Choosing Colors for the S’mores Cowl

The S'mores Cowl, a handknit cowl featuring classic Fair Isle X's and O's

Now that the S’mores Cowl has been released as an individual pattern, I wanted to share some tips on how to choose colors for colorwork knitting. I designed the S’mores Cowl to be a good pattern for knitters who are new to colorwork. I chose two simple motifs and just three colors, varied the background and foreground colors and pattern placement to achieve a more complex look without being intimidating to knit. The pattern achieves variation by first switching the background color while keeping the same color in the foreground, and then going back to the original color combination but switching the background and foreground colors.

I’ve knit two sample cowls, one in more neutral colors (above) and one in brighter colors (below), to show different options. Although the final look is quite different, I used the same process to choose both sets of colors.

The most important thing you need to look at is the contrast in your color choice. Both sample cowls use two darker colors for the background and a lighter color for the foreground. This is more obvious in the neutral sample (let’s call it Sample #1), but if you look at the colors for Sample #2 in black and white, you can see it’s true for that one as well. Although they are all ‘bright’ colors, the yellow appears lighter in the black and white photo. You could also reverse this and use lighter colors for the background and a darker color for the motif.

What if you want to knit a pattern with more than three colors? I used four colors in my Rionnag Cowl and Hat (below) patterns and varied the contrast levels a bit within motifs. In that case, I paired two lighter colors as either the background or motif colors, one dark color, and one brighter color – the brighter color is in between the light and dark colors in grayscale, so can be paired with either one. Another trick I used to choose the colors for the Rionnag samples is that I essentially used only three colors – three hues in color terminology, but for the fourth color I picked a different shade of one color. So in the blue and yellow sample, I chose light gray, yellow, and two shades of blue. For the other sample, I choose a warmer light gray, orange and again light blue – and for the fourth color I chose a brown, which you can think of as being a darker shade of orange. By keeping two of the colors in the same family you can keep the pattern from looking too busy. You can see this in traditional Shetland and Fair Isle colorwork – using many shades in the same color family to achieve the subtle gradations that style of knitting is known for.

I hope these tips help to make choosing colors less intimidating. Please share your projects using #BullockOzkanDesigns and #SmoresCowl or #RionnagHatAndCowl. I’d love to see what you create! For more tips like this subscribe to my newsletter below. You’ll also receive a discount code for 30% off an individual pattern in my Ravelry shop.

For more tips like this, and to be the first to hear about new patterns and special discounts, subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Thoughts On Sustainability In Crafting

This past weekend I had a chance to listen to a panel on ‘Sustainability in the Crafting Community’ during the virtual NY Sheep and Wool Festival. The panel was presented by Merritt Bookstore and included Kathy Hattori, Clara Parkes, Sonya Philip, Katrina Rodabaugh, Adrienne Rodriguez, Hannah Thiessen, and Kristine Vejar. A wide range of approaches was discussed, and I thought this would be a good time to reflect further on my thoughts around this topic, which is one of my core values as a crafter and business owner.

Topics on the panel ranged from mending to mindful use of materials to thrifting and natural dyeing. Here are some ways I personally try to be more sustainable in both my crafting and my design work:

  1. Being mindful about what I make and how much material I purchase and use. I love to make (and design) sweaters, but honestly I’m not sure how many sweaters I personally need right now. So maybe this year I will make other things that I need or that I can gift. I also don’t stash a lot of yarn, and I try to buy a project quantity of yarn so that I don’t have all those odd single skeins no one knows what to do with. I generally have at least an idea whether I might actually make socks with that yarn I’m eyeing or whether I will need a sweater or shawl quantity, and I purchase accordingly.
  2. Designing and knitting things I will wear for a long time. This means being less trendy and more timeless in my style choices, and choosing details and finishing techniques that will help a garment to wear well. For me it also often means knitting with finer yarn on smaller needles. Not everyone enjoys knitting sweaters with fingering weight yarn on US #3 needles, but it has the added benefits of giving me more hours of knitting enjoyment per project and is often more economical as well, since finer yarns contain more yardage per skein.
  3. Using (mostly) good quality, natural fiber materials. This is probably one of the first aspects most people think about when they think about sustainability. Not only do these materials last a long time, but when they’ve reached the end of their life they can be more easily broken down. That doesn’t mean I never use sock yarn that contains nylon, or superwash yarn for a gift meant for someone who throws everything in the wash. (My sister-in-law is notorious for shrinking sweaters.) And I won’t judge you for using acrylic yarn if it’s what you’re going to wear for a long time. If there was one main takeaway from the panel, it’s that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sustainability. It’s about making mindful choices. I personally happen to love wool and linen especially, so that is what I use.
  4. Using local and breed-specific yarn. This is something I am really passionate about – there is an astonishing variety of wool textures and natural colors available if you look beyond large scale commercial processors, and as a designer it keeps me endlessly inspired. I can find some really nice yarn from farms that are local to me, and buying yarn from different sheep breeds helps keep those breeds from dying out, maintaining genetic diversity. It also means I can find wools that are suited to a variety of purposes! There are definitely supply chain issues with producing these yarns affordably, as was discussed in the panel, and and I encourage you to read Clara Parkes’ book Vanishing Fleece to learn more. It can be a challenge to design with yarns that aren’t widely distributed and may vary from year to year, but despite these issues I am hoping to design more with local yarns in the near future.

What are your favorite tips for being more sustainable with your crafting?

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Thoughts on Inclusion in the Knitting Community

There have been multiple conversations happening recently around inclusion in the knitting world, and I wanted to write my thoughts about these conversations in one place. It’s probably overdue, but it’s given me a chance to really think through all of the issues that are being discussed.

