Book Review: KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned this book in the same post as Sequence Knitting, then went on to only review the latter. Now it's this book's turn.

KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, by Felicity Ford. KNITSONIK, 2014. ISBN: 978-0993041501. Website: knitsonik.com. Ravelry group: KNITSONIK

This self-published book is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to learn to design their own stranded colorwork based on things in their surroundings. Ford describes her process in great detail and makes excellent suggestions for how to go about it.

Important: please don't feel that you need to be good at drawing things to use this book or design your own colorwork. It's not the same skill set; this is more about abstract designs based on elements of what's in the world around us.

Included are technical suggestions about what kinds of designs work well, how to sketch from pictures onto graph paper, how to choose yarn colors, and then a lot of swatches and samples. The process is focused on creating themed sets of designs based on any number of things: a geographical location, a vintage book, food packages. These are not just the finished products, but include the entire process – along with commentary on what did and didn't work in a particular combination of design and color. This helps illustrate the value of swatching and sampling. Once upon a time, I didn't like swatches, but now I see them as finished objects in their own right – something to learn from. Learning is never wasted.

Side note: in between when I started to write this post and now, Felicity Ford posted a lovely series on swatches on her blog, well worth reading. I'll link to the posts by number, though each has its own name: one, two, three, four.

I really enjoy and can learn a lot from seeing someone else show their design process; this book is interesting reading. (My one quibble is the size of the text: it's tiny. When I'm tired, I find that I need to use a magnifying glass – I'm not yet at the stage where I need reading glasses for anything else.)

Recommended for: knitters who enjoy stranded knitting and want to design their own motifs or who want suggestions for how to create color combinations based on photos and the world around them. Also recommended for libraries with a lot of patrons who knit.

I'm not going to include a final swatch this time, but I can include some beginning explorations based on a very few things I associate with Durham, North Carolina.

First, three things from around Durham that catch my eye: the ELF electric vehicle (invented locally, and quite distinctive) and two window decorations from historic buildings downtown. I've taken photos of the first and the third and show them with my sketches. This is all inspired by the process from the book, and ideally I'd go on to swatching. I don't have a local yarn store with a wide palette of yarn good for stranding. I also have a backlog of my own design work, or I'd go ahead and order a sample card and then order yarn.

Instead, I'm going to play with some digital tools and get some vague idea of how this might come out in actual knitting. Note: as much fun as it is to play with graphics programs, it really doesn't come close to using real yarns and seeing how they interact with each other.

The ELF can be seen on Organic Transit's website, among other places.

Here's my sketch and rough chart on graph paper (click to enlarge):

practice page 1 for KNITSONIK book review

Here's some drafts done in my chart software. The bright green is one of the main colors for the ELF (white and yellow are two others, and I've seen custom colors too); the brown is because Durham has a lot of brick buildings. This isn't the only brick color, mind; there's some nice tans and pinky browns as well, because of old paint. (See this Pin for some of the colors I'd like to use; many of these are easily found in heathered Shetland yarn)

Elf electric vehicle, band 1

The second band shows my first guess at the kind of colorwork I might do if I were trying for Fair Isle patterning. The blue is for sky; the yellow and white are for the other ELF colors. I'm unsatisfied with this, particularly the values. If I were working with yarn, I'd spend a lot more time tweaking these. Elf electric vehicle, band 2

Because I can't help but play with layouts, and my ELF shape reminded me of a petal in Scandinavian colorwork flowers, here's that motif laid out as a flower. The checkerboardy bits are structural, to fill in the too-large corner spaces. Again, if I were really taking the time to swatch and make a finished project, I'd tweak those spaces more—possibly with something that reminded me of Durham. I'm rather taken with thisflower made from Elf vehicle, motifHere's some interesting window panes:

inspiration for colorwork

window panes in downtown Durham

And here's a stone lintel over another window:

inspiration for colorwork

practice page 2 for KNITSONIK book reviewwindow lintel in downtown Durham

If you're on Ravelry, you might like to have a look at some projects inspired by this book: actual knitting!

Anyway, while I can't use this book to its full potential right now, I'm really happy to have it, and look forward to playing some more in the future.

I bought this book.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook

  1. Your review was very interesting but I am glad you mentioned the size of the text being too small. While I haven’t had a chance to look at this book first hand, I have noticed a trend in recently published books to reduce the text size while increasing the spaces between lines. It might look ‘clean’ or ‘airy’ or ‘light’ but the text is still very small. I find this very annoying when an otherwise useful book is made impractical due to basic design decisions like text size. Have you noticed this too or just in this book? I am at a similar stage to you – not needing glasses for anything else but I do find myself reaching for the magnifying glass to read some modern books, magazines and food labels! Thank you for mentioning this issue.

    1. I was of two minds about mentioning it, but now I’m glad I did. This is the first time I’ve seen a book with text this small – it seems out of the ordinary to me.

      That said, if you buy it, you also get a code which lets you get the ebook for free. If you don’t mind reading knitting books on a reader or the computer, that would be a solution. (It doesn’t work for me; I like fiction as ebooks, but reference books like this need to be on paper.)

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