Friday, July 16, 2010

Nevada sagebrush

I’ve written before about my friend Janine, the Feral Knitter and colorwork genius. I took my knitting down to her open house yesterday evening for a visit. Besides a happy hour or two of knitting and conversation, I enjoyed myself by pawing through the yarn playpen, trying to put together colors for a Nevada sagebrush-inspired sweater (or throw? or ???)  Here’s the playpen, filled with every color of Jamieson’s Spindrift:
6a00d83451687269e20133f1ec846e970b-320wiphoto from Feral Knitter

And here’s my inspiration, from two road-trip vacations in the last year to Montana and Idaho, via Nevada (mostly). We made the first trip last September, and just got back this week from a second:
Most people will tell you that northern Nevada’s high desert scrub makes for the most boring driving on earth. We don’t agree. In September especially, the sagebrush scrub was full of glorious color. There was the soft dry gray of the sagebrush itself; darker green of juniper, and charcoal-brown of juniper bark; bleached straw of dry grass; russet and pale pink seedheads; acid yellow and rhubarb-pink blooms; and shots of brilliant chartreuse here and there.  The large photo above gives a glimpse. These were my feeble attempts to capture it on camera:
P1350014 P1350015 P1350018
Pictures taken at 85 mph don’t work so well. The photo above captures some of the colors well, and here’s a gallery of better ones I gathered on Flickr:

Janine brought out one of her inspiration notebooks – and there was a big magazine photo of the same Nevada landscape pasted in! Here’s what I came up with for a start:
Poor photo, but colors are semi-close on my monitor. Top row: earth, sphagnum, thyme, lichen, and rye. The reds and pinks: rust, chestnut, spice, cinnamon, and coral (I think). Yellows, in the middle: daffodil and lemon, with the darker bronzey-gold bracken at right. Greens: moss, leprechaun, and pistachio. It’s only a start – we couldn’t find just the right acid yellow, sagebrush green, dead-grass-straw, or seedhead-rust. More detective work is in order – perhaps some Elemental Affects colors would fill the bill. (Here’s a full Spindrift color chart at Camilla Valley Farm; you can order the real thing from Janine – info here.)

Janine’s online store,, is under construction and should be up and running soon. She sells every single Spindrift color (you don’t have to wait for the finished website) and she’s offering mini 20-yard skeins for sampling – perfect for playing around and developing your own colorwork designs, as she teaches in her classes. She’s aiming to make Feral Knitter a home-on-the-web for knitters who love Fair Isle-style stranded colorwork, and she’s got some great, unusual ideas for the site. Stay tuned at her blog. Me, I’m going to order some miniskeins soon and start swatching.


  1. Beautiful! We used to really enjoy crossing Nevada (when we lived in CA and traveled back to IN). Now we enjoy eastern Oregon, which is a close cousin to Nevada - a little wetter, maybe a little colder in the winter.

    Your yarn looks great, though Leprechaun jumps out at me.

  2. We love eastern Oregon too- both trips, we returned via Highway 95 from Boise to Winnemucca, crossing the SE corner of the state. Empty, gorgeous country - but not quite as colorful as Nevada.

    Leprechaun would be a tiny accent, I think...

  3. Beautiful colors. I actually think the blurry pictures are better for color selection. It keeps you from getting bogged down in the minutiae -- just the broad impressions of color. I can't wait to see your swatches!