My core values as a business are sustainability, community, and integrity, and I want to talk about what those mean to me.

Sustainability

I have been concerned about environmental impact for a long time. Before starting this business I worked as an environmental engineer, and my concern about fast fashion is one of the reasons I started making many of my own clothes.

As a designer sustainability to me means, first and foremost, designing for longevity. I want you to knit a garment that will last, and that is modern and fresh but still timeless enough not to be cast aside when the next trend comes along. It also means using natural, low impact materials as much as possible. It does not mean following a certain design aesthetic. I also love to knit with yarns that are local to me and have knit myself two sweaters using only yarns available from a local farm. I am an active member of the Piedmont Fibershed, which seeks to support an equitable, local fiber economy in my region. I am exploring ways to use more local fibers in my designs while allowing for a yarn selection that is locally available to the knitter.

It’s true that sustainable materials can cost more because they reflect the true cost of manufacturing and fair labor standards. However, I do design patterns using yarns at a variety of price points that I feel are going to stand up well. I always give full yardage information and yarn content and characteristics in my patterns, and my test knitters use a range of yarns in their projects. I also give yardage information so that you don’t end up buying significantly more yarn than you need for the project, another way of making knitting more sustainable – just keep in mind that yardage requirements are estimates and may vary depending on the yarn chosen and how you knit.

Community

I unequivocally believe in a community where everyone is welcome. While I have been in engaged in anti-racist learning and action personally over the past several years, as a white woman whose sole employee is me, and who doesn’t yet have a large audience or platform, it’s tempting to sit back and dream about what I can do once my business grows. But the thing is, I already support small, local and independent businesses whenever I can. And I can do more to support independent BIPOC-owned businesses. I am currently auditing where I spend my dollars and looking for ways to align my spending with my values. And I can look for collaborations that support those businesses and makers too. I also am committed to giving a percentage of my income back to the community, and I’m making it a priority to shift my support to organizations that are run by the communities they serve.

Size Inclusivity

All of my independently published garment designs are sized to fit at least a 30-60 inch bust measurement, and I am continually working on improving my sizing. If you’d like to help with that please participate in my test knits! I will commit to working with you on any issues that arise so that you come away with a garment that you’re happy with.

Accessibilty

To tell you the truth, this is an area I am still learning about. I am looking into making my patterns, as well as my website and social media, more accessible. I do work hard to write my patterns clearly and succinctly so they are easy to follow for as many knitters as possible. I offer directions in both charted and written form where it is useful, and going forward I plan to include symbols as well as colors in my colorwork charts so they are easier to read and can be printed in black and white. Since Ravelry’s new design has made it inaccessible to many, I am working on making more of my knitting patterns available on Etsy, in both print and digital format, and most of my independently published patterns are already available on the LoveCrafts website. You can find links to those sources on my front page.

Integrity

I chose to go into business for myself because I wanted my work to align with my life and my values, and to truly reflect who I am in the world. All of this is a work in progress, and I’m not claiming to do any of it perfectly. I do commit to continuing to work toward the kind of fiber community I want to see, and to be accountable in my work.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Spinning from Raw Fleece

Last year while visiting my aunt in Saskatchewan I purchased a few ounces of raw fleece from a local yarn shop. This was my first time working with raw fleece, and I never got around to sharing my experience. The fleece is a Clun Forest/ Corriedale cross, and since I hadn’t worked with Clun Forest before, I decided to buy a few ounces as a souvenir. I’m not sure how much the characteristics of this fleece resemble pure Clun Forest, but I’ve recently purchased some Clun Forest Roving for one of my Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em projects, and both have a certain spongy quality that is different than other wool types I’ve encountered.

My first adventure was figuring out how to get my purchase across the border. I learned that it is legal to send fleece across the border, but decided to mail the fleece home in case the TSA agents weren’t aware of this fact. I figured the postal inspectors know what they’re doing, but I was still a little bit nervous about it being confiscated.

Raw Clun Forest x Corriedale fleece

The fleece did arrive in the mail, however, and I set about washing and drying it. There was a fair bit of dirt and VM in the fleece, so I went through several soakings in plain water after the initial scouring with mild soap (I used Dr. Bronner’s unscented formula).

Washing the fleece
Locks post-washing

Once dried I decided to process the locks with my flick-carder. About half the fleece was leftover from this process, so I hand carded it to spin separately. I was finding it difficult to manage a short-forward draft, so after a bit of experimentation I settled on long-draw, which I used for both the flicked locks and the carded fleece.

A single lock
The final skeins. (L) Flick-carded, undyed. (R) Hand carded, dyed with avocado pits.

I’m pretty pleased with the finished result. The carded fleece had a few neps in it and so is a bit more irregular. The flick-carded yarn is fairly even and pleasantly bouncy, and the yarn took the dye well. I’m looking forward to spinning the Clun Forest roving I’ve bought so I can compare the two.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Spinning Teeswater

Recently I spun up a sample of Teeswater roving that I bought at SAFF a couple of years ago (from Gwyneth Glynn Longwools). Now that I have more experience with spinning, and especially on my wheel, I’m attempting to be a little bit more scientific about my breed sampling. Even though it’s not a combed prep, the small sample that I Andean plied had a bit of sheen to it, so I decided to spin it with a short forward draft to maximize the sheen. I aimed for a thickness that would match my other breed samples. The roving had a bit of grease left in it, and I found it a wee bit difficult to draft consistently.

The finished yarn does have a nice sheen, and a certain silkiness. I plan to use this sample to knit one of my hexagon blanket ‘squares’, but I could also see it being used as a weft yarn for weaving. The finished skein is 41 g/ about 65 yds at 14wpi and 2-3 twists per inch.