We love seeing what everyone is casting on as a new issue of Pom Pom starts to arrive all over the world! This summer our knit along is extra special as it’s a Pomfest KAL, made possible by our kind sponsors John Arbon Textiles, Coop Knits, Julie Asselin, Kettle Yarn Co. and La Bien Aimée. We’ll be bringing you extra KAL blog posts with tips, tricks and titbits of information to keep you up to date with our big knit along!
For this KAL post we’re joined by designer, knitter, and all round PPQ pal, Francesca Hughes. You may know from her Pom Pom designs Vellamo, Lemel, and most recently Jamboree in Issue 21, or from her collaborations with John Arbon Textiles. You’ll be able to say hello to Francesca, and see all the gorgeous John Arbon yarns she uses for yourself at Pomfest this summer! Plus, the man himself John Arbon will be our DJ for the Friday night Pomcast Live Party, spinning some tunes as brilliantly as he spins yarns!
‘I often find myself daydreaming out of windows or staring intently at a cracked wall in a tube station. Quirky nooks and crannies like these provide a lot of colour pairing and texture inspiration for my designs. Rusting metals and layers and layers of flaking paints are also personal favourites that I return to time and again. Nature too of course offers unusual and beautiful colour combinations.
Choosing colours for designs is one of the most exciting aspects of creating! When looking at your surroundings for inspiration I find taking snap shots the best way to start the process and to begin to see how colours play together.
When it came to designing Vellamo, published in Pom Pom Autumn 2016: The Natural Dyes Issue, I knew I needed to use colours that were punchy and empowered by nature. The inspiration for the actual design was based on alchemy. That’s how I view the dyeing process, especially natural dyeing – like some sort of witchcraft, with the mordants, the mixing, and the steam. I looked into alchemical symbols for water, metal, and earth, and started to manipulate them into my knitting, translating them to visually similar stitch patterns.
Here are a few examples of other colour combinations and stitch patterns I experimented with before finding the perfect mix for the brief. The stitches you choose determine the appearance of the final piece so I find myself playing with lots before making a final decision. My swatch box is bulging at the seams!
When knitting my second Vellamo sweater I used two shades of bottle green John Arbon Knit by Numbers. I was stuck on which accent colour to go with; grape, bright pink and a mid pink were the three contenders. It was only when I turned over my copy of Pom Pom and saw the beautiful plant with its flower on the back cover, that nature showed me the natural accent.
Projects on Ravelry are such an inspiration and it’s wonderful to see how many people have put their own stamp on my designs, using different colours or modifying the pattern to suit their own personal style.
I thought of reflections in moving water, where the image becomes distorted, and reflections in broken mirrors where things don’t quite add up. I wanted structure in mayhem and created a fabric which has both fluid movement and severe lines. I used a range of beautiful metallic tones of John Arbon Alpaca Supreme. It creates a luxurious shimmer, with added texture created by bobble details on the trims. The weight of the Alpaca and Silk in this yarn gives the fabric a beautiful swing and drape.
When looking for your next project and substituting yarn, try an alternate yarn with a similar fibre content, or one that has similar characteristics to the original, as the designer will have chosen the yarn with that in mind! The fabric might be particularly light and floaty, or dense and heavy which helps create the silhouette or weigh a trim down. Equally, when choosing a project with more than one colour, consider the range of tones used in the original pattern. If you would like similarly subtle colour differences or the same punchy contrast go for equally varied tones, even if you’re preference is for a different colour family.
Whilst developing the colour palette for Devonia at John Arbon Textiles HQ, we based the range on the work of French tapestry artist Jean Lurçat who John and Juliet stumbled upon when holidaying in France. We knew the collection needed to have lots of rich, jewel tones and scrumptious hues, whilst adding some more neutral colours to balance the palette. Without those neutrals we may have ended up with 14 amazing colours that would look pretty wild when combined. The softer colours help lift the brighter shades and neutrals almost become a background for colourwork to pop!
To create these colours we had the fibre tops dyed to specific base colours. The fibres used for Devonia (Exmoor Blueface, Bluefaced Leicester, and Wensleydale) also lend a beautiful natural creamy base colour rather than a bright white. Wensleydale is one of my all-time favourite fibres, and although I still have many to get through, I’m not sure it can be topped! Wensleydale’s lustre and natural colour are beautiful, and furthermore the silkiness, drape, and smell are divine. It’s heavy and strong, comes in a range of natural shades, takes dye beautifully, and the sheep themselves look awesome too!
We experimented by carding these fibres by hand to get the perfect shades for Devonia. This process allowed us to add more dark blue here, take it away, chuck some red in there, add more black, and wow, ta da! It’s great fun to experiment by throwing in something unexpected and coming out with a successful colour. The shade Cinder Glow is the perfect example – black blended with a small amount of red, and then blended with more black to create a really subtle colour added so much more depth to a pitch black.
Jean Lurçat’s tapestries and artwork sure are inspiring. I’m currently working on a collection of patterns using shapes and colour combinations from his work, and it’s been an invaluable platform to start manipulating textures and combining techniques.
Here are some sneaky peeks of how I have mixed Devonia colours and various textures together for my upcoming patterns. Play with colour combos from your imagination or refer back to your inspirational images and you will get something great! You wont ever use them all, but it’s worth it.
Finally, my latest pattern in PPQ is the Jamboree sweater! Jamboree is all about summer time and celebration. Pom Pom’s love of stripes and celebratory thoughts of streamers and party poppers were the starting point for this design. The outcome was this lightweight summery top, perfect for party season. I chose John Arbon’s lofty Alpaca 2-3ply, a heavy lace weight, with a small amount of added nylon. The yarn is breathable and adaptable to the weather, and being lightweight and lacey, boxy and cropped, it is a relatively quick knit if you haven’t picked out your Pomfest KAL project yet! Within the colour palette there are a number of neutrals you could use as the main colour, and plenty of POP colours to create your own personal party jumper!
Talking of parties, I’m so excited to see all five glorious years of PPQ FO’s in person at Pomfest. Hope to see you there!
We of course have to say thank you to our other KAL sponsors! If you can’t get enough of stripes, you can check out Boum by Kiyomi Burgin and Shindig by Sachiko Burgin which both use Julie Asselin. Or if you are in colder climes we’ve got you sorted with Fiona Alice’s Sparklers hat using Kettle Yarn Co., pretty Festoon socks by Rachel Coopey with Socks Yeah! (naturally) plus the cover star Anniversaire cardigan by Veera Välimäki with La Bien Aimée.
We’ll be back with another Pomfest KAL blog post at the end of June with tips on how to photograph your finished objects!
Pom Pom xxx