Thursday, March 18, 2010

Color knitting links & inspiration

The Knitfinder resource section is coming along slowly – I’m trying to build it into the be-all and end-all of knitting bookmark collections, so you can start there to find ANY kind of knitting info you happen to be looking for. I’m working on a color knitting resource page now and thought I’d share a few tidbits.

image Nanette Blanchard’s blog Knitting in Color has been around since 2003, and it’s full of great information and inspiration for stranded color knitting. You’ll find tutorials, patterns, and lovely photos – Nanette lives in photogenic New Mexico. She’s self-published several how-to booklets including Stranded Color Knitting, Glove Knitting, and Mittens in Color. At left, one of her mitten designs – the lovely Tijeras mittens. Find all her booklets and patterns in her Ravelry shop.

Here’s a great resource from Nanette’s blog: a list of the best yarns for stranded color knitting, organized by weight and linked to their Ravelry pages. Yarns were chosen for their quality and wide color range. The list is a year and a half old; there are some new yarns that would be good additions, like St-Denis Nordique and Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light.

If you’re embarking on your first stranded color project, there are plenty of how-tos out there. There’s a list of the best here.  TECHknitting has a great tutorial series on stranded knitting:  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 as well as one on slip-stitch color knitting. If you’ve never been over to TECHknitting, you’ll be amazed at the wealth of information. If you learn better from video, the KnitPicks tutorial section is a good place to start. There’s a collection of colorwork tutorials, including stripes, intarsia, Fair Isle, and color theory. Here’s one showing different methods of handling yarns for stranded knitting.

My friend Janine Bajus aka Feral Knitter is a brilliant colorwork designer and teacher. Her 3-day “Design Your Own Fair Isle” class is scheduled for March 26-28 in Berkeley, California – I don’t know if there’s still space available. There’s also a one-day class in May at Web-sters in Ashland, Oregon.

Here’s a swatch I knit in her class; she teaches a simple swatching technique for evaluating color combinations. This swatch revealed one I hated (the green and yellow in the middle), and several I loved (red and lavender, red and mint green, olive and coral). And you’ll find great tips, patterns, and color inspiration on her blog. Janine’s Celtic Pillows (free PDF from Two Swans Yarns, a great source for Fair Isle yarns and patterns) are meant as a canvas for playing with your own color choices.

There’s going to be an “Around the World” section in the Knitfinder resources, and color knitting leads us right into that. Scotland, Norway, Estonia, Sweden, Turkey, Peru…all have their own color knitting traditions. You’ll find the whole world of color knitting at unionpearl’s Knitting Letters A to Z. Many photos, great writing on knitting traditions, lots of links.

Some more photo inspiration:

Swedish Bohus Stickning on Flickr (read more about Bohus here)
Annemarie Sundbo’s collection of Norwegian mittens, stockings and sweaters
Latvian mitten galleries – from a project associated with the NATO summit in Riga, 2006
Let’s not forget modern colorwork designers: Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably, Alice and Jade Starmore.

More to come when the color knitting page goes live. I’m behind on other work this week, so there will be no pattern roundup tomorrow – look for it again next week. I may move it to Mondays or Tuesdays so I have time to write the posts over the weekend.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday pattern roundup

image Some of this week’s most original and creative patterns are in a new book from STC Craft, Comfort Knitting and Crochet: Afghans. This book has 27 knitted afghan patterns (and 24 crocheted ones)  by Norah Gaughan, Margery Winter, and the rest of the Berroco design team. There’s an amazing variety of color, texture, and techniques to choose from. You can see photos of all the designs here on the Berroco website. Here are two of my favorites:


Danish Modern
All the patterns are written for Berroco’s acrylic/nylon blend Comfort® yarn in various weights. If you prefer to knit with natural-fiber yarns, it shouldn’t be difficult to substitute – or to shrink patterns to baby-blanket size. **Edited to add: Berroco is giving away 50 copies of the book, plus yarn - click here to enter the drawing.

