The design style of the Arts & Crafts movement of the early 20th century has long appealed to me. It may have to do with touring Pasadena’s Gamble House just as my interest in art and architecture was awakening. But I am also drawn to its warm beauty, its connection with folk art legacies, its sprinkling of Asian aesthetic, and its dedication to simple detail.
At some point a few years ago, I got the idea that I might be able to create some sort of knitting project inspired by the Arts & Crafts style. I checked out lots of books, looking for something simple enough to convert to a knitting chart. I landed on this image of a stained glass window.
Starting with this design, I could create a table runner by duplicating the pattern in reverse below it. Thus began the charting process. I started the replication small on one piece of graph paper and had 2 increasingly larger iterations. The final chart had 4 pages with just a quarter of the full pattern that would be worked forward and backward over each row top to bottom, and then the whole thing reversed bottom to top.
As I worked on the charting (not fun), I also worked out a color scheme (very fun) and chose yarn (Wool of the Andes from KnitPicks). Now it was time to do some sample swatches to see what my stitch ratio was going to be. After choosing a worsted weight yarn, I realized that the runner might end up more like a narrow blanket. So at some point along the way I decided it might be a good idea to felt it and make it into a solid piece of fabric. I felted the swatches to see how much it would shrink and adjusted my stitch ratio.
I really hadn’t undertaken a project with so much color work, so was a bit nervous when it started out like this:
But I relaxed a bit when the pattern started taking shape
The project got tabled here and there to work on other things for weddings, babies and graduations, but eventually I got the whole thing knit, and it was time for the great reckoning–felting!
When I pulled it out of the wash, I found that I’d probably washed it too much as there were holes where my joining knots had worked out. Also the vertical stripes had shrunk more than the border keeping it from lying flat along the edges. But the good news is–I didn’t cry!
Lessons Learned. (1) I’m not happy with how the lower arc from the heart is not a smooth line. That section was challenging to chart for some reason, and I just sort of gave up trying to make it right, thinking that it would smooth out somehow when I felted it. (2) I also think the yellow and orange sections of the flower should be larger. (3) Carrying the yarn behind the vertical lines (having a double thickness of yarn) is what caused them to shrink more. I had noticed this with my felted swatches but didn’t realize how that would affect the whole piece.
I was able to fix the holes with a few stitches of yarn and a darning needle. I couldn’t block out the ruffled edges so it doesn’t work so well as a table runner. But it has found a home over the back of our junk-store-find rocker. Overall, I’m content with my first attempt at knitting design. It was a great learning experience to see that I could make my idea a reality. I have thoughts of trying the project again with the revisions. But, with so many other fun projects to consider, I don’t know if it will make it back into the queue anytime soon.