Meet Bev and her glorious stranded colourwork

Following on from the recent Q&A with Yumi, today I want to introduce you to another online friend whose beautiful work I felt you all should see! I discovered Bev’s work some time last year through our mutual interest in stranded colourwork, and have wanted to share her work with you for a while. Her amazing applications of the KNITSONIK system are both striking and distinctive, and if you are working on designing your own stranded colourwork, I think you will find her approach really inspiring. Some of you may already know Bev from the Jamieson & Smith Winter Woolies KAL; this was a fun contest organised by my buddies at the Shetland Woolbrokers in which knitters were invited to create their own designs using a limited palette of yarn shades. Bev won with her beauteous tam and mitts set, incorporating all eight colours selected for the KAL (you can see other entries on this thread on Ravelry).

The winning tam in the Jamieson & Smith Winter Woollies KAL, designed by Bev
The winning tam in the Jamieson & Smith Winter Woollies KAL, designed by Bev
The winning mitts in the Jamieson & Smith Winter Woollies KAL, designed by Bev
The winning mitts in the Jamieson & Smith Winter Woollies KAL, designed by Bev

For those of you who have not yet met Bev, pull up a chair and a large mug of something warm and comforting, and prepare yourself for a feast of glorious colours and patterns!

Felix: First of all, I notice from your Ravelry projects page that you have knitted many beautiful Fair Isle projects and are clearly a fan of colours! Could you tell us how you got interested in stranded colourwork? What was your ‘gateway project’ so to speak, and which projects stand out to you now as feeding your interest in colours, patterns and shading?

Bev: I have knitted on and off for years but it’s really only been in the last few years that I have become interested in stranded colourwork. I bought some “wool” on ebay and it turned out to be shetland wool. I had originally bought it to sell but it was so lovely I kept it. This led me to buy a book, which then turned in to quite a few books! I have spent hours looking through them and eventually took the plunge and tried knitting with some of it.

My “Traditional Fairisle Tam and Mittens” (The purple and green ones on my project page) were probably my “gateway project”. I am a member of my local Scottish Womens Rural Institute and had been asked to knit a hat for the Perth Show. I was given a theme of “Heather on the Hills”. I immediately knew it had to be traditional Fair Isle but was worried as I hadn’t actually completed a stranded colourwork project before. I had visions of green and purple. I remember it took me a while to finalise my choice of colours, especially the greens. When I had finished the hat, I was asked if I could make mittens to go with it. I’m pleased to say that I received a 9.5 out of 10 and a “Highly Commended” award from the SWRI.

This project really got me thinking about colours, shading and contrast; it’s all quite straightforward if you use the colours suggested by the designer for a knitting pattern, but it’s a completely different story if you’re choosing them yourself.

Traditional Fair Isle Tam & Mittens, pattern by Alice Starmore, yarn selection and knitting by Bev
Traditional Fair Isle Tam & Mittens, pattern by Alice Starmore, yarn selection and knitting by Bev

Felix: Did you find that there was a large leap or a steep learning curve in going from working from other people’s stranded colourwork designs to coming up with your own?

Bev: Actually, I feel it was more a natural progression. The next logical step. I already knew the “rules” – 2 colours per row, no long horizontal strands etc. – it was a case of coming up with some patterns other than the traditional Fair Isle, peerie & border patterns that I found exciting. It was your book Felix, that explained everything that I wanted to do so it’s all your fault! ;)

Felix: I’m very glad to hear that, thank you! Looking at the mitts you have designed yourself using the KNITSONIK system, it strikes me that you have a real knack for sequencing your shades in a way that makes your patterns and motifs shimmer and stand out from the background. To me getting the contrast right between background and pattern and getting a nice shading sequence where you can always see the motif but the whole thing seems to sing is the Holy Grail of Stranded Colourwork! Are there any tips you’d like to share on how you manage this, or patterns you knitted by other designers which helped you to understand how to change the shades without losing a design?

Bev: I have been known to sit for hours working out which colours I’m going to use for a project. I have to have daylight (preferably sunshine which is in short supply where I live) and a white background (I have an A1 piece of white card that I use especially for this). I find that this shows the colours to their best. I may start with a pile of 30 colours or so. I will first put them into colour groups i.e. blues, pinks etc, then I will see if it’s possible to blend from light to dark within the colour groups. After that, I sit various colour groups together to look for pleasing contrasts and to see if it’s possible to blend from one colour to another, from a blue to a brown for example. I’ll sit and play like this until I’m happy that I have found a contrasting group of background colours and pattern colours that I like.

Kaffe Fassett, in his earlier work, used so many colours in a single project. I love his “Poppies” pattern and have a partially knitted project that I may get round to finishing one day. I also adore Alice Starmore. Both of these people have been an inspiration to me because of their incredible colour sense.