Patternfish added its 5,000th pattern this week. This site is a fantastic source for patterns past and present – 40+ new ones added every week. More info about them here. Number 5000 was the Kathy Zimmerman coat in Classic Elite Waterlily on the left, knitted sideways in strong knit-purl texture. There’s also a new stole by Catherine Devine with handsome stylized flowers on a mesh ground, and a ladylike cropped cabled vest by Michelle Porter for Lana Gatto (check out the cable detail around the armholes).

image Waterlily Sideways Cardigan image Andrea Dogwood Blossom Wrap image 
Cable V-Neck Vest
Prices for these patterns range from $4.95 - $6.00 – all available instantly. By the way, did you know you can order Classic Elite yarns directly from their website? Waterlily info/colors here.

image Here’s a brand new design from Fiddlesticks KnittingFlair, a  coat-length  vest in feather-and-fan lace with neat, wide seed-stitch bands. Simple, elegant vertical lines, meant to be closed with a pin. A short version would be very nice too.  The yarn is DK-weight raw silk; there’s a special kit price until April 11. Or, buy the (printed) pattern only for $12.00
More lace – an unusual shawl design from Tiziana Sammuri called In Spring ShawletteIt’s knitted from the bottom up, shaped as four steep triangles with wide embossed-leaf panels on a lace ground. Available as a Ravelry download for € 4.00 EUR. Requires 600-650 yards of fingering-weight yarn. Tiziana has several other beautiful lace designs in her Ravelry shop. image
A small free project: the Honey Cowl from Madelinetosh. Reversible slip-stitch texture pattern shows off the semisolid yarn beautifully. 225-450 yards of DK merino wool, may be made short or long, wide or narrow. This would be lovely in silk or a silk blend, too.
Finally, a couple of months old but new to me, Rachel Russ’s incredibly cute Pixie Poncho, designed for Spud & Chloe Yarns  - it’s published in their leaflet no. 9508. A short hooded, fringed poncho with exuberant colorwork in a cotton-wool blend.image

I’m working on a color knitting page for the Knitfinder resource section, which is still in its infancy. I’ll post some of the great links I’ve found for you in a few days. Meanwhile, enjoy this week’s patterns!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday pattern roundup

We begin with a pretty new sweater called Manu from Kate Davies. It’s a yoke cardigan in stockinette stitch with a softly gathered neckline and matching gathered patch pockets. Longer length, three-button closure; written for sport or DK weight alpaca or wool/angora/cashmere. You can buy it from Kate’s blog or on Ravelry for £3.50 GBP.
Next, something for men - Janet Szabo’s Cedar Trail Vest from the new issue of Twists and Turns. It’s a handsome button-front vest in worsted-weight cotton/merino blend, with intricate small-scale cable patterning and garter-stitch bands. Would be fine for women too. You can download the issue for $5.00, and there’s a nice women’s pullover in it as well, among other patterns.
More texture: the Hands of Blue fingerless gloves are a free pattern from Lucy Hague – download the PDF file here. Bands of undulating twisted ribbing, a longer length, and pattern options for fingerless mitts, half-fingered or full-fingered gloves. Written for 150 yards of DK-weight yarn; the designer used a bamboo/merino blend.
Now for some color – two patterns from Dutch designers. First, Alyssum from Dutch Knitting Design, a simple triangular shawl designed to show off the color changes of Noro Silk Garden Sock yarn. $7.00, available as a Ravelry download (I don’t see it on the Dutch Knitting Design website yet).
imageThese Hiroshige mittens in three colors by Hanneke Sieben are inspired by a Japanese print. A complex chart and some rounds that use all three colors make this project a bit advanced. Lovely – somehow they look wintry and springlike at the same time. Available as a Ravelry download for $3.00. Knitted in Dale Heilo and Cascade 220.

imageTo wrap things up, a spring/summer design, the very pretty Soft Linen Single Gore Skirt by Gudrun Johnston, published in Classic Elite’s Farmer’s Market brochure. Soft Linen is a DK weight wool/linen/alpaca blend. Graceful flared shape, inverted pleat with lacy embossed flowers, and a touch of texture at the yoke and hem. There are several other nice patterns in the brochure.

Enjoy! Until next week.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Vintage Bohus

I spent last Sunday in Susanna Hansson’s Bohus Stickning class at Stitches West. What a great day! Susanna tells the Bohus story, with plenty of slides, shows off her collection of vintage Bohus garments, and gets you started on a pair of Blue Shimmer cuffs. For me, the highlight was the opportunity to see and handle the vintage garments from Susanna’s collection. Here are some photos – click to see closeups. From the 1940s, two designs by Anna-Lisa Mannheimer Lunn:

 Blue-Eskimo-hat Blue Eskimo hat RedEdge1
Red Edge cardigan
See the unexpected touch of pink in the Blue Eskimo hat? That photo also shows the tiny gauge – look at the garter-stitch brim. These 40s designs have less of a modern following than the later ones, but I love the retro look of them. Rumor has it that a kit and pattern for The Red Edge is coming soon from Solveig Gustafsson. I’d wear that sweater often.

