As you may know, Felicity Ford has recently published a book ‘The Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook‘ We took part in the original blog tour which was part of the kickstarter campaign to raise the funds for the book. The full amount for the project had already been raised by the time we did our original post so we knew this book was going to be a roaring success!! We were lucky that the first copies of the book arrived in Shetland when Felicity was here for Shetland Wool Week so we got one of the first peeks. I sent Felicity a few more questions to see how she was feeling now the book has come out!
1: How did you find the process of writing the book and are you pleased with how it has come out? I think it is beautiful!
I really enjoyed writing the book; I was lucky to have a talented team who shared my vision and gave tons of love to its production. Additionally, I was able to share milestones with the project backers through the Kickstarter site. Working on the book felt like going an adventure with loads of friends and I think it is richer for having had encouragement, input, energy and skills from many KNITSONIK comrades.
The little sections describing each inspiration source were the parts I most enjoyed writing because I discovered so much about my local area while researching them. The Berkshire Records Office and the Local Studies section of the central library in Reading were really helpful, providing me with access to building plans and street directories. Seeing and touching these old documents from Reading’s past made me feel more connected to the history here.
As you will have seen, one section in the book celebrates my iconic Huntley & Palmers biscuit tin. I discovered through old census data that a William Chas Wellstead once lived at our address and that this individual had formerly worked as a tin-factory labourer. This information made my treasured little tin feel even more significant and personal. At the Berkshire Records Office I was enchanted to see the old building plans for the now demolished Huntley, Boorne & Stevens biscuit tin factory: this was where William once worked and where my tin was made.
Another snippet of local history celebrated in the book is an old pink Art Deco building on the Basingstoke Road. I was unable to discover when it was decorated in its distinctive shades. However in the Kelly’s Street Directory of 1949 the building was registered to Tokalon Ltd. (a cosmetics company) and when I found old Tokalon face powders on eBay the shades of pink were uncannily similar to the stucco facade.
I don’t know if that was when it was painted but it’s a lovely coincidence!
These discoveries added extra context to my knitting and made me feel more connected to my town through stitches and patterns. Everyone who was involved in the project shared my joy in the lovely links between my knitting and my town and I feel that you can really see that in the final product.
I’m thrilled you think the book is beautiful. I am incredibly pleased with how it looks and want to credit the super talents of Fergus and Nic here because their photos and design are what really make the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook. Going on photo-shoots with Fergus was super fun as he really got the essence of the book and wanted to use the photos to show connections between my town and my knitting. The day when we went out together to photograph my bricks-inspired-swatch against the Reading brickwork was an especially happy one; I actually cried for joy when I saw his photos!
It was also thrilling to pass Ferg’s wonderful photos over to Nic and see what she would do with them. I especially like the spread for the page opening the chapter about knitting places because the way Nic arranged Ferg’s photos is superb. She said “I wanted to put you in the middle, in your car, with all your favourite places around you” which is such a nice way to think about that chapter and something I could never have come up with by myself.
These are just two examples of how my amazing comrades have enriched this book with their talents and undoubtedly the best thing about writing the book was working with wonderful people.
2: What are your dreams for people who are using the book? We have had lots of Shetlanders asking about it!
My dreams are that people using the book will feel empowered to design stranded colourwork from things they love! I want to show that creativity is not mysterious, and that it involves practical steps which can be practised by anyone who wants to play.
I hope the book will inspire knitters to start on hugely personal projects that feel rich and personal and significant… one of the reasons for spending all that time researching the history of old biscuit tins and factories is to show that these little things we notice each day really matter and are worthy of knitterly celebration.
I hope that reading the book will also inject a bit of fun and mischief into everyday life. The other day I saw a lovely message from Sarah who used to work for your company. She remarked on how the book had made her see some chimney pots in J&S yarn shades. That’s what it’s all about; finding inspiration and magic everywhere and cultivating creativity in unlikely places.
3: What are your best tips for people interested in colourwork but a bit scared to take the first step (apart from purchasing your book of course!) do you have any fail safe things to get colour and motifs inspirations from?
