My dear friend Felix has published her awesome book,
the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, which was funded by a Kickstarter
campaign she ran earlier this year. Felix has knitted a lot of incredible
swatches inspired by the landscape and objects that surround her, and this is
what the book will teach you how to do - to take inspiration from the things
around you that mean something to you and to translate those things into a
Some of the starting points for Felix's knitting include a walnut tree in her back garden, an old biscuit tin, brickwork in Reading where she lives and her sound recorder (my personal favourite).
Felix's knitted swatches
document her search for home, and this idea of rooting yourself in your home
environment through knitting it is what I love about Felix's work. Her swatches
are a record of places and things Felix loves that she has knitted into
glorious colourwork patterns, some of which become sleeveless mittens and some
legwarmers. They become garments full of history - representing the environment
she lives in and travels through and the things that inhabit her life.
Felix has broken down her
process into very easy to follow stages where she teaches the reader to really
look at colour, to analyse what you are seeing and work out a way to translate
it into knitting. It reminds me of learning to draw and paint in art college,
and Felix's approach to knitting her world is very like that - learning to look
at the things around you with fresh eyes, and creating beautiful patterns from
those things. The swatches are like a sketchbook for knitters and Felix' book
is all about the process of creating colourwork knitting and what you learn
from that process rather than the finished result.
It is a real workbook, a
textbook for knitters, with so much practical information, so many tips and so
much learning! (My favourite kind of book!) So if you are interested in
knitting from the things that inspire you in your world, look no further and go
and grab yourself a copy!
I talked to Felix about the process of making the book. Read on to hear all about it!
First off Felix, congratulations
on publishing the book! It’s an incredible achievement to write such a detailed
tome in such a short period! How did you do it? Were there gallons of coffee
and very little sleep involved?
Haha! Yes there was quite
a lot of coffee and several late nights involved but on the whole working on
the book was very pleasurable; I don’t like it when projects linger and grow
stagnant, and the goodwill and positive energy of the Kickstarter backers
really energised me to keep going with it and so that is what I did. I didn’t
really want to work on anything else or think about anything else while the
book was in progress. The only other thing I liked doing was gardening because
being with my plants broke up long stretches of sitting at the computer and helped
me to think about things in peace and quiet. I am really pleased that it worked
out that way because I think the actual experiences of being in my garden
helped me a lot with the Plants
chapter of the book.
I spent a lot of time
thinking about the structure before I began work on it and the blog tour that
you were part of when the Kickstarter campaign was live helped me to understand
what folks expected and wanted. The thing which seemed clearest was that
breaking down the creative process into little chunks – inspiration, palettes,
patterns and shading – would really help to make each step manageable. Once I
had some idea how many pages each bit would take up, that gave me a word count.
It was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle but once the whole shape of the book was in
place, finishing the job was just a case of doing everything in bite-sized
chunks rather than all at once. My wonderful partner Mark is a project manager
and gave me some invaluable tips for handling the workload. His advice was to
get one chapter made up right away so I could see how long it would take and to
go from there. This turned out to be a super way of tackling things and once I
had a chapter format to stick to, it was just a case of making the writing fit
to the available page space.
The best thing about the
book was the amazing team of comrades I had working on it with me; they really
helped to turn my vision into an actual reality. The absolute high point was
going to the printers with Nic and physically seeing the covers coming off the
presses. There is something just wondrous about witnessing several months of
work coming together into a final and beauteous object.
What did you enjoy most
about the process of writing the book? I wonder did the knitting become tedious
or whether you managed to keep your knitting mojo throughout - and if so, how!?
I honestly did not lose
mojo; in truth I became more and more engaged with the swatching process as I
was working on the book, and the swatches got longer and longer and more
involved as I got to know the process more. Writing about a process for others
really clarifies it in your own mind, and what I love about the swatches is
that – towards the end – I just felt so happy and confident with each new idea.
To be honest I was a bit sad when I cast off the last swatch and have already
cast on another one because I miss the process so much!
