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.

Looking Back // April

I'm shocked that it's only been three months since my last post. It feels a lot longer with the amount of work I've been up to. Since I don't normally post about my "in progress" designs, till they are released, I feel it ends up looking like I haven't been doing too much. Since January, it has been quite the opposite. I've completed four new patterns including my first two sweaters patterns. Plus, I now have another six new designs underway at the moment. Six! So "busy" sums up my current state. Most of these new designs won't be released until the autumn but I thought I would share some photos of what I get up to in between knitting project and talk about some of the yarn I'm currently using.

At the very end of March I ended up sick just as the most gorgeous mountain of Hinterland yarn arrived. The beginning of April started with some simple swatching as I recovered in bed. I'm currently working with Hinterland's Range, with the pile above showing their colours Ash, Honey and a single skein of Snow. It's beautiful, hearty yet an incredible soft blend of 50% Canadian Rambouillet and 50% of their home-grown alpaca. I have one sweater in this yarn and I honestly lived in it this winter. I hope to add more to my wardrobe soon. 

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My second yarn delivery in April came all the way from Paris! This is La Bien Aimée's Merino DK in Ash and Pom Pom. I was really excited to finally get acquainted with their yarn and fabulous colours. It was my first time using a speckled yarn. I tend to stick to heathers or semi-solid colours. However, it was a nice change to be working with something as fun as Pom Pom. I'm just about ready to ship this new design to its final destination. I've paired these two colours together and you'll be seeing the final piece in the autumn!

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The past two months I've also tried to find time for other crafts that I enjoy. As much as I love knitting, it gets a little tedious when it's your job and past time. Plus, I need to be kinder to my hands and wrists and make sure I avoid repetitive strain injury. I completed these two small embriodery projects last month. The succulent and mandarins were my own designs, each one created from a photo. They're only about 10 cm in diameter and  were sent off to London, UK, for friends' birthdays.  

Besides embroidery, I've also started to sew again. I did study textiles and fashion when I attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University but haven't officially sewn a garment since graduating in 2011. Back in March, I did take a dress making workshop at  Patch, a local fabric store in Halifax. This was a great way to ease myself back into sewing and get reacquainted with putting a commercial pattern together. The workshop was based on the Farrow Dress by Grainline Studio. I also did manage to make myself the Camber Dress by Merchant & Mills. I purchased a few dress patterns and fabric from Merchant & Mills years back at the Knitting & Stitching show in London and it felt really good to finally find the time to make them. 

The shot above is my pair of Ninni Culottes, design by Named Clothing. I think these were my first pants I ever put together besides samples in school. I wanted a pair that were easy to sew up but still a little challenging. I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out. I used a lightweight indigo fabric from Patch. Now I just need the warmer weather to wear them!

Even though I'm super pleased with my new creations, my favourite discovery last month was at No. 9 Coffee Bar in Lunenburg, NS. Gluten free doughnuts! It might sound a little ridiculous but I believe this was my first gluten free doughnut ever and it was amazing. Whenever I'm down to visit The Mariner's Daughter, Lunenburg's local yarn shop, I stop by No. 9 to grab a tea for the road. That's when I discovered these delectable little treats!

I'm hoping to recap more often since it gives me an opportunity to talk about other things besides knitting all the time. I'll be sharing my next pattern which was just recently released. It looks like May is off to a good start!