Archive for February, 2011

Orange Crush

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Look no further than the catchy brand name on a bottle of a familiar soft drink for this week’s colour inspiration.  Its a crush on all things orange, vibrant and zesty, a punch of colour that instantly perks up and revives all that it surrounds.  Flamboyant in personality and appearance, orange is a colour that starts and ends our days as an intense glow on the horizon. 

Orange Crush was first introduced to the North American market in 1916.  Instantly a hit, and standing well apart from its competition with a refreshing taste and lively jolt of colour. 
Surprisingly, the exclusive formula originally included real pulp added to each bottle for a ‘fresh squeezed’ look. 
The process of extracting juice from the orange was known as ‘crush’ and now almost a century later the name carries on. 


Natalie Cardigan from Sublime

A polished look for Spring with the emphasis on a pretty decolletage with a knitted overlay.  Simply Sublime!  Knit in Bamboo and Pearls, a lightweight yarn that casts a glossy sheen across the needles, and comes in four new shades- pagoda, gingerlily (shown above), avocado, and geisha.

Froulard Cardigan from Sublime

Eyelets, diagonals, and zig zags have a mesmerizing effect and create a feeling of movement in this design.  Part of the Spring collection from Sublime, the Froulard Cardigan is knit in Cashmere Merino Silk DK, with four new shades showcased for the coming season- ink, radicchio, pineapple, and spicy (shown above)

Little Judi Shrug by Sublime

Capturing the radiance of a spectacular sunset in Bamboo and Pearls by Sublime.  The Little Judi Shrug makes a cosy transition from day into night.

Delphine Cardigan from Sublime

Ruching is one of the most intriguing pattern details for knitters to try and so much easier than it looks.  Spice up your wardrobe with one of the newest shades in Cashmere Merino Silk DK  from Sublime.

SlipoverVest from Sublime

High voltage colour revs up this classic cable knit slipover in Sublime Cashmere Merino Silk DK, a superior combination of these three luxury fibres.

Sensational Stripes

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Stripe; a long narrow band distinguished, as by colour or texture, from the surrounding material or surface.  Existing in nature long before their introduction into the world of fashion, stripes naturally define, they create a flow of movement and tension, literally drawing the eye in a multitude of directions.  Stripes are universal, adorning everything from architecture to neckties.

Zebra Stripes

Stripes can act as a camouflage against predators, they can also attract attention, standing out when necessary.   

Exotic Striped Fungi

Dating back to the French Revolution, stripes were worn by criminals, bohemians, and outcasts, representing the negative side of society.  Since then, stripes have become one of the most classic elements of fashion.

Floral Stripes

Both vertically and horizontally, stripes can create a powerful hypnotic effect, giving the illusion of extra length or width. 

Mirasol Book #22

Simple garter stitch stripes craft a colourful scarf, with no ends to sew in.  Instead, they become instant fringes!  Cast on a handful of stitches and bid adieu to our lon-n-n-g winter with Sawya, a rainbow inspired palette, and shiny new addition to the Mirasol fair trade collection.

Mirasol Sawya

Jane Ellison incorporates a zigzag theme and seamless stripes into her Spring designs for Mirasol.  By adding in small knitted bands in Pure Black, the contrasting colours are cleverly defined.  Knit in Sawya by Mirasol, a sultry blend of pima cotton, alpaca and silk, available at your LYS just in time for the first robin sighting.

Noro Flowers 2

Self-striping Noro Sekku is infused with vibrant colour that speaks volumes.  In eight exuberant colourways, this mixture of cotton, wool, and silk stretches out into more than four hundred metres per ball.  That’s a quarter of a mile!  Its a laceweight yarn that has enthused a whole new following of Noro devotees.

Katia Book #66

Katia shows how self-striping yarns can create maximum visual impact with minimal effort in a chevron pattern tunic.  A dazzling design and all part of the Elegance Collection for Spring 2011.

