I didn’t mean to leave it so long between the last post and this one. And now, because it’s been so long, I’ve got loads to share! Pull up a chair and maybe fetch a beverage…
The headline is that I’m off to the USA on Sunday for two weeks. I’m beginning my adventures in the Bay Area, staying with my friend Janine Bajus, and ending up in Wisconsin for the legendary annual event that is Knit Camp with Meg Swansen and Amy Detjen.
Many of you will already know Janine’s work as the famed “Feral Knitter” and author of The Joy of Color – a book about designing stranded colourwork garments in your own colourways and styles or, as Janine puts it, “Fair Isle Knitting Your Way”. It contains a wealth of practical information about colours, steps in the creative process, resources for this kind of knitting, and a glorious array of case study garments designed both by Janine and those who have been lucky enough to take a class with her. The whole atmosphere of the book is inclusive, generous and celebratory, and every bit as colourful as the title promises.
It’s more a book about process than of patterns, but there is lots of useful information in it about garment construction plus a nifty appendix of templates and instructions for knitting a speed swatch; a hat; a tam; a scarf; and some fingerless mitts. There’s also an alphabet template with which you are warmly encouraged to “sign” your knitting – a fantastic detail that epitomises the rich philosophy at the heart of Janine’s work.
The Joy of Color is the culmination of many years of teaching and from Janine’s “unstoppable can-do attitude and step-by-step methods” and it was in my own workshops that I first discovered Janine’s work through students who spoke in glowing terms of “the Feral Knitter”. Although we do something quite similar, we each come to it from a different place. I feel I learn so much every time I dip into The Joy of Color and see the amazing things designed by Janine and those who have been lucky enough to take a class with her and I just love the way she writes about colours, about designing, about knitting, and about wool. I especially love this, which we shared on the Wovember blog last year:
Wear your sweater whenever you can – don’t save it for special occasions. Let it become your signature in the world, a quiet symbol of intelligence, skill, persistence, and the power of individual beauty in an over-commodified world.
Revel in its warmth, privately thanking the thousands of people who helped you bring your vision to life: the shepherds, the veterinarians, the fence builders, the shearers, the mill workers, the truck drivers, the dyers, the label printers, the shop owners, the teachers, the needle makers, the book publishers, the designers, the editors, your knitting friends – in the deepest sense your sweater is an expression of your place in an interconnected web spanning time and place whose strands are too numerous to name.
– Janine Bajus, The Joy of Color
The world of self-published authors working with the concept of “designing your own stranded colourwork based on personal inspiration sources” is pretty small, so you may imagine how super excited I am to spend some time with someone else who works with this concept professionally. Plus, I met Janine last summer and she is A WONDERFUL HUMAN BEING. Here we are with Janine’s friend Chris in London last summer, just about a year ago, at the end of a perfect day of talking and knitting and lunching. I was working on the Scabious swatch for the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook at the time.
I’m so looking forward to more time together and to seeing the Bay Area and San Francisco, where another good friend and textile talent – Sonya Phillips – lives. Sonya appears in Janine’s book, wearing Janine’s glorious Starburst Shawl of which there is a closeup above!
I love Sonya’s supportive, feminist, positive approach to fashion and, like many of you I suspect, avidly follow her instagram account which is a life-affirming palace of dreams and joyful outfits. It will be amazing to see Sonya in the beautiful place where she takes all her fantastic pictures in outfits of her own design and making. And of course I can’t wait to finally meet WILLIE THE DOG (also pictured).
The other part of my stay – Knit Camp – is quite simply the stuff of legends. These camps are run by Meg Swansen, owner of Schoolhouse Press and daughter of Elizabeth Zimmermann.
I love the air of curiosity and confidence that runs through everything produced by Schoolhouse Press and that knitting seems to run in the very veins of the family at the heart of the business. Some of the first knitting books I bought when I rediscovered knitting in my mid-twenties came from Schoolhouse Press and it’s difficult to overstate the enormous reach and impact of this publishing house when thinking about the recent history of handknitting. The influence can be felt everywhere in the contemporary knitting world. Who hasn’t knit a Baby Surprise jacket? Or used the famous EPS system to calculate stitch counts for a sweater for a loved one? My favourite design from the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook – Efflorescent – develops its basic architecture from the underlying mathematics of the Pi Shawl by Elizabeth Zimmermann, which captivated me when I first read about it in Knitter’s Almanac.
All of which is to say that I am extremely excited to be on course to Knit Camp, where I will meet Meg Swansen and the incredible knitters who gather each year for her famous knitting retreat. Speaking of the incredible knitters… I need to give a special shout out to Amy Detjen. Amy has been Meg’s assistant at Knit Camp for 20 years and is the reason I’m coming this year. In Lerwick during last Wool Week, over a wonderful dinner with Amy’s Shetland tour group (pictured below with Hazel Tindall and me) Amy gave me such a warm invitation to Knit Camp that I knew I’d have to find a way to go. I’m really grateful to have been nominated for the scholarship that is enabling it to happen and I know Amy was a big part of that. THANK YOU, AMY! I can’t wait to see you again, and to have a chance to sit and knit together with all the shades of purple. I hope you still have that gorgeous purple tweed you brought to my class in Shetland. I feel so honoured and lucky to be able to go and am very grateful to Schoolhouse Press for making it possible.
I’m going to close the KNITSONIK shop for the duration of my trip, so if you would like to buy my books before I leave please do so this week before the cutoff date which is midday on Thursday 28th June. I’ll post orders out on Friday and, after that, the only places where you’ll be able to buy my books are through my stockists or from me, after 16th July, which is when my shop will re-open.
I will do my best to share my adventures with you however I can in both KNIT and SONIK; I’ll be back in the next few days with more news and announcements but, for now, the main thing is that KNITSONIK IS COMING TO AMERICA! (4 sleeps).
Yours in Adventures,