Chapter 1: Knitted Correspondence

It’s so exciting spotting updates on Instagram and Twitter announcing the arrival of KNITSONIK books all over the world… thank you for sharing them!

I thought those of you still waiting on your books might enjoy reading more about what they contain. I’ll be posting about the different chapters in coming days, and thought we’d begin at the start with Knitted Correspondence. This chapter foregrounds the beauteous work of Muriel Pensivy (France) and Yumi Shimada (Japan), who have been posting each other a stranded colourwork postcard every month or so for the past two years. Their knitted correspondence is always posted on instagram so if you use that platform, follow @labistrake and @yumiket to see their stunning knitted missives for yourself. They have just each produced a gorgeous postcard in celebration of the launch of the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook so, if you have not done so already, please go and smother these wondrous posts in hearts!

Dear @yumiket, Here's my postcard for march. As yours, it is a very special one. We are celebrating @knitsonik 's amazing new books Stranded Colour Playbook and its colouring companion!! So this march postcard is a humble tribute to the gorgeous "Efflorescent" chapter of the book. We are also celebrating 2 years of #knittedcorrespondence! I couldn't imagine two years ago that it would be such an amazing adventure! I am so happy to share more about it in @knitsonik #strandedcolourworkplaybook. So THANK YOU both Yumi and Felix for your creativity, inspiration and precious friendship ! And you too wonderful knitters and knitting lovers! PS : March has been very cold with rain and even snow around here. The only flowers I spotted during a very cold sunday walk were crocus. I wish there is a bit more sun on my knitted postcard … but who knows, maybe next month ! #knitsoniksystem #colourwork #crocus #happyknitter

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This is a monthly knitted postcard to @labistrake and also a very special one to celebrate the launch of super brilliant new books by @knitsonik ! . It was in March 2016 when we started our #knittedcorrespondence . Can't believe two years have flown by. And I'm pleased to announce that our little swatches are in her new book. Many many thanks to everyone who has been traveling along with us in the wondrous journey and always cheering me up, to @labistrake who is my amazing partner, and to @knitsonik , I'm so happy to be a part of your glorious work! . This Pansy Swatch was originally inspired by a postcard (real one!) from @avaughan77 , one of my amazing penpals. Georgia O'Keeffe's pansy is so beautiful, elegant and sensual that I couldn't resist swatching it. It is spring now here in Japan. We can see so many lovely pansies everywhere. . #miniswatchoftheday #fairisleknitting #jamiesonandsmith #swatching #knittedswatch #knitswatch #pansy #pansies #georgiaokeeffe

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Each chapter of the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook builds on ideas from my first book but also speaks to feedback I have received from folk using the KNITSONIK system. In teaching many classes and workshops since I began this work I’ve learnt that not everyone enjoys knitting a massive KNITSONIK swatch as much as I do… And that adventures in stranded colourwork are infinitely more fun when they are shared. Nobody has taught me more about these things than my friends Muriel and Yumi who have made their knitted postcards small and manageable enough to fit in around their busy lives, and whose small pieces of work act as rich sites of meaning and cultural exchange as well as being exquisite samplers of stranded colourwork design.

For me the project started like this. In 2015, I bought the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook and used the system in the book to knit two swatches: Lotus and Paris, Texas. I really enjoyed making these swatches and was pleased with my results. However, I also noticed that making large swatches required a lot of time and energy. In my case, it took about 3 months to finish each full-sized swatch and, though it gave me great joy to finish them, I thought it would be freeing to work on a more manageable scale: to knit small swatches inspired by my everyday life – like sketching or doodling or keeping a diary.

– Yumi Shimada

Muriel and Yumi’s knitted correspondence of the past two years speaks to something above and beyond the pure technicalities of translating everyday inspirations into stranded colourwork. Though each of their knitted postcards are technically accomplished and brilliant, they are also deeply moving tributes to commemoration and celebration. Together they map a friendship that has grown slowly, stitch-by-stitch, across the distance between France and Japan. Real moments of lived experience are crystalised into their knitted postcards and, as the body of work has expanded, their project has become as much about what it means to mark special moments in knitting as how this is practically achieved.

