Bristol Ivy talks intarsia

We've been beavering away behind the scenes to get A Year of Techniques ready for the final copy editing and layout process, which is why it's been a bit quiet around here. In between all that I've been knitting like mad on my Brambling Shawl. I'm feeling a little bit sad that it's nearly done, as I've enjoyed it so much. But I'm also bursting with excitement to share May's pattern with you next week. It's a corker!

So how have you found intarsia? Was it as tricky as you thought? Or were you already a seasoned intarsia expert who had knitted a heap of picture sweaters in the 80s? I've been chatting to Bristol Ivy (the genius designer of Brambling) about her experience of intarsia, and I've pumped her for pattern inspiration for my next intarsia project. Here's what she had to say:

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Intarsia and the Brambling shawl

I can't believe the first month of A Year of Techniques has flown by so quickly! The enthusiasm and excitement that you've shared this month in the knitalong threads, on Instagram, by email and in blog posts has been humbling. Thank you all!

present to you the Brambling shawl! I had a total intarsia conversion last year when I knitted my Harewood Hap, so when we started to think about techniques and designers for A Year of Techniques, I knew that I wanted Bristol Ivy to be our "intarsia pusher"!

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June Pattern Round-Up

Much of June was taken up with promotion work, but there have still been a few patterns that have crossed our desks and been published. 

Summer is most definitely shawl season, and Bristol Ivy's eye-catching Rillmark stands out from the crowd.

Rillmark

It takes its name from the marks left in the sand by the retreating water once a wave has broken on a beach. It has a clever construction in the way that increases are worked not only in the body of the shawl, but also in the edging without any obvious break in the pattern.

Conifer, a baby cardigan, is the latest release from Ella Austin's Colour and Line Collection

Conifer

Any child wearing this beautiful cardigan will undoubtedly get jealous glances from all quarters.

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Photos © Bristol Ivy and Emma Solley (Ella Austin) respectively

May Pattern Round-Up

This last month has felt like it has been all about The Book of Haps, but we've had other things in the pipeline.

Waits is a top-down version of Bristol Ivy's popular Newsom cardigan and features interesting mitred shaping. If you already have Newsom, or would like both, use the code DUET at the checkout to get a discount. 

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Shetlander Donna Smith was the patron of Shetland Wool Week in 2015 and her Baa-ble Hat, the official pattern, has been made thousands of times. She also contributed Houlland to the Book of Haps. Her Shallmillens Snood takes its name from the Shetland word for "smithereens" or lots of little pieces, and that is an apt description. Made up from a series of short colourwork sections, this is an ideal project for novice knitters, or more experienced knitters alike.

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If you're looking for a fun, small project to carry around with you, Mary Jane Mucklestone's Maritime Mitts could be just the thing. There is a KAL going on in Mary Jane's group from now until the end of August with weekly prizes, as well as one at the end. 

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Finally, Ella Austin's latest release from her Colour and Line collection is Essie, a lightweight sweater for summer. Popcorn stitches in the yoke mark the Morse code letter S, giving the pattern its name. Essie is available as a single download, or with the whole collection.

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Keep up to date with all we're doing:
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Images © Bristol Ivy; Donna Smith; Mary Jane Mucklestone; and Emma Solley (Ella Austin) respectively.

Harewood Hap by Bristol Ivy

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Bristol Ivy's design for The Book of Haps is revealed today: She is an extraordinarily-talented designer, whose approach to knitwear on occasion defies explanation (Astragal, Newsom and Wainwright are all good examples)! Born in Oklahoma, but a resident of Maine since early childhood, Bristol now can't imagine leaving the beautiful coastal state. Bristol learned to knit as a child, but took it up seriously as a teenager, and from the start wanted to make things her own way. She first experimented with creating her own designs in 2008, but we had to wait until 2010 for her to publish her first full knitting pattern.