National Sweater Day on February 17th

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Gear up for National Sweater Day on February 17th, and chase away that wintry chill by wearing your favorite wooly pullover.  Whats your style statement- is it preppy argyle, modern abstract, or a tip of the hat to tradition with cables and fair isle?   On February 17th, take part in a nationwide challenge, to pull on your cosiest sweater and show your support for climate change by turning the thermostat down three degrees.  If each and every Canadian conserved energy by just a few degrees, we could save 2.2 megatonnes of carbon dioxide in a year.  That’s equal to removing three hundred and fifty thousand cars off the road.  

Take the National Sweater Day pledge, and show your support for a healthier environment.  There are lots of great activities and ideas to get friends, family and co-workers involved at  Every little change makes a bigger impact on the overall health of our planet.

Sweater it up on February 17th with one of these warm and fuzzy styles- 

Flowers by Jenny Watson

Wrap yourself in warmth, in all directions with Noro Aya, and bolster your winter weary spirits in one of six new and refreshing colourways.  A striking  style by Jenny Watson, along with eleven more lovely ones in Flowers Two, all part of the Noro Collection.

Sirdar #9390

Casual comfort for your guy, in a here, there, and everywhere pullover.  With a classic button-up neckline, and sporty rib detail, Sirdar #9390 captures today’s relaxed style.  Knit in comfy Click Chunky, a machine washable mix of wool and acrylic highlighting four extra shades for the coming season- canvas, blueberry, loganberry (as shown), and deep blue.

Knit in Nuna and Hap'i by Mirasol

Melt away the ice and snow in this vibrant pullover knit in Nuna and Hap’i by Mirasol.  Cheers to hearts and all things red this month!

Designer Chat With Michelle Porter

Friday, February 4th, 2011

As Canadian as figgy duff, maple syrup, and nanaimo bars, Michelle Porter is a homegrown talent who remains true to her roots, successfully merging her East Coast heritage into the ever-changing world of design.  With an intuitive flair for wearable fashion, and a practical approach to pared-down style, Michelle draws from her training and experience in all areas of the yarn industry.  Currently, she resides north of  Toronto and works as a knitwear designer for the Diamond Luxury Collection, as well as her own company, Fondle Patterns.  

Michelle Porter

Michelle shares her design philosophy with us and a glimpse at whats ‘on the needles’ for Fall 2011.

MM:  Hi Michelle, thanks for taking some time from your designing schedule to stop by and chat today.  Can I offer you something warm to drink, maybe a cup of hot chocolate?

MP:  Coffee please………. black, in the biggest cup you have, and if you don’t mind, I’ll have the rest of the pot!

MM:  What initially sparked your choice of career in the yarn industry?

MP:  As a child growing up in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, it was my grandmother who taught me the knitting basics.  I was able to follow complicated Barbie doll patterns as soon as I could read.  She also taught me how to make all the traditional cold weather accessories from memory.  As she was knitting for my sister and I, there I was alongside her, knitting for my dolls.  Now at ninety-three, I am knitting for her.  

Knitting For Barbie

I didn’t choose a career in the yarn industry, it just sort of happened.  Instead, I started out studying to be a medical lab technician, but after getting the worst strep throat of my life, and realizing I was way too sloppy for such precise work, I quit and went to art school, and later switched to visual merchandising.  It was while I was working for a window display company in P.E.I. that I helped the owner start up a yarn store as a side business.   This is where I taught my first knitting lessons and developed custom designs.

MM:  Since then, you moved to Toronto and really went full circle, from working in a yarn store, to taking over the reins and making it your own.  Having that daily interaction with customers and helping them in choosing the right pattern styles, did that further your interest in design?

MP:  When you are running a yarn store, there is so much to consider in regards to buying stock and selling to customers.  You can always pick the best quality yarn in the most attractive colours, but yarn can be knit into almost anything.  The most important aspect is the pattern.  Very few customers can knit without a pattern.  Most folks walked into the yarn shop with something specific in mind.  Imagine my despair when no such pattern existed.  Sometimes you can show customers two dozen patterns, all for the same style of garment, but none of them are just right.  Almost each and every time all they wanted was a basic, simple pattern, easy to follow and quick to knit.  Often, I had to write one up on the spot. 

Another issue that kept coming up, especially with my students, was the confusing pattern instructions, ambiguous wording, and inconsistent use of abbreviations.  I wish we could all follow the same format when writing patterns.  Customers also requested a full range of pattern sizes, mostly leaning towards larger sizes.

