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Subscribers to the newsletter found a little surprise in their email this morning.  Late last night, we announced the release of a new pattern from Marnie MacLean, Bijou.  (Not a subscriber yet?  You can sign up in the left hand margin of this very page.)



We love this sweater for its stash-busting potential (it's a DK and a lace weight held together for the body, then just the lace weight for the yoke, so colour matching isn't a big deal), and we love it for the many ways it could be worn, depending on your colour choice and sleeve length: short, bright, and flirty or long, dark, and sultry, and so many other versions in between.




Visit Bijou in the Sunday Afternoon section of the magazine, or go right to the shop page, then plan your social calendar accordingly. Happy knitting!

by Robin Melanson

When I design, mostly the ideas just sort of just pop into my head, nearly fully-formed as I go about minding my own business. It can be as simple as reading a line of a poem — then shazaam! Sweater! I enjoy drawing, so sometimes I will sketch out several different options before I decide which one it will become, but I have a weird secretive paranoia about showing sketches to anyone before they are accepted (you know—so they don’t get the jinx on them). I like to look through my old sketchbooks to rediscover ideas I had forgotten about, I doodle mindlessly a lot, and sometimes I don’t know what it is supposed to be until much later—but until then, it doesn’t see the light of day. Like a secret cave of ideas. However, Stormsvale was one of the lightning-strike ideas; I knew exactly what it was going to be when I thought of it.





When I was putting together colour combinations for Stormsvale, I thought it was really great that I actually had a lot of input in the colour choices, which is not always the case when working with a magazine. Sometimes your palette is etched in stone (with someone else’s chisel), or you must tailor your ideal choice to fit the available colours in a given yarn. When choosing yarns for colourwork, it’s a luxury to use a yarn that comes inat least fifty colours, though I understand that yarns with large ranges can be a stockist’s nightmare.

I kind of like it when I have some parameters for choosing colours, because otherwise the colour wank could go on and on for eternity. For example, 3-Ply Strikkegarn comes in seventy-five colours. I would like to use five colours. The number of possible permutations of five colours from a set of seventy-five is 2,071,126,800. 

nPk = n!/(n-k)!

where is the number of colours, and k is the number of slots you have available. That is over 2 billion choices, as long as I am not picky about what colour goes where. However, I am picky, and we know that not all of the colours will work together. Some smarty-pants mathematician could probably tell me how many useable combinations there could be if I divided up the colours into value groups and made up some kind of rule set, like no mixing pastels with safety-orange, or no white and off-white together. I know of someone who could eat an equation like that for breakfast. However, I spent a good deal of math class at Tim Horton’s (the donut chain store in Canada) — where, if you could pick two doughnuts out of a field of fifteen flavours, you would have 210 possible choices (actually that would be 105 combinations, because I consider Boston cream + honey cruller to be the same as honey cruller + Boston cream).





With yarn (as with doughnuts) everyone has their favourite flavours. So I narrowed my choice of 2,071,126,800 combinations down to about six (I am indeed very picky) and then I thought about it a while longer, and added five more, parameters being:

1. Main Colour does not equal red—because although I adore red and variations thereof, red was already assigned.

2. Will look good photographed on a New England shore.

3. Good combination for winter.

4. Pleasing to Kate.

5. Pleasing to me.

Below are the last five. Actually, I lie—there are thirteen here if you count the various options. We went with number four (eleven?). I tend to favour strong colour combinations, and deeper tones. And I love a good gunmetal grey. And alliterative verse. And I managed to sneak in some red anyhow.  The numbers refer to the Strikkegarn colour cards which you can see here.


MC: 1387 Dk. Steel Grey
A: 141 Red Violet
B: 128 Cranberry Red
C: 124 Bright Red
D: 150 Old Gold
OR the inverse of this (with the Old Gold at the outer edges and the RedViolet in the centre)


MC: 1387 Dk. Steel Grey
A: 146 Gold
B: 160 Orange Gold
C: 124 Bright Red
D:  141 Red Violet OR 173 Deep Magenta OR 33/66 Deep Aqua Blue OR 138 Med. Grey Blue



MC:  8/60 Very Dk. Olive Green
A: 7/61 Olive Green
B: 150 Old Gold
C: 120 Lt. Yellow
D: 140 Old Rose OR 7/71 Dk. Rose


MC: 1387 Dk. Steel Grey
A: 33/66 Deep Aqua Blue
B: 138 Med. Grey Blue
C:  1287 Steel Grey
D: 144 Berry Red OR 173 Deep Magenta OR 174 Red


MC:  133 Deep Brown
A: 127 Dk Rust Red
B: 181 Cinnamon
C: 146 Gold
D: 120 Lt. Yellow OR 43/61 Tan


There was a question recently of how the cast on is supposed to look for Stephanie van der Linden's magical Harika socks, and Stephanie was generous enough to send along some photos so knitters can see her innovative treatment in action.