Bev's beautiful blue mitts, based on a pattern found on a chinaware bowl
Bev’s beautiful blue mitts, based on a pattern found on a chinaware bowl

Felix: I was blown away by the beautiful blue mitts that you produced from looking at your patterned chinaware… I’m really struck by how many ideas you were able to find for your knitting in such a simple inspiration source. Did you realise at first how much there was to see in the bowl, or was the process of swatching from the bowl a kind of gradual unfolding of ideas?

Bev: I’d had my eye on that bowl for a while I can tell you! So there wasn’t really anything gradual about it, I just needed to find the time. I didn’t realise until I had a “proper look” at the bowl but there is a subtle pattern of white dots across it and a Chinese dragon in the bottom (which I’d like to do one day!) although it was the diamond pattern that drew me to it in the first place. It’s actually a cheap, mass produced bowl and so the colouring on it isn’t glazed on very evenly. I noticed that it’s a bit blurry in places so I wanted this to come across in my swatch.

The blue bowl that was the inspiration source for the beautiful mitts
The blue bowl that was the inspiration source for the beautiful mitts

Felix: I love how you have worked with that uneven glazing, representing it in your knitting with varying blues that lighten and darken the simple shapes of the pattern. But before you knitted the mitts, you first worked a swatch in order to refine your ideas as you went. Could you talk us through the swatch and the different patterns you found in the chinaware as you went?

Bev's design process
Bev’s design process

Bev: I had already drawn the diamond pattern on to graph paper so the swatch was all about sitting with a pile of different blues and knitting the swatch until I’d completed an area that I liked. I tried to convey the blurry edges of the blue against the white but I also wanted to show that the contrast was quite pronounced in other areas.

Felix: Something I sense from your answers here is that you have got lots and lots of colours stashed over years, all from various sources. Do you mind telling us about your stranded colourwork stash… how you acquired it, how you manage it, and some of the kinds of projects that are only possible when you have many little bits of lots of different colours? (I’m thinking about your glorious beachcomber sweater in particular…)

Bev: Thankyou! I am very lucky to have lots of shetland wool. Most of it is on cones. I have managed to buy it from car boot sales, auctions, gumtree, charity shops… I have large plastic boxes with lids. Each box contains a different colour. I have found that for me, this is the best way of storing it. If I’m working with greens, they are all in one place. The beachcomber sweater was actually a crocheted blanket that I started but then I frogged. I didn’t want to waste the wool (there were lots of long pieces of wool as it was a chevron blanket) so I decided to knit a sweater using Elizabeth Zimmeremans recipe!

Felix: You have worked a couple of swatches recently that celebrate colours from nature. This is a popular subject, but always tricky as well because there are millions of colours to be had, and always so much beauty on which to focus! In your Autumn swatch, you celebrate your neighbour’s tree. How did you edit down all the possibilities to the wonderful leaf motif on which you eventually settled?

Knitting from Autumn Leaves
Knitting from Autumn Leaves

Bev: It was all about the leaves and the colours (I didn’t even get round to the branches and the trunk and the bark!) Every Autumn this tree is a blaze of colour and I was determined that I wanted to capture this and re-create the effect in my swatch. I wanted to get the effect of falling leaves and all of the colours I could see. Standing underneath the tree and looking up at the blue sky through the leaves, there were so many glorious colours. Even my photographs don’t do them justice.

The colours of the tree in Autumn
The colours of the tree in Autumn
A closeup of the shapes of the leaves
A closeup of the shapes of the leaves
...Translated into stranded colourwork
…Translated into stranded colourwork

Felix: I love how you have used that very restrained greyish green palette in the background – so like the smooth silver trunks of the tree itself – as a backdrop to the drama of the reds and pinks! So lovely.

Another wonderful nature swatch on which you’ve worked lately is the Eryngium Zabelii Swatch.

Eryngium Zabelii Swatch designed by Bev
Eryngium Zabelii Swatch designed by Bev

This strikes me as presenting very particular challenges to the KNITSONIK knitter as the plant itself is very delicate and frondy, and there is a limit to how much detail you can show working at the graphic resolution of knitting! And yet you have found wondrous ways of communicating the essence of the plant in your swatch. Can you talk us through your thinking process, how you started with the flowers and gradually turned them into workable charts?

Jackie's photo of the  Eryngium Zabelii flowers - the inspiration for Bev's swatch
Jackie’s photo of the Eryngium Zabelii flowers – the inspiration for Bev’s swatch

Bev: Thanks! My friend Jacky took the photo and put it on Facebook one day after she had been out on one of her walks. I was immediately blown away by the colours and the delicate fronds. In order to get to know the flower better, I sketched it first.

A beautiful drawing, getting to know the shapes of the flower
A beautiful drawing, getting to know the shapes of the flower

I liked the centre of the flower as it looked quite solid and three dimensional yet the petals seemed to be delicate but spiky at the same time. I also liked how they grew together in a “clump” and the flowers themselves were almost joined together. The chart was quite tricky. I started with the centre of the flower and then added the petals. I began to knit from the chart and initially had the flowers in rows but then changed and extended my chart as I decided that it would be good if I could make it an “all over pattern” by shifting the alternate rows and joining the ends of the petals. I’m not entirely happy with the colours or contrasts in this one, in particular the green. So I may have to do another swatch but I do quite fancy making a skirt with this pattern on it!