From the 1950s, three designs by Annika Malmström-Bladini (all from 1957):

 winter-haze-tam3 Winter Haze (Vinterdis) tam Lemon2Lemon cardigan 

Tobak (Tobacco) was a cowl-neck pullover with a plain body and color patterning on the neck and cuffs only.  And Lemon – that eye-popping chartreuse body color is quite true, on my monitor at least.

From the 1960s, designs of Kerstin Olsson:
Green-Wood-2 The Green Wood (1960) WinterHaze-tamMyrten Grön tam (1964)
New-Azalea-3 The New Azalea (Red Egg) (1963) Mosaik4 Mosaik jacket (1967)

And one last 1960s design, Karin Ivarsson’s Large Lace Collar tam from 1960:

The Bohus story is told in detail in Wendy Keele’s excellent book Poems of Color. (The book was recently out of print for a short period; it’s likely to go out of print again soon, possibly for good.) Briefly, it goes like this: in 1937, a group of women, wives of unemployed stone cutters in the Bohus province of Sweden, approached the provincial governor’s wife for help devising a home-based industry that would allow them to help support their families. The governor’s wife was Emma Jacobsson, a highly educated Austrian Jew who had grown up in Vienna and immigrated to Sweden when she married. She took on the project, and after a few false starts, settled on the production of handknit garments – sweaters, hats, mittens and gloves.

Bohus Stickning was born in 1939 and lasted until its closure in 1969. Emma Jacobsson herself was the first designer; just five others were hired over the entire 30 years. Hundreds of knitters worked for Bohus Stickning over the years. They were highly trained and well paid, receiving about 30% of the retail price; they were expected to produce perfectly-knitted garments, but were allowed up to 3 months to finish a sweater.

These were couture garments with a conscious fashion aesthetic. They were marketed as luxury goods; the sweaters sold for around $300 US in the 1950s in stores like Neiman Marcus. Ingrid Bergman and Grace Kelly were among the celebrities who owned Bohus sweaters. Emma Jacobsson fiercely defended the integrity of the brand through strict quality control (of  the wool, the spinning, the dyeing, and the knitting) and marketing techniques (high pricing, careful choice of sales outlets).

For more on Bohus Stickning, read Poems of Color. If you ever get a chance, take Susanna’s class – there’s nothing like seeing the garments in person, and being able to examine the construction methods. Here’s a link to an online article based on one of Susanna’s lectures – it appeared in Knitch magazine. Unfortunately Radiant Knits: An Enchanting Obsession,  the catalog for the 2009 Bohus exhibit at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, seems to be no longer available. [Edited to add: You can get it from Saga Hill Designs, the website of Wendy J. Johnson, who photographed the Bohus garments for the catalog. Thanks to Ellen for the tip.] That exhibit featured Susanna Hansson’s collection. There’s also a documentary film by Kjell Andersson, made for Swedish Television in 1999. The film is available from Schoolhouse Pressin fact you can order it together with Poems of Color at a 20% discount. There’s also a Flickr pool, with photos of some vintage sweaters I’ve seen nowhere else like this one and this one. Of course, there is a Ravelry group too, moderated by my friend ermabom aka knitsarina.

*Edited to add one more great online article: B is for Bohus, Revisited, an entry in unionpurl's Knitting Abecedarium.

As many of you know, some of the garments are now being reproduced in kit form by master Swedish dyer Solveig Gustafsson. Her yarns and colors are truly beautiful, and the prices are very reasonable. Just go to her website and feast your eyes on the designs she’s made available. Susanna has very generously translated the patterns into English, in return for which she encourages knitters to donate to Doctors Without Borders, in the spirit of Bohus Stickning’s original social support purpose.

I don’t have much to show for my morning of class knitting:
blue-shimmer-cuff I’m pretty slow with two and three colors at a time on 000 needles. That’s the size I needed to get a gauge of 8.5 stitches to the inch.  The yarn is 50/50 merino and angora. I have to rip this and start over to get a nice cuff, but I plan not only to do that, but to go on and knit gloves. I think they’ll be beautiful.

**3/4/2010: Just uploaded the vintage Bohus photos to Flickr so you can see them even bigger. Click here