EDITED March 7, 2015 to add: Felicity Ford’s KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook is now one of the wonderful books (including Kate Davies’ and Elizabeth Lovick’s and more) available in the U.S. from Meg Swansen’s Schoolhouse Press. I’ll link here to the “new books” page where you can currently find them. Thanks to M.C. for letting me know.
Sorry there’s been such a gap in posts. I’ve been washing fiber and writing up information about sheep and llamas. I’ll be back.
Having met Felicity Ford and also watched her in action at Shetland Wool Week last fall, I was predisposed to like the book that she had just embarked on making. That book has just become available (in both print and electronic formats). Backing Felicity’s Kickstarter for the book didn’t require any thought at all. I knew what she would make would be worthwhile, and worth having, because Felicity is one of the most creative and intelligent people I’ve ever met (plus one of the most unpretentious).
While I have access to a bunch of high-quality photos related to the book project, I’m going to season this post with photos I’ve taken. Trust me that every production value in Felicity’s project is top-notch. The reason I want to use my photos is to represent the way my conversations with Felicity—in person and now in her book—have, even when tangentially experienced, enriched the light and color and ideas in my life.
I knew I’d like The KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook. I didn’t expect to love it and to be inclined to take it everywhere with me.
The printed book has a generous but not bulky page size; has been printed on high-quality paper; and is slim enough to tuck into my backpack next to my computer (the comparatively small backpack already containing that computer, the projector, the cables, my books, travel food and utensils, my 3-1-1 bag, and a novel). When I began to dip into it, I discovered that it is also, Tardis-like, bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, and it provided me with enjoyable reading and discoveries while I traveled—and because I was teaching for the two-week trip, I only had a few moments in which to sample a few of the pages.
Nonetheless, it influenced how I went through my days.
One of the things the book is about is paying attention to what’s around us, and what we care about.
I practice this anyway (practice, which means improvement is always possible), and Felicity’s book tweaked my viewpoint in ways that I enjoyed. During teaching weeks, I like to take solo walks to refresh myself and my thoughts, preferably in quiet places full of plants and animals and views. Often I take photos. As I took this week’s walks, I found myself taking different photos than usual, and thinking differently about how I might use those images not as ends in themselves or simple aids to paying attention but as inspiration for Fair Isle–style knitting.
One or two pages before bed gave me plenty to ponder overnight and on the next day’s hike. I could actually spend a week, or a month, on every cluster of concepts. Pacing can fit the available contours of time. There’s lots here: it’s clearly and concisely presented. On pages that I found myself wanting to linger over.
Another thing Felicity encourages is trying things, and making mistakes—those being (as many of us have discovered repeatedly) good ways to learn what works.
The intent of the book is to help us take things we love and learn enough about their shapes and colors, and about interpretation, to use those treasures as inspiration for knitting. Step by step, she leads us through the process, with philosophy and progressive examples, in ways that I’m guessing even the most tentative designer (or not-yet-designer) will find supportive and effective.
Colo(u)r. I have to mention color because many people find it intimidating. The way Felicity works with color here, and shows the reader her process in detail, will be a blessing to many.
Here’s what just carrying the book around with me last week and reading a few pages at night produced in my life:
As I was pulling those photos, I found some others on the computer that also seem to warrant contemplation. Here’s just one, from Iceland. It would be interesting to extract some patterns and colors from this and see what happened.
Now, some of those just might get turned into knitting concepts that would let me wear one of my favorite places even when I’m elsewhere. . . .
Can I give this book ten stars on a five-star scale? Well, I do.
For a glimpse of Felicity’s personality and of the book, check out the Kickstarter page and video. To order it, here’s the place.
Post written at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Please excuse any typos.
I consider myself severely color-impaired (my ideas about what will look good together never turn out to be accurate!) – but it would be fun to have tons of time to spend doing the exercises in the book, no one of which seems to be overwhelming in size. I think my only handicap would be the lack of a complete collection of all the colors of J&S yarn…what does one do if one does not have All the Colors to match to one’s environment??
Felicity has weighed in, and I’ll let you know something about my compromises in this regard. When I design colors for a garment, I’ll go to the yarn shop with the biggest selection of colors and sit on the floor, putting skeins next to each other and doing my best to visualize what might work for the idea I have in mind. Then I select a skein of each candidate to take home and swatch—and if I’m waffling between some options, I’ll get those alternatives and try them out at home. This isn’t an infinitely acquisitive process, because over time I’ve gotten better at choosing the first (or second) time.
When you’re working with *learning* color, it doesn’t matter a whole heap what yarn you’re using. You can learn a lot regardless. (If you’re designing a garment, of course it does). And I have a few less expensive ways to dabble with color ideas. One involves using either wool embroidery yarn (I’m thinking Paternayan) or cotton embroidery thread (DMC has a great color range). You can get a heap of colors pretty fast and relatively inexpensively, and work with them either in knitting (easier with the wool) or cross-stitch or needlepoint, if you have or can noodle at acquiring those skills.
One thing I might consider doing here is getting the J&S shade card and then matching colors to DMC cottons in the range I’m considering using for a project, then doing preliminary “swatches” in cross-stitch, then getting J&S colors to do “real” swatching. DMC cottons are often on sale at the craft outlets. Paternayan pricing varies, depending on where you buy it, but still can be a good option.
The things to watch out for here are the subtle shifts that will happen in the change from one fiber type to another, and from one stitch-formation process to another. The cotton yarns will be more lustrous (will reflect more light) and there’s a slight color-perception change involved in moving to wool. Also, cross-stitches are exactly square, and knit stitches in most cases are a bit wider than they are tall (although this is less pronounced in color work than it is in some other techniques, and may only be a marginal issue in designing for Fair Isle).
If you set your non-jumperweight yarn samples up right, you can end up with mug mats and other useful small items—even a tiny baglet or some such—in addition to having narrowed down your color choices for swatching for a project.
Above all, have fun with color! The exercises will help you play and do that.