In her own words:

I’ve been working in the yarn and fiber industry since 2007, in all sorts of capacities. I’ve worked as a production weaver, a dyer, a spinning and weaving store employee, a sample knitter, a tech editor, a photographer, and most recently behind the scenes for the yarn company Brooklyn Tweed. Before I went all yarny, I had planned to take my degree in anthropology and continue through to a PhD and then to non-profit work in the fiber arts. Deciding to skip graduate school and go directly to fiber arts was a really liberating move! Now I work as a designer and travel around the world to teach knitting. I couldn’t ask for a better life!

Without further ado, here's her Harewood Hap - an unexpected take on the chevron pattern.

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Jen: I am a huge admirer of the way that you approach your designs. You clearly think about garment construction in a totally different way to most knitwear designers - taking things in unexpected directions and using clever techniques. But you manage to do so without losing sight of the knitting experience, or its finished look. How on earth do you do that? And what would constitute “going too far” (is going too far even possible)?

Bristol: I love coming at things from unexpected directions! One of my big things with knitting is that I want people to realize that their work is theirs to command and to manipulate. We come into knitting with all of these preconceived notions of what garment construction has to be, but when you really think about it, there are no rules. Just because sweaters have been knit for years from the top-down doesn’t mean they have to be. Just because intarsia has been worked in organic, pictorial shapes for years doesn’t mean it has to be. Everything is malleable, for the greater good of your own creativity and your own vision. Once you let those preconceived notions go, you get to construct things in whatever way gets you exactly what you want.

Within that, though, I try hard to make sure that it’s never at the cost of wearability or knittability. Stephen Sondheim has this set of rules that he uses for lyric writing, as follows:

“There are only three principles necessary for a lyric writer, all of them familiar truisms. . . . In no particular order, and to be inscribed in stone:
content dictates form
less is more
God is in the details
all in the service of clarity, without which nothing else matters.”

I think those rules are applicable to any art form, and especially knitting design for me. I am always super happy to go down the rabbithole of a “what if?” moment - what if I played with the increase rate? What if I messed with intarsia and chevrons at the same time? But I always try to make sure that at the end of the rabbithole is something that has purpose as a garment and stays simple enough to be both conceptually approachable as a knitting project and as a wardrobe item. I want my work to push boundaries of what people think is possible with knitting, but I also want it to be something they enjoy knitting and enjoy wearing!

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Jen: Browsing through your designs on Ravelry, I noticed that Harewood isn’t the first of your patterns to use chevron or zigzag motifs - is it a shape that you’re particularly connected to? And if so, do you have plans to take it in even more unexpected directions?

Bristol: Oh goodness, I just love chevrons. I think we all have certain things as knitters that click with our brain pathways - some people have a deep affinity with short rows, some with cables, some with colorwork, stuff that they understand intuitively down to their bones. For me, chevrons just make sense. Knitting is so fundamentally fluid and organic, and I love that chevrons and diagonals bring a linear and architectural dimension to that. It’s such a good interplay of soft fabric and sharp line. I can’t get enough! There’s definitely a lot more in the pipeline!

Jen: That's great to hear!

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Jen: Many people (myself included) feel daunted by intarsia, or have had bad experiences of picture projects with too many tangled ends. I am very keen to make Harewood - as I am sure many others will be too - so can you offer any advice on starting again with intarsia. I have a sneaking suspicion that with the right project, it doesn’t need to be the frustrating experience that many see it as.

Bristol: I think we all got intimidated by the idea of intarsia and the overwhelming bird’s nest of tangled ends that was the wrong side of our work! Then there’s the drama of gaps at the join, trying to make sure that the floats were long enough when we moved over a few stitches, attempting to weave in ends discreetly... it looks like a whole handful of trouble. But! The thing I love most about Harewood is that, while it looks complicated, the chevron increases and decreases are moving the intarsia rather than the intarsia shifting stitches on its own, so it’s a very clear-cut and simple execution. You get to concentrate on the increases and decreases doing the hard work! What I did to keep the colors straight was to lay each bobbin or butterfly in a row, and then just make sure to flip the work in the same direction every time. After a single right side row, it looks like you’ve made an unholy mess, but when you work back on the wrong side, it’ll untwist as it goes. I will also confess that detangling is a total guilty pleasure for me, so I never quite mind if I get a little bit of straightening-out time!

