The gap between what we see and what we knit can be vast. To capture the essence of tree bark or a cobblestoned street in a knitted colorwork motif takes skill. I’ve read the books about colorwork and color theory and color design, but somehow they never quite clicked.
Enter Felicity Ford, a British knitter, artist, and early career research fellow at Oxford Brookes University. Her passion? Everyday sounds. In 2005 she began investigating the relationship between textiles and sounds, launching her Knitsonik work. She describes it as the division of her work “in which I use sonic practices to explore the social, historic, and geographic aspects of woolen textiles and clothing.”
When Ford turned her attention to stranded colorwork, it wasn’t simply to create pretty patterns. She wanted to capture the essence of the everyday, but this time, it wouldn’t be with a microphone but with yarn and needles. And it is in that spirit that she published the Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook.
The subtitle says it all: “A knitting book that shows you how to turn everyday inspirations into gorgeous stranded colorwork.” And that’s exactly what this book does, through Ford’s Knitsonik system.
I’m usually dubious of anything marketed as a “system,” but that’s exactly what this is. Ford gives you clear, simple, tangible steps for looking around you, identifying and analyzing possible sources of inspiration, translating them into a colorway, and then, in my favorite section, swatching your idea into life.
The process begins with the “inspiration source.” Ford gives her own examples, divided into the categories of Things, Place, and Plants. She chooses lovely, quirky learning exercises, things like a miniature biscuit tin, a fruitcake, or the road on her commute.
Using one of these items, she walks you through each step of the system, starting with choosing your color palette. Then, out come the graph paper and colored pencils for the designing of your initial pattern. Next, working within your color palette, you get to figure out your initial shading plan.
An Iterative Process
The fact that she uses the word “initial” should be your clue that Ford believes very much in swatching, tweaking, swatching some more, tweaking some more, learning as you go, until you have a motif you really love. The emphasis on swatching warms the cockles of my heart, for it gets at the root of what a swatch is—in her words, “a physical record of your own learning process.”
Within each step and each example, she slips in intelligent tidbits and practical exercises as well as an inspiring list of recommended reading. I have the feeling that this is one of those books you can read again and again, each time gleaning new insights.
Finally, Ford gives a nod to those for whom a swatch must be a means to a garment. You’ll find simple patterns for mitts and legwarmers that use the tube as a canvas for design.
Everything in this book is well done, from the photography and layout to the yarn used (Jamieson & Smith Shetland) and the choice of editor, UK design legend Kate Davies.
What makes it even more remarkable, and what gives me hope for our industry as a whole, is that the book is the product of a successful crowdfunding campaign and was entirely self-published. If this fresh and original book is where the crowds are headed, we’re in good shape.