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People often ask me where I get my inspirations for colourways, and it can be hard to answer that question as they come from all over! Some of them just pop into my head, some of them are more deliberately planned, and of course sometimes people challenge me to take on a particular concept. The perfect example of how all those various ways a colour can be inspired recently came together in one event.
A couple of weekends ago, the core Ancient Arts staff had the pleasure of attending the Knit Social retreat on Galiano Island BC, that featured the fabulous Bristol Ivy. I have not done many knitting retreats myself, especially in the last few years, as these days the dye pots are always calling my name. Somehow at the same time I found myself knitting less and less. This retreat was special because we love the Knit Social ladies and we were invited to do a trunk show for the retreat. As added incentive, I was also asked for a custom colour that would reflect the retreat itself, which made it an easy decision to say yes! After all, everyone needs a break at some point, and what better way to get that than to recharge the batteries with fellow knitters? So we all decided to go.
For a dyer, being in new surroundings means all sorts of ideas for new colours can leap out – and the same is true for designers! A forest scene can work wonders.
Places like this gave me colours like Enchanted Forest, whereas designers see cables and lace. A sea-side landscape can do the same – this is how I developed colours like She Sells Sea Shells. And in this case, a kelp bed can be the thing that generates a colour one cannot resist!
So how do new colours come about? The custom colourway that I created for the retreat is named Kelpie ,and here is its story: Caroline D challenged me to create a colourway based on the above photo of a bull kelp bed – this was hard to resist for someone who loves kelp beds, and especially the way the light glances off them. The retreat organizers wanted something that would reflect the island retreat, and having spent a lovely day there a few years ago, that part was fairly easy as I remembered the island and colours of the beaches well. Finally, I decided I wanted a shot of fun/contrast in there, and chose to use the legend of the Kelpie, a type of fairy who takes the form of a big black horse. One should never accept the invitation to ride this horse as he will carry you down into the depths of a river or the sea.
Kelpie is a watercolour style colourway that is very complex and is meant to show you the light reflecting off the surface of the water over a kelp bed. It has the colours of the Galiano rocks reflected in the water, the kelp itself, and the blue and green of sea water. Last but not least, it has a nice shot of black representing the fairy Kelpie! It is designed to do some fun things when knit up, too. The colours will not strongly pool in any design thanks to the random dye techniques used. However, choose the right number of stitches and you can see some subtle but fun argyle patterns show up with the black. To me, this colour perfectly captures how I see the beauty of the island, the glory of sun on the water, and the mystery I feel whenever I am around the sea.
And this brings us to the knitting of this new colour. Some might wonder why a knitter needs to attend a retreat to knit. After all, can’t one do this at home? In the pub? On the bus? Well yes, one can. But it isn’t the same! A retreat is different. It’s a place where you get to hang out with a good sized group of peers, meet some new people, and spend time doing the thing everyone loves. It’s very inspirational in a way that normal knitting just somehow doesn’t always achieve. Knitting when there isn’t anything other than a gorgeous view, some humming birds, and a glass of wine to distract one means one can rejuvenate and remember what one loves about knitting. Classes are the icing on the cake as they can get you to see things in ways you might not have. It doesn’t matter if you know the subject – there will always be some tip or trick that makes it all worth while.
And THIS is how I got my knitting groove back. A chance to dye a new colour, knit it into a new pattern (Codex), and spend time in a peaceful place with fun people and nothing to distract me, and there you go! Groove reactivated.