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Visit Ancient Arts Yarns + Dye Studio - 607 Manitou Road SE, Calgary, Alberta

Visit Ancient Arts Yarns + Dye Studio - 607 Manitou Road SE, Calgary, Alberta

Visit Ancient Arts Yarns + Dye Studio - 607 Manitou Road SE, Calgary, Alberta

Visit Ancient Arts Yarns + Dye Studio - 607 Manitou Road SE, Calgary, Alberta

The Barb Brown: Inspiration – The Long and Short of It

Where does inspiration come from? For me, inspiration comes flying from just about anywhere, and shows up in various states of completion. Often it’s a medley of memories, colours, and history that all come together into one overall idea. Sometimes, I have no idea where it comes from! A great example of such a medley is the design for the Seraglio cowl. I was visiting Caroline S, our Chief Yarn Officer, and helping label yarn for a huge order. In the pile of yarn in front of me was a skein of Kismet dyed on sparkle yarn, and a skein of Aztec Gold dyed on sock yarn lay on top of it. Right then into my head popped a picture of Seraglio, all complete, all knit. I pretty much just had to cast on and go for it!

Seraglio Cowl detail IMG_1733

Although Seraglio came to me as a complete idea, ready formed, I knew exactly where it came from. The colours reminded me of the art of the Middle East. The gold was like old earrings, and that led me to the designs I have seen for traditional Turkish stockings. Put that together with the stories that had been in the news a great deal about attempts to push women back into the box of oppression, and it all melded into inspiration for a knitted garment.

The “earring” pattern along one edge represents the pretty things; the easy life of the Seraglio and harem, and that box of protection it forms. The “lattice” stitch represents the walls keeping women away from freedom. The “hooks” represent how hard it can be to climb out of that box. The gold… gain, jewellery and pretty things. The sparkling purple… the excitement, the beauty and challenges of the world outside.

That’s a pretty huge burden for a simple cowl to carry! But there it is, that’s how it was born. I even knew I wanted the Other Caroline to model it as she is one of the strongest women I know. And the bridge, well, that was added in by she and our photographer Andrea. It represents a bridge from the past to the future.

Seraglio Cowl Cover (1)

Next we come to the Razmataz Knee Highs and Gloves Designs. I was trying out the Estonian buttonhole stitch, and thought “Isn’t this FUN??” So I designed a knee-high around it. Some ribbing so it would stay put, some contrast to liven it up, and self striping yarn to set off the whole thing. Add a bit of sparkle for bling and there you go!



And thatwas so much fun, I went for gloves as well.


One thing that really inspires me are stitches that are fun and a bit different. One evening I was playing around with a new-to-me bobble pattern. I was watching a detective show, listening to a conversation, and thinking about what I had to get done the next day. I looked down at my swatch, and there were the strangest looking little things. They weren’t really bobbles. They looked more like little knitted kitten toes! (These things happen when you knit where you should have purled.)

cropped funky time stitch

They were so cute, I played around with them some more and thought “One day I’ll have to do something with these”. That night, I had a dream about a cowl trimmed in the stitch, and the next day I sat down and designed Funky Time. I realized that with the cowl the size it was I could knit a cozy headband with the leftovers. There’s nothing better than getting 2 knitted items from one skein of yarn!

funky time set

The long and short of it…who knows where inspiration can come from? It can pop into your head, it can come from hours of swatching, it can happen by accident. Last night I dreamed I was finishing the edging on a stole, with the coolest stitch ever! I sketched it out so I wouldn’t forget, and now I just need to knit it. Where’s that skein of Ice House???

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