31st January was the deadline for the inaugural #knitsonikmittsalong in which knitters were invited to participate in a collective adventure in designing stranded colourwork. We use my Fingerless Mitts pattern as a template, and by public vote, a beautiful old Roman wall at Silchester was the selected inspiration source. We cast on together – some of us in Lerwick during Shetland Wool Week – on October 1st, 2015.
From the beautiful old Roman wall, I drew a palette of 8 relevant shades of Jamieson & Smith 2-ply Jumper Weight yarn and created a small number of kits for knitters wishing to buy them. However purchasing a kit was not a prerequisite for joining the #knitsonikmittsalong or – as Katherine has brilliantly dubbed it – the MITTSONIK. The MITTSONIK was conceived after my blog post series exploring swatching; as a means of exploring the KNITSONIK System and of having wearable garments at the end of the process. The time frame was long enough to enable knitters to fit this creative project in around the other winter knitting that occurs over the festive season. In spite of that other knitting, several beauteous and experimental pairs of mitts have appeared on Ravelry in recent weeks taking their inspiration from the gorgeous stones of Silchester and I thought it might be nice to reflect on them today, before the second #knitsonikmittsalong begins, on 1st March 2016!
I love a good KAL and the camaraderie to be found between knitters collectively embarking on a similar adventure… few things are a more joyous addition to knitting projects than tasty beverages and sheep. Hurrah for social media that allows this fun to be shared.
In my book I have tried to express that creativity can be found everywhere in daily life and that everyone is capable of practicing it. One of the risks of using the Roman walls of Silchester as an inspiration source is that it is very geographically specific and not easily accessible to everyone participating in the #knitsonikmittsalong (AKA MITTSONIK). However several comrades found wondrous creative ways to place the palette I chose for this project squarely within their own lives and to reclaim the colours for themselves. I love these images for their sense of creativity and play and for how they show the mittsonik yarn shades being redrawn to reflect the places and contexts important to their makers.
I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with a palette of 8 representative shades for the first #knitsonikmittsalong.
Because I was mindful that other people wanted to get this yarn palette and didn’t want to spend hundreds of pounds on ALL THE COLOURS, I concentrated on finding the most dominant and standout shades in the inspiration source and identifying a great enough range of darks and lights within those shades to enable satisfying shading experiments. To economise, I looked to yarn shades that would do more than one job. I chose very warm greens – FC11 and FC12 – to describe the mossy textures of the wall. FC12 is blended with browns, golds and even some orange tones that I hoped would both describe the rich greens of the moss itself, and suggest the tawny cast to some of the flints in the wall.
Similarly, 121 is a sort of grubby yellow shade and, because of its proximity to both the green shades and the greys, I felt it could both warm grey areas up with a touch of yellow, and cool green areas down with a bit of grellow.
However my interpretation of the colours at Silchester is clearly subjective, and one of the most interesting elements of the MITTSONIK for me, was seeing how other comrades selected their palettes. Each of these gives a fresh new perspective on those old Roman walls.
As well as seeing the different palettes that people picked, it was also fascinating to see how other people used the palette I had selected in ways I had not thought of at all. As in previous collective KNITSONIK adventures like #knitsonikcaterpillars and #knitsonikpomegranates even with similar and sometimes identical palettes, everyone’s mitts turned out differently, and we all took a different approach to ‘matching’ our pairs.
Even within a relatively limited palette, shades can be employed in many different ways. I love the soft and dreamlike quality that Ulrica achieved with her small motifs and subtle shifts in shading… the widespread use of 121 throughout her mitts gives them a golden glow…
…and at the other end of the scale, Nicola has achieved a joyous bold geometry in the shapes of her rocks and plants.
I love Yumi’s small discrete patterns standing out cleanly against the background shades she chose, and full of delightful intricacy that draws you in.
…and the way that Bev has made her softly shaded greys stand out against the bold golden oranges she found in her stash. (Not to mention that she busted out a TAM after completing the mitts!!!)
I love the subtle shifts in colour throughout Labistrake’s mitts too; the way the pattern shifts in and out of focus and the very organic feeling with which she has imbued her design.
And in my own design, I was pleased with what I learnt by using the same motifs on both mitts and switching up the colours in each iteration.
I think it’s very interesting to see how making a pattern larger or smaller changes its dominance in a design, and how many ways there are to describe a stone in stranded colourwork.
Each design speaks of rocks and moss, but from the unique vantage point of its creator, and the spectrum of ideas from bold and bright through to subtle and tiny is really inspiring to observe. I also love the different approaches to creative process that appeared in this first MITTSONIK. Yumi’s careful mini-swatch worked prior to making her mitts and Alix’s neat charts produced before even casting on… then at the other end of the scale, swatching on the mitts themselves, and experimenting happily on the needles. There is no right or wrong approach and the variety is fascinating; for some knitters a non-matching pair of mitts is a deal-breaker whereas for others, that idea is just too restrictive.
I hope you have enjoyed seeing the range of responses to the Roman wall of Silchester and that everyone who participated and who is still working on this MITTSONIK enjoyed our collective adventure. I feel like I have just scratched the surface here in talking about the beautiful mitts that people made during this first #knitsonikmittsalong and I would love to hear your thoughts, as, I am sure, would the mittsonik buddies. You can see all the projects here on Ravelry; let us know what you think.
For anyone feeling inspired to have a go at making mitts inspired by Silchester, the moodboard and pattern instructions are now available to buy as a digital download in my online shop, where you can also find a list of the 8 colours I proposed for this first #knitsonikmittsalong and links to my favourite stockists of Jamieson & Smith yarn. For those who would like to try a completely different theme, the spring #knitsonikmittsalong is themed around Magnolia trees and begins on March 1st.
Thanks to everyone who joined the first MITTSONIK, I hope you enjoy wearing your MITTS!
YOURS IN MITTSONIK,