Old Maiden Aunt Yarns

Studio 30. Ritchie Street. West Kilbride. KA23 9AL. Scotland. info@oldmaidenaunt.com

coming home – wild mountain time

the first pattern to be revealed in the “coming home” book is the beautiful cover project, the “wild mountain time” mitts designed by the amazing Felicity Ford (AKA Felix, AKA Knitsonik). i’ve been a fan of Felix’s since i took a Quotidian Colourwork class with her at Shetland Wool Week a couple of years ago. i’m in awe of how Felix looks at the world; her ability to find beautiful colourwork in the most everyday objects is astounding, and i love her design and swatching process, so i was very excited that she agreed to design a pattern for the book! here’s her thoughts on the pattern and the process:

wild mountain time swatch

I’m Felicity Ford AKA Felix and I work with knitting and sounds, producing projects like Listening to Shetland Wool (celebrating wool’s origins in the Shetland landscape in sound); Hûrd – a KNITSONIK production (a knitted speaker system covered in British wool that played sounds recorded on Lakeland sheep farms); and the KNITSONIK podcast (which features knitting and sounds).

Meeting Lilith and getting involved in the project

In 2014, I self-published the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook with the support of 447 amazing Kickstarter backers – one of whom was Lilith. She came to one of my Quotidian Colourwork classes in Shetland that year with a vintage biscuit tin as her inspiration source which thrilled me no end because I love a good biscuit tin!

That’s when we met properly for the first time in real life, however I’d known about Old Maiden Aunt for years before that because our mutual friend Kate wrote about dyeing yarns at her studio. Since discovering Lilith through Kate’s blog, we’ve spoken lots on social media and I’ve come to really appreciate her warmth and authenticity. Lilith’s yarns can be as subtle as the sky on a rainy grey day or as radiantly political as the best graffiti and punk album artwork and yet for all that variety her shades are instantly recognisable as Old Maiden Aunt. Her signature style has carved out its own space in the knitting world and I was thrilled to be invited to design with her yarns for Coming Home.

wild mountain time swatch & mitts on line

Since we first met properly in my Quotidian Colourwork class (where you bring an everyday inspiration and translate it into stranded colourwork) I wanted to follow a similar design process for my pattern in Lilith’s book. We agreed on an inspiration source celebrating the Scottish landscape and selected an initial palette with which I was to design. However, as I got to know Lilith’s yarn shades more intimately, the concept was shaped by her colours themselves. I now think of my pattern for the book as having two Scottish inspirations: the flowers that grow along the West Highland Way (which myself and my fiancé walked together in 2010) and Old Maiden Aunt yarn: a dyed-in-Scotland product of West Kilbride.

I’ve dubbed my design “the knitted equivalent of a punk rock cover of a folk song classic” because after we spoke about the West Highland Way and its glorious flora (nicely summarised by the song title Wild Mountain Thyme), I developed a gleefully punkish interpretation in Ghillie Dhu, Grellow, Twu Wuv, and Ultraviolet.

The West Highland Way: inspiration source #1

I started by looking back through our photos from walking the West Highland Way of which I have strong memories of rain, light and colour… of everything looking grey before rain but then being dazzlingly intense afterwards. The walk is 96 miles or so in length. It starts in Milngavie on the outskirts of Glasgow and ends up in Fort William, not far from Ben Nevis – the highest mountain in the British Isles. It rained almost every day when we walked this wondrous path together and there were many midges. However, it was one of the happiest adventures we have ever shared together: I remember rainbows, and the intense chartreuse shades of butterwort stars and the bright red fringes of sundew plants. I recall glistening mushrooms after rain (which we christened “burger mushrooms” and endowed with imaginary speaking powers), recording the lapping waters of Loch Lomond, and meeting a wild goat on the path who smelled like a fantastic, stinky cheese.

wild mountain time collage

Most of all when I think about the West Highland Way, I remember laughing with Mark. It was simply amazing to discover the magnificent, mountainous landscape of the Highlands together, to cheer each other onwards when the going was tough, and to share so many jokes and stories on our way. All that is hard to condense into the small canvas of a knitting pattern, but I decided to focus on the tiny purple blooms spotted along the verges. You can see the swatch that I developed while working out different floral ideas; I worked with Lilith’s lovely Shetland yarn which is a nice round, smooth yarn with fantastic stitch definition and a pleasing stickiness.