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Jen: Many, many thanks Bristol for sharing your insight and the ideas behind your beautiful Harewood Hap.

Bristol's hap uses 2 skeins each of Fyberspates Vivacious 4ply and Shilasdair Luxury 4ply. Full technical details can be found on the Harewood Hap Ravelry pattern page.

The next design will be revealed tomorrow on Kate's blog, so don't forget to stop by. You can see all of the patterns as they are released on Ravelry: The Book of Haps

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First image © Bristol Ivy, all other images © Kate Davies Designs.

April pattern round-up

This last month has been (nearly) all about haps. As I write, we're waiting eagerly to see the first proofs for The Book of Haps so we can iron out creases. I'd love to show off all of the amazing photos, but can't........yet. 

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This is not a hap

We haven't been exclusively working on big book projects this month though. I've been working little by little on a couple of projects that won't be released until later in the year. Both of us have also had techniques articles published in magazines. Jen's most recent was in The Knitter issue 96 on pleats and tucks, her latest favourite things in the whole world and I've written about different methods for decreasing in Simply Knitting issue 146.

Gudrun Johnston has refreshed her Tirrick shawl pattern, with re-edited instructions, new charts and new photographs. It is worked in wedge sections, followed by the edging. You may recognise Ella Gordon, this year's patron of Shetland Wool Week modelling.

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© Gudrun Johnston

Gudrun also has a brand new cardigan, Islay. It is sized to fit anyone from baby to adult and features the diagonal lace patterning and an i-cord bind-off at the neck. 

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© Gudrun Johnston

Bristol Ivy is incredibly clever with her designs. This is Occam, no ordinary garter stitch scarf.

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© Bristol Ivy

It is simply stripes, but by careful use of increases and decreases, the stripes become more and more pointed into chevrons as you work along the scarf. Basically, it's a study in gradient pointyness.

In a month of cleverly designed neckwear, Ella Austin's second instalment from her Colour and Line collection really catches the eye. Her Rachel Castle inspired Venn scarf is essentially a tube that lies flat to give the impression of overlapping circles. Because all of the ends are within the tube, it looks the same on both sides.

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© Emma Solley

Don't forget to join our Ravelry group to keep up to date with what we're up to.

 

Jim 

 

March Pattern Round Up - 2

March was a busy month for publishing patterns, so here's the second half of a post that should probably have been called, "What We've Been Up To."

Anyone familiar with Brooklyn Tweed's Wool People, Interweave Knits, or Pom Pom Quarterly will know the name Bristol Ivy. Her designs are innovative in their construction and she thinks about space in a way that would stop my brain dead for days. Jen worked on her Selkie Hat and Mitts for Taproot magazine. Taproot is not a knitting magazine, but a quarterly magazine for "makers, doers and dreamers." Looking at the website immediately put me in mind of Oh Comely, or Selvedge.

The cables in the hat and mitts are inspired by the myth of the selkie and movement of water on the shoreline, the ripple of seaweed just under the surface and the gentle patterning of a seal's skin.     

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Selkie Hat and Mitts (Photo ©Carrie Bostick Hoge for Taproot)

Ella Austin publishes as Bombella and you may have seen her recent collection of colourwork animals, Dovestone Smallholding, with Baa Ram Ewe knits. Her Delta Hat and Mitts are the first patterns to be published from her graphic inspired Colour and Line collection. She is releasing a pattern a month and patterns can be bought singly, or altogether. I've misplaced my mitts that I wear in the office when it's chilly, so may have to whip up a pair of Deltas to stay warm until summer comes (if ever it does). 

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 Sue Stratford runs The Knitting Hut and has a large back catalogue of knitted toys. That's not her only skill, as her Swanpool Cardigan shows. It is worked top down and features mock cable details on the yoke to give it an interesting look.

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April has started busy and there should be plenty to share in a month's time. Hopefully I'll be able to share some sneaky peeks from the Book of Haps too!

Jim