Amirisu Issue 14 - Hello Again, It's 'Gneiss' To Be Back.

Hello! It has been over a year since my last blog post and a lot has changed during that time. However, I am feeling indecisive about where to start so I thought just jumping in with a pattern post would get me over that hump.

Normally, I like to blog about a pattern just when it has been released but to celebrate the re-release of Gneiss, I thought I would start here. Gneiss, was originally a part of amiriu’s collection for Issue 14, their autumn issue last year. As I eagerly await the return of the sweater I wanted to share the inspiration behind this pattern.

 Photos from Pinterest.

Photos from Pinterest.

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Like most magazine submissions, I start with their mood board. I quickly see what captures my attention and begin thinking of ideas from there. Issue 14’s theme had a lot of geometric shapes and colour blocking images that I was drawn to. After being attracted to the colour block sweater, pictured above, it reminded me of a previous design that I already had in the works.

I will admit and let you know that I had drawn up Gneiss much earlier than this proposal. The first sketch was similar, in terms of its shape and construction. However, I had intended it to be worked in two solid colours and with the right side of stocking stitch visible on the lower half. It was first submitted to a different company and was not accepted. It sat in the back of my mind for a few months until amirisu’s autumn submission call. I had reservations, of course, thinking maybe since this was not accepted the first time, it might be denied again. Maybe I was the only one who liked this design? However, I had to put those negative thoughts aside. I chose to believe that this still was a strong design and it just needed to find a home.

 Original sketches for amirisu.

Original sketches for amirisu.

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I will not go into too much detail about the first version since with time and some new inspiration, this second version is much better. I knew I wanted to keep this sweater two colours. However, it was the photo of pink paired with the marble texture that made me rethink the types of yarn used for this project. I decided to suggest hand dyed yarn. I love working with semi-solid colours but I pushed myself outside of my own comfort zone and suggested a speckled yarn as the second colour. I personally prefer the impact of reverse stocking stitch when working with variegated yarns. I thought the combination of texture and colour mimics the look of marble. I then decided to changed to bottom of the sweater to reverse stocking stitch.

 Original swatches for amirisu.

Original swatches for amirisu.

I had not worked with speckled yarn in the past so there was none in my stash to sample with. However, I am glad amirisu was also able to invision what I was proposing. They said “yes” and suggested working with La Bien Aimée. I was happy to finally try their Merino DK for the first time. I was immediatly head over heels for the colour Ash when it arrived. It took me a little longer to warm up to Pom Pom since it was unlike anything I had used before. However, once I got into the bottom half of the sweater, I was very happy with amirisu’s decision.

 La Bien Aimée's Merino DK in Pom Pom.

La Bien Aimée's Merino DK in Pom Pom.

 La Bien Aimée's Merino DK in Ash.

La Bien Aimée's Merino DK in Ash.

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Here are some in-progress photos of Gneiss. Gneiss begins as a top-down raglan. Once the arms are put on hold, the front and back and are then separated and worked flat. This allows the triangle shape on the back to be worked as intarsia. The sides must be seamed together but then the sleeves are finished off in the round.

 Right side of sweater.

Right side of sweater.

 Inside of sweater.

Inside of sweater.

Now finally, a few shots from the photoshoot. I have loved seeing the unique colour combinations other knitters have come up with. If you would like to see some ideas, take a look at the projects page. Right now, Gneiss will be 30% off in my Ravelry shop till the end of October.

 Photography by amirisu.

Photography by amirisu.

 Original sketch for amirisu.

Original sketch for amirisu.

 Photography by amirisu.

Photography by amirisu.

From Coast to Coast // The Seafarer Collection with Hinterland

Last October I had the opportunity to fly out to Vancouver and attend Knit City, a weekend knitting conference and marketplace. I wasn't teaching or selling, so this trip was purely to attend the event for myself and finally meet designers, yarn dyers and shop owners that I had been admiring from afar. Plus, this was a perfect excuse to visit Vancouver for the first time. I had only been to the West Coast once before and that was to attend Vogue Knitting Live in Seattle, nearly five years ago. VKL was my first knitting conference experience. It was overwhelming and very energizing at the same time. After a weekend of classes and talking to other very supportive knitters, it was here, where I decided to make a real commitment to publish my own designs. A few months later, my first design, Take Heart, with published in Pom Pom Quarterly.  

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My trip to Vancouver reminded me of that first experience in Seattle, fully immersed in the knitting community of a new city. I've had the chance to work at many other knitting festivals, such as Unravel and Edinburg Yarn Festival in the UK and Knit East in New Brunswick, but when I'm not working these types of event, I feel very much like a kid in a candy shop. Being surrounded by gorgeous fibre and knowledgeable knitters gives me the opportunity to discover new yarns and gather inspiration and energy for new projects.

