…or how sometimes what seems like the worst thing can turn out for the best.
My working relationship with Victoria at Eden Cottage Yarns began not long after I started designing. When Knit Now asked its designers to come up with patterns for their ‘Marvelous Mittens’ campaign I submitted Treacle Toffee and, having seen Eden Cottage Yarns featured in a magazine, I asked if I could use some for my design. I loved it so much that I kept checking back to see what other colourways Victoria was dreaming up. When ‘Purple Iris’ came along, I immediately knew I wanted to design with it, and Starry, Starry Night was the result.
One of the many things I like about this yarn company is that a lot of the wool is not only dyed locally (in the same county I live in) but also sourced locally, from sheep reared in the Bowland Forest, just a little way further east. When Victoria said she was looking for pattern support for her lovely Bowland DK yarn, then, it was no surprise that I jumped at the chance.
So…I swatched on my holiday. I sketched my ideas for a pair of cardigans and spent a lovely hour or so with Victoria when she did a trunk show in Manchester’s Purl City Yarns, choosing the perfect colour combinations. I signed up to Rock & Purl’s Grading Course to make sure I’d get the sizes and pattern writing spot on. I was all on track to get going when…I got a Christmas catalogue from one of my favourite clothing companies, People Tree. Flicking through it I was dismayed to find something that looked remarkably like my cardigan design in their range.
I was gutted, frankly, but it was just one of those things. Supportive designer friends told me that there were enough differences between the two to save me from any accusations of breaching copyright. They suggested that I could make some small changes to differentiate it even more, but the fact was, I couldn’t face the thought that I could release a design and someone could say ‘She’s just copied that from People Tree’. In addition, I didn’t feel I had either the time or the heart to make big design changes.
There was nothing for it but to have a rethink. I went back to the start, swatched again and rediscovered what I loved about the yarn. Instead of cardigans (I’m off cardigans for a while!) I’m looking at a collection of retro inspired accessories- back to what I know well, eh? I’m aiming for lots of texture and a little colourwork to work in harmony with Victoria’s lovely colours.
What’s strange but wonderful is that actually, it’s working much better than I expected. It’s maybe even working better than the blessed cardigans would have done. Apart from being on a bit of a downbeat, timewise (we’re hoping for a release date of late November) it feels so natural to be making these designs, as if they’re what the yarns want to be. Serendipity, I’d say.
Wool and silk. Garter stitch and lace. 4ply and 2.75mm needles (gasp! I’m usually a solid ‘nothing finer than DK’ girl!) Yes, there has been work in progress recently, but I can’t fully reveal the results to you just at the moment. Suffice to say it’s another new outlet for my designs, so quite exciting, to say nothing of daunting.
Thankfully, the further I’ve got into this project the less daunted I’ve felt. Seeing the gorgeous colours singing as they were knitted up helped. As did adding the finishing touches such as applied i-cord (so time-consuming, but so worth it) and the buttons. The ones shown immediately above were from Textile Garden. This site would deserve a mention just because it had a whole range of possibilities for the buttons that I needed, but also earned my affection for great customer service when I stupidly ordered exactly half the number of buttons required….
I’m never good at making things twice over -you could call it second-sock-syndrome if I ever actually made socks- so this project is a challenge to me because it requires two versions of each design- and one of those designs is a pair. That’s a lot of repeating -and also buttons, hence my mistake when ordering. I’m therefore trying out the technique of knitting both parts of a pair simultaneously on one long circular (they are knitted flat). I’m having to watch I don’t get the two working yarns tangled but so far I think they’re growing more quickly than if I’d made them back to back. Or maybe it’s just psychological.
In any case work is progressing, deadlines are nearly up, then it’s back to the mile-long ‘to do’ list for whatever’s next. DK or heavier gets my vote…
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…
The thing about knitting is that there are so many avenues to explore. I have only had the briefest of brushes with spinning, for example, dabbled a little with machine and wet felting but never tried dyeing. I’ve experimented with a number of different techniques and things to knit, but still have an extensive list of ‘must try’ possibilities.
The danger, with only so many hours in the day and the reality of having life and family beyond the sticks and string, is that new avenues of investigation distract you from actually knitting. This has certainly been the case for me since I caught the designing bug. I’m knitting or doing knitterly things for at least a few hours every day, but since most of the time this involves sketching, swatching, writing up submission proposals and patterns or making samples I end up with little that I can show here. In addition, I have cold feet and am perfectly capable of making the felted slippers I’ve been wanting for ages, but never seem to find the time for making them.
I’m not really complaining though, as having yarn support (free yarn! Even if you do have to knit it up then send it away again) dropping through the door will surely always be a joy and I love puzzling away at new ideas to fit mood boards put out by potential publishers. It’s even paying off in slightly less conventional ways, as the colourwork idea here is one I’m developing for a friend in exchange for help with what will hopefully be improvements to my online presence- watch this space.
All this said, I hope to have more projects to show here soon and in the meantime I’m going to put on an extra pair of socks and enjoy the buzz of creativity.