The colour of the year 2018 has been released for a while now, and I’ve been looking at it and looking at it for a good while now. Why?
I’ve been wondering what to make of it, and more precisely what to make out of it. And even if I should make anything at all. It’s a bit of a shock that I can’t decide at all.
On the one hand, I see my knits as having a journaling function. I love taking a handknit in my hands, and recalling not just the lovely memories I had wearing it, but also what was going on while I was making it. A lot of memories can attach itself to a knit (or a crocheted) Piece.
So, what will Ultraviolet be saying to me about 2018? I think I’ll have to wait a bit to know for sure.
On the other hand, it’s a much more wearable colour than Greenery, because it has more blue mixed into it.
The real dilemma is: make a garment or an accent piece? With a colour as Vibrant as Ultraviolet, the garment is the accent.
Luckily, this colour isn’t in the shops yet, so I have a moment or two to make up my mind.
The wave of Hygge that has been rolling across the world, is finally settling in here in Germany. Especially in winter, we tend to look to the North: and especially to our neighbour, to learn their best tips for getting through winter. Because we forget every Spring. That and, trends take a while to waft over across the Atlantic.
So now it’s here: I was in a bookshop, buying a copy of a lovely new magazine called Hygge (surprise!), when I saw a little table set up with a bunch of hyggelige Things: thick woolly socks, candles, lovely books of quotes and, of course, mugs for cocoa.
Having lived in Norway for a bit, I get the concept of Hygge. It appeals to that part of me (In German it’s called the innere Schweinehund, who is quite lazy and would rather do this, than go for a run through ice-rain) that wants to snuggle up in front of the fire with a cookie, some cocoa and some knitting. With an audiobook or something.
Hygge is really about the time taken and time spent with other People.
And because we’re kinda behind, we’re moving chop-chop straight on from Denmark into Swedish lagom. Because it’s always a good day to learn how someone says ‘Balance’ in a different language.
I have a natural proclivity to think things over and over, which looks a lot like procrastination. And I honestly cannot say that it isn’t.
Every year, I knit a hat for my extremely knitworthy sister-in-law. Every year, I follow a pattern. This year, I decided to design one myself. It took me ages to decide how I wanted the hat to look: I even went to a Christmas Market, hung around sipping Mulled Wine (= Glühwein) and had a look at people’s heads, to get inspiration.
By the time I got it cast on and knit the band, I realized that I had cast on too many stitches. I had to rip it out and start again. And then I realized that I had to keep it simple because I had so little time to get to it, in-between shopping, menu-planning, and prepping to have the house full of relatives for the Holidays.
The Yarn: Lana Grossa Cosy by Lala Berlin. A soft fuzzy alpaca-wool blend. With just a smidgen of Nylon.
Very cozy and cuddly bulky yarn with a nice hand. And a gorgeous halo, which means that this yarn does not love too much frogging, but on the positive side, the easiest yarn splice ( I prefer not to splice with spit. I use water) I’ve ever done.
I’ll get into my new design once I’ve got it all written down. Suffice it to say, I finished it on Boxing Day while we were all watching Paddington. And it’s now winging ist way to Japan where my sister-in-law is on Holiday.
We as knitters, makers and clothes-wearers also need to look at how we can help fix the broken Fashion system. There’s a new report out from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, not just restating the Problem, but giving suggestions as to how we can fix it:
the report sets out four main ways to create “the new textiles economy”: phase out hazardous materials (including those that contribute to the microplastics problem); make better quality clothes and keep them in the system longer through rental models; improve recycling processes; and use renewable resources in manufacturing.
The quick answer, is that with knits, there is no difference. The longer answer is more nuanced. All three are made by hand. There are a few differences that set Haute Couture apart:
The maker is a dedicated craft specialist, using materials of the highest quality (alternately using exclusive, luxury fibres). And of course, the finishing. If we take the time to get the finishing just right, then there is no difference between homemade and Haute Couture.
Sometimes it takes a while to find the right match. Yes, I did carry the boot around in my handbag, just in case I found a snippet of time to stop in at my local yarn shop.
When I finally did, I didn’t have the boot, but I did have a colour sample taken using the ColorMate App. I brought home another skein of that lovely Debbie Bliss Falkland Aran, and two 50g balls of Cool Wool from Lana Grossa.
The Cool Wool was a closer match. So, the case has been solved.
Now all I need to settle with my knitting-bestie, is which boot sock we’re going to knit together.
I’m knitting Pam Allen’s Sheep Sorrel hat using Falkland Aran by Debbie Bliss in Claret. This is a soft, shiny organic wool, from a farming community in the Falklands. It’s a three-ply, with a good amount of twist, stitch definition, and has a good amount of loft (ie very springy and squishy) and elasticity.
The pattern is clearly and efficiently written, even including instructions on how to do the cables with and without a cable needle.