I did run out of time for
knitting things, though, and was saved by my two amazing comrades Claire Weaver
and Liz Ashdowne who knitted the sample pairs of fingerless mitts featured in
the book. They each did an amazing job and we were able to feature the mitts in
the photo shoot which would never have been possible had I not had help – there
was just too much knitting to do to manage it all myself!
The Hops Legwarmers were a big task and I did get mildly fed up when it
came to weaving in all those ends, however I promised myself a tasty pint to
celebrate their completion which proved a fitting and appropriate incentive!
Also, who can really lose mojo when there is a pair of turbo insane beer themed
legwarmers to be gained at the end of a knitting mission?
What is your favourite
swatch in the book and why?
The EDDIE swatch based on
my little handheld recorder is my favourite one!
In searching for patterns
and colours in such an unlikely place, I ended up making something which really
celebrates my personal relationship with this tool. The whole designing process
somehow deepened my relationship with the recorder and made me see it in new
ways. For example I like that the transport buttons worked in different greys
and blacks are not entirely clear, as this reflects how the real buttons on the
recorder have become worn away in time; that the glowing red RECORD button is
so striking against the greys and blacks, and that this reflects the little
frisson of excitement I feel when amazing sounds are being captured...
like that there is a pattern in there which relates to the settings I use when
I am out recording. All these details offer an expanded view of what a pattern
can be and how it can relate to everyday life – patterns can be based on use
and habit, for example; patterns can celebrate special moments or memories like
recording a beautiful sound... working on the swatch made me crave a massive
hoody with all of those ideas about sound and its capture emblazoned on it in
fantastic stranded colourwork!
I also really wanted to
show in the book that you don’t have to start with something typically
beautiful like a sunset or a snowflake; that the most unassuming objects can
contain hidden beauty and be used as an inspiration source. I feel the EDDIE
swatch does that well, and I was very hopeful when writing the book that
readers would possess similar objects – mass-produced consumer electronics –
and that reading about my little recorder and how I used it as knitting
inspiration might give them new ways of seeing those devices.
Your brother Fergus
Ford took all the incredible photos for the book - they are just beautiful.
What was it like to work with a sibling?
Ferg’s real passion is
Wedding Photography; he makes the most amazing films of people’s weddings and
photos which really capture the feelings and atmosphere of the day.
Although that may seem a
weird match for a knitting book, it’s actually perfect because Ferg’s
experience with photographing weddings meant he really saw how to get emotions
and textures into the photos. It was important to me that the knitting looked
good and clear, but also the feeling of friendliness and invitation to knit had
to be there and I think he has captured that really well. I especially like the
photos of me holding up a finished swatch – I hope every knitter can relate to
the feeling of pride and triumph in one’s work that we were trying to show
I think his photos of the
Things are also really great; the tin looks so tinny, the book so papery, the socks so well worn and darned... knitters think
with a sense of touch and Ferg’s photos speak to that.
He is a really sensitive
photographer and I also like his photo of my hands resting on my camera,
because somehow that photo tells the story of the many hours I have spent
wandering this town and taking pictures of its brickwork.
As siblings I think we are
remarkably similar and we share a sentimental outlook on people and places. One
thing that was really interesting about our collaboration was that when I
started with a very fixed picture in my head things went less smoothly than
when I started out with a feeling or an idea. We had so much fun working out
the best way to try and set up the creative process – an afternoon of playing
with pencils and paper and photos to try and create the right atmosphere of
embarking on a creative knitting project. I love what we ended up with and I
think it is because Ferg sees the feelings in photos as well as he sees the
light and the colours.
Thanks for talking to me Felix! It's great to hear about the whole process and to hear how much enthusiasm and joy you had throughout the entire making of the book. I love the book, it is both an amazing resource for a way of working with wool and a beautiful object in itself, and the sense of celebration, wonder and love for your surroundings really comes through in the gorgeous photos and your great text.