Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Cables and Colourwork, Or How I went to Edinburgh and Learned to Love the Swatch. . .

I know I seem to be babbling on and on about the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, but honestly, it was so darned inspiring.  I have a million creative ideas crashing up against each other in my brain and tons and tons of projects that I now want to do.  And in just three days, my knitting confidence went sky-high due to two incredibly talented and inspiring people.

On the Friday night, we'd gone to the book launch at Kathy's Knits of Lucy Hague's Celtic Cable Shawls. I had long been eyeing Taliesin on ravelry but while I've done basic cabling, I've never attempted anything like this. It looked way too hard for my skills.  But nothing ventured . . . I bought the book (which is gorgeous - I want to knit all of the shawls) and after the launch and a lovely dinner, I got into my jammies with the book, just intending to read the introduction and look at all the pretty pictures.

But a few pages in, Lucy suggests doing a swatch.  It was only about 25 rows and intended to teach you all the techniques you'd need to knit her shawls.  I couldn't resist and got out a pair of needles and the closest wool to hand.

That tiny swatch took me two hours! And involved several curse words.

But it was completely invaluable.  The first shawl I've cast on is Nine Maidens which is knit from the bottom up, so after a few set-up rows it plunges right into the cabling. Having done the swatch, with a little practice (and a whole lot of concentration - I recommend complete silence while doing the cabling bit), I was completely in the zone and really enjoyed seeing these cables build up.  I've been carrying that swatch around in my project bag as a lucky knitting talisman; I am really proud of having mastered some of these techinques, which are explained very well in the book; with a little practice, anyone can do them!

The other big inspiration of the weekend came from the colourwork workshop I took with Felicity Ford.

I was quite nervous about this because you had to bring an inspiration object and then through sketching it, find motifs and colours to transfer to your own fair isle pattern. Now I am completely rubbish at drawing.  This was my inspiration - Above Lake Superior,  by Canadian Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris, painted in 1922.

Felicity had brought a skein of nearly every colour in the Jamieson & Smith range, all set out on a large table.  Our first task was to pick just one colour from our inspiration - I chose that heathery purple of the mountain.  And then I just doodled away.

It's hard to explain precisely what clicked in my head, but having the restriction of only using two colours per line, and trying to find a motif that would happily divide into a factor of three or four, seemed to simplify things and I suddenly saw lots of different triangles and geometric shadows.  It was all very exciting.  We only had three hours, so I decided to focus on the stark yellow-white of the tree and that pattern on the right is what I came up with.

But I really wanted to represent the purple mountain too.  And that's when Felicity taught me about background shading (as she was gleefully piling more and more colours of yarn onto the table in front of me!)  My swatch is not finished but here's what I completed during the task.  The trick is to shade gradually, so the orange into the purple doesn't really work as it creates too great a contrast. Above the purple however are two closer shades that she picked out for me, and these merge really well. The whole point of the exercise is that you won't know until you swatch!

The workshop was so much fun and I really learned a lot.  Felicity's swatches (mistakes and all) are huge and could easily hang on the wall as art.   I have this arching ambition to create one long swatch representing the Coast to Coast walk that I did almost three years ago.  I've bought lots of mini-skeins of wool in tons of colours.  We'll see how it goes . . .

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