#knitsonikcaterpillars

Some of you may remember #knitsonikpomegranates – this was a virtual swatch-a-long: folks wishing to explore the KNITSONIK system with some friendly online comrades embarked on a mission to celebrate THE POMEGRANATE in stranded colourwork with gloriously varied and exciting results.

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

We each organised our own yarns and images, began drawing patterns from our pomegranates, and shared the results of our endeavours in a big online reveal. It was astonishing to see the different ways in which the humble pomegranate appeared in our knitting, and how individual knitters tackled the restrictions and structure of the medium.

ways of breaking up pomegranates to avoid long strands on the back of the work
ways of breaking up pomegranates to avoid long strands on the back of the work

If you are on Ravelry you can see the results of this first KNITSONIK swatch-a-long by searching in projects for #knitsonikpomegranates, and you can read all about the experiment here.

With #knitsonikpomegranates there were no restrictions on the nature of one’s pomegranates. Folk worked from paintings, drawings, photos… one other knitter even worked from a real pomegranate tree in her neighbourhood. These different contexts and inspiration sources shaped the ideas we came up with; for example Labistrake photographed her pomegranates in a beautiful blue interior, and this background colour became a crucial element in her palette for celebrating pomegranates in stranded colourwork

Pomegranate swatch by Labistrake
Pomegranate swatch by Labistrake

…while other comrades chose paintings and embroidery of pomegranates as inspiration sources – the nature of which profoundly influenced their palettes and shading schemes.

Using found prints or textiles to record inspiration sources
Using found prints or textiles to record inspiration sources

Following #knitsonikpomegranates there was some exciting discussion in the KNITSONIK forum about what would happen if we worked together from the same set of images, and that a photo by Fergus Ford – my talented brother and the photographer for the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook – would provide a good jumping off point. We wanted to see if working from a narrower set of inspirations would create more similar results, or if the different ways in which knitters interpreted the source would appear more pronounced.

Frangipani Caterpillars photographed by Fergus Ford
Frangipani Caterpillars photographed by Fergus Ford

When Fergus lived in Barbados I loved reading about his daily life on his blog. This glimpse into the fauna of the Carribean was one of my favourite posts; the Frangipani Caterpillars looked utterly unlike anything here in the UK, and I loved the sense that Ferg had just stumbled on them on his way into work. So dazzling! So velvety black! So very hungry and voracious! We could work from the Frangipani Caterpillars! A rough deadline was set (end of June), rules were drawn up, and the new #knitsonikcaterpillars swatch-a-long commenced!

This photo above is the one from the post with which I was most captivated, however the rules for the #knitsonikcaterpillars swatch-a-long were that you could work with ANY of the photos from the blog post, and in the end I think I looked at this one more than any others while coming up with my designs.

Frangipani caterpillar, photographed by Fergus Ford in Barbados
Frangipani caterpillar, photographed by Fergus Ford in Barbados

For my #knitsonikcaterpillars swatch I used mostly Jamieson & Smith 2-ply Jumper Weight Yarn, but my palette was augmented by some beautiful mini-skeins of Elemental Affects Shetland Fingering Weight which were a gift from Brenda at the wondrous Gwlana retreat in May. These mini skeins work very well with Jamieson & Smith 2-ply and included a fluorescent yellow, an acidic lemon yellow and a fresh lime green – all of which proved useful in my knitterly explorations of caterpillar stripes.

The beauteous black of shade 77 in the Jamieson & Smith range is the most commonly used colour throughout my swatch, and I LOVE how the luminous reds, greens and yellows sing against its inky darkness. The whole swatch is quite unlike anything I have ever knitted before, and it reminds me of a black sweater I had in the 1980s which featured a fluorescent rainbow of stripes across the chest…

The first part of my #knitsonikcaterpillars swatch
The first part of my #knitsonikcaterpillars swatch

…from left to right this portion of the swatch shows my attempts to interpret the irregular stripes on the caterpillar’s body; the jointed legs of the caterpillar; a twig detailed in another photo from Ferg’s blog post; and the non-uniform dottiness on the caterpillar’s head… these themes continue throughout the swatch.

My #knitsonikcaterpillars swatch, the second half
My #knitsonikcaterpillars swatch, the second half
Frangipani Caterpillars celebrated in stranded colourwork by KNITSONIK
Frangipani Caterpillars celebrated in stranded colourwork by KNITSONIK

I have played in Photoshop to try and show you where I found my ideas by looking at Ferg’s photos.

Explorations of irregular caterpillar stripes and leaf structures in stranded colourwork
Explorations of irregular caterpillar stripes and leaf structures in stranded colourwork
Irregular dots on the caterpillar's head, dots and greens on the branches on which the caterpillar crawls
Irregular dots on the caterpillar’s head, dots and greens on the branches on which the caterpillar crawls

The claspers were tricky; I searched for a way to show how they are jointed, pointy, thick… my initial charted pattern did not work as intended when I first knitted it and it occurred to me that it would be interesting to turn it the other way, so that the pointy little legs were organised like arrows horizontally across the knitting. However that did not work well either in my opinion, and I decided (as I often do when swatching) to park that idea and try something else. I looked at the interesting shapes of the caterpillar heads and worked with those instead. The results are a bit heart-shaped but I am pleased with this motif and will keep thinking on the clumpy little claspers and the best way to represent them in stranded colourwork.

Experimenting with the shapes of the claspers and head of the Caterpillars
Experimenting with the shapes of the claspers and heads of the caterpillars

Maybe one of my comrades joining in with this swatch-a-long has found ways of knitting the claspers with more success than me…

As with many stranded colourwork adventures, I found that sometimes the patterns which are most exciting in the knitting are the least like the original inspiration source. I don’t know about you but my eyes are drawn instinctively to the luminous curvy shapes which were meant to portray the caterpillar stripes. In reality there is much more black space between the irregular stripes than is suggested in this pattern, but I really like how it captures the neat nick in the stripes, and the beautiful transitions between yellow and green in the caterpillar’s colouring. I also think there is something plump in the juicy body of the caterpillar (don’t ask me how I know so much about caterpillars) and that this comes through in the roundness of the shapes…

Plump caterpillar with lovely curved stripes
Plump caterpillar with lovely curved stripes
Plump shapes with colours from caterpillar stripes and pleasing nick in the sides
Plump shapes with colours from caterpillar stripes and pleasing nick in the sides

…the other bit I really like on my swatch is the part near the end where I tried to put more space between the yellow stripes, and to capture something of the leaf veins on the foliage on which the caterpillars were chowing down.

Leaf foliage and widely placed caterpillar stripes
Leaf foliage and widely placed caterpillar stripes

I hope you have enjoyed exploring my KNITSONIK process a bit and that you are looking forward to seeing what was made by other comrades partaking of the swatch-a-long! I can’t wait to see how other knitters interpreted #knitsonikcaterpillars and whether working from the same photos has produced more diverse or similar results than in #knitsonikpomegranates.

There has been some stuff going on recently in my family which has disrupted the KNITSONIK podcasting schedule but fear not, I will be back soon with more sounds and more news, and hopefully with more CATERPILLARS!

YOURS IN SWATCHING,
FX

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