The swatch on the needles...
The swatch on the needles…

Felix: That’s interesting what you say about shifting the alternate rows and joining the ends of the petals… I find that as soon as you repeat an image in stranded colourwork, it gives you a new way of thinking about how the shapes relate. Your drawing is so singular and lovely, but as soon as you repeat that shape across the canvas of your knitting, it takes on a new kind of rhythm… yes you must make a skirt! How good would that be? Then you will just have to find some more of those lovely blooms with which to pose…

You have knit 4 swatches using the KNITSONIK system now; what have you discovered through the process of swatching that you might not have found by other means?

Bev: I have discovered that I love symmetry (maybe a bit too much?) and I have fallen in love with blues and greens. I always thought I was a kind of purples girl myself but I was wrong.

The beauty of blues
The beauty of blues

Felix: That’s really funny – I always thought of myself as loving greens and blues but when I was working on my book, I really fell in love with purple!

I’m very excited by the mitts and matching tam you made in the recent mitts-a-long; did you swatch for the mitts first, or treat the mitts themselves as a swatch? And was it while you were knitting the mitts that you got the idea to make a matching tam?

Look, no swatching!!!
Look, no swatching!!!

Bev: No swatch, I just dived straight in to making the mitts! Once I’d finished them, I loved them so much, it would almost have been a crime NOT to make a matching Tam! I wear them all the time.

KNITSONIK mitts-a-long mitts and tam
KNITSONIK mitts-a-long mitts and tam

Felix: I just love the little assymetric shape that you used on both the mitts and on the tam – it looks exactly like a mossy rock, turning in the light. Can you tell us a bit about it?

The little mossy flint in Bev's design
The little mossy flint in Bev’s design

Bev: I’m so glad that’s what you see because that’s exactly what they were meant to be. I loved the rows of rocks in your photo. I wanted to show them in rows but didn’t want them to be square or round or one colour because in the picture they are all different. By using the shades of grey with black and green, I hoped to convey a sense of light and shade and the fact that they were topped with moss. I also “zoomed in” to your picture so that I could see the pixels, revealing additional shapes and colours that aren’t noticeable in the picture when you zoom out.

Roman Wall at Silchester - the inspiration source for Bev's mitts and tam
Roman Wall at Silchester – the inspiration source for Bev’s mitts and tam

Felix: In general I love the everyday-ness of your inspiration sources. A friend’s photo; the china bowls you use often; the neighbour’s tree… I have been experimenting with swatch-a-longs and the mitts-a-long – as you know! – but I think the best one so far was #knitsonikpomegranates, because everyone could find their own relationship with their pomegranate. Working from someone else’s photos is just not quite the same as getting to know an inspiration source on your own terms. I wondered if you have any comments on that, and whether having the inspiration sources close by has helped you with your swatches?

Bev: That’s an interesting point and I agree. I do tend to feel a much stronger connection with my own things and pictures that I have taken myself because I have actually been there and seen it with my own eyes. If I can actually “touch” “feel” or “smell” something, then that connection for me is amplified and I will remember it better and in more detail. It’s about so much more than just looking at something for me and I might add things into my swatches that no-one else will “see” but I will know how I got that idea.

I just missed the Pomegranates swatch but I have been admiring them all on Ravelry. What lovely colours you had to work with!

swatches created during the #knitsonikpomegranates swatch-a-long
swatches created during the #knitsonikpomegranates swatch-a-long

Felix: Thank you so much for sharing your insights into working with the KNITSONIK system with me and with comrades everywhere! Where can people go online to see more of your beautiful work?

Bev: Thanks you for asking me so many questions. It’s really made me think a lot more about what I’m doing and how I do it! I can be found on Facebook as “Beverley Dott – Fair City Knitter” and on Ravelry I am DottyBev.

Malachite Tam by Bev
Malachite Tam by Bev
Posted in KNITSONIK PROCESSES | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Yumi’s swatches

One of my favourite things about teaching The KNITSONIK System is watching how differently people see the world and translate it into stranded colourwork. Everybody perceives the world from the unique vantage point of being them. If you show a room full of knitters a single inspiration source and then hand over some squared paper and pencils, nobody’s motifs will look the same, and nobody’s colour choices will be identical. I love the individual flair and personality possessed by different knitters and am constantly learning from folk who use my book and come to my classes.

