On the subject of accessories, Coco Chanel is said to have advised that before leaving the house, one should take off whatever was the last item you put on. Now, it’s not everyone who’s a follower of her pared-down aesthetic, but I think we can all learn something from the doyenne of style’s less-is-more mantra.
Take knitting techniques. I never cease to be amazed by the sheer number of fancy stitches and techniques out there. Seriously, a glance through Ravelry project pages can show you tricks with yarn and sticks that seem to defy nature and the laws of physics. I am full of admiration for knitters and designers who can do that stuff, but I do have a little worry that sometimes when a whole garment screams “LOOK AT MY CLEVER KNITTING” it can come across as a little bit try-hard. A wee bit self-conscious in proclaiming the highly skilled, handmade credentials that say this is absolutely not a shop-bought article. The Chanel-influenced part of me wants to whisper “tone it down a little”.
This is the joy of knitted accessories as far as I’m concerned. A small but perfectly formed canvas, you can make them in a luxury yarn without breaking the bank and pepper them with stitchy wizardry without it getting over the top. A fancy-pants handmade accessory worn with a simple outfit quietly asserts your originality and skill but will never end up wearing you.
The point of this little sermon was to highlight the gorgeous techniques that make the items in the Holla Knits Accessories collection so worth you getting your needles warmed up.
Take the beading on Teresa Gregorio’s Knight Service. On an all-over garment not only might you go mad with all the bead threading, but you’d also risk getting a bit too pretty-pretty. On this shrug with its major shoulder shaping it looks fierce and urban on top of the pretty, and totally luxe to boot.
Then there’s the super-smooth colourwork on Katie Canavan’s Scallop of the Sea bag- so elegantly modern retro!
There’s more amazing colourwork (and colour choices) on Emma Welford’s Wallpaper Cowl, but what makes this one for me is the Latvian braid. A traditional technique (though a new one on me until I saw the project-in-development pictures) in beautifully harmonised shades it takes the finishing on this design to another level.
My contribution to the collection, the Snowball Bonnet, challenges you to dust off that old favourite of knits for grandchildren in the 60s and 70s: loop stitch. I’m going to write a little more about that one when the Holla Knits Accessories Blog Tour hits these pages on October 16th- details below.
Meanwhile, I strongly urge you to check out the full collection at Holla Knits.com. You’ll surely find at least one design to beguile you with its wit and originality.
As I mentioned, the lovely Allyson at Holla Knits has organised a blog tour to launch this collection. It’s going to be packed full of giveaways, so be sure to give it a follow. You’ll notice that the Audrey’s Teashop stop has a yarn and pattern giveaway- I’m delighted to say that this is going to involve yarny prizes for not one but two lucky winners! Here are those all-important dates and places.
October 8: The Sweatshop of Love – collection and pattern giveaway
October 9: Under the Red Umbrella – Subscriber exclusive KP yarn giveaway, pattern giveaway
October 10: Rohn Strong – pattern giveaway
October 11: Emma Welford Designs – pattern giveaway
October 12: Knits in Class – Subscriber exclusive yarn giveaway / pattern giveaway
October 15: Bumblebirch Designs – pattern giveaway
October 16: Audrey’s Teashop – pattern and yarn giveaway
October 17: Gynx – pattern giveaway
October 18: Adaly Myles Place – pattern giveaway
October 19: Canary Knits – Subscriber exclusive yarn giveaway, pattern giveaway
October 22: Webs Yarn Store Blog - yarn giveaway
October 23: The Sweatshop of Love Hosts Homestead Heirlooms! – subscriber exclusive purse kit giveaway
October 24: Knitted Bliss – pattern giveaway
October 25: Stash, the Knit Picks Staff Blog
October 26: Holla Knits hosts Tara Shade! – Subscriber exclusive yarn giveaway, pattern giveaway
Oxford Concise English Dictionary
Ah, pompoms. Beloved craft of young children and a matter for debate among aesthetically-minded knitters. Some seem to be quite passionate in their hatred of the little fluffballs. Are they perhaps scarred by over-zealous application of the decorative effect on their childhood headgear? After all, there surely can’t be anyone who didn’t wear a bobble-hat at least once when they were little.
As for me, I have to say that I absolutely hate making pompoms- all that fiddling about with an ever smaller ‘doughnut’ hole to push the yarn through and trying to trim it into an even shape. But for all that I am quite fond of using them in designs, albeit with the right dash of tongue-in-cheek, retro jauntiness, as seen in my Union Jack teacosy, above.
As well as their perky and nostalgic qualities, I also think that pompoms can do an important job in balancing out and finishing some designs. This is absolutely the case with the project I’ve just completed for the Holla Knits Accessories collection. Yes, that’s right, not content with asking people to let fur/loop stitch in from the cold, I’ve also added pompoms into the mix. Well it was always going to be a love it or hate it number, so I’ll just have to see what the reaction is when it’s published!
As the end of term comes thundering towards us it’s creating the usual whirl of last minute work as a teacher and, for the first time this year, as a parent. Witness the fact that 10.30pm on Wednesday night saw me putting together a tray-bake for my son’s school Summer Fair and marking maths tests while it was in the oven, instead of falling into bed as I was desperate to do. Between all the work that needs finishing and finding time to actually get some sleep it’s amazing that I’ve been getting any knitting done at all. However, as every knitter knows, it’s the sticks and string that often keep us sane when the the world gets a bit crazy and, following the welcome arrival of a parcel of Alpaca DK from Artesano mid-week I’ve got a really exciting work in progress underway during those rare moments to myself.
Casting on anything where I get to use my Art Viva needles (I got mine from Laughing Hens) puts a smile on my face, plus I do love working with Artesano yarns, but there’s an extra reason to be cheerful starting this design. You see, I’m taking my first brave step beyond self-publishing and the friendly pages of Knit Now magazine. In fact, once finished, this project is due to make its way over to the US to be part of the Holla Knits Fall/Winter Accessories collection, so I suppose you could say I was going international! I’m so excited to get my pattern accepted, as even putting the proposal together (including styling mood boards) was fun. Also, when you look at the great designs in the first, Spring/Summer 2012 collection, you can see why I’m pretty flattered to be part of it- I love the way the designs are tuned into catwalk trends, but still totally original and flattering to real bodies as well as perfect models.
As for my design, well, I’ve included the shot above because it’s one of those times when I think the back of the work can be as pretty, in it’s own way, as the front- and doesn’t the evening light (sunlight, at last!) show the warmth of natural fibre well? The front, meanwhile, is a proper nostalgia burst for me, because I’m definitely revisiting my childhood rather than going really vintage with this one (anyone who suggests that at my age, my childhood counts as vintage can leave immediately!)
Yes, my friends, I’ve decided that the cornerstone of children’s knits in the 70s and 80s, the ‘fur’ or ‘loop’ stitch, is due for a revival. Trust me on this one, okay? When you take away that other cornerstone of my childhood knitwear, acrylic yarn, and replace it with something fuzzy, snuggly and all natural, it has a whole lot of warmth, volume and textured appeal. No, really. Especially, I hope, when combined with a good dose of fun and at the same time something of the kind of winter chic embodied by the ultimate lady of style, Audrey Hepburn, in Charade:
Am I convincing you? Well, I’m saying nothing more at the moment, but watch this space…