This joyful project by Nolwenn Pensivy offers a wonderful odyssey through the colours of your favourite lone skein of variegated yarn. It’s a mitts pattern that starts by you picking one 100g skein of fingering-weight variegated yarn on which to base your project. You then pair that skein with four complementary solid shades, following Nolwenn’s helpful and inviting Mixology tutorial.
That process of picking out the four solid shades is great for stretching and building your colour analysis skills – the value of which is something I discuss here. It’s also an activity that builds appreciation for the dyer’s work and how they have put colours together in the skein. For this chapter of the eBook Nolwenn worked with three different independent dyers: Rusty Ferret (Pink Lemonade); Bluebell Yarns (Blue Lagoon) and RiverKnits (Mulled Wine). Because the original inspiration for the design was a drink in a glass, a joyous mood of beverages and mixology shaped how we photographed Nolwenn’s samples at the photo shoot for the eBook (shout out Fergus Ford Photography).
Around the same time that Nolwenn was knitting up the samples shown in the book – in the summer of 2021 – the organisers of Yarningham were crowdfunding their fantastic publication, Yarn + Stitch. This is a one-off magazine produced as a physical object to complement 2021’s online Yarningham festival. The organisers wanted to “create something permanent, a tangible, physical item, beautifully designed with fantastic content”. When my gorgeous copy of Yarn + Stitch arrived later that autumn, I was intrigued to read about Rachel Barrett of Flyy Dyed whose work is presented in the Midlands Maker Spotlight section. My eye was especially caught by Rachel’s interest in dyeing OOAK – One Of A Kind – skeins:
Dyeing OOAK One Skein Wonders lets me break all the rules and throw the colour wheel to one side. Inspiration usually strikes in the middle of the night; sometimes it’s a song or a piece of music, a favourite food, street scenes and landscapes near and far… add a few splashes of colour, let things simmer for a while, lift off the lid and you have Lemon Berry Snowcone, Zoetrope, Pear Drop Bellini, Azure Coast, Phyllidiella Pustulosa, Mambo, Bomb Pop, Jam Roly Poly and Alstromeria to name just a few of my 200+ colourways so far!
I love the feeling of play and spontaneity that Rachel brings to her dyeing process at Flyy Dyed and her palpable joy at creating and playing with colour. I also immediately felt a OOAK skein would be an ideal yarn with which to begin a pair of Cheers! mitts. The joyous lone skein – not enough to make a jumper, no repeat dye lots – just the one and only “One Skein Wonder” – seems the perfect starting point for this project. This is exactly the kind of skein that can end up languishing in your stash because it feels too precious to use, or because you can’t find the right pattern to really make it shine… but Cheers! makes all the yarn skeins shine! Therefore last winter I visited Rachel’s online shop and picked up a precious skein of Diggin’ On You – a 85% Merino/15% Neps confection I think inspired by this TLC song of the same name – as a gift to future me, so that this summer I could turn it into a joyous pair of Cheers! mitts. Given the mixology theme of the Cheers! pattern and my propensity for playing in my KNITSONIK Bullet Journal, I got the perfect project bag pin and sticker as well. Diggin’ on You is a glorious mix of hot neon pinks and oranges shot through with acid greens and yellows. It is impossibly lush and summery and THOSE NEPS REALLY GOT ME! Little joyful bursts of blues and yellows, so unexpected but joyous in the mix – and you know I can’t resist a song/sonic + yarn combination.
So I had the perfect OOAK lone skein from Flyy Dyed with which to make my Cheers! mitts, but how to go about finding my solid shades to match? Again, Nolwenn’s comprehensive chapter had the answer for me. One of my favourite parts of laying out this chapter was the amazing in-depth interview between Becci of RiverKnits and Nolwenn, in which Becci shares the incredibly well thought-through process behind the iconic RiverKnits Nene 4-ply Mini Skeins WALL OF COLOUR, which you may have had the joy of exploring at a yarn show near you and that is beautifully represented on the website here.
This is Becci’s amazing wall of colour – AKA the full Nene 4-ply Minis Range – discussed in Nolwenn’s chapter. Photo © Becci of RiverKnits.