 Part of my Knit City haul.

Part of my Knit City haul.

Over the weekend at Knit City, I found myself coming back to one booth in particular. Skeins of a delicious alpaca and wool blend were spread across the table. This is where I met Hanahlie, the hands and heart behind Hinterland, a Canadian based yarn company. I immediately fell in love with their yarn, Range, an aran weight blend of alpaca and Rambouillet which is grown and spun in British Columbia. I also met designer, Lindsey Inouye, also known as Standard Knits. She was helping Hanahlie with her booth that weekend and also promoting some of her own designs knit with Hinterland yarn. I brought her pattern Bowen and enough of Range in Cloud to make it. Pictured above is a portion of my haul from that weekend - books by Vancouver designers Caitlin ffrench and Sylvia McFadden, a Bowen pattern and skeins of Cloud. 

 Bowen Sweater progress.

Bowen Sweater progress.

 Off to Rhinebeck.

Off to Rhinebeck.

Once I was home from Vancouver, I quickly knit up a Bowen sweater for myself with the Hinterland yarn I had brought back. Within two weeks I had it finished, just in time to fly off to Rhinebeck, a wool and sheep festival in upstate New York. In fact, I don't think the sweater was fully dry when I boarded the plane. Oh well. Even though I lived in my Bowen sweater all winter, the yarn still manages to look fairly new but has that cozy feeling of being well worn. 

I had exchanged a copy of my book, Take Heart, with Hanahlie for some skeins of Range while I was at Knit City. This winter, Hanahlie had contacted me to say she was knitting my Chester Basin mittens from the book and asked if I would be interested in designing with Hinterland yarn. I naturally jumped at the chance and thus began our collaboration between East Coast and West Coast. 

 Maple and Snow. 

Maple and Snow. 

 Bedwell original swatch. 

Bedwell original swatch. 

Bedwell, my hat and mitten set were the first pieces to be designed. I wanted to find another fun but simple-to-knit texture like the Chester Basin set. Hanahlie sent out a skein of Maple and Snow in her aran weight yarn, Range. The hat and mittens are a combination of knits, purls and twisted slipped-stitches. It creates a great bumpy texture on the outside with an overall dense and cozy feeling, perfect for winter accessories. Bedwell can be completed with just two skeins of Range with plenty of yarn leftover to add a pompom if desired.

 A Mountain of Range. 

A Mountain of Range. 

Next we started discussing sweaters. These two projects were a combination of what Hanahlie and I both like in a sweater, something slightly over sized and with pockets. Hanahlie also mentioned that she really liked Herringbone Stitch, so I incorporated that texture into one sweater. For the other one,  I added a small section of Intarsia onto the sleeves since I had been playing with that colour work technique recently. This time, Hanahlie sent out a mountain of yarn and I got started on my third and fourth sweater designs.  

The first was Kinsac, a cozy v-neck sweater, worked in pieces from the bottom up with dropped shoulders. I used Ash for the main colour and Snow for the contrasting sleeves. The colour work detail on the sleeves was worked using Intarsia to create a tidy and smooth surface on the inside. There are small pockets on the front but those could be easily ignored if you prefer a sweater without. My cat, Fergus and I are both huge fans of alpaca blends. It must be because of the soft finished pieces it creates. Every time I turned around I'd find him using my alpaca shawls and sweaters as a pillow if I left them around. Here he is, caught in the act, when I had the sweater out to dry. I inadvertently had created a perfect Fergus-sized, alpaca lined hammock, so I can't blame him for choosing to nap there. Thankfully, they are both grey. 

 Kinsac original swatch.

Kinsac original swatch.

 Caught in the act. 

Caught in the act. 

My final sweater for this collection was Pinehaven, a boat-neck pullover in the colour Honey, with pockets and Herringbone sleeves. I believe this was my most challenging sweater to date. It took me several attempts to finally get my inset pockets to work and be nearly invisible from the outside. This sweater has traveled with many kilometres with me, just like Barbicel. I brought it to work on while I was in Helsinki this summer, then to Portugal for a few weeks when I was on my way back home. Finishing touches, such as sewing in ends and blocking, were done here in Nova Scotia, before being sent back out West to where the yarn had originated. That was over 28,000 kilometres of traveling with this yarn in my project bag. 

 In-progress, in Portugal. 

In-progress, in Portugal. 

