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Tuesday, 19 June 2012

A colourful knitting day at Toft

Here at Toft Towers colour work (in a selection of natural alpaca colours of course) is something we are really starting to encorporate into our knitting.  Be it intarsia or stripes, fair isle or slip stitches, we love working with colour combinations to create unique patterns.
Jubliee jumper with intarsia diamond.
So Saturday's colour knitting workshop at Toft Studio was an excuse to share this love as we welcomed several workshop regulars, as well as some new faces. 

We covered intarsia - did you know that this term originates from woodwork and the inlaying of different colours of wood to make a pattern, but in knitting it refers to using blocks of colour.  With intarsia knitting is not stranded or carried across the back of the knitting as with fair isle, instead a pattern piece is knitted effectively in columns and therefore bobbins of yarn are used for each column.

Toft's jubliee jumper is a brilliant example of intarsia with swiss darning or duplicate stitch detailing (see our website for our swiss darning help video). The key to tip top intarsia is your tension, in fact the talk of tension was a running theme of the whole day.  Too loose, you'll get holes where the colours join and too tight, joins will be puckered and out of shape. 
Colour work means lots of yarn, not all of it alpaca to practice with.
Stranding or floats behind fair isle work.

The day started with a slightly soggy dash around the farm to meet and greet the newest additions to the herd and then it was back to the comfort of Toft Studio for tea and biscuits before a full day of knitting.  After a warming lunch (it might be June but we needed it on such a rainy day - it felt more like March!) the afternoon was spent tackling fair isle and learning to knit with a strand of yarn in each hand, one continental style and one English style. We chose between the fair isle beanie kit or a brand new Toft design, the houndstooth fair isle wrist warmers kit, which is available to purchase online or at the farm now!
Sneak preview of Toft's new Houndstooth wristwarmers

Toft tips for fair isle are to give continental knitting a practice before tackling fair isle, if you are determined to do it properly that is. Fair isle never uses more than two colours in any one row and knitting using this method of one strand in each hand, rather than picking up and dropping colours as required will give your knitting a better chance of looking tip top. This latter method can play havoc with your tension (I did warn you about the prominence of that t-word!) and also yarn dominance. In brief, yarn dominance means which strand is carried above and which below according to how they held when knitting and this must be consistent because one colour will appear to recede and one will be dominant. 

There is more to fair isle than first meets the eye - it's pretty involved and incredibly interesting!

Even the history of fair isle was discussed during the day, did you know for example that sleeves are traditionally knitted from the shoulder down in order that the well worn cuff can be unravelled and re-knitted as necessary. Shetland islanders were also proficient on-the-go circular knittters, many ladies had knitting belts enabling them to knit whilst doing their daily work, probably with a baby on their back at the same time, multi-tasking and portable knitting all in one!  Puts our knitting on the go with knit pros a little in the shade! Those kind of facts are perfect examples of knitting know how providing ingenious solutions to practical problems. Indeed learning intarsia and fair isle, traditional knitting methods for use in modern designs of the like found at Toft give us (and I'm pretty sure all knitters) a warm fuzzy glow.


Lots to discuss about colour work.
We haven't got another colour workshop in the diary yet but do let us know if you'd be interested in learning. Helen and Carrie got very excited about lots of new ideas after their first brainstorming session together that the diary until Christmas is chocablock full of new topics. Take a look at the website to book your place on one of our new workshops, some are even in the diary for a Friday afternoon like the lace , aran and giant knitting workshops, should you fancy a cheeky afternoon off in the relaxing surroundings at Toft.

From autumn onwards crochet workshops feature highly alongside spinning, quilted patchwork and firm favourites like the button bag and several seasonal felting workshops. Why not let us know if you have any workshop ideas that you'd like to see at Toft.
Little Cria hiding the grass at Toft.

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