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Headshot of designer Fiona Ellis

Fiona Ellis's lovely piece in our newest issue is Parapet, a clever cardigan with some really lovely details. You can find out more about her inspiration and also see a short post about button choice on Fiona's blog, here. Fiona has designed *lots* of lovely things that have graced our pages, but this one, this one, and this one are a couple of my faves. You can also find a version of this post on SweetGeorgia Yarns blog, here. 






For more years that I care to admit to I have taken photos of items that inspire me, even before digital cameras made it so easy and inexpensive to do so.  One of the wonderful things about having an archive of these shots is that over time I have been able to categorize the types of image that appeal to me most. I mean if you could only see how many photos I have of magnolia flowers (documented each year it seems).



steps to a castle



So one day when I was making a sub set of my photos I was struck by how often I am drawn to stair step type patterns. For somebody who loves asymmetry so much it makes me smile to notice how it’s the even & mostly equal repetition of the line that delights me. Although I do like photos of them taken off center.



steps around a brick column



We often refer to the way we try to avoid the stair- step look that the knitting produces. So these types of patterns are a “no-brainer” because they work with the very nature of the knitted stitch.



Montreal spiral staircasesame staircase, different angle



But how do you keep the beauty of the repetition with it becoming boring and static?  One way is to set them on the diagonal where the lines become a zig-zag. This gives them a dynamic active feel, something that I think of as being almost somewhat masculine in feel, especially when compared to how soft undulating lines produce a gentle feminine over all look.



Parapet, purple cardigan with zigzag stitch pattern on yoke and sleeves, modeled by a brunette girl standing in front of a wood stove in a red room



In my most recent design work I have tried to include techniques that we tend to find used more with woven fabric than with knit fabric. What I call dressmaker details; pleats, buttoned cuffs etc. So for Parapet I thought it would be fun to juxtapose the strong dynamic lines of a zig-zag pattern with soft gathers.



closeup of Parapet sweater from the back, showing detail of stitch pattern and gathers below the yoke line



The gathers in the back give a fullness that leads to the slight swing shape, combined with the stand-up collar (also borrow from woven fabric constructions) it makes it feel more like a softly tailored jacket than a cardigan. The tiny gathers at the crown of the sleeve also give fullness to the cap while keeping the sleeve slim throughout the arm. The overall silhouette was drawn from empire line gowns that were fashionable at the turn of the 19th century -a style that I love. If you were to ask me why I based Parapet on this style I would probably have to confess that it’s probably because of watching too many films based on Jane Austen books…especially if Colin Firth happens to be in them. Cough. Ahem. Cough.



detail shot of yoke and collar



For this project I got to work with yarn from one of my favorite yarnmakers, SweetGeorgia. Cable patterns by their very nature produce really interesting effects of light and shade. The combination of the different textures means that light bounces off the fabric differently in each area and highlights the three dimensional aspect of the stitches. Similarly the talented dyers that I have worked with which includes SweetGeorgia Yarns also produce enticing effects of pale & dark within their yarns. So I found when I combined these yarns with my cables that these yarns it added an extra dimension of visual texture to the patterning that produced an even more beautiful effect. I fell in love. Working with these yarns have produced some of the patterns that I am most proud of (check out Ruddington, Granville, and Breckenridge). I think this is because when working in collaboration with another artist the combination of each of our talents has the ability to produce something really special.