Thank you so much for your encouraging feedback and comments on my last post – I’m so happy it resonated with so many of you!
Today I want to provide an update on my main project for this spring and summer – Yarnadelic Remixes 0.1 – on which I’m working with my good friend and collaborator, Muriel Pensivy. If you’re signed up for it, I hope you’re enjoying our first chapter. I’m happily beavering away on various editing and writing tasks to end our first month while also preparing for the release of the second pattern in the collection but, before we get to that, I wanted to tell you a bit about Wondrous Waltz with which we launched the project on 3rd April.
This matching set of hat and mitts is worked using the double-knitting technique. This means that just like a componium punch-card – which can be played any way around inside the componium (really!) – the set is entirely reversible. If you look closely, you can hopefully see the musical phrases in the punch-card that inspired the motifs that appear in this knitted accessory set. Yes, the punch-card played by Faith in this picture features the same patterns of notes that decorate the hat and mitts she is wearing – how cool is that?
These motifs are taken from the bass lines of two songs: Wondrous Place and Waltz (a mashup of which is also the name of the pattern). The original sample is worked in Yarnadelic yarn shades of the same names and I am really pleased with the strong links to actual music that I managed to achieve with this set. Put simply, one song is in 3/4 time, and so the emphasis falls every three beats; and the other song is in 4/4 time, with the emphasis falling every four beats. The rhythms running together phase in and out of alignment, synchronising only every twelve beats. In the hat, the blocks of colour bearing the notes that represent each bass line also align only every twelve beats – represented here by big blocky dots. I wanted to avoid vague references to music in my work for this collection and to truly root the shapes on my knitted designs in those of rhythm and pitch. My trusty little componium has proved indispensable to this task and I think it’s fair to say of both Muriel and me that the punch-cards ended up influencing all our ideas with their distinctive aesthetic of grids and holes. The visual world in which you find yourself when you start making punch-card versions of songs is one of dots – big dots, little dots, lace dots, repeating dots, scattered dots… At the end of a card-punching session, you’re left with little stacks of cardboard dots; these are the notes you’ve punched out of the card, usually with biro stars on them, marking their place on the grid.
The Knitting Part…
After finding the musical shapes I wanted to use on my punch-cards, I tried many different methods for representing them in knitting – including in stranded colourwork! Here’s the punch-card (with the musical shapes that ended up on the hat highlighted in purple and orange)…
…and my first idea for a chart, with a fairly literal one stitch = one note translation of ideas.
Now, if you’ve ever explored a knitting idea like this, you’ll know that the proportions in which colours are used together in knitting can really affect their interactions. In my work on this design, I found that using smaller shapes in the warm palette created by the purple (Waltz) and the orange (Wondrous Place) created an effect far less distinct and interesting than the one I could achieve using larger shapes in the same shades. It’s a bit like with paint: lots of tiny little dots blur the colours. I also disliked that in this initial idea, I’d need some sort of neutral background against which to place the notes – and that this background would determine the overall appearance of the design, by being the most dominant colour! If you look at my hand-drawn chart, it is by far and away the white/cream of my journal pages that appears in the greatest proportion as the ground of space within which the “notes” appear. I did not want this! I wanted strong fields of Wondrous Orange and Waltzy Purple! A further point that pushed me towards the bold double-knit motif concerns the yarn itself. If you’ve ever knit with John Arbon Textiles Yarns, you’ll know this company tends to favour richly-blended shades that combine many colours to create a satisfyingly complex final colour – a bit like the iridescence of a feather that appears to be black, but reveals itself on closer inspection to be also blue and green and petrol and so forth. This characteristic heathery quality means that combining shades must be approached thoughtfully – otherwise you can end up with too many colours in the mix, cancelling one another out. The more I swatched with Wondrous Place and Waltz, the more I wanted to only use those shades, and to have big fields of them, rather than a fiddly mess that would blur and blend their similar warmth too much. Big shapes in stranded colourwork, however, would mean long strands and an unpleasant knitting experience. So I tackled my fear of double-knitting, knowing this technique would allow me to make big dots with big space around them, and that there would be no stranding issues, due to the double-sided nature of the fabric. In double-knitting, the colour not in use on the outside of the work is always being worked in the inside of the work – no strands and no “wrong side”! I must give a big shout out here to Jen of Arnall-Culliford Techniques, whose wonderfully clear instructions and Peaks & Troughs pattern gave me the confidence and toolkit I needed to learn and explore double-knitting. THANK YOU FOR THE BOOST, JEN!
Once I’d settled on a big bold graphic shape and the double-knitting technique as the key to realising it, I placed the three beats rhythm around the lower part of the hat, and the four beats rhythm around the crown, carefully interspersed with crown decreases. After knitting these, I realised the set really needed a matching pair of mitts – and why not have the option to have one hand with the three beats rhythm upon it, and the other with the four? (Of course, you can make an identical pair if this idea of mismatched rhythms on your hands does not appeal).
For the photos in this collection Muriel and I put together an inspiration board with a strong focus on visibilising and celebrating different creative sonic practices, and an atmosphere of play. We shared this board with our incredibly talented stylist for this project – Kupa Matondo. Kupa put together outfits designed to bring each of our designs to life and her eye for colour and picking out just exactly the right shade of blue, peach or green proved second to none. I love how she chose shapes and props that speak to the theme of play: dungarees, swingy dresses, a fedora hat, an oversized blouse dress… I will be forever grateful to Kupa for bringing an outside eye to this collection. Faith Makawa modelled our designs, bringing a palpable sense of joy to all the photos and gamely playing the piano, playing records, playing the music box and listening to headphones etc. to give context to our musically-themed hand knits. Belle-Amie Kaldjob (Bella) did a fantastic job on the makeup, carefully and creatively picking out shades from within each design in eyeshadows, lipstick shades and nails to help the colours pop. This is my favourite thing to do with makeup when styling my own knits, and it was really amazing to see this strategy put to work by a professional.
Deepest thanks to Kupa, Faith and Bella for your amazing work bringing the Yarnadelic Remixes 0.1 collection to life!
To ground our collection in a totally musical setting, we took the photos at Blewbury Studio where there is an actual Steinway Piano (!!!) and an amazing collection of sheet music and CDs. I brought tons of props – including both the records that inspired this design and my record player – so we could have some music while we worked.
I love how in the final photos you can see the beautiful artwork Fatima chose for her album (by artist Monica Kim Garza) – And Yet It’s All Love (featuring the song Waltz) – and the orange Decca sleeve of Billy Fury’s Wondrous Place. I also think the graphic colour-block aesthetic has a bit of a 1960s vibe that is a nice nod to the era in which Wondrous Place was recorded.
Many of the musical links for this project are more easily described through video, which is why Yarnadelic Remixes 0.1 has its home on Teachable… but I hope that this post has given you a wee glimpse into our process and the nature of this project! I’ll be back soon to tell you more about Wondrous Waltz’s sister – Indigo Lover by Muriel but, for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting this first design from the collection and learning a bit more about the context and approach that we have taken with this collection.
YOURS IN MUSIC WE CAN WEAR,