When I published the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, I wanted it to be a practical manual for translating everyday inspirations into stranded colourwork. However, the KNITSONIK System is also threaded through with the subversive, life-affirming message that you really can find inspiration everywhere, including when looking at old biscuit tins, A-roads, battered digital recorders or even just the bricks of the neighbourhood. I tentatively hoped it would give people practical tools for knitting… but also that it might inspire people to find ways to more deeply treasure the overlooked and underloved contents of daily life.

What Muriel and Yumi have done with my first book has surpassed all my hopes by miles and, in their knitted correspondence, they truly take my ideas to the next level. I know I’m not the only one who eagerly awaits the next instalment of #knittedcorrespondence each month, and it’s uplifting to witness their appreciation of everything from DM boots to gingham fabrics, but also to see their ideas – and online friendship – growing through their postings. Encouraging and egging each other on, inspiring and delighting each other, they remind us how much joy is to be found in appreciating ordinary things and how important it is to create in community and within friendship. Their knitted postcards, shared on instagram, reveal how creativity is fed when we share what we know with people we love in a spirit of fun and wonder.

In the winter of 2016 I wrote to Muriel and Yumi to see if we might be able to create a chapter together in my new book exploring some of the nuances and richness of their knitted correspondence and to my delight, they agreed that we could. I had magical encounters with Muriel and Yumi in the course of working on the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook and it is truly a massive honour to be able to share their work with you! Together we produced an 18-page chapter filled with glorious photos, wondrous wisdom, and tons of practical tools to set you up for your own adventures in knitted correspondence.

The chapter opens with letters between Muriel and Yumi, describing how they met online and began exchanging knitted postcards. This is edited down from a much longer conversation – really, we could have made a whole book purely on knitted correspondence!

We then each offer a knitted postcard pattern based on a view through a window. Muriel chose the view from her kitchen window; Yumi chose the view from her Tokyo apartment balcony; and I chose the view of our amazing Mulberry tree – which I can see year-round through my studio window. We talk a bit about how we went about breaking our individual inspirations down into our respective designs and the chapter closes with some grey-scale charts from daily life provided for your own adaptive purposes, should you wish to begin designing and exchanging your very own knitted correspondence. All through the chapter Nic used her incredible design instincts to lay things out in a way that makes perfect sense and which conveys the atmosphere and feeling of Muriel and Yumi’s work, as well as showing it off to best effect… and my talented brother Ferg brought maximum turbos to the photoshoot, having the brilliant idea to photograph all our postcards peeping through the letterbox of our house.

Working on this chapter was one of my favourite parts of producing the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook; I learnt lots from reading through Muriel and Yumi’s answers to the initial questions I sent them… and through consulting the amazing materiality of their lovely swatches. I really enjoyed thinking about the similes between individual knitters’ stitch-making movements and handwriting; and the different ways in which our imaginations respond to the world around us. Best of all, I enjoyed deepening my friendship with two amazing women who are making beautiful work and whose sense of magic in daily life really resonates with my own. I hope one day we will be able to get together and knit around the same table. In the meantime, we can keep in touch with knitted correspondence!

The view-through-a-window basis for our individual postcard patterns was Yumi’s idea. I loved it at once, because I felt all knitters would have, somewhere, a window with a view. I’m always looking to tempt folk into designing stranded colourwork via a really achievable starting point and if you buy the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook, I hope you will be inspired to look through your windows with fresh eyes. I know the view from my work room looked different after spending time with the glorious words and stitches of Muriel and Yumi.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to publish your knitted correspondence in my book and for sharing your inspiration with the world,


3 thoughts on “Chapter 1: Knitted Correspondence

  1. Thank you. Well that does no justice to what you have created and offered but I can’t express how fabulous the mail was when the book arrived, never mind actually cracking the book open. You made a difference in a grand , textile kind of way! Well done.

  2. I loved the postcards section in your book. I love knitting, but I really love seeing *friendships* celebrated. We spend so much time celebrating eros love, but really there is so much more! I love the idea of knitting penpals with these types of knitted postcards!

  3. ANOTHER great post! love this teaser as I wait for my book. Well done ladies and Fergus. Such a great accomplishment and accompaniment to the first book. Love the everyday translations to knit stitches. Not just a knitting book but a wonderful story….

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