MM:  As a Canadian designer, do you feel we have our own signature style?

MP:  A signature Canadian style??  Well, the traditional items for sure, toques, mittens, socks, and sweater coats (2010 Winter Olympics come to mind).  Most of us Canadian knitters have these patterns or recipes passed down from our grandmothers.  Sometimes its hard to find a copy of any of these patterns available commercially, or even in print.  Its often surprising when we designers re-interpret these items, only to find that they are still so popular!  As far as my personal take on Canadian style- we have four seasons to dress for, so layering pieces are key, like cardigans, twinsets, wraps, and vests.  Simply put, items that can be worn to work, not just on the weekend. 

Diamond Luxury Collection #1407

MM:  So true…….and some of your latest designs for the Diamond Luxury Collection make use of bold cables as elements in shaping a garment.  Is this something we might see more of in the future?

MP:  I have always admired clever internal shaping.  Good shaping is important to keep the garment ‘slimming’.  It also helps to fuel the high fashion impression (handmade vs homemade).  I love how cables can change the tension, the direction and thickness of a fabric.  Darts are good too, but cables are more interesting.  I haven’t exhausted my cabling as shaping yet, but am looking forward to more lace effects in my next collection.

Diamond Luxury Collection #1406

Back Image of #1406

MM:  Which season are you designing for at the moment, and any hints at what we might be seeing?

MP:  Right now…….I’m designing for Fall 2011.  There will be lots of rich colours and equally rich fibres.  I am exploring some simple lace and textured patterns for sweaters (huge fan of four row repeats).  Also, I am trying out some alternative directional knitting, one piece sideways, top down, etc., and I really feel an accessory moment coming on.  The slouch hat has paved the way for cloches and turban styles.  Most of my ideas are still in the ‘swatch’ stage, but here’s a peek-

Mulberry Merino by Diamond Luxury Collection

Fine Merino Superwash DK by Diamond Luxury Collection

Baby Alpaca Sport by Diamond Luxury Collection

MM:  All equally gorgeous!  In the Diamond Luxury Collection, knitters have the creme de la creme of natural fibres to pick from.  If you had to choose just one, is there a special yarn that you really love to work with?

MP:  Mmh……My all-time favorite in the collection would be Baby Alpaca Sport because of its soft, seductive feel and huge colour choice.  Still, near the top of my list is Merino Bamboo for its spongy texture and slight sheen.  It gives good stitch definition, and a super even tension.  There are not as many colour options, but those twelve shades are all fantastic!

MM:   So, when you are on vacation, do you take your needles and yarn along, or prefer to turn off the switch?

MP:  Vacation……….um, see for yourself…..

Sun, Sand, and Socks

The worst thing I can remember happening was during a deep woods camping trip.  I had just finished my project, but hadn’t packed another one!  Now, I spend a full week planning projects beforehand.

MM:  Where is your ideal spot for finding inspiration for new designs?

MP:  My ‘ideal’ spot is not my reality spot.  Ideal is a lounge chair on a tropical beach, with a margarita in my left hand, and my sketch pad in my right.  There are baskets of beautiful yarns all around me….but in reality, most of my design ideas come to me in the early morning hours as I lay in bed.  The details that I work out then surprise me, I guess its the absence of distractions, so a stream of thought can properly develop.  Other than that, my home office is a good place to sit with a whole wall of yarn stuffed in hanging bins and the opposite wall as an inspiration wall filled with magazine clippings.  I also get ideas while working in the garden.  Flowers are fantastic when you look really close, with ruffled edges, folds and puckers.  Inspiration can come really anywhere, so I keep a pocket sketch pad handy. 

MM:  As a knitting instructor and designer, what’s the one thing you want every new knitter to learn?

MP:  PLEASE, please, learn to love the tension swatch!  Always do your tension first, make it larger than the standard four inches, make several of them, each with different size needles.  Wash and block your swatch.  This is the single most important thing you can do to guarantee happiness with your finished project.  Learn the stitch pattern while making the swatch too, if you don’t like it here, you surely will not like it on the whole garment!

(images courtesy of Michelle Porter)