One of the best things about exploring The KNITSONIK System with comrades is seeing the diverse ways in which knitters view the world. This is always a subject of discussion in classes! Differences in perspective and perception become really clear at the end of a workshop when everyone holds up their swatches for all to see. Several folks have mentioned that they’d like to know how these differences might present if a group of knitters work from the same inspiration source. With that in mind #knitsonikpomegranates began just before Christmas – an online swatch-a-long in which curious knitters created stranded colourwork swatches taking pomegranates as their inspiration. Tagging swatch projects #knitsonikpomegranates enabled us to see each other’s work when searching Ravelry projects: projects tagged #knitsonikpomegranates on Ravelry and, as you’ll see, the results are as varied and colourful as their creators.
I thought you might enjoy reading what we learnt (because we learnt a lot) and I wanted to show you the swatches produced during our experiment (because they are gorgeous).
We discussed how much to reveal while working on our swatches and decided that while little teasers are encouraging and morale-boosting, sharing whole sections of swatches too early on in the process might end up with us all copying each other!
With tasty snippets appearing here and there in our online chatter, we beavered away in relative secrecy with an end-of-February deadline for a big reveal and over the last few days amazing pomegranate-inspired stranded colourwork began appearing in the Ravelry thread!
Inspiration & Palettes
Pomegranates are a nice flexible inspiration source because they are widely represented in art and design, and because they can also be purchased in the flesh for those who like to work from physical things. One of the first ways in which knitters are different is in how we collect and use inspiration. Finding a beautiful piece of fabric or embroidery seems to really do it for some people. For others a bit of art is what gets the knitterly mojo going. For me, nothing really beats making a mess in the kitchen. I was fascinated by the diverse ways in which folk interpreted the inspiration source, and confess to being rather envious of knitters in warmer climates able to record pomegranates growing on actual trees.
This is a montage of images that folks posted on their project pages for inspiration. I love how the different ways in which we recorded our inspiration individuated our work.
For instance Sorosa and DonnaC2 found existing artworks – embroidery and print – for inspiration. Seeing how others have interpreted an object can be a brilliant starting point. It narrows down infinite colour choices and I love the distinctive palettes that emerged through consulting these artistic interpretations.
Working directly from pomegranates also produces diverse results; my seeds scattered on a white plate from a very ripe fruit yielded a very pink palette for my pomegranate swatch, while Labistrake had much paler seeds. Arranging them against the background of her blue trailer produced a breathtaking motif of delicate peachy pinks on mid blue. I got juice everywhere while her seeds are neatly arranged – a precision which continues in her neatly ordered stitch patterns vs. my asymmetric motifs.
Jbwb writes that she too “was inspired by the real pomegranate itself. Mainly I was playing with trying to use the interior with the waxy cells and seeds (which looked creamy white and yellow and even gray at the edges) and the layers of colors in the peel”. There is exciting evidence of looking and seeing and examining and exploring a physical thing in the section of the swatch to which she refers.
There is something equally inventive about nisseknits’ approach to managing inspiration. She challenged herself to work without neutrals, and so chose an amazingly colourful painting as a jumping off point. I love the boldness of this choice and the unabashed and vivid palette; I also think – given the busyness of the painting – that it was a good idea to use a simplified pomegranate motif from a fabric design on spoonflower.
Spoonflower is an amazing resource for seeing how other creative people have created repeating patterns on fabric – just look at how many wondrouspomegranate-inspired designs are featured there! Kizmet also used a spoonflower fabric design as inspiration for exploring the many shades and shapes of pomegranate seeds.
I love all these knitterly styles of collecting and using inspiration and as you can see – whether working with a physical object or a photo or a painting – they have a huge influence on palettes! But they also evidence the different creative sensibilities of knitters.
Pomegranates present one particular problem for knitters of stranded colourwork: they are big and round – a shape which can create some stranding issues if you want to be literal in your translations. I love looking at how many ways we found of breaking up that large pomegranate shape and avoiding long strands on the back of the work.
Another creative strategy for solving this problem involved showing just a section or segment of the pomegranate, like the curve at the edge or cross sections created by cutting the fruit open.
We also all messed around in one way or another with depicting the seeds; I love how some of us went big on this in our patterns, and how some of us went small.
For me the most exciting thing about #knitsonikpomegranates is seeing all the projects side by side. It really shows how knitters can take something as defined as a pomegranate seed and push it in completely different directions.
Some of the patterns that we produced are quite amorphous too; the curves could be the edges of the whole fruit or the rounded end of a seed. It doesn’t matter, the point is that in looking and seeing and in finding details, pomegranate-ness begins to emerge.
