Colorwork with a twist; an overview

It’s obvious that many things pique my interest and inspire me; I’ve already blogged about particular knitting stitch patterns or striking indie dyed yarns. If I look back far enough at my designs, it’s also clear that I keep on gravitating back to a generalized ethnic esthetic, often with central European roots. Which is no big surprise as that is where my family hales from not too long ago. Rather than focus on and adhere to the designs of a particular region or country, I tend to eclectically pick and choose colors, motifs and stitches that particularly resonate with me. Here are some of my most successful pieces. Some predate Ravelry and do not have a written pattern, while others do and you an click through the highlighted link if desired.

Photo by Andrew Stockmoe. Modeling, makeup and styling by Fiona Quigley

I designed and created this long tunic my first winter in Washington D.C. in 1986. I wanted something long and warm so a stranded color work was a great choice. Knit as a simple tube with no shaping, the sleeve openings were steeked. The color choice was black and natural, obviously, and that is still a color combo that speaks to me in its simplicity and elegance.

Photo by Andrew Stockmoe. Modeling, makeup and styling by Fiona Quigley

The main pattern is large scale motif that is set off by multiple small scale stacked motifs at the base, the necks and on each sleeve cuff. All of the small scale motifs are different, including for each sleeve.

Photo by Andrew Stockmoe. Modeling, makeup and styling by Fiona Quigley

While black and white are stark and eyes-catching, there is no denying that red is a strong color choice as well. I designed and knit this 3 cornered shawl in 2018 so, clearly, the peasant or ethnic esthetic is still lurking in my head. This is my Aztec Reveries Shawl, named for the Aztec appearance some of the animal motifs that I used (ok, I left the Old World for the New World on this one, lol). This shawl is worked from the top down with the mosaic technique for the 2-color portions. It has a double applied I-cord bottom edging finished with tassels at each corner.

Photo by Liz Harris

The mosaic portions are interspersed with stockinette and a few garter stitch rows for a bit of textural interest. And it just wasn’t done until I made and applied three small tassels to the tip of each corner.

Photo by Andrew Stockmoe. Modeling, makeup and styling by Fiona Quigley

Here’s another color work item I designed and knit in the late 80’s that shows that I was attracted to red even back then. Here shown in combination with black, gold and blue in a single overall motif that appears to shimmer as the primary colors are broken up by the black. Front opening and sleeves were steeked and shoulders are dropped.

Photo by Liz Harris

That specific motif really stuck with me, so in late 2018 I designed and knit these socks for the Sock Madness 2019 competition with a somewhat smaller version to easily fit around a sock, still with a shimmering black and contrast color combination. (Sock Madness is an international stock speed knitting contest modeled on basketball’s March Madness featuring brand-new sock designs that get increasingly more challenging.)

Photo by Liz Harris

Here is the finished version that I’m quite proud of. This is my Echoes from a Transylvanian Forest design that was chosen for round 2 of Sock Madness 2019. It was quite a popular pattern in the competition and many folks made additional pairs afterwards as gifts for friends and family (including 2 pairs that were made as wedding presents!)

Photo by Liz Harris

So after stating how much I love the juxtaposition of black and white and the strong statement of a good primary red, don’t think that I don’t break my own rules as well! This stranded color-work sweater was also designed and knit in the 80’s and broke a whole lot of rules. I call this my Neon Fair Isle sweater, although the motifs are absolutely not traditional Fair Isle patterns; I charted them out myself laboriously with a colored pencil on graph paper. The sleeves were knit from the cuff upwards first (who does that? It’s crazy, I tell ya!) and hung around for a good while before I got around to the rest of the sweater. They were pretty funning looking by themselves, btw, they looked all the world like ornate elephant trunk warmers, lol. After I knit the the yoke, I realized that I would not have enough of the neon alpaca blend yarn for the entire body and so had to find a suitable match. I think the solid purple works well, don’t you? The only problem that it was a slightly heavier yarn so I had to do some fiddling with stitch gauge to make it work, but I did. Oh! And did I mention the neon bright yellow mohair I-cords that I knitted separately and then applied here and there? Hah! I love them (they took forever to work and then apply but it was so worth it).

As you can see, I over the course of my serious knitting career, I have explored this ethnic stranded color work theme quite often. I am by no means done with it, however, I continue to imagine new motifs and garments to design with different details, techniques and always always glorious colors.

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