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Tag Archives: Designing

Wool Week 2014 Is Here & So Much More

September 2014 491Wool Week is here.

Friends are in Shetland or down in London having all sorts of woolly fun.

For the first time I am not actually involved in Wool Week. The past four years I was on the front-line at various events: talking to people about the wonderful qualities of wool, explaining how hand-knitting and fashion have more in common than people think, and emphasising that wool is far more than just lambswool or merino. But I am technically still as involved as ever.

This Sunday I am teaching a class on two-hand colourwork, Nordic knitting traditions, and Continental knitting at Edinburgh’s Be Inspired Fibres, I am also busy working on an article about North Atlantic knitting traditions for a knitting magazine and I am working on no less than five future designs. So, in a way I am still talking about all those things but at my own pace and in my own way. It feels good.

I cannot resist still dressing the part, though, so yesterday I wore my Orkney cardigan together with my True Brit Knits badge. Every week is Wool Week, of course, but it’s still nice to make an effort!

Design-wise I am both back doing something I really love and I am stretching my wings a wee bit.

I was recently commissioned by Susan Crawford to design a piece for her Knits for a Cold Climate collection. Susan’s famous for her vintage-inspired knitwear design and she has given myself and fellow collaborator, Tess Young, a very interesting and very tight design brief. As you may have guessed by the name, it is a collection of designs inspired by the late 1920s/early 1930s and the English novelist Nancy Mitford. I am using Susan’s Fenella yarn and the colour palette is just perfect for the period. I have long been interested in early 20th century arts and culture – specifically circa 1909 to 1939 – and I find it a really intriguing challenge to translate my knowledge of this period into knitwear design. Intriguing and fun. A bit like the design I am working on.

Finally, the Edinburgh Yarn Festival has announced their line-up of classes. I am really, really, really proud to see my name in a line-up international names as Helene Magnusson, Nancy Merchant, Veera Valimaki, Martina Behm, and Carol Feller as well as local luminaries Rachel Coopey, Hazel Tindall, the very, very lovely Kat Goldin/Joanne Scrace crochet duo, and Ysolda. Stallholders will be announced later this year – judging by the size of the new venue and some of the whispers I have overheard, it looks as though Jo & Micha has upped their game significantly. I am really, really proud to be a small, tiny part of this – and with In The Loop 4 lurking, 2015 could be a really great year for hand-knitting in Scotland.

(I really do guess that even though I’m not officially part of Wool Week this year, I’m still preaching the gospel. Ha.)

When the Design Process is a Difficult Mistress: Making Doggerland

It has been just under a year since I first wrote about this great idea I had for a collection of knitting patterns. Doggerland has been a long time coming, in other words. As I started pulling everything together and prep the patterns for general release, I thought I’d share the design process. Hopefully it’ll be of some interest to budding designers – I certainly would have loved a series of blog posts on this topic when I first began!

Photo Shoot - DoggerlandWhen I first got the idea of designing a series of patterns inspired by Doggerland (the landscape now submerged by the North Sea between Scandinavia and the UK), I first began by compiling a moodboard. I began with free association: moss, lichen, flint  and stone. Once I had a good selection of images, I began sorting through them until I could see a definite theme emerging. The colour palette was very easy to spot, but I had to keep chipping away at my pinned images until I was left with strong textures and an organic feel.

See those words? Colour palette. Strong textures. Organic feel. Those became my keywords. I knew those words encapsulated Doggerland. I had to aim for those words every time I worked on the collection.

Next, I did research. I knew I had to learn more about archaeology, the Stone Age (specifically the Mesolithic period when Doggerland began to vanish), and geology. I wanted to learn about what sort of art these people made, what sort of motifs they used, and how they interacted with the landscape. I visited the library, I spoke with archaeologists and material culture specialists, and I I read a lot of academic articles in English, Danish, and German (my German was not equipped for academic papers on marine archaeology, it is fair to say!). I enjoyed this part of the process – possibly I enjoyed it a bit too much because I let it drag on and on. I also forgot what part I was playing: I wasn’t a specialist and I didn’t need to be. I was the designer.

Oh. Art. Motifs. Landscape. More important words.

Photo Shoot - Doggerland

Around mid-summer 2012 I began acquiring the yarns I wanted to use. I wanted organic yarns from the present day North Sea regions – I tentatively call them site-specific yarns although that is a loaded term in art circles – because I wanted the yarns to be grounded in a very specific landscape. You will see a lot of Snældan yarns popping up as well as yarn from Garthenor, New Lanark, and Hjeltholt. I was very conscious of the colour palette and as a result I chose mainly neutral/undyed colours (with one notable exception).

Then I began sketching and swatching. This is where I hit a wall. Everything I did turned out to be too complex, too intricate and simply too much. I needed to find a simpler design vocabulary, to pare things down, and to edit my ideas. This took a surprisingly long time. I had my first workable design finished by mid-Autumn 2012, though I had a lot of sketches and swatches to show for all my work. These have not been discarded, but may be reworked into other designs (never throw out ideas!).

I had done most of the legwork – the conceptualising, the visualisation, the research, the sketching, the swatching and even some knitting – but the hard work had just begun.

Next: Moving from ideas into actual objects – and what I could have done differently..