Today I want to introduce you to my friend Yumi whose work you see above, and whom some of you may already know from her beauteous instagram feed – yumiket. I am always inspired by Yumi’s lovely photos; her instagram feed is a place of joy that reflects Yumi’s playfulness and curiosity, and over the past six months or so she has created a glorious series of swatches, each bearing her distinctive stamp. I asked Yumi if I would be allowed to share her work with you, and if we might have a conversation here about her approach to designing stranded colourwork. Happily she agreed! It has been an honour to get a tiny insight into Yumi’s creative world and I feel I have learnt a lot in the process… how thinking and seeing are connected, and how deeply inspiration sources can run. Throughout the post I’ve linked each swatch photo to its project page on Ravelry so that you can see and read more about each one there; I hope you enjoy meeting Yumi as much as I have, please fetch yourself a cuppa, pull up a chair, and join us for adventures in stranded colourwork!

Yumi's Lotus Swatch
Yumi’s Lotus Swatch

Felix: The first swatch of yours I saw online was the Lotus swatch. I love the subtlety of the shading and the glowing contrast of pinks and purples against greens that you found in this inspiration source. The swatch begins with those gently shaded zig-zag lines – ‘the stems of the lotus reflected in the slightly rippled water’ – and I just love the subtlety of your interpretation, with those greys and greens and gently moving zigzag lines. Your descriptions of details are really wonderful; were you surprised to find how many design elements you could find just by looking at the Lotus flower?

Yumi's charts and sketches of the Lotus flower
Yumi’s charts and sketches of the Lotus flower

Yumi: This swatch is the first project I knitted using KNITSONIK system and is also the first of my own design. Many knitters learn to knit from their mother, grandmother or someone near them in their childhood, but I’m a self-taught, inexperienced knitter with few skills and no traditional knitting background. For me knitting was only, so to speak, a passive act of following someone’s patterns – sometimes with modifications. And I was happy enough with that. I never imagined that I could design something original until I came across your book. Reading your book again and again made my knitting life a totally different one. It is now filled with the joy of creation!

Felix: Hurrah, that’s what I like to hear!

Yumi: In the book, you teach us not only how to design our own stranded colourwork but also how to find an inspiration source from everyday life and make a pattern from it. I was thrilled to discover many beautiful and interesting motifs from ordinary things. For example, the white dots seen under the lotus flower of this swatch represent transparent drops of water rolling on the leaves. It may sound strange but sometimes I pretended I was a flying bird to overlook the lotus from right above, or sometimes I was a fish observing the roots and stems from the water. In that way, I found many design elements by observing it from various angles.

Water rolling on the leaves
Water rolling on the leaves

Felix: Yes, I definitely find that sometimes it helps to turn something over or upside down when I am looking for patterns, but had never imagined being another creature. What a good idea to try and see like a bird or a fish or (maybe a future project for me…) a sheep! For me your Lotus Swatch really comes alive when you introduce the pinks in that beautiful bold motif almost in the middle of the swatch. That part is my favourite because the pinks are so beautifully shaded, and because I think it’s really skillful to find a way of representing something as delicate as a lotus flower in the medium of stranded colourwork! Do you have a favourite part of the swatch, and could you say why you like it best?

The Lotus in full bloom
The Lotus in full bloom

Yumi: Thank you! As you may know, Lotuses put their stems out of muddy water and stretch toward the sky to blossom. I love their nobleness, which is the reason why they are considered a symbol of beauty, purity and grace in many Asian countries. I wanted to represent the isolated beauty of lotus flowers, so I dared not use pinks and purples on other motifs least they detract from this effect, or tip the overall colour balance. I had a lot of difficulties making the flower pattern. I tried over and over again, repeated writing and swatching at least 10 times! But I am so pleased with how it turned out. As you point out, this motif takes the leading role in the swatch.

The Lotus plant at the Japanese Folk Museum
The Lotus plant at the Japanese Folk Museum

My favourite parts are the motifs based on the stem. The short diagonal lines seen on the top of the swatch represent REAL stems, whereas the gently moving zigzag lines at the bottom represent unreal ones reflected on the surface of the water. I like these contrasts.

Real stems...
Real stems…
...Reflected stems
…Reflected stems…

Felix: I’m always surprised by how colours change when they are mixed with other colours; it’s one of the reasons why I think swatching is essential: yarn shades behave so differently depending on what surrounds them. I wonder if you had any surprises working on this swatch; colour relationships that were not as you expected, or yarn shades that worked as well – or better – than you expected?

Yumi: I feel just like you feel. I was highly attracted by the magic of colours. I love green. I love how Jamieson & Smith carry a splendid, rich variety of greens. While working on this swatch, I enjoyed exploring the wondrous changes of greens. When one green is accompanied by another green, it may look yellowish or bluish. On the other hand, even if it looks brown in the yarn ball, it can blend naturally and beautifully with surrounding green colours, depending on what surrounds it. For example, J&S FC62 is so modest on the shade card that I was not initially attracted to it but I soon found it to be a very important colour for making delicate gradations of green. I love how it shines on my swatch.

