Chapter 5: Efflorescent

If you follow me on instagram you’ll know I’ve not been feeling amazing recently. I decided to start this week with a multicoloured post of joy, celebrating flowers in stranded colourwork; I just can’t see how a week that starts out like that can fail. I hope you are in the mood for an image-heavy post filled with photos of flowers!

As well as starting off the week with maximum flowery amazingness, this post concludes our tour of the projects in the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook, as I’m going to talk about the knitting pattern in the last chapter of the book: Efflorescent. The name of this shawl means something that is blossoming… I feel this really fits its floral content as well as describing how it grows on your needles as you knit it from the short edge outwards to its fullest point.

A generously sized semi-circular cape-like shawl, Efflorescent provides a lovely big canvas over which several iterations of a single flower can be worked, celebrating – in knitting – how light and shade play on the petals of real flowers.

Six case studies are given in the book: Cherry Blossom, Dandelion and Lobelia are shown with knitted samples worked by me, Tom van Deijnen and Judith Daykin…

…while the other colourways detailed in the book – Tulip, Scabious and Snakeshead Fritillary – are presented as ready-to-knit charts, along with my workings, my swatches, and artistic impressions of how the fabric of each one might look, once knitted.

I devised the chapter to speak to two things often heard in my workshops: ‘I want to knit from my favourite flower but don’t know where to start’ and ‘I love that design… but those really aren’t my colours’. When planning my book, I felt the rich, polychromatic world of flowers would provide an ideal context in which to explore these conundrums and that, across the selection of flowers, I could cover a rich mix of different yarn palettes and flower shapes to speak to different knitterly persuasions and aesthetics. In my experience of working from flowers in my knitting, I’ve found that a tall chart is helpful as this provides lots of space for different colour richness and variance to be celebrated. Thinking about a garment that might provide some such suitable canvas, I kept returning to Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Pi Shawl and wondering whether it might be adapted to accommodate stranded colourwork charts. In Elizabeth’s original, whenever the diameter of the shawl doubles, an increase round is worked in which the stitch count is doubled, too. I thought this architecture would provide large sections where the colourwork patterns could just repeat on top of one another without having to incorporate any increases. Tom was concerned that the different stitch architecture of stranded colourwork would not have the same flexibility as the open lace with which Elizabeth originally designed her Pi Shawl and, after talking things through with him, I worked out a way to distribute increases more evenly throughout the shawl. Working increase rounds more often prevents the motifs from bunching together or becoming distorted by sudden rounds of drastic increasing. Tension is dispersed throughout the fabric while the construction still allows for working nice big sections where colourwork can happen, undisturbed by changing stitch counts or the need to incorporate increases. The construction breaks the knitting up into something that feels pleasingly modular, too. While knitting my Cherry Blossom Efflorescent I was continually spurred on by the prospect of ‘just knitting to the next set of yarn-overs…’.

After creating a knitterly canvas on which to explore a floral theme, I wanted to demonstrate its versatility and to explore how motifs and palettes might be varied to produce shawls that would speak to the individual preferences of their wearers. The Efflorescent chapter of the book contains a discussion between myself and my friend Judith in which we discuss our very different approaches to colour, and tools are provided to further your adventures in the form of black and white charts (in the complementary digital copy of the book that accompanies each print book) and in the KNITSONIK Playbook Colouring Companion, which invites you to imagine each motif in as many different colourways as your pencil collection will allow.

The Lobelia Efflorescent that Judith knitted for the book was built around her preference for cool and jewel tones, and styled to fit her own unique fashion aesthetic. My Cherry Blossom Efflorescent grew out of my love affair with the pinks and blues of cherry blossoms against spring skies; and the Dandelion Efflorescent that Tom knit for the book is full of greens, greys and yellows that speak to my appreciation for Dandelions as an everyday expression of resilience and ordinary, often overlooked, beauty.

When talking about the best way to photograph the shawls for the book, my super talented brother Ferg had the idea to use bold, coloured paper backgrounds to underscore the central themes of colour and to accentuate our styling decisions for our different outfits. I love, love, love the big blocks of colour provided by these backdrops!

…however, we also managed to take some pictures in one of my favourite spots in Reading; the roof garden at RISC, on top of the building where our local knitting group – Sticks ‘n’ Strings – have met most Tuesdays for almost a decade. This garden is a beautiful example of an edible urban garden, boasting Japanese Wineberries; Mulberries; a Medlar tree and all sorts of other glorious things, nestled quietly into the skyline of our town… I think our Efflorescent shawls look particularly radiant in this green and leafy setting and I just love the pictures Ferg took.

However to me there is an additional pleasure to be found in photographing the shawls near their sources of inspiration. I confess that even after the book had been sent to press, a part of me just couldn’t wait for the spring and a chance to bring my Cherry Blossom Efflorescent back to the trees that had inspired its luscious colours.

The Efflorescent chapter of the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook is a practical workshop on producing your own stranded colourwork from flowers; but it’s also an exploration of the idea of different knitters’ colour preferences and sensibilities and a giant celebration of blooms and blossoms in daily life. I love the different look of all the shawls made for the Playbook and the feelings of friendship and support stitched into the amazing samples that Judith and Tom made. Thank you so much for your magic, friendship and skill. I feel it whenever I am showing the samples to anyone, and still smile when I think of how Judith sent me WhatsApp photos of her potted Lobelias while updating me on the progress of her knitting. These projects bloomed on our needles all of last summer and the weather right now is making me think of that time – of that season of stitching.

Most of all I hope that what we have knitted will inspire you to find ways to cover your shoulders in blooms and blossoms that lift your spirit and bring you some of the same cheer that we can get from the flowers.

YOURS IN PETALS AND JOY,
XF

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One Response to Chapter 5: Efflorescent

  1. Terry Hickman says:

    What a treasure of beauty! I’m not sure but I think the models may outshine the shawls, and that’s saying a lot! Thank you so much for charing your positive outlook and glorious creativity! (Sorry for all the ! but . just won’t do it!)

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