Step 1: Holding the yarn as usual, drop or twist the right hand needle down behind the work.




Step 2: Bring the Right Hand needle under the work and up in front so that there is a twist in your fabric. 




Step 3: Knit the next stitches normally, forgiving the gap that will form around the twisted fabric.  That gap will disappear as you knit the following row.  Have faith: the ribbing makes it all look right again. The result is lovely and inspiring.  Stephanie recommends this treatment with a four or five stitch repeat for a sweet edging on mittens and children's sweaters as well.  




I know a number of knitters are smitten with the socks in the colours as they appear in the magazine, but are having a challenging time locating solids to coordinate with their self-striping yarn. I have a consolation to offer you: perhaps even more beautiful than the first stained-glass pair she sent to us, Stephanie has an orange version that I have to admit just takes my breath away, orange-loving knitter that I am.  Suddenly that ball of Trekking XXL I scored a few years ago has a new purpose.  Can't you see bright green or cobalt blues against that white too?  I want them so much I have to go cast on now so that I don't fall over.  If I don't post (or pass out) in the meantime, have a Happy New Year!  




Speaking of red, Fiona Ellis checked in this weekend with this dispatch about her feminine cabled design, Rebecca.


When choosing the yarn for Rebecca, I felt strongly about going with a red colour. Winter is after all the season when, if you are anything like me, we are inclined to wear more red. It happens to be one of my favourite colours and I consider it a classic, so I don’t save it for just the holiday season. Sure it looks wonderfully dramatic worn with black for this season’s parties. But I think that it also goes well with the glowing fall colours of oranges and brown. In fact, don’t we describe the leaves as turning red anyway? So I begin wearing red in October and then right through the holiday season. But I’m not tempted to put it away after New Year because there is still Valentine’s and Chinese New Year in February to think of. 




So why is it such a classic colour I hear you ask? One of the reasons that it’s a perennial fave is because I have dark hair (well I seem to remember that my natural shade is dark) and pale skin, so I pick bright fire engine reds or dark purpley tones. These would also work if I had dark skin. If you choose the right shade, red can look great on everybody. So if I were blonde I would look good in coral tones or if I looked like Julianne Moore I would choose strong orangey reds, or if I looked like Halle Berry…well no I digresses.


I always chose to wear red when I need a kind of pick-me-up. I guess I never got over seeing Dorothy’s ruby slippers, so I have a great pair of red boots that always cheer up me when I wear them. I have found that you can’t shrink into the background when you wear red, so when I put it on I have to put my shoulders back and my best foot forward and live up to the drama that it imparts- it does wonders to lift my confidence!


Of course I have spent a lot of time studying colour theory, but my expertise with reds came from my former life as a cosmetic formulation scientist. A lot of us who now work professionally in the knitting business have had former working lives in another industry. So for me, coming up with new shades for lipsticks for 8 years means that I have a really great eye for the subtle differences between reds. In fact the very first colour of lipstick that I formulated was for a winter season - a classic “true” red. I eagerly awaited to see what it’s name would be, I was at first disappointed but then basked in the knowledge that I must have come up with a classic when it was named “Lipstick Red”. To compliment my lip colours I also have a wide range of red nail polishes, and I love the names that OPI come up with for their polishes- what a fun job that must be. I’m with Paolma Picasso on this one, that the classic colour for nails and lips is red all the way!


When I was researching material for the anecdotes for my book Inspired Fair Isle Knits, I loved finding out what meaning and emotions colours evoke for us. In our age and culture (they change depending on culture and eras), red is seen as having lots of energy, it is therefore considered a passionate, aggressive, even dangerous colour. It is eye catching (because it is an "advancing" colour) so it is used for signage and for warning symbols. It makes us think activity and drama - nothing is sportier looking for cars than red. Women of questionable morals are described as being scarlet women, and red letters where used to denounce such behavior in ages past – I prefer to overlook this when wearing it myself of course. But in both India and China red is worn by brides to bring good luck. And in the practice of Feng Shui red is placed carefully for the best use its high energetic value.





Creativity tip: I keep a photo journal taking a photo everyday regardless of whether I am doing anything exciting or not. But just recently I have decided to keep a colour journal and take snaps of everyday items in a particular colour - red seemed like a great place to start. Hey: Paloma’s more famous father (Pablo Picasso) had his blue period so I can have my red one can’t I?


By the way, if you are more of a shrinking violet than an attention grabbing red wearer, I think Rebecca would look equally stunning in lavender or blue. And if you want to make this sweater a wardrobe building, rather than statement piece, camel or tan would also be great.