A study in greens...
A study in greens…

Felix: I love FC62 as well – it is surprisingly mercurial and though it seems a bit dull on first glance, it has a silverish quality and it really does play well with other greens! In your photos I see that you had one swatch that was far plainer – just yellow and purple – with no shading or changes in colour. Did you work this swatch before or after the lovely shaded swatch above? Was it an experiment in finding out how the patterns work just as shapes by themselves?

Early Lotus Swatch experiment
Early Lotus Swatch experiment

Yumi: It was before. The photo above is the very first step of this project. The lotus swatch was my first attempt to make my own design. I had no idea how the dots I drew on a squared notebook would look when knitted. So at first I worked a pre-swatch with two colours of waste sock yarn. It is a bit like a rough sketch. In the case of the lotus flowers, I was very disappointed with the initial 2-colours swatch because it looked like a pumpkin rather than a flower!

Felix: I think it looks brilliant – what a good idea for thriftily checking out the shapes of your designs before you get into the business of choosing the colours – I think that’s a really good tip for just exploring how patterns will look once they take on the shape of knitted stitches, rather than the tidy squares within a notebook…

…The next swatch of yours that I saw was your amazing Paris, Texas swatch. I love the idea of swatching from a movie so much! Could you tell us a little bit about this film, why you find it inspiring, and why you decided to make a swatch from it?

Paris, Texas swatch
Paris, Texas swatch

Yumi: I like watching movies. I am the kind of movie fan who watches a few favourite films over and over again rather than watching thousands of new titles. Paris, Texas…this beautiful Wim Wenders’s road movie released in 1984 has always been one of my favourites since I watched it at a small classic film theatre when I was a student. The story is simple but profound – sad but full of hope. It is about loss and redemption, destruction and reproduction, separation and reunion. I do not remember how many times I have watched it.

To me there has always been a certain image of a set of colours – “black and red” – existing within this film. After completing the lotus swatch, I wondered if I could represent this image of colours on a swatch or not. So this swatch started with colours, whereas the lotus swatch started from shapes.

The colours of Paris, Texas
The colours of Paris, Texas

Felix: A movie could be quite daunting as an inspiration source because there are so many potential compositions from which to work. I am really interested in creative strategies for editing giant inspirations into something manageable. How did you decide which bits of the film to work from; how did you edit it down into something that you could deal with in knitting?

Yumi: It was not as daunting or difficult as I expected. However, I had to watch the film over and over again taking screen captures of the scenes that I liked. It could be said that it was daunting in this sense… but it was a great joy for me because I enjoyed so many discoveries throughout the film. I realized how carefully Wenders designed and edited every single scene, delicately and skillfully planning each image right to the corners of the screen. In the end, I got approximately 100 screen captures.

In the next stage, I edited these images. It may sound dizzy feeling like I dived into the sea and picked up shells to place in a row with no strategy and no vision… but as I had the distinct image of the colours, all I had to do was select and arrange those which matched this image. It was like playing with pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The strong and intense colours of the film helped me do this.

the building in the film and in the knitting...
the building in the film and in the knitting…

Felix: That’s genius – letting the strongest colour themes of the film act as an editing criteria. And I love what you say about how looking closely at the film for your knitting helped you to more deeply appreciate the vision of Wim Wenders in the direction… I think that’s really important, that through processes of observation, we can learn so much not just for knitting but in general. You did an amazing series of photos on instagram where you showed frames from the film beside bits of knitting that you created in relation to each one. They are so great! What I find most inspiring about looking through them is seeing how you have adapted the complex, high resolution world of the film to the medium of stranded colourwork. For instance in the image above, you made the building shapes much simpler than it is in the film, and then organised the colours of the sunset behind it. And in the section below, you have found ways of translating the neon sign into your knitting. It’s brilliant! I wondered if you could talk about how you broke the building and the sign down into shapes for your knitting?

Neon from the film turned into glowing red motifs in the swatch
Neon from the film turned into glowing red motifs in the swatch

Yumi: Unlike painting, there are some limitations in stranded colourwork. For example;

1. Shades are limited.
2. Each row has only 2 colours.
3. Very long horizontal lines (strands) should be avoided.

With these limitations, I was trying to represent my impressions of the film with simplified patterns and colours, never attempting to sketch the scenes themselves for making patterns. Therefore, I dismantled existent images in my imaginary notepad and then extracted essential shapes and colours to rebuild them in my knitting. At the same time, I wanted these patterns to be easy to work, hopefully fun to knit!

Taking essential shapes and colours from the visual language of the film
Taking essential shapes and colours from the visual language of the film

The scene of the buildings in the setting sun is in the ending of the film. A separation and a reunion are condensed in this part. This is a short but impressive scene, symbolizing hope when the boy finally meets his mother and they start a new life together, an eternal parting of the man and the woman, and a loneliness of the man who sets off his journey again. I thought that Wenders represented them by the green light on the car park, the dark blue sky and the red sunset. These colours are more important to me than the shape of the building.

