My knitting to date has been rather plain – stocking stitch in neutrals or plain deep colours. I yearn to knit cables or in glorious technicolour. But my first attempts at colourwork were not so hot.
Some things went well with my Fara Raglan – I more or less understood the chart approach and I think I selected really nice colours. But unfortunately I struggled with getting the tension loose enough in the colour work rows. The whole thing looks tight and ugly, and although some suggested steaming, and others a tea cosy (!) I would rather relegate it to the stinging criticism of the flames (or just the dustbin).
Nevertheless for someone who is really enthused and excited by colour I knew I would have to confront my difficulties and make something full of colour and vibrancy at some point.
I am attracted to these 1980s Kaffe Fassett patterns – especially the floating circles and the Persian poppy. Although I prefer the smaller floating circles I love the way the colours work with the poppies. I looked at Ravelry and saw hundreds of the poppy – best used perhaps as a cushion cover. For some reason the smaller circles have far fewer examples – I guess they are less showy, but for wearability maybe a little subtlety is good. I prefer it I think as the background is clearly delineated whereas with the poppies it all seems to blend in. Maybe that is the charm.
I really like circles and round shapes, as you may have noticed with my silk painting! I struggle to make things square or rectangular. I have this idea that everyone has a favourite shape. My favourite is the circle, but I also love the square. Triangles don’t really do it for me, rectangles are boring and hexagons do my head in. How about you?
The main reason I love Kaffe Fassett (and he was really big in the 1980s when I started crafting) is that he searches out and celebrates slight mismatches, shading, variation and slightly surprising colour combinations. Of course to some extent these photographs and garments are very dated, but nevertheless I find them inspirational and decided to give his approach a try.
Incidentally someone noted that I seem to have accumulated quite a stash for someone who has only been knitting for a few (its nine actually) months. The thing is I have been buying bargain “sets” from Colourmart – the ends of the roll or bin ends of the yarn world. Less than 50 grams, sometimes a bit knotty, in varied colour batches. Actually I love buying remnants, bits of stuff left over that I can use. I get a real pleasure out of this. So I started knitting a third Heavenly using a mixture of stripes and trying for those little circles of Kaffe. But I found knitting with three colours very challenging, and decided not to go on. I guess I can unravel this, or it joins Fara in the bin.
Below some of my bargain sets in lovely shades.
Right now you may be feeling a little bit sorry for me. Lots of effort, no output!
So it was a great sense of relief that I came across Elizabeth Zimmermann who has taught me so much in a very short time. You can get this book second hand on eBay for about £5. It is the only book you really need. There are four versions of a seamless sweater in here and lots of useful information on how to do colourwork. Finally, with Elizabeth by my side I cracked it.
A few handy hints for successful colourwork (ie if you want a good result without much skill)
- Only do two colours per row
- Use both hands – one colour in each. Luckily I had this (seemingly strange) advice on my blog early on and had been practising my “continental knitting (yarn in left hand) with my first colour work experiments. It worked perfectly.
- Don’t carry the second colour more than five stitches
- Don’t twist at the back (as I did with my first two disastrous experiments)
- Keep your knitting really, really loose
- Choose one or more colours to match your skirt (or trousers)
As a result I made two jumpers, using up my blue and light pink remnants. You can easily see the colour changes on the front of the jumpers as I made no attempt to hide them.
I also used the EZ method of calculating the size of the sweaters. If you are interested the blue one has 180 stitches cast on, the pink 160. They both fit well. On the blue I did hems at the cuffs and hem, but used 1×1 ribbing for the neckline. I used ribbing on the pink one. And I love them. They have a sort of 1960s vibe, reminding me of my childhood and of more innocent, happy times. I used more or less the same pattern for the simple colourwork, although I extemporised more with the blue one but found the neckline a touch high – two versions just show what a difference the colourways make. A two colour jumper would be really nice, but you can easily get four or five colours in.
I am so pleased with these jumpers and will find them easy to incorporate into my weekend, and working wardrobes.