My personal copy of the latest Pom Pom Quarterly arrived in Nova Scotia this week! In this autumn issue they highlight the art and mystery of natural dyes. All eleven patterns use various yarns that have been dyed with natural materials. When I first heard this theme was chosen, I immediately wanted to muster the inspiration to submit an idea. I haven't published anything new since Take Heart, so it feels good to get back to creating something new on the needles.
I've always held a strong interest in natural dyes. During my time studying at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University, I needed to take a handful of dyeing courses for my major in textiles. I immediately fell in love with the alchemy behind the process but was discouraged when my body started to react to the chemical dyes we were using in class. I was struggling physically and emotionally during the semester. I finally felt that textiles was an area I wanted to pursue but I didn't know how to, if the class materials were toxic to my health. After the class ended, I found out that there was a natural dye course being offered during the summer semester. I eagerly signed up and spent the summer on "foraging" field trips and learning about the science and magic behind plant based dyes. After that, I was in love. I was able to use this knowledge as I went into the rest of my courses and incorporated elements into my weaving and screen printing work. I no longer dabble in it since knitting takes up most of my time but when I can find gorgeous naturally dyed yarn, I do indulge.
When I first glimpsed Pom Pom's autumn mood-board I had just finished my second year at Unravel, a knitting festival in Farnham. That weekend I treated myself and brought home lots of Elisabeth Beverley's plant dyed cashmere (pictured above) and a few skeins of her merino. I began thinking of a possible submission to Pom Pom and knew I had to use the cashmere. I mainly design small accessories and knew one skein of the cashmere would be perfect for a project like this. As for the mood-board, I was drawn to the photos of fabric swatches (pictured below). They reminded me of my own natural dye notebooks which hold swatches from various dye bath combinations. I instantly loved the gradient affect from the photo on the left and the layers in the photo on the right and drew inspiration from these two pictures. I wanted to somehow combine both of these elements into my design.
Here are the beginning stages of my design, Kaali. This was the sketch and swatch I submitted to Pom Pom for their consideration. I wanted the cuffs of the fingerless mitts to be delicate and I used a different textures to create layers. I thought Temaricious cotton threads would be a perfect way to pull in hints of colour without having to invest in full sized skeins. I've always wanted to use their threads but don't have the extra time to spend on embroidery since I'm always knitting. For the rest of the mitt I wanted to have a simple but yet interesting texture to highlight the beautiful colour of the cashmere.
I may be slightly biased but my overall impression of Issue 18 is that it's incredibly gorgeous. Many of the other designs I would like to knit for myself. Patterns such as Asklöv and Roquaine are on my list if I find the time to do some knitting purely for pleasure. I love Rachel Hayton's moody photography and Katie Green's illustrations of each natural ingredient. Many thanks to Pom Pom for including me in this issue with many other artists and designer who I admire and thanks to Elisabeth Beverly and Temaricious for providing yarn support!