My top tip is to edit your inspiration source down to a manageable size. If you start with the idea “I want to knit a swatch based on my favourite beach” then you may be overwhelmed! But if you can make this idea a bit smaller – “I want to knit a swatch based on this bit of sand, maybe using this individual shell and these pebbles for pattern ideas” then it has already become more manageable. Creativity is really just about solving problems – the first problem to solve is usually that the initial idea is vague, so defining the brief more clearly is the first step. I think a lot of people are tempted to start with nature subjects – a tree or a landscape for instance – and though these are beautiful and picturesque subjects they can also be quite complex. A single tree contains so many different shades and lines and colours that it can be hard to know where to begin. I address this in the book in my chapter on plants, and there are definitely ways to make it easier to knit from the natural world but if this seems complicated then you can’t go wrong with pleasing food packaging! A tin, a cereal box, even the washing up liquid bottle can all be superb starting points for stranded colourwork. These generally contain just a handful of colours which are easy to identify and it can be fun to hunt about in an initially simple-looking object for hidden patterns and shapes. I was delighted that in Shetland during Wool Week several comrades brought Tunnocks chocolate wrappers to my workshops as their inspiration source – these are ideal as they have really strong graphic lines and superb, bold colours.
My favourite swatch in the book is the one based on my little handheld recorder. The object is so simple – just a little black plastic device with a digital screen and some buttons – that I really had to look hard to find details. Once I started, I had millions of ideas and it was a fun project.
So my best tips are to start with a small idea or to start with a big idea and then make it smaller!
4: How do you think writing this book has changed how you will approach colourwork in the future?
The main changes are that I have fallen in love with swatching (which I used to really dislike) and I feel more confident that you really can use anything as a starting point for designing stranded colourwork. When I started trying to design my own colourwork projects I didn’t know what I was doing; there were so many variables and I kept making ugly things or getting confused about the numbers or messing up the colours. As I solved each problem I got a bit more secure in my own creative process and my swatches got longer and longer as the ideas started really flowing.
In the Kickstarter video I said “I want to make this book for us” and in finding ways to clarify my process for other knitters, it inevitably became clearer to me. I had to put structure and language around what I do when I am designing stranded colourwork and that helped me to organise my thoughts. The result is that now I feel quite at home in the KNITSONIK system and know exactly where to start if I have an inspiration for stranded colourwork. I really hope the book makes others feel the same.
5: I really hope you liked working with our 2-ply Jumper Weight, I’m going to be horrible and make you choose your absolute favourite shade! If you can’t choose one, I at least want your top five!
Your 2-ply Jumper Weight is amazing and it was a pure delight to work with it for many reasons. Its provenance can be traced back to crofts on Shetland; its hand is soft and bloomy; and the range of shades is magnificent. After working on this book I almost know the shade card numbers by heart… there is no way I can choose one all time favourite shade, but my top five would be 9097, FC11, 202,1208 and 125.
9097 is a calm red; it is the exact colour of the distant poppies that bloom on the horizon when driving my favourite road and it has a magical relationship with FC12 if you want to transition between red and green.
FC11 is the most beautiful verdant green. It energises all plant-based design themes with its vivid hues; it is the colour of fresh leaves that have the sunlight passing through them.
I think I used 202 more than any other shade in the book; it is an incredibly useful neutral shade and appears in many palettes with its translucent cool creaminess. It tempers brightness in surrounding shades and is really useful for describing such textures as faded pages or old paint; spots on a beach where the sunlight is hitting the sand; faded road markings and clouds. It is versatile and understated and I feel a must-have shade for every knitter trying to turn everyday inspirations into stranded colourwork!
1280 is perfect for transitioning magically between purple and green shades as I discovered while I was knitting sloes. The bloom on a sloe is a beauteous and elusive thing but this shade I think goes some way towards capturing it.
Finally I love 125 because it is almost the exact same colour as Reading Red. That is the colour that Reading clay fired to in the Victorian brickworks once plentiful in this town and there is nothing like it. You can see that the later bricks were not made of Reading clay because they are not the same vivid shade as your wonderful 125.
Thanks Felicity and Congratulations!