The scene of the neon sign is a sort of link inserted between scenes along the path of the characters’ journey, and is one of my favourite images. It shows not only the passage of time and distance but also the desolated feeling of the desert they are traveling through, and the impression that Wenders (who is German) received from the landscape and culture of a contemporary United States of America. I tried to make the glitter of the motel’s sign – which flashes on and off, sadly – into a realistic pattern. However, it didn’t work well. So I broke up and simplified its shape. I believe that this trial somehow succeeded in representing the glitter itself.

Paris, Texas swatch detail
Paris, Texas swatch detail

Felix: I love the section with the red light silhouetting the man. It feels to me like this is the sort of pattern that is particularly film-like. It’s all about the light and shadows… Mixing the dark charcoal shade with the reds is really effective; it darkens the reds and also enables you to create space around the figure to help it to stand out. Did you have to do a lot of drawing to work out what to do, and how did you figure out the shading sequence for the pinks and reds?

Yumi: This red light silhouetting the man, and the woman in a fuchsia mohair sweater, are the key motifs in this swatch. These motifs also are the core of the colour image, “black and red”. Making a pattern of this silhouette was just like a painting. It seems to have come spontaneously. I knitted the motif with six yarn balls of red and pink arranged on a table in order, to represent the red light coming down from the top of the stairs.

The man outlined in red light, the woman in her fuchsia mohair sweater
The man outlined in red light, the woman in her fuchsia mohair sweater

Felix: I do that too – arrange the balls for my shading sequence in order on the table and then progress through them while I knit!

I was also struck in your swatch by your fantastic ability to make do. What I mean is that you didn’t seem to get too stuck in thinking “I need every single colour to make this work”. Instead, it feels as though you have found ways of making a limited palette really work for you. For instance here you have used just a few of the shades that appear in that line of hanging lights and – because they are such a great match for some of the hanging lights and because of the shape of your pattern – they do a wonderful job of referencing this scene from the film.

The lovely hanging lights
The lovely hanging lights

Yumi: What you are saying about my usage of a limited palette is obviously true. I suppose I didn’t get too stuck in thinking that I needed every single colour. This is partly because I do not have all the shades of J&S, and partly because I did not choose colours blindly from a lot of shades to make a palette. By watching Paris, Texas so many times, I was able to pick out selected representative colours. In other words, these colours – constituting the knitting palette – already existed in my mind before I began swatching.

When I was a junior high school student, I was in the wind band. I used to play clarinet and I memorized musical scores by colours. It may sound weird, but for me every single note and melody had its own colour. When people are listening to music, someone might bring a breathtaking scene to mind and someone else might think of pleasing poetry. Maybe I am the type of person to receive impressions mainly through colour. This swatch is the final result of my journey to pursue the colours in me. Every colour in the hanging lights represents the essence of the swatch and my colour-focused impression of the film.

Yumi's beautiful mitts based on  autumn trees and persimmons
Yumi’s beautiful mitts based on autumn trees and persimmons

Felix: I have loved seeing two pairs of mitts that you recently posted on instagram, inspired by leaves and light in the trees, and by persimmons in a basket. These beautiful mitts strike me as a really subtle and restrained application of the KNITSONIK system – you have taken just a couple of colours and design elements from the basketwork and the leaves in the trees and then combined them to make subtle and distinctive designs. They are wonderful! Do you think that working intensely with the Lotus and Paris, Texas has given you confidence for finding colour inspiration and patterns? And were you surprised (as I was) to see how reversing the dark and light in each pair of mitts transformed the overall design?

Persimmon mitts designed by Yumi
Persimmon mitts designed by Yumi
Komorebi mitts designed by Yumi
Komorebi mitts designed by Yumi

Yumi: I designed using more than ten shades in each of the previous works. So I wanted to have another adventure in a totally opposite way this time. In other words, I became interested in what would happen if I knit mitts in a very simple pattern with minimal colours. And I decided to use a very Japanese inspiration source because these mitts were to be Christmas presents for my friends in the UK! It was a big surprise and a great joy to see this restrained, simple pattern come to life according to my choice of colours and the inversion of the light and dark in each pair of mitts.

Komorebi - a Japanese word that roughly means 'sunlight filtering through the leaves of trees'
Komorebi – a Japanese word that roughly means ‘sunlight filtering through the leaves of trees’
Persimmon
Persimmons!

Felix: How lovely that in Japan there is a specific word for ‘sunlight filtering through trees’, Komorebi, and how inspiring to see how minimal a stranded colourwork inspiration can be.

You have been joining in with the KNITSONIK Mittsalong (hurrah!) and I was blown away by a photo that you shared in the KNITSONIK Ravelry group, showing how you had found one of your motifs. Did you put the triangles over the image and then play with those shapes and the colours inside them in your knitting and have you used this technique before to find patterns in photos or images?

