Which comes first for you, the yarn or the project?
We often have people come in saying they want to make a jumper, scarf or cowl – and that’s it. It’s a really fun exercise working out with them what kind of knit they are after (for work, weekends, something for a wedding or a gift), how it’ll be used (special occasion or an everyday item), then working to match a particular idea and pattern to the appropriate yarn – often within a certain budget too.
But if you have the perfect yarn in the perfect colour stashed away (Madeline Tosh, Pashmina, Ink), there is always that compulsion that nothing short of the perfect pattern will do the yarn justice. (And yes, I’ll know it when I see it …)
So, besides Ravelry, where else do we look for ideas and inspiration?
For Amy, ‘My favourite reference sources would be what I see other people making on Instagram and on their blogs, and the projects that customers bring into the shop.
‘Secondly it would be fashions that I see in the shops. I buy fine-knit cardigans as I’d never make those myself but whenever I see I chunky knit I like I can’t buy it as I think, “I could make that!” Sadly my production can’t keep up with my wishlist so I don’t actually make many knits for myself.’
Jackie spends a lot of time looking at fashion shows and at fashion boutiques to check out current knitwear shapes. ‘It just makes it easier to imagine how these things will actually fit into my wardrobe and style. In the past I have found it very difficult to not get carried away by cute and interesting knit patterns on Ravelry and how fun they might be to knit. I end up with things that are hard to incorporate into my style.
‘I check Style.com daily during the various fashion seasons around the world to keep an eye on what is happening. Even if it isn’t directly knitwear related, the shows are really influential for me. For example, I’ve been obsessed with the colour red after seeing the Roses and Blood collection by Commes Des Garcons from Spring 2015. I’ve got the most beautiful red colour in the Isager Tvinni that I will turn into a jumper very soon.’
That red. Source: Yannis Vlamos/Indigitalimages.com
Drawn as I am to certain elements in clothes – funnel necks, asymmetrical hemlines, plus I need knits with some structure – I make a mental note of them whenever they cross my path, and then try to cross-reference them to a similar pattern on my favourite knit sites such as Brooklyn Tweed.
The following photo shows a fragment from designer Prabal Gurung’s Fall/Winter 2015–16 collection, showcased during New York Fashion Week earlier this year. When I saw the pic, I thought the grey sweater (second from left) a dead-ringer for Carpino. And how I love that bright flash of orange against the grey and cream; I know I’ll make something in that heart-stoppingly bright colour to go with the rest of my wardrobe.
Source: Brooklyn Tweed
I am also a huge fan of pattern books, and it doesn’t hurt that the store has a seriously good collection to inspire and lead me astray from what I’m supposed to be working on.
If I’m looking for vintage ideas, I often go to the National Library of Australia’s Trove, which holds digitised Australian newspapers, books, maps and images – and is utterly invaluable a research resource. Perhaps less well known is the fact that Trove has heaps of knitting patterns, because knitting patterns used to be published in … newspapers. Have a look here.
Beyond the style in which the patterns are written (they assume so much more knowledge than patterns today!), they provide such insight into the concerns of the day, whether it be socks for soldiers to patterns for gloves, hats and bonnets to a jacket for the new baby king.
Looking at those patterns made me realise that perhaps it doesn’t matter if the yarn came first or the pattern, or even finding the perfect pattern for a particular yarn, but the fact that, altogether, the things we make capture moments and obsessions in our life.
The trick is to keep making.
Happy Mother’s Day to all mums out there for this Sunday! We hope you have a restful day with much spoiling, and perhaps some time to knit, crochet, make and reflect.