Today I have a review of a new book: Color by Kristin: How to Design Your Own Beautiful Knits by Kristin Nicholas.
I have long been a fan of Kristin Nicholas’ work, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak with her (via email) last week and ask her a couple of questions about her work and her new book.
Me: You have your own yarn line with Nashua Handknits. I’ve just been over on the website gazing at all the lovely colors. How involved were you in the process of developing the yarn — both the fiber content and the colorways? It seems like it must be a huge undertaking!
Kristin: I think you probably know this but for those readers who don’t….. I was the Creative Director at Classic Elite Yarns for 16 years. Part of my job was to develop new yarns and colorways. I loved working with the mills all over the world, specifying fiber content, twist, yardage – all the “ingredients” that go into making a yarn at a manufacturing level. Because I had developed so many yarns for Classic Elite over the years, it wasn’t hard for me to develop the Julia.
When I was originally developing my Julia Yarn, I knew I wanted it to have wool in it for its resiliency and “knittability.” I have also always loved the mohair fiber – a yarn with mohair always has fabulous sheen. Adding mohair to the Julia would make the colors look richer and luminescent. Julia has 25% mohair which is just enough – it doesn’t slip too much on my needles. The alpaca is so soft and luxurious but I’m not a fan of pure alpaca yarns – they stretch too much. Adding 25% alpaca would make the yarn softer than a pure wool. I worked with a mill I knew in Peru to develop the Julia. I knew their capabilities and trusted them.
When it came to dyeing the Julia, I specified all the colors and ordered “lab dips.” To do this, I collected colors that I wanted to have the yarn dyed in. To collect colors, I look everywhere – at fabric stores for pretty colored fabrics, in craft stores, in my stash. I developed the color range so that all the colors will work with each other. I sent the color snips to the mill in Peru. Their dyehouse “dipped” the colors, sent them to me and I either approved them or tweaked them.
Then the yarn was all set to go! Labels were designed and the Sales Reps for Nashua Handknits headed out to spread the Julia word. I design with the yarn almost exclusively. I love the weight of the yarn and the hand and drapability of the finished garments. Besides colorwork, Julia is also wonderful knit in cables and textured stitches.
Julia is named after my daughter Julia who is now eleven years old. She is just as colorful as the yarn!
Me: Second question — do you have a favorite project in your new book, and if so, which one? and of course — why?
Kristin: Oh wow, that is a really tough question. There really isn’t a project in the book I don’t like. This book is a real representation of my current knitting style. I just love working with colors in Fair Isle and then decorating the fabric with extra embroidery and duplicate stitch. The embroidery adds so much to the projects – putting them over the top. And it is very creative and easy to do. I hope more knitters start combining embroidery with their knitting.
As for the projects, I have a bunch of favorites – mostly because the photos by John Gruen are so lovely. I love the “Best Friends Pullovers” which were modeled by my daughter Julia and her friend Bridget.
I think the photo is just so amazing – the colors leap off the page. The photograph was taken late in the afternoon on a cold November day. The light was just right to make the sweaters really pop.
I love the Op Art Ottoman and the Marrakesh Market Pillows.
Our farmhouse is filled with handknit pillows that I have knit over the years. They are quick to make and really add to a home’s cozy decor. The Ottoman is just plain fun! Don’t you love those turquoise feet?
The other project that is really fun and very easy is the Little Shepherd’s Scrap Yarn Scarf. It is a great stash buster and easy enough for an advanced beginner to try. The photo of it on my little friend Matthew is so pretty with our sheep fading out in the background. And it would look good on anyone – man, woman, boy or girl.
A big thank-you to Kristin for taking the time to answer my questions, and for sending me the lovely photos for my blog review.
(Photos by John Gruen, reprinted from Color by Kristin, copyright 2008 by Kristin Nicholas, with permission from SixthandSpring Books. All rights reserved.)
My Take on the Book
Kristin Nicholas is known for her lovely colorwork, and it is beautifully portrayed in this book. A quick flip through the book is guaranteed to cheer you up on a grey November day like today.
The first chapter is called “The Joy of Color” and briefly chronicles Kristin’s love of color throughout her life. It explains the concept of a color wheel and how colors relate to one another, and demonstrates the value of swatching your colorwork experiments.
The next chapter is a great crash course in everything you need to know about fair isle knitting. There is a wealth of excellent information packed into these few pages. The chapter finishes with two practice projects to get you started in fair isle knitting: a chill-stopper (a long tube that you can stuff and use to stop drafts at doors and windows) and a child’s sampler scarf. The chill-stopper has explicit instructions for the colors and motifs used and the scarf has suggestions for both, so that you can let your creativity run wild.
Next, the project section. The book has 22 patterns for a very wide range of items — mittens, hats, sweaters, scarves, a shawl, a baby blanket, and a lovely variety of things to knit for the home.
At the back of the book, more treasures: an appendix of custom edgings and many, many colorwork charts, and a section on techniques and abbreviations.
There’s a lot of great things packed into this beautiful book!
And I have two copies.
Want one? Leave a comment on this blog entry by 4:00pm Eastern time on Monday November 23, and I will invoke the power of the great and might Random Number Generator to chose a recipient.
(Please note that to be entered in the drawing you must leave a comment — don’t pm me in Ravelry, don’t email me using the “contact me” link. When you click on the “xx responses” link, it will show you comments already left, and at the bottom of the page is a form for you to fill out under the heading “leave a reply.” Leaving a comment here is the only way the Random Number Generator will include you in the number from which it draws the winner.)
Meanwhile, Lucy is practicing for the weekend.