Finding shapes and patterns in a photo from Silchester, many miles from where Yumi lives
Finding shapes and patterns in a photo from Silchester, many miles from where Yumi lives

Yumi: Shortly after I started working on projects using the KNITSONIK system, my partner Tatsuya, who is a photographer, saw some photographs that I took on traveling and daily walking and told me “your photos are better than before. You’ve got a good eye.” These words made me happier than words like “the technique of your knitting has improved”. He has always taught me how to appreciate classic pictures by our favourite photographers. I have been widening my viewpoints for not only various inspiration sources for swatching, but also for viewing various things in everyday life.

I have never been to Silchester where the Roman Wall – the inspiration source for the mitts-a-long – stands. So I was trying to get the atmosphere and characteristics by examining the photographs closely. Then suddenly, two triangles facing each other appeared in front of me. I liked these triangles which could express the depth of space… considering this space also pays homage to the ancient Romans who once walked this path.

Silchester mitts-a-long swatch
Silchester mitts-a-long swatch

Felix: I invented the mitts-a-long because some comrades were really unhappy about the idea of working a swatch for its own sake and preferred the idea of using an actual garment as a swatch in itself. This was a challenge to me, as I prefer to make a massive swatch first, and then make garments with the patterns I like best! However I feel you found a happy medium because you made a micro swatch for your mitts before you made them. What did you change in the final mitts after making your swatch?

Yumi: I have the same feeling as you. I prefer to swatch first. I’m scared to make garments without swatches! I admit I was so timid that I decided to make a micro swatch (CO 30sts) at first to make sure the patterns and colours were good.

A 30 stitch wide micro-swatch!
A 30 stitch wide micro-swatch!

The difference between a swatch and garments is whether you wear it or not. In my opinion, the garments should look comfortable or sexy or inspiring. And of course, they must be beautiful. After having made the micro swatch, I adjusted the motif designs and overall colour-balance, trying to make these beautiful. What I found in this delightful mitts-a-long was that designing garments is absolutely fun!

Silchester mitts designed by Yumi
Silchester mitts designed by Yumi

Felix: I was really interested by what you said in your notes for the project about not being sure if you could knit from an inspiration source that you did not know in real life. Was it much harder to work from photographs and could you say a bit about how it was different?

Yumi: Oh, yes, it was much harder. Luckily or unluckily, there are no ancient Roman ruins in this country. I had no idea what exactly the stone wall at Silchester looked like. It was a challenge to make a pattern from a few photographs and I got some of my associations from a Japanese castle wall. I was pleased with how it turned out and thought that our imagination can also be an inspiration source for swatching. Maybe everything in this world, whether it is real or not, can be knitted in stranded colourwork!

A glorious translation of stone walls into knitted mitts, designed by Yumi
A glorious translation of stone walls into knitted mitts, designed by Yumi

Felix: I CERTAINLY THINK SO! Thank you so much for answering all my questions and for sharing your beautiful work on the KNITSONIK blog! Do you have any new swatches or colourwork projects on the go and where can people see more of your beautiful work?

Yumi: I’m currently working on the project of knitting mitts (again!). After that, I am hoping to start working on another swatching. You can find me on Instagram and Ravelry. Thank you!

Huge thanks to Yumi for patiently answering all my nerdy questions and for sharing your beautiful work, it has been a pleasure having you on the KNITSONIK blog today!

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A peek inside The Sonic Wardrobe

Today I want to share a video with you that has been created by Chris Baines and my friends at OCM; it offers a peek into the workings behind The Sonic Wardrobe and gives a small taste of The Fabric of Oxford. Best of all, you can hear the voices of some of the comrades whom I recorded in the course of the project. They are, in order; Prue Drew, Marilyn Ching, Richard Martin, Hazel Bleay, David Francis (Fran), Amir Rana and Jean Fisher and you can hear their voices in the background under the footage of me in action at KNITSONIK HQ.

The Fabric of Oxford | Sonic Wardrobe from OCM on Vimeo.

You can see The Sonic Wardrobe at the 40 Years, 40 Objects exhibition currently on display in The Town Hall at Oxford from 10am – 5pm, Monday – Saturday.

Jean Fisher was an enormously talented seamstress whom I had the pleasure of interviewing earlier this year; she sadly passed away a few days after The Fabric of Oxford lecture performance, which featured several of her precious recollections of making clothes for herself and for Elliston & Cavell within the city.

Her friendly presence, extraordinary skills and memories will be much missed and The Fabric of Oxford and The Sonic Wardrobe are dedicated to her memory.

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Coming to the end of the second print run of KNITSONIK

Greetings, Comrades.

Exactly one year ago, this happened.

The second print run arriving one year ago today!
The second print run of the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook arriving outside our home on 22nd January, 2015. My friend Emmylou was here to help with the heavy lifting

Now, thanks to all of you who have bought the book, stocked the book and told your friends about the book, stocks are running slightly low.