The full explanation of how this wall of shades came about is in Nolwenn’s chapter of the eBook but the short version of the story is that Becci wanted to produce a really well-rounded palette that would enable knitters and crocheters to create seamless and inspiring fades and gradients. It’s so carefully thought-through and such a labour of love. I feel Becci has put a huge amount of thought into this yarn range and has thoroughly considered how producing and presenting it might best support and empower crafters interested in gradients and fades. I think it’s totally amazing and I love what Becci’s produced using dye recipes, maths and colour theory. After reading the interview between Nolwenn and Becci, laying it out in the eBook and getting to grips with Becci’s distinctive and thoughtful approach to colour, I thought solids picked from the wall would be the perfect pairing for Rachel’s glorious OOAK spontaneity. I was also confident that somewhere in Becci’s wall I’d find shades that would definitely speak to Diggin’ On You. I was especially interested in the idea that if you only ever travel the distance of one skein (either across, or up, or down the wall of colours) you can make a pretty seamless gradient between shades. Therefore at Unravel this year, I consulted THE WALL OF COLOURS on the RiverKnits stand, with my precious OOAK skein of Flyy Dyed Diggin’ On You as my reference point. I came away with a beautiful braid of complementary shades, ready to cast on Cheers!
It was a very interesting experience – I agree that travelling only one skein up, down or across the wall produces a very nice fade/gradient effect, but I was also surprised to find that when I matched Diggin’ On You to the wall, it did not resonate at all with the pink/violet end of things and was much happier at the red/orange end. The joy of Nolwenn’s process is that it really makes you look at the colours in a skein of variegated yarn, and you get to prioritise what you like best. What I liked was the glorious autumnal warmth in which the neon pink glory is bathed and stained and saturated. The colours I picked from RiverKnits’ famous wall of colours therefore reflect this. I’d love to know… if you were picking shades from Becci’s wall to complement this skein would you have picked the same ones?
It’s been in my journal for ages to WIND THIS WOOL which – if you’ve taken my course – you’ll know is often my nemesis when it comes to starting a project! However, this weekend past I had very sore wrists – too sore for knitting – which means turning my hand (ha!) to other tasks. I need to keep my wrists busy(ish) when they are really sore; too much rest is not my friend as they need to stay active and are always in need of more strength, yet repetitious movements are not the answer either – too much of the same thing (for example knitting all the time and in the same way) definitely intensifies the problem. To vary things I did a good bit of wool winding and cheered my temporary inability to knit with a little bit of imaginary knitting or colour-planning in my journal using the KNITSONIK Knit Stitch Template technique and the charts for Cheers! I feel the holographic sticker has really come into its own in this spread and it makes me so happy every time I turn to the page.
The purpose of my drawings and colouring-in on these pages was to visualise and explore different possibilities for sequencing complementary solid shades against the glowy pink joyous ground of my Main Colour Flyy Dyed OOAK skein. The differences are subtle but the colouring-in helped me to decide the order in which I’d like to sequence my mini skeins as I knit the mitts. For this set of drawings I decided not to try and represent the OOAK yarn skein as I could see that the colours between this skein and the mini-skeins are close enough that trying to draw the variegated yarn would end up producing a muddled and unhelpful drawing! My idea was to see roughly how the mini-skeins would appear in different sequences, then to accept that once knitted they would melt and meld more into the background provided by Rachel’s variegated Flyy Dyed fun. What you see in the drawing is my RiverKnits skeins and experiments with the order in which to use them in my mitts. The downside of the exciting colouring-in fun and wool-winding was that these activities got me excited and ready to cast on and so, in spite of still having quite crappity wrists, I just had to begin.
I went for a longer ribbed cuff than is called for in the pattern and held my yarn double for turbo maximum squishy Diggin’ On You cuffs but I’m loving the way my complementary Nene 4ply Mini Skeins are looking as they appear against the variegated yarn in the textured part of my Cheers! mitts. Somehow these citrusy shades remind me of the Opal Fruits of my childhood but they also put me in mind of my dear friend Jeanette whose obsession with pairing pink with orange has clearly influenced my colour choices here!
Photo of Opal Fruits (2021 edition) found here and taken by Secretlondon.
I’ve got more things to show you from the eBook as I’ve also been working on new versions of Brightlingsea by Patricia Kimmitt (JudithJayne Design) and Flombre (which is my design from the collection). If you want to join in these adventures in colour mixology, find the eBook containing Nolwenn’s magnificent Cheers! chapter here.
YOURS IN THE WONDER OF FLYY DYED’S OOAK AND RIVERKNITS’ WALL OF MINI SKEINS –