It's now time to introduce you to the final shots of Bedwell, Kinsac and Pinehaven. I love Hanahlie's idea of naming the collection, Seafarer since it can incorporate both of our lives being close to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The names Kinsac and Pinehaven were chosen from names of areas I grew up around in Beaver Bank, Nova Scotia. Bedwell is the name of the waterway in the background where some of these photos were taken on Pender Island, BC. Thank you to Hanahlie for collaborating and for all the incredible yarn. Also thank you to Celeb Bayers for the beautiful shots on Pender Island and to my patient tech-editor Jemima Bicknell

If you're in the Vancouver area, you'll be able to find Hinterland at this year's Knit City, Sept 30 & Oct 1. Stop by to say hi to Hanahlie and see the designs in person. These patterns will be available through Ravelry

 Bedwell Mittens, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Bedwell Mittens, photography by Celeb Bayers.

 Bedwell Set, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Bedwell Set, photography by Celeb Bayers.

 Kinsac, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Kinsac, photography by Celeb Bayers.

 Kinsac, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Kinsac, photography by Celeb Bayers.

 Pinehaven, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Pinehaven, photography by Celeb Bayers.

 Pinehaven, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Pinehaven, photography by Celeb Bayers.

 Pinehaven, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Pinehaven, photography by Celeb Bayers.

 Pinehaven, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Pinehaven, photography by Celeb Bayers.

 Kinsac, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Kinsac, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Barbicel

My first autumn design to be released into the world this August was Barbicel in Pom Pom Quarterly's Issue 22. Barbicel is a long open cardigan, a great layering piece for your autumn wardrobe because of the lightweight fabric created by Holst Garn's Supersoft 4ply.  This was my first time designing a cardigan and also my largest design yet. I thought I would write about the development of Barbicel and then do a little something fun for my followers and readers. 

Each year I anticipate the moment when Pom Pom opens up their submission calls for their autumn or winter issues. Their mood boards are always a rich source of inspiration and I was particularly excited about this one when I heard Juju Vail would be Pom Pom's first guest editor. I met Juju through Pom Pom when I first moved to London and had the pleasure of working with her as my photographer on my book, Take Heart. Juju's life is incredibly colourful. Her personal style and artwork are only a few examples of this. She's always pulling together fantastic colour combinations with wild textures. When Juju is around, fun and laughter are not too far behind. 

 Fabric from Merchant & Mills.

Fabric from Merchant & Mills.

 Fabric from Merchant & Mills.

Fabric from Merchant & Mills.

 Fabric from Merchant & Mills.

Fabric from Merchant & Mills.

This autumn's mood board was full of images of saturated autumn colours, heavily patterned textiles and many layered looks. I was immediately drawn to the fabric samples stocked by Merchant & Mills. I often look at printed or woven fabrics as a source of inspiration. I enjoy seeing how I can reinterpret them as a knitted fabric. Since there was such rich colour on the mood board, I thought that creating a tiny, repeated motif through stranded colourwork was the direction I wanted to go in. At this point I was working on my first two sweater designs for The Fibre Company and thought maybe it was time to design a garment for Pom Pom as well. 

 Barbicel swatches.

Barbicel swatches.

 Holst Garn Supersoft Wool. 

Holst Garn Supersoft Wool. 

Above is a photo of my original swatch compared to my final one before casting on the cardigan. As you can see it is quite different in appearance. My original swatch is knit with smooth sock yarn. I had suggested Holst Garn's Supersoft as a possible yarn but had to go up a few needle sizes so it wouldn't be too dense and would allow the yarn to bloom after washing. It was a tough time picking out the yarn since Holst Garn has such a large colour palette. However, with some help from Juju we were able to narrow it down to Holly, Spring and Nougat. The Holst Garn is incredibly lightweight but still warm since it is 100% wool. The front sections still have a lovely drape even with the amount of stranded colourwork happening. Barbicel also started off as a vest but at Juju's request I added sleeves and hopefully created a perfect layer for your autumn wardrobe. 

 Original sketch. 

Original sketch. 

 Finishing touches. 

Finishing touches. 

Since I'm working from Nova Scotia right now, it is no big deal to have to send pieces to the UK, the States or even Japan. However, you may be surprised to hear that this cardigan made a few trips across the globe before it was even released. The knitting happened here in Canada but I had planned to travel to Helsinki to spend time with my partner, Eero, at the end of May. The cardigan was finished but the written pattern and grading was not yet ready. I carefully packed it in my hand luggage and made the long trip to Finland. While I was in Helsinki I took a few mornings to finish up the last of the computer work. I picked out a Moomin postcard, of course, to accompany the cardigan before mailing it to London, UK. where it was eventually packed up again and taken back across the Atlantic to be photographed in Austin, Texas. Before I send a design off anywhere, I always take some photographs of it just in case I need to reference them later. Since it was a big piece, I laid the cardigan down on a rug in the apartment where Eero and I were staying. This was purely coincidental but it looks like this rug could have been right at home in the background of Pom Pom's final photoshoot. 