The book has sold steadily since its first print run in October 2014. Happily, people are still citing it as a useful and practical guide to translating everyday inspirations into stranded colourwork, and as time goes on, more and more lovely projects appear on Ravelry inspired by the concepts and methods laid out in the book. It is very likely that I will arrange a third print run in the course of 2016. However these things take time to set up and I cannot guarantee that the book will be continuously available. I do not wish for anyone to be disappointed, so if you you have been wondering whether or not to buy a copy of my book, now is probably the time!

The KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook
The KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook

I am thrilled that so many of you seem to like the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook and I feel particularly thankful to the amazing 447 Kickstarter backers who enabled me to produce it in the first place. Your encouragement and support got this adventure off the ground and I am thankful for it every day.

THANK YOU!
THANK YOU!

Selling and distributing the book, and teaching classes all over the UK, has given me knowledge, insights and resources to pour into new KNITSONIK adventures! I can’t wait to tell you all about the projects I’m proposing for 2016 but, in the meantime, buy my book while you can and stay tuned for more adventures in Stranded Colourwork!

YOURS IN ADVENTURES,
FX

Twinkle twinkle!
Twinkle twinkle!
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#knitsonikmittsalong mitts return to Silchester!

KNITSONIK Silchester Mitts photographed with ancient Roman wall
KNITSONIK Silchester Mitts photographed with ancient Roman wall

Yesterday was the perfect afternoon for a trip to Silchester. At Silchester you can see the beautiful Roman wall and amphitheatre that were the inspiration source for the #knitsonikmittsalong kits that I produced last October.

KNITSONIK mitts-a-long kits
KNITSONIK mitts-a-long kits

I’m still feeling my way with stuff like producing kits. I’ve been both excited to see other people’s mitts appearing on Ravelry, and keen to complete my own. For my mitts I created motifs as I went based on the flints, the greenery around the ancient walls, and the shapes of the rocks in the mossy wall. After I had created the first mitt, I then made the second one, adapting each motif by either changing the pattern slightly or tweaking the shading. I kept the height of each motif the same in both mitts, in order to make a pair that were matchy but not identical.

My #knitsonikmittsalong mitts
My #knitsonikmittsalong mitts
Mitt no. 1, photographed against the mossy textures of the wall at Silchester
Mitt no. 1, photographed against the mossy textures of the wall at Silchester
Mitt no. 2, photographed against the mossy textures of the wall at Silchester
Mitt no. 2, photographed against the mossy textures of the wall at Silchester

Here are some of the amazing mitts completed by other KNITSONIK comrades so far in the #knitsonikmittsalong… you can click on each picture to be taken to its corresponding Ravelry project page.

Mitts by Ulrica
Mitts by Ulrica
Mitts by Nicola
Mitts by Nicola
Mitts by Yumi
Mitts by Yumi

I love the variety of ways in which the grey-green palette that I proposed for these mitts has been put to use and modified by comrades and am really looking forward to seeing all the different projects at the end of the month. I will be sharing them here! It’s really interesting to notice how different people look and see, and which details stand out to different creative souls and sensibilities… and though all the mitts together look similar and related, each pair is also as individual as its talented maker.

Myself and Mark have walked at Silchester many times and have often mused on the inspiring qualities of the old wall. Running the mittsalong provided me with an incentive to crack on and do something with that inspiration… to immediately put it to work. Creative ideas can often stay as just that – ideas – and there is something very exciting about acting on an impulse right away rather than allowing it to idle indefinitely. Deadlines and doing stuff with other people are great strategies for just getting on with something. January is often a sad time of year for me and this year I had a big project to complete and have been unwell to boot. However I have deeply enjoyed playing with colours and patterns in these mitts over the past couple of weeks, and must confess that even if I say so myself, playing with The KNITSONIK System has really cheered me up. I spent some time thinking about how to style my completed mitts at Silchester, identifying a matchy nail varnish from within my extensive collection (ahem) and using a gift card that was a present for my last birthday to purchase some joyous, well-matched bling. I rummaged about for an appropriately coloured dress in my wardrobe, plus hat and shawl (it’s been cold!) and then off we went to play outside in the handknits with a camera…

Twinkle twinkle!
Twinkle twinkle!

…I sat on the wall… and we played with the Alpacas who live on a farm situated at the perimeter of the Roman Wall…

Hello Alpaca buddies!
Hello Alpaca buddies!
Hello again!
Hello again!
Alpaca in the golden afternoon light
Alpaca in the golden afternoon light

…I hugged a tree…

Treehugger
Treehugger

…and I threw some strange shapes in efforts to demonstrate the spooky resemblance between the mitts and the context they represent.

a totally natural wall-massaging posture
a totally natural wall-massaging posture

Our photoshoot and working on the mitts have both been a fantastic reminder to me of the importance of play, and how it can really deepen your enjoyment and pleasure in everyday life. I will never look at moss and flint in the same way again, and I hope my comrades in this #knitsonikmittsalong feel the same way.

Thanks to Mark Stanley for taking all the photos, I’ll be back soon to introduce you to some other comrades who have been experimenting with The KNITSONIK System, until then I am YOURS IN MITTS XF

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