What a difference it makes finally having a wool that I really want to knit with.

Whilst I liked the softness of the yarns I used for my lilac cardigan, the garment ended up being far from my original concept and I didn’t actually like how it looked when I wore it. This left me in a bit of a funk over the yarn and pattern for my next project. I really wanted to crack on with something from that lovely knitting book I had bought, but the major printing error put that out of the question and, anyway, I didn’t have quite the right yarn to make a happy start.

When I finally got to the yarn shop to swap the pattern book (delayed by a bout of Covid and associated lethargy), I learned they had no more copies in stock and would have to send it away for a replacement. I could see my plans sailing away onto the horizon, never to be realised. Not only that, but I couldn’t find any patterns I wanted to knit with the yarns I have to hand.

This weekend, though, things have started to look up. The yarn shop phoned to say the replacement book had arrived and when I went to pick it up I bought a new-to-me wool to try out. As I started to use it, I was struck by the sheer pleasure of working with a yarn that I like. This “Croft” yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners is 100% Shetland wool – a long-time favourite of mine – so I have high hopes for a finished object that fits both my body and my requirements and which will be a long-term wardrobe fixture. Ideally, I wanted to knit this next project in a good, true navy blue, but there were no navy wools in the shop. I always think of navy as being a very summer colour, so you’d think there would be more of it around, but the knitting world seems to like blues that lean towards seaglass, airforce, petrol, or even petrel where it shades into grey. This soft, warm pink turned out to be the colour that tempted me the most on the day.

I think in late June I might splurge on a wool order so I can make a proper start on my idea of knitting a co-ordinated “wardrobe” of garments and accessories from this book. I want each item to stand on its own two feet, but for them to effortlessly mix when that is called for. For example, if I wanted to throw the voluminous Herriot Poncho over the Plover sweater, I would want the colours to play nicely with each other. One idea is to buy Shetland wools direct from a company such as Jamieson and Smith, who have an enormous selection of shades. Another option that would be well-suited to this type of “mix and match” project would be the Knit by Numbers yarn from John Arbon Textiles.

A complex, hand-dyed yarn might also provide the inspiration for a group of garments that will work well together. This kind of ploy can be helpful if you get stuck thinking that the only way to co-ordinate is to have everything in shades of one single colour. Whilst that is perfectly fine, it can leave you feeling drab and perhaps doesn’t provide you with garments that reflect (or even influence) your mood.

This “Moonlit Witch” by Pigment & Ply, for example, can guide you as you work out how to balance sometimes disparate colours to make an inspired group. You can already see how it complements the pink of my new wool, even though it also contains cooler shades of pink. Studying this wool, I can see how that poncho knitted in a muted gold shade would look lovely over both cooler blue colours and the warmer pinks, whereas a berry-pink poncho worn over a teal-blue sweater might be a more challenging proposition. Indie dyers have a talent for understanding not only the shades, but the proportions of each colour which make for a pleasing result and they have a lot to teach us about achieving a balanced palette for our own clothes. Playing with colour combinations is a fun part of longer-term planning for your knitting projects.

Longer-term planning is where I want to be right now. The year is running away from me and, like Marty Feldman running after the tour bus, I need to pick myself up and hop back on board.

5 thoughts on “The right wool

  1. Love this pinky combination, and it’s not a colour you have a lot of – as always you’ll now point out how little attention I pay by listing 20 garments you have in that colour! What are you doing with the lilac cardigan? Looks like a lovely Christmas gift for a sister who I happen to know loves it!

    1. I suspect you wouldn’t have loved the lilac cardigan if you had put it on! However, I’m sure there are projects which would suit both the yarn and an appreciative sister.

    1. I know what you mean about finding the colour combination daunting. Much as we go into a knitting shop (or look online) for inspiration, the sheer variety of colours and textures can be overwhelming. Not to mention that it all has to change every year, or even more frequently. Throughout my life, I’ve often wished there was some clothing catalogue that would just offer basic skirts, trousers, jackets and tops in a fixed range of simple colour palettes so you could always be able to get the bones of a wardrobe sorted out and so that you could add slowly year after year without it all being just a shade off because this year’s colour is different to last year’s! That’s very much what appeals to me about John Arbon’s Colour by Numbers wool – the consistency of the palette they’ve produced.

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