wild mountain time design process

Lilith’s Palette: inspiration source #2

When I began swatching, Lilith gave me some glorious reds and purples with which to experiment. My first instinct was to work with the shades that look most immediately like the landscape – the heathery earthiness of Hebridean and Strange Rock’n’Rollers against the rich green of Ghillie Dhu; and the good clear purple of Royal that is almost exactly the same colour as knapweed. However, as is often the case with stranded colourwork, getting stuck on trying to be true with the colours can create outcomes that are murky or which lack sufficient contrast. Ghillie Dhu has lots of yellow in it and is a very saturated and warm shade of green; many purples and reds are unable to stand up to its power or they grind against it, because they are cooler or less saturated. I felt my first experiments were a bit clashy, flat and graphic looking: they did not resemble the glorious tangle of wild flowers and bright shades that I remembered from walking the West Highland Way!

As the swatching process continued, I realised that Ghillie Dhu has a true opposite in Ultraviolet. In turn, Twu Wuv is very close to Ultraviolet. I felt I could get some of that shimmery effect of light and shade by alternating these two violets through the motif so that the flowers appear luminous. When I brought the bold Grellow into the background that the whole thing started to sing. I got some opinions from the wonderful other knitters involved in the creation of Lillith’s book about how best to sequence Grellow and Ghillie Dhu, and you can see the eventual decision we made in the finished mitts! With such a bold and eye-searing selection of colours, the other details needed to be understated and simple; a slip-stitch pattern to help the thumb gusset stand out, and a tubular cast on and matching kitchener double-rib bind off to match.

wild mountain time swatch & book

I’m really pleased with the results – they reflect the brilliance of flowers just after rain, and though the final motif is taken from closely observing thyme flowers and their five-petal structure, you can glimpse many of the other flowers found along the West Highland Way here too – yellow gorse; pink heather; grellow butterwort and the lush greens and yellows of bushes, trees and grasses… best of all, they reflect the spirit of fun with which I associate both walking the West Highland Way, and Lilith’s fun and inspiring range of yarns.

Though my design uses four shades, the mitts do not involve much yardage. You could easily recreate flowers glimpsed on your own special walks if you have a collection of ends or scraps of Lilith’s yarn in appropriate shades and yarn-weights. You’d need two bright colours to be your flowers – two shades that are similar but not identical – and two shades to be your background, with sufficient contrast from the flowers to be distinct. Also, if flat and graphic is your thing, you could work the whole design in two high-contrasting yarns.

Huge thanks to Lilith for inviting me to be a part of this amazing project, and for letting me play with your amazing palette! There’s something about flowers, adventures, yarns and walking with Mark that – for me – embodies the idea of Coming Home: it’s a feeling more than a place, and there will always be a part of me left along the West Highland Way, swearing and laughing and giggling at the rain, the mosquitoes, and its infinite, glorious colours.

wild mountain time swatch & mitts

thank you so much Felix, i’m so excited about your mitt pattern and will be casting on a sample over christmas to try out some other colour combinations! you can find felix at Knitsonik if you’d like to take a look at more of her work. come back next week to find out who the next designer is…..

(all images are copyright Felicity Ford)

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3 Responses so far.

  1. […] refers to a very jolly walking holiday I had there with lovely Mark in 2009. I wrote about this on Lilith’s blog and you can see how much fun I had experimenting with the new-to-me palette of her glorious 4-ply […]

  2. […] stand as she very kindly invited me to contribute a design to her BEAUTIFUL book, Coming Home. Wild Mountain Time is my design celebrating good times had on the West Highland Way with Mark, and Lilith’s […]

  3. […] stand as she very kindly invited me to contribute a design to her BEAUTIFUL book, Coming Home. Wild Mountain Time is my design celebrating good times had on the West Highland Way with Mark, and Lilith’s […]

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