 Getting ready for the post. 

Getting ready for the post. 

The final treatment of Issue 22 is stunning but that's no surprise. I just assume that everything Juju touches becomes a feast for the eyes. I had seen a few of the final pictures online but was even surprised when my copy arrived in the mail. The colours seemed to be even brighter and richer in print. Like always, this issue is filled with great articles and a delicious looking hot toddy recipe. One of the articles is about Merchant & Mills and the concept and development of their beautiful haberdashery shop. I haven't had the pleasure yet to visit their shop in Rye, UK. However, I have come across their stand at the different Knitting and Stitching Shows I have worked at in London. I thought it was fitting that Barbicel was paired with their Camber Shirt since I've made one for myself and a few of their Camber dresses which were staples in my summer wardrobe. 

 Photography by Nicole Mlakar. 

Photography by Nicole Mlakar. 

 Photography by Nicole Mlakar. 

Photography by Nicole Mlakar. 

I had a birthday last weekend and wanted to do something special to celebrate with my followers. I have a copy of Issue 22 to giveaway! As of this weekend (Sept. 15-17), I'll be running a giveaway on my Instagram. All you have to do is follow my account, like the photo and leave a comment below. Leaving a comment on the blog will get you an extra entry. Come find me at @fiona_alice_ to enter and good luck!

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Sparklers

Four years ago this summer, I purchased my first copy of Pom Pom Quarterly. At this time I was designing and selling my finished knits through boutiques and craft fairs but wasn’t seriously thinking about publishing my designs as patterns. However, I’m so happy that this has all changed and has now become my primary focus. I’m creating new designs every month now and have Pom Pom Quarterly to thank, along with the kind and supportive knitters who have shown interest in my work. Pom Pom published my first pattern, Take Heart, in 2013. After that I felt confident to continue to pursue inspiration for new designs.

It’s been a learning curve but still an incredibly fun journey these past four years. I’m thrilled to have taken many steps of that journey alongside Pom Pom Quarterly. After a move to London, an internship, many cups of tea, my first book and a move home, I am very honoured to have worked with the Pom Pom team and to also be able to call them my friends. 

I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of their anniversary issue and am thrilled to be featured alongside many creative women whom I admire. "Summery" items aren’t my forte so I was thankful when I heard this issue wasn’t particularly seasonal and that they were looking for quintessential Pom Pom designs. I personally love designing and knitting hats and I thought it would be fitting since my first design with Pom Pom was a hat.

I’ve been working with some simple and repeating knit and purl textures and wanted to bring that into this piece. I was paired up with Kettle Yarn Co and super excited to work with Linda Lencovic's gorgeous blends again. I previously had used her Islington DK for my Ketch Harbour shawl, in my Take Heart book. This time, I used her Beyul blend, a gorgeous combination of merino, silk and baby yak… yeah, that’s right, baby yak. It’s available in different weights, DK, 4 ply and lace. I decided on the 4 ply to create a lightweight beanie.

 Photography by Nicole Mlakar.

Photography by Nicole Mlakar.

 Photography by Nicole Mlakar.

Photography by Nicole Mlakar.

So here’s Sparklers, I hope you will enjoy it! This project is knit with Kettle Yarn Co’s Beyul 4 ply, one skein of each Electric Amaranth and Yurt. Reverse the colourway and you’ll have enough for a matching hat, one for you and one for your BFF! Linda is now offering kits and has other fantastic colour ways listed in her shop. I highly recommend trying this blend. It’s so lovely to knit with and the pompoms it creates are just precious!

 Photography by Nicole Mlakar.

Photography by Nicole Mlakar.

 Photography by Nicole Mlakar.

Photography by Nicole Mlakar.

 Photography by Nicole Mlakar.

Photography by Nicole Mlakar.

 Photography by Nicole Mlakar. 

Photography by Nicole Mlakar. 

This issue is packed with fifteen other designs and the usual articles, illustrations and recipe. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy, especially with that rose gold logo! Congratulations to the Pom Pom team and everyone else involved in this issue. I can’t wait to see what's next for this group of creatives.

 Photography by Nicole Mlakar.

Photography by Nicole Mlakar.