Designer Innovation in Triplicate

The more we knit, it seems to me, the greater our appreciation for good pattern design and writing.

And if my feelings about designing are at all common, having an idea that must be turned into a pattern, then taking the steps to create that pattern increases our appreciation ten fold. Pattern design is hard to do well. It’s lonely work and the range of skills required is both wide and deep.

That may be why we’re now seeing more teams of designers producing patterns. Working together, bouncing ideas off one another, can produce more innovation, satisfaction and fun for the designers, and happily, better patterns for we knitters.

A terrific example of this is new design team, Knitacation.

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The Value of Colours

I’ve already written about colour twice: How to Use Inspiration to Choose Colours and Choosing Colours From Inspiration – A Klimt Painting , but it’s clear to me that I’m not done with the topic. It’s a subject that many of us, me included, feel unsure about.

Experts in the world of colour say the best way to learn about it and become comfortable is to work with it everyday. Deb Menz, the author of Colorworks, a terrific book about choosing and using colour in the textile arts, says “..besides reading, you must participate! If you play with colour at least 5 minutes a day, I assure you that you will soon find that working with colour is fun and easy.”

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What Do You Do When Yarn Reaches Right Out and Grabs You From the Shelf?

You swatch, swatch, swatch, and then swatch some more. For the non-knitters who read my posts, designers swatch to try out stitch patterns – to see which ones will bring out the qualities of the yarn that attracted them in the first place.

This gloriously hand-dyed yarn is Mineville Wools Project #2907, a worsted weight blend of merino, kid mohair, and nylon, made by Fleece Artist, a Halifax, Nova Scotia company that’s been around since 1978. Their goal is “… move beyond colour, to showcase the natural qualities of the yarn and thus enlivening your hand made projects.”

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Fibres Under The Microscope – What’s Itchy? What’s Not? Why?

It’s not hard to predict which sweater or scarf will be itchy when you see fibres under the microscope.

Here are a few details about the significance of the scales that you can see and the absence of them, on protein, plant, and synthetic fibres.

Protein Fibres

Animal fibres have scales that protrude; the larger the scales and the more they stick out, the itchier the fibre will feel. Alpaca and cashmere, with smoother, flatter scales are the easiest to wear of the animal fibres.

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Choosing Colours From Inspiration – A Klimt Painting

I fell in love with the colours in Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Eugenia Primavesi c. 1914 and am considering using them as inspiration for a knitting project. This rendering does not do the artwork justice. The colours are wonderfully vivid and varied.

After choosing the Klimt painting, I realized that the colours that attracted me in the NASA photo, from last week’s post, were the same as in the painting. And, more importantly, those  yellows and oranges were not colours I typically choose. Rarely, in fact.

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How to Use Inspiration to Choose Colours

Colour is a seriously tricky topic to teach, but I do include a segment in one of my classes called Be Inspired by Your Stash. I select something that’s inspiring to me in order to illustrate a way to approach choosing colours for knitting projects. I love this NASA photo for its otherworldly excitement. Paintings, fabric, your garden, your dog or cat’s fur, and the colours in one of the newish speckled yarns are just a few places to find your inspiration.

This photo from NASA is my most recent inspiration. The colours, the different values, and the shapes captivate me. I find the feeling of it rather unnerving – the explosive excitement of the orange on the left side contrasted with the somewhat calmer clouds and sky on the right. But the colours are what drew me to it as inspiration for colour work knitting.

The NASA photo is from Unsplash, a site that sends terrific pics every Friday. The site subtitle is – “Free (do whatever you want) high-resolution photos.” And the pics are awesome. Well worth subscribing to.

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The Niddy Noddy – A New to Me Wooden Tool


Research for my newest class, Be Inspired by Your Stash, led me to consider the usefulness of the weaver’s and knitter’s tool known as a niddy noddy. I must confess that in my original search for it, I looked for a knitty noddy, but found it all the same. Clearly, Google knows our foibles and missteps.

Where did this simple tool come from, I wondered, and how long has it been around? Mary Knox has fully researched the topic in her article,  Niddy-Noddies Through the Ages. It’s fascinating. There’s evidence of niddy noddies, along with other weaving tools, dating back to 834 AD in a womens’ burial site  in Norway. There’s a drawing of the tools in the article.

Both the archeological evidence and very early paintings show a parallel arm configuration, much trickier and more difficult to use than the variation with a 1/4 turn of one of the arms, like we use today.

Old Man with a Niddy Noddy, by Pieter Pietersz, a Dutch Renaissance painter, bears the faint inscription, “I am old and worn, and still I must wind for my food.”

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On St. Patricks Day – I Wish I Were Flying Hawks in Ireland and Visiting Hedgehog Fibres

When planning our 4th trip to Ireland, the thing we most wanted to do was fly hawks. We had read Helen Macdonald’s astonishingly moving book about training and flying a goshawk, one of the most challenging of the raptors. It helped her grieve the death of her beloved father. The Financial Times calls H is for Hawk “… a dazzling piece of work: deeply affecting, utterly fascinating and blazing with love and intelligence” in their excellent review

I had recently lost people myself, my mother, my brother, a good friend, and the suffering that Macdonald so eloquently and painfully wrote about spoke to me. She learned about loss, death, and herself while training Mabel, her goshawk.  For me, flying a hawk seemed like a small way to touch what Macdonald learned and have a rare opportunity to look wildness in the eye.

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7 Reasons to Love Wooden Knitter’s Tools

ChiaoGoo Yarn Swift knitting

I love wooden knitters’ tools. I suppose it makes perfect sense that someone with a site called Knits From the Woodlot should be as enamoured of wooden tools as I am. The photo above shows my newest acquisition, a wooden swift from ChiaoGoo. It has the qualities that I value in knitting tools – graceful lines, touchable surface, quiet and smooth working order, functional.

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