There is a great temptation sometimes to doubt one's own abilities and for many, me included, this is often around design and use of colour. But fear not! Help is at hand.
You may have been lucky enough to have taken one of Felicity (Felix) Ford's classes, as I did at Edinburgh Yarn Festival a couple of years ago. Or perhaps you follow her on Instagram or Twitter. If you have come across her, you will undoubtedly be aware of her boundless enthusiasm for the potential of just about anything as a source of inspiration for design. We love spending time with Felix (above) because she sees the world differently from us and can communicate how she sees things so clearly that we cannot help but have our eyes opened to the possibilities. For Jim, the combination of a natter with Felix and a class with Donna Smith at Shetland Wool Week led to his sketching out an idea for a stranded cowl, including selecting his own colours. Our niece is very pleased with the result, as I think Jim quietly is too. The cowl was inspired by the Assembly Point signage in the workshop room, along with the room's colour palette.
This is the basic idea behind the Knitsonik Colourwork System that Felix has developed through her books Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook and Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Playbook. Essentially, you can take the places and objects you see every day and turn them into a colourwork motif to use within your own knitting. Felix advocates a "no-ripping-out" approach where you work good-sized swatches, and keep moving forwards, adjusting and refining your colourwork until you have combinations of colours and motifs with which you are pleased. The complete process is laid out, with heaps of examples, ideas and detailed guidance in her first book, Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook.
Earlier this year, Felix launched her second book Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Playbook (and third – a colouring companion). It takes many of the questions that have arisen in her teaching over the last few years and expands further on the system. But more than that, it is also something of a study of community within knitting, and is a complete joy to read. Like her first book, all of the patterns and swatches are created using Jamieson & Smith's fabulous 2ply Jumper Weight yarn. This comes in a wide range of colours and the 25g balls make it perfect for colourwork, along with the properties of the woollen-spun Shetland wool of course.
The second chapter of the Stranded Colourwork Playbook illustrates the community aspect of the book perfectly. It results from the coming together of two perfectly collaborative projects. The first is the concept that Liz Ashdowne developed (based on Felix's swatches from the Sourcebook) for the knitting community to create knitted colourwork bunting for Felix and Mark's wedding in 2016. The basic bunting pattern is the perfect palette for experimenting with small colourwork motifs, and in this chapter it is combined with the inspiration source of Tarmac Tuesday (a hashtag on Instagram created after inspiration from Felix's first book which features a swatch on the A4074, a road often travelled by Felix). Specific Tarmac Tuesday instagram images have been used as inspiration for the colourwork motifs that are charted, as well as lots of ideas on creating your own. The chapter is playful and surprising in equal measure, and once again shows you how to take even the most unassuming of the everyday, tarmac, and turn it into beautiful knitting.
The wonderful Polka Dots and Dolls device cosies shown above are the project at the end of a fascinating chapter on taking inspiration from printed fabric. But more than just working a fabric into knitting (which presents a number of challenges), it also explores how you might approach the difficulty of scaling a motif to fit a different sized canvas. The cosies above demonstrate brilliantly how the Matryoshka doll motif can be scaled, without losing its basic essence – in exactly the same way as the dolls themselves are scaled.
The final chapter works on personal colour schemes as well as ways of interpreting flowers in stranded knitting. The canvas this time is a sweeping semi-circular floral shawl, based on Elizabeth Zimmermann's pi-shawl architecture. Detailed instructions for three different colourway shawls are included (based on Cherry Blossom, Dandelion and Lobelia), as well as a series of charts providing inspiration for three more colour combinations, Tulip, Scabious and Snakeshead Fritillary. These shawls are sumptuous and allow for maximum exploration of the possibilities of interpreting flowers into knitting.
As someone who has always felt rather ignorant of how to put together colours in any aspect of life, but particularly in stranded colourwork, I have gained a huge amount of confidence from reading Felix's books. She has an infectious enthusiasm, and an ability to make you feel like you too can succeed in creating colourwork beauty, and for that I will always be grateful. I've talked before about how I never really saw myself as creative (being a total maths-science geek at school), and it's really hard to change your self-perception, but Felix may just be persuading me that I too can use colour with confidence.
I haven't tried to cover all of the content of the Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Playbook in this post – there are whole chapters I've not mentioned – and I've not even touched on the brilliance of the Playbook Colouring Companion! You can purchase copies of all three of Felix's fantastic books over in the shop, and to encourage you in your stranded colourwork exploration, we have set up a discount code giving you £5.00 off when you spend £30.00 or more on Jamieson & Smith yarns. This includes not only the four J&S yarn ranges we stock, but also the kits that include just J&S yarns (individual J&S kits from A Year of Techniques, A Shetland Story, Fair Isle Designs from Shetland Knitters and the Jumper Weight Starter Bundles). We hope this will help you to build a library for stranded colourwork, so that you too can confidently take inspiration from your surroundings to create beautiful knitwear.
Use the code SPEND30SAVE5 at the checkout (or click the button/link below to have the discount already applied – definitely use this if you are on a mobile or tablet device). The code is valid until Sunday 3rd June at 23:59 British Summer Time, and applies to yarns NOT the Knitsonik books.
Clearly, we sell Felix's books, so I have an interest in being enthusiastic about them, but if you read back through my original post about the Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, when the Kickstarter campaign was launched (before we sold any physical products!), I hope it will be obvious that my enthusiasm is more than just a selling tool! :)
All images in this post, apart from Jim's cowl, are © Felicity (Felix) Ford.