Knitting Off Pattern

I spent a recent weekend at The Needle Lady in Charlottesville, Virginia with a group of  lovely women for a Design-Your-Own-Bag class.  But like most of my workshops, it ended up being about a lot more than knitting or bags.  My knitting/teaching philosophy is about exploring possibilities, getting in touch with creative ideas and then learning how to realize them, taking risks when it feels safe to do so.

We began on a Friday evening by looking through books of antique bags, modern bags, images of sushi and apples, cakes, jewelry, plants, wall-coverings–these are the sorts of places that I get my inspiration.  At first, there were notched eyebrows, pursed lips, worried remarks about not having any ideas . . . but as the evening progressed we all began to doodle and make pages of bag drawings.  Each participant chose one design to talk about with the group.  We transferred the small drawings to the big post-it board and talked through how to create each bag, roughing out one pattern at a time in a collaborative way, everyone encouraged to offer suggestions.  Knitters can potentially leave the workshop two days later with several bag patterns plotted out and one (or more) well on the way to completion (to see where I might be teaching, look at the calendar of appearances/teaching on my website).

By the Sunday afternoon, the women that had begun with knitted brows and murmurs that maybe they could just follow the such and so Noni pattern instructions were comfortable and often brimming with more ideas for bags (well, and even other things–we had a great discussion about knitted pants!) than they may ever have time to make, as well as inspiration for how to embellish their bags with various combinations of felted flowers, branches, berries and beads. The inspiration to knit off pattern or combine pattern elements in different ways requires a sort of bravery and vision.  It is achieved through a willingness to take risks.  And the risks can be small ones, because even small risks can have big visual and psychological impact.  Take a look at this lovely evening bag that Colleen made out of Tilli Tomas Flurries and decorated with an antique brooch:


Collen's Bag from Charlottesville Workshop

I have to say that it was my dream when I started Noni to facilitate experimentation with the flowers and other embellishments in different combination with one another. I think of bags as canvases, basic shapes to be decorated in endless combination with flowers, vines, leaves, branches or brooches and other lovelies:  Combine Cascading Fuchsias with Shirley Poppies, and Camellias.  Add some Tulips.  For flowers with a lower profile, try a combination of Forget-Me-Nots with Pansies and Hydrangeas.  Add a sprinkle of seed beads or use beaded Flurries (my favorite).  The possibilities are endless.  While the picture below is not a bag, it does give an idea of what can be done with a large enough “canvas” and an assortment of flowers.  I made the bra a few years ago for a breast cancer fundraiser.  On the canvas of the bra you will see Forget-me-nots, Fuchsias, Camellias, Mandeville vine flowers, one Spider Chrysanthemum (on the shoulder), Tulips, Cherry blossoms, Shirley poppies and curling vines.

Think of surfaces as canvases for your creativity.

Think of surfaces as canvases for your creativity.

Use beads to emphasize aspects of the flowers

Use beads to emphasize aspects of the flower

A great project to anticipate Spring: try using a medium to large bag as a similar canvas for a garden of felted flowers and see what happens.

About The Needle Lady & Surrounds:  It is a lovely shop with heaps of delicious yarns and lots of fun accessories:  knitting journals that are leather bound, project bags, great bag feet and rings from JULSilver, bag handles that are unusual, buckles, buttons, other great stuff.  The staff is knowledgeable, amiable, and kind.  A veritable wall of pattern books, binders, and other delicacies will tempt you.  The walls are bedeck’t with beautiful, hand-painted needlepoint canvases and the proper yarns to work them if you are a lover of such things.

A visit to this shop is Worth The Trip if you are on the road and can swing by, or even as a destination shop.  Go with girlfriends and then treat yourselves to a meal at one of the local establishments – most of them very urban and wonderful.  I sampled Shebeen (South African) above the downtown mall, across the street, and by the McDonalds (odd juxtaposition but you forget all about the McD’s as soon as you walk in) and had the Biboti (so delicious).  I dined at Bizou the previous night (on the downtown mall across from the Needle Lady) which was also absolutely fantastic–smallish and intimate with a wonderful not-too-big menu of delights.

Welcome to the Noni Blog

I am starting this blog for two primary reasons. First of all, I want to share things that inspire me: my garden, my little boy and his love of yellow (and lately pink), my husband (and my on-going quest to finally knit him the perfect sweater for his life), as well as my students’ questions and work (I’ll share these stories and pictures). Secondly, I would need three more of me (or be Shiva) to make everything I have it in mind to make. So, I’m going to share my “knitting off pattern” ideas here.

Knitting Off Pattern . . .What About This?

Here’s an idea for a great pillow: use the Four Pegs in a Square pillow pattern but forget those circles. Make the pillow in a solid color or stripes. Easy knitting. Great stash knitting. Then get out your Forget-Me-Not pattern and make them in all colors all with yellow centers. Sew them to one side of the pillow and you’ve got the coolest pillow ever. [If your LYS doesn’t have the pillow pattern, have them give us a call at the Noni line (1-877-410-NONI) to place an order for your pattern and ask the shop to mention the secret password “Forget-me-not Pillow” to special order less than three copies (only shops can do this, so please go through your LYS).] I can’t offer you a picture of this because my set of hands is busy with Spring 09 design samples, and, as I mentioned before, I just don’t have enough hands for all my ideas, but I can just see in my mind’s eye how much fun this pillow will be in great colors. Here would be my pics: use Plymouth Galway, Louet’s Riverstone, or Stonehedge Fiber Mill’s Shepherd’s Wool in colors that match your couch or in black to make the flowers pop. All pale blue Forget-me-nots would look fabulous, or pick a selection of three or more petal colors that like each other with the same color (or yellow) for the center and have at it.

If you make this pillow, send me pictures and I’ll add them to a new Noni website feature we are working on – A Gallery – AND I will add YOUR pictures to this blog posting. Don’t forget that 100% of my profits from the Forget-me-not go to support breast cancer research.

My Inspiration: Pictures of My Garden

I will also share the events that the passage of days brings to my inspiration, my oasis, my garden. Today, the daffodils are poking their creamy green noses through the mulch and fallen leaves. Great color combination possibilities here. . .

Daffodil noses

Daffodil noses

I see the first bit of tulip leaves unfurling here, brilliant green, and there, dark ruby and bordeax.

My favorite firey orange tulips.

My favorite firey orange tulips.

Right now, the weather is gloomy, vacillating between large clumps of snow flakes and rain. But this cold day can’t stop the trees from budding up. I’ve even saw robins in the backyard last month! The lenten roses are just beginning to unfurl.

Lenten roses

Lenten roses

The Clematis vine is budding new growth starting from the vine that always seems to narrow and weathered to contain such vibrancy.

New leaves on the Clematis vine.

New leaves on the Clematis vine.

If you love Clematis as much as I do, look for the Shopping Bag I will release in April that features Clematis flowers and a Clematis Flowers on the Vine pattern that also includes instructions for the vine and for flowers that have dark or light stripes down the middles of the petals.

I hope you’ll join me in this blogging project: check back and read the blog, try some of the project ideas I have, send me pictures and comments on your creative adventures in realizing these and other knitting ideas, write to me, take one of my classes. . .

Happy knitting. . .