For example knitwear designer Anna Maltz‘s PENGUIN, a knitwear collection offers an inspiring model for thoughtfully integrating knowledge and admiration of penguins into your knitting projects and your wardrobe. All the designs are inspired “by penguins: their striking plumage, caring nature and (of course) the way they can withstand the cold.”

Anna’s book models a thoughtful and joyous mode of knitterly engagement with her chosen muse; as well as being about, well, penguins, it presents a fresh perspective on seeing the world and translating its elements in a knitterly way. I love how PENGUIN offers these creative elements in equal measure to sophisticated knitwear patterns, and how the book exudes its author’s sense of fun, personality and wit.

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Also expanding on the scope for what a knitting book can contain, Donna Druchunas and June Hall injected their crowd-funded tome Lithuanian Knitting: Continuing Traditions with a feeling of travelogue and cultural exchange.

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I feel I have just scratched the surface here and that there are many, many other books I could mention in the context of expanding the genre, and our expectations of, the knitting book. The books above indicate an emergent publishing model in which small print runs and close relations between creators and audiences – fostered through social media – are laying the foundations for wonderfully rich and specific types of knitting books to be created. It is precisely in this exciting context that a book like This Thing of Paper can come to fruition, and the runaway success of Karie’s Kickstarter campaign points to the growing desire for ambitious, creative knitting books within the online knitting community. It would seem that we all want to read and knit from books that are as passionate and specific as their creators.

I have the strong sense that, like the books mentioned above, This Thing of Paper will be artistic and reflective and full of amazing ideas. I’m really looking forward to sharing more about that with you tomorrow as part of the official blog tour, thank you for stopping by today!

YOURS IN SELF-PUBLISHED VISIONS,
FX

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Magnolia Mittsonik – your one-week Klaxon!

You may recall that towards the end of February I wrote about the beautiful swatch-mittens produced by comrades participating in the KNITSONIK Mittsalong (MITTSONIK).

In a #knitsonikmittsalong, comrades all work from the same inspiration source to produce pairs of fingerless mitts that are swatches or records of thought. By seeing each others’ designs, methods and interpretations, we learn more about the ways in which colours interact. It is a good, practical way to explore the joys of The KNITSONIK System while also producing something wearable and useful. The first MITTSONIK was themed around translating the old Roman Wall at Silchester into stranded colourwork designs, and the current MITTSONIK is themed around translating the glorious blooms of Magnolia trees into stranded colourwork. I think Magnolias are beautiful, and felt sure other knitters would also be attracted to their fresh pink blooms, brightening the early months of spring.

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The arbitrary deadline of 31st May is there as an incentive to finish. I don’t know about you, but I like deadlines for getting things done. With one week to go, I thought I’d share some of the beautiful things people have knitted so far for the Spring 2016 #knitsonikmittsalong. You can also see some of these projects on instagram by searching the hashtags #knitsonikmittsalong or #magnoliamittsonik, and clicking on the photos will take you directly to the Ravelry project page of each maker :)

Palettes

Some knitters used the specially produced KNITSONIK kit, but several folks have put together palettes from stash. I love the variance in whites, pinks, greens, browns and greys shown across the different projects.

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Patterns

It’s always interesting to see how differently people develop patterns for working stranded colourwork. Some folks like computer programmes, others prefer pencils, and Yumi (whom I interviewed here a while back) even takes the step of swatching in just two colours to clearly understand how patterns will appear as knitted stitch shapes.

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Shading

It’s amazing to see what happens when palettes and patterns come together, and to see how the lovely delicate shifts of pinks and whites on Magnolia blooms have informed different knitted interpretations. I also think it’s quite fascinating how something like shifting from blues to pinks can transform the whole feeling of a design.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the collective knitterly creativity in the Spring 2016 #knitsonikmittsalong, I will be knitting like the wind this week to make my own deadline!

Yours in lovely springtime colours, comrades and collective imaginative play,
Fx

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