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!

giveaway.jpg

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.

Take Heart Anniversary

This autumn was overwhelmingly busy with the various knitting festivals I got to attend. After a quick break, I moved into knitting and making a few plans for this winter.  Many new projects have been on and off the needles which hopefully I can share in the new year. I still plan to recap my trips to Vancouver's Knit City and Rhinebeck's Wool and Sheep Festival with a few photos soon. One of my goals lately has been to stay active and social on Instagram. Two weeks ago I had a lot of fun doing an Instagram Take Over for Pom Pom Quarterly to kick off some special celebrations. I can't believe a full year has gone by since releasing Take Heart: A Transatlantic Knitting Journey. We're celebrating the first anniversary by hosting a Take Heart KAL which is happening now on Ravelry. Head over there to see the details on how to join. It's running till January 2nd, 2017 so there's still plenty of time to participate! 

I thought I'd share my photos from the Take Over on here as well. You can always find Pom Pom on Instagram at @pompommag and my personal account at @fiona_alice_. I am so pleased I could share a little bit of my home, Nova Scotia, with Pom Pom's followers. Thanks for lovely comments! 

Hello Pomcats! I'm Fiona Alice and welcome to Nova Scotia! I'll be taking over the Pom Pom Instagram feed this weekend as Pom Pom and I are getting ready to celebrate the first anniversary of my book Take Heart: A Transatlantic Knitting Journey, which was inspired by both the Canadian and British landscapes. Nova Scotia is known for its varying coastlines so here's one of my favourite places, Duncan's Cove. Make sure you join in with our Take Heart knit along and tag your posts #takeheartkal and stay tuned for more pics from me @fiona_alice_. 

Hi it's @fiona_alice_  again with my #takehearttakeover of the Pom Pom account this weekend. Be prepared to see a lot of grey over Pom Pom's Instagram feed this weekend; it's my favourite colour whether natural or dyed. Luckily there's a never ending supply of beautiful greys along this rugged coastline, and Nova Scotia's overcast and rainy grey days make the perfect excuse for staying indoors to knit.

If you have a copy of #PPQ18you might recognise this design. Here's Kaali from this year's autumn issue. I couldn't resist using more of Elisabeth Beverley's Plant Dyed Cashmere, grey of course. Plus a few golden threads by Temaricious to match Nova Scotia's late autumn palette. The temperature is starting to drop here so the cozy cashmere is inviting to slip on cold hands. Stay tuned this weekend for posts from me @fiona_alice_ as I share more of my photos.

This is Fergus, my cat, knitting companion and biggest distraction. He constantly competes to be the softest grey item in my hands. To give him a run for his money I dug out some of @toft_uk Aran Alpaca which has been sitting in my stash for the past three years. Fergus loves alpaca and approves this yarn choice so I'll be casting on, just in time for the #takeheartkal. I feel like there is only one project this yarn is destined to become. 

Putting my @toft_uk Aran Alpaca to use and slowly working on #takehearthat. This pattern was originally launched 3 years ago in Issue 7, Pom Pom's Winter 2013 Issue. It's still one of my favourite patterns, and I love to see it knit up by others. I'm selfishly knitting this one for myself.

You can often find me knitting or with my laptop, here at Seven Bays Cafe in Halifax's North End. Thanks for letting me share a little piece of my knitting world with you this weekend. It's wild to think one whole year has gone by since releasing Take Heart: A Transatlantic Knitting Journey. I would not have been able to do this without your support. I can't wait to see where my next knitting journey will take me! Please keep sharing your projects with me, #takeheartkal - I love to see them. Signing off with much love, Fiona Alice.

 

Since Christmas is around the corner, Pom Pom put some very exciting knitting kits together. The Border Mill has graciously released a special yardage of their Alpaca Tweed for this. There's enough to make the Chester Basin hat and mitten set. Head over to the Pom Pom Shop to see the gorgeous colour combinations! I definitely wish I had more of this yarn in my stash. 

Photography: Pom Pom Quarterly 

Photography: Pom Pom Quarterly 

I was also lucky to be invited back as a guest on the Pomcast last week. You can listen to Sophie and I catch up and discuss what has happened since releasing Take Heart. It has been an amazing year that just flew by but I'm getting excited about new plans to come in 2017. Here's my newly finished Take Heart hat, the project that started this all and just in time for the snow! I love seeing the project photos that knitters choose to share, please continue! I'll have a little treat for my followers here on the blog this week, a little thank-you for your love and support. 

Kaali

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. 

Write here...

Write here...

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! 

Photography by Rachel Hayton

Photography by Rachel Hayton

Photography by Rachel Hayton

Photography by Rachel Hayton

Photography by Rachel Hayton

Photography by Rachel Hayton

Photography by Rachel Hayton

Photography by Rachel Hayton