When thinking about patterns I am always interested in how different ideas can create a sense of rhythm across a garment. DonnaDz notes that she “tried to capture the way the leaves move in the wind as well as the seeds, arils, and the shape of the fruit” and that sense of rhythm and movement definitely appears in the strong diagonals of her leaves and pomegranates.
One of the most useful things about swatching is that is reveals how different yarn shades interact. Looking at all the #knitsonikpomegranates swatches together presents a lot of information about how shifts in background and pattern yarns can work with different kinds of palettes.
I used Appleton’s Crewel Wool held double for my swatch, meaning there were always 4 strands of yarn in play (2 for the background colour and 2 for the pattern). I sometimes swapped one of the background or pattern yarns for another to create super subtle transitions. Though this was fiddly and made yarn management a bit tricky, I love how I was able to describe the turbo pinks and reds of my pomegranate with this technique.
My swatch is really hard to photograph because it’s so luminous and warm; the brightness confuses the white balance on my camera! I like that almost neon effect but there is something magnificent about how introducing some contrasting cool shades like grey and blue can help those bright saturated pomegranate colours to really stand out.
DonnaC2’s swatch looks so nice photographed against that grey wicker that I had to keep some of it in the frame; there is something so wonderful about how restrained the colours are in this palette and how well those greys and reds sing together.
Similarly, the way the blue trailer background animates the pinks and peaches in Labistrake’s swatch just kills me; I think you can see how well the colours are going to work from the very first photo she posted of a pomegranate against that glorious blue. The blue is so bright and warm and lovely against the peach – in the knitting and also in the photos.
The shading also works beautifully in DonnaDz’s swatch and it’s interesting to read her notes and to see how she found ideas for managing colour transitions by looking at the fruits themselves. That burst of vivid orange pink is a precious shot of life in an otherwise understated palette but if you check out her photos you can see that there really is an amazing burst of unreal colour in one of the shots and that her observations of this and of light on the smooth soft skin of the ripening fruits have really informed all her shading decisions. It’s uncannily realistic.
The greens and reds in Kizmet’s beautiful swatch seem really autumnal together in contrast to how delicate and springlike they are in DonnaDz’s work. Kizmet’s chunkier designs speak to the succulence of the pomegranate and its wondrous, solid roundness… whereas DonnaDz’s captures beautifully the lacy, tendril-like aspects of the leaves – something I had never thought about until I saw her photos of pomegranate trees.
Nisseknits’ swatch conveys the quest for a pleasing combination of blues and greens in background and pinks and reds in pattern; it’s a challenging mission and the iterations of the design as she works it out are full of information. In her notes she says “I’m pretty happy with the final attempt but I think there’s too much light green. I think I’d make the dark blues more dominant and lessen the greens if I made a fourth” and you can see that thought process – visible learning – happening in the knitting. It is beauteous!
I also see visible learning in Mcginnypig’s swatch – a gorgeous record of seeing and documenting colours and patterns in yarn; a document of process; an exercise in mark-making.
The golds and deep greens in Sorosa’s swatch are really vibrant and I love what is going on a little ways in on the left with that dramatic shading from yellow through greens into purples; also the contrast between that exuberant section and the far more restrained motif in dark purple pinks further along to the right. I love how both this swatch and LaylaKnits’ swatches redefine PINK. It’s so nice to look at them side by side and to see how differently pink behaves in proximity to other shades.
The shading scheme that is the biggest surprise is the one in Jbwb’s swatch – the section based on the membranes between the seeds. I love how specific this one section is and how you would almost never design that in stranded colourwork unless you were studying a pomegranate really carefully and with a sense of wonder. It’s so subtle and unexpected and such a reminder that inspiration lurks in the most unexpected of places.
Thank you to all the comrades who joined in with #knitsonikpomegranates and for letting me share your amazing work here – I hope you all learnt as much as I did from swatching together! And if you’re reading about this for the first time I hope you’ve found it interesting.
We’re already planning another swatch-a-long on the KNITSONIK Ravelry forum for those who missed this round, and I’m expanding my classes repetoire to include classes in which knitters explore the same inspiration source together.
In the meantime, if you would like to experience the KNITSONIK system in person I shall be teaching my Quotidian Colourwork class on 26th March in London with Yarn in the City, and at Gwlana with Brenda Dayne in May. Though there will not necessarily be any pomegranates at those events there will definitely be other knitters. And as I hope this post shows, when it comes to colourwork and life in general, that’s often a very fine thing.
YOURS IN POMEGRANATES,