Why bother You can knit faster. You know when sections change, and know what comes next. You can find (and correct) errors faster. With a recurring pattern, you reading your knitting means you understand what the designer intended, and you can actually let go of the pattern (which means portability). Many people often praise patterns for being easy to memorize. Reading your knitting means you don’t need to memorize at all.
How-to Read the general description in the pattern introduction first. This will not click at first. But we’ll come back to that later.
Then look at the pattern section. Make a rough stitch chart if there isn’t one. (If there is, then skip to the next step). It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be good enough for you to understand. The Sheep Sorrel hat has a 15 stitch repeat over 4 rounds.
Do a mini-swatch
If you are a learning-by-doing knitter like me, making a swatch to learn a pattern isn’t such a hardship. Cast on the required stitch number plus 6 extra for a 3 stitch border on each side. Place stitch markers, so you don’t forget where your border sits. Knit three rows (for a garter stitch/ non rolling edge) and then get going. Once you’ve done two or three repeat, finish off with with three knit rows and bind off.
I wouldn’t bother cutting my yarn. This swatch isn’t to be blocked, so it is perfectly fine to rip it out after, and knit it into the hat.
I definitely am not a big fan of swatching in the round, however I wanted to see how quickly it would take me to learn the pattern on the fly. I took me four repeats, dear Readers. In my defense, a glass of red wine was involved.
On the fly
Once you’ve gotten into knitting the pattern, exactly as written (a stitch marker after each repeat will help you keep your place), stop and have a good look at what’s on the needles.
Now is the time to revisit that general description and compare it to what you have before you. Sheep Sorrel seems to be about panels and mini-cables (actually twisted stitches, but hey, let’s not quibble). We can see that the garter and patterned panels alternate and are separated by columns of cable. We also see that each column of cable has a p1 before and after it.
Once I realized this, I realized that one type of twist was used per column. Some columns twisted to the right and others to the left. That meant I could undo and repair any twist that was incorrect (if something looks like an S, then it’s wrong). I left one S, because nothing in this world is perfect.
At this point, I knit another round, without peeking, to see if I understood the pattern. Once I had done that, checked, then made my corrections, I knew I could let go the pattern and continue the required length of knitting. I wouldn’t say that I’ve memorized the pattern, but I’ve understood the logic behind it: I want to keep my panels going, and the cables twisting the right way round.
There are now a few brave independent yarn dyers doing amazing things with wool and various fibre blends. Here are a few that I know about:
Sock weight in Flaschenpost/ Message in a bottle.
Wollmeise is the nickname of Claudia Höll-Wellman (her husband is the Rohrspatz, and it’s a bit of a play on bird names plus their hobbies – she likes wool and he likes metallworking and Rohr is German for a metal tube or pipe), who just seems to have not only a hand for making lovely colours, but also very inventive colour names as well. She got started in 2002, when she couldn’t seem to find the colours she wanted to knit with. She has grown a very large and devoted following, and quite frankly has put her small town of Pfaffenhofen in Bavaria on the knitter’s world map.
She’s recently opened a brick and mortar shop and occasionally holds open days and sales, that have people all over Germany stopping off in Pfaffenhofen. If you can’t get there in person just yet, you can have a browse around her very modern and efficient web shop (in German and English) and look at the shop on her Panorama Viewer. Gorgeous!
Dye for Yarn & Dye for Wool
Gesplittete Kalk (silk merino DK weight) by DyeforYarn
Naughty Piglet (merino/baby camel fingering weight) by DyeforWool
foto source: DyeforWool Etsy shop
I love the story of how two scientists, met at work and discovered their shared love for shawl knitting. Cordula Surmann-Schmitt and Nicole Eitzinger also couldn’t find the laceweight yarns they wanted on the German market, so they decided to try their hand at importing and dyeing them themselves. Their Etsy shop DyeforYarn started in early 2010, while their second shop DyeforWool was started in October of the same year. They also opened an In Real Life shop in Fürth near Nürnberg (Nueremberg).
They have a quirky sense of humour, which comes out in their yarn names which often have to do with death, decay and things that may not sound so appetizing (Splitted Lime and Naughty Piglet above are good examples), but when translated to yarn are just lovely, show that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. They do fairly small batches in lace-, fingering- and DK weights, so it’s crucial to get a sufficient quantity of yarn all at once.
It’s quite a treat to browse through their Etsy shop, especially their Cabinet of Wonders and their Cabinet of Horrors, special sections with skeins they think are particulary beautiful, and not quite successful respectively. They also do a lovely Advents calendar in the runup to Christmas, which is also worth checking out.
Jule Kebelman is a textile designer and teacher who lives just outside Berlin. She also produces small batches of organic plant-dyed regional wools. HeyMamaWolf is small but is definitely worth watching, as Kebelman is working with and sourcing her wool regionally (ie in Germany), although many yarn companies prefer to source outside Germany as the wool isn’t considered fine enough. Plus she gets some amazing colours using plant dyes.