This week’s blog post is kind of a follow-up on last week’s blog post, in which I wrote about the fade, a trend inspired by Andrea Mowry’s “Find Your Fade” shawl. The fade is all about gradients made from hand-painted, speckled, and highly contrasty colors. The speckle-dyed look is so hot right now, and I think it’s because it screams “hand made”. It usually is, but even the odd machine-dyed speckled yarn suggests hand-crafted quality.
At the same time, neutral tones are surprisingly modern looking lately. There’s a connection between the rainbow speckles and the neutrals that didn’t occur to me until a few days ago. Neutrals are the colors of wool and other natural fibers, even if they are in fact bleached or dyed. We want our yarn to be straight from nature, raw and real, and we want it to be hand-made. I think both impulses are a reaction against mass-produced things, harmonious with the ethic of slow fashion.
Now, here’s another observation about contemporary color schemes in the knitting universe. It’s the combination of neutrals and super-brights. It’s that one neon stripe incorporated into a classic design that bridges the gap between the 19th century and the 21st. Maybe it also bridges the gap between handcrafts and mass production.
I found so many examples of this type of color scheme on Ravelry that I’m not even sure where to begin with examples. It’s everywhere when you look for it. It has an undeniably contemporary look. I feel like all the cool kids are doing it. Meet a few of the cool kids:
Above: Nine gorgeous designs by Purl Soho. Purl Soho is a super-trendy yarn shop in New York City that puts out impressive free patterns with tutorial-style instructions on their blog on a regular basis. Their color choices and photo styling are to die for, right?
Above: Casapinka is an ER-doctor turned knitwear designer who claims she loves pink too much. I disagree. Her use of bright pink combined with soft neutrals is so on-point it makes my heart swell with joy just to look at her designs. I was inspired to knit her Rainbow Warrior shawl in bright pink Malabrigo sock. You may have noticed that I am typically a fan of more subdued hues, but Casapinka turned me over to the bright side.
Above: Joji Locatelli is a knitwear-designing mama from Argentina. She designed the gorgeous neon-edged shawl at the top of this post. I am kind of enthralled by her East or West sweater (bottom left). It’s sleek but unusual, with its side-to-side construction. I’d love it even without the hot pink accents, but I think they take the pattern from clever to brilliant. Joji’s 3 Color Cashmere Cashmere Cowl (bottom right) is one of the most popular patterns on Ravelry. Not everyone chooses to knit it in neutrals with a neon stripe, but I would contend it’s that stunning stripe that drove its fame.
Above: Veera Välimäki is a Finnish designer whose designs “focus on simple and clean lines with small modern details” according to her website. That’s exactly what I’m on about with this blog post: those small modern details. Veera says yes to classic, neutral colors and yes to bright, surprising accents at the same time.
I like to think of myself as an astute observer of knitting trends. I feel like I walk around with my head immersed in the knitting universe at all times. I guess that means the knitting universe hovers about 5 feet above the ground. I’m not sure how astute I really am, but I’ve noticed one thing lately: it’s all about the fade. There’s really nothing new about this look that’s variably called gradient, dégradé, ombre, and fade, but there’s a slightly different emphasis in the “fade” of 2017.
Side note: Remember when ombre-dyed hair was all the rage, like 10 years ago? Ok, so I’m not as up on hair dye trends, though I have noticed a preponderance of soft pink hair ever since I read this article about “Millenial Pink” on thecut.com. I even tried it myself, but nobody ever tells you just how much upkeep is involved in maintaining pink hair! Has anyone ever used hand-dyed yarn as inspiration for a hair dye job? Mim keeps talking about Malabrigo hair lately. But I digress…
When I first started working at Over the Rainbow Yarn just a few years ago, I noticed that long-striping gradient yarns were all the rage. Noro in particular is famous for the long-striping gradient look, and we’ve carried a few yarns in the gradient-striping style for years including Gina, Seasons, and Jawoll Magic Dégradé.
Then there were the super-long striping gradient yarns that took the entire length of a skein to fade from one color to the next. They were hard to find, being mostly arduously hand made and necessarily wound into cakes before selling in order to display the full color spectrum. But oh my, they made the most stunning shawls. Alternatively, there were the sets of gradient mini skeins which produced a similar look when worked in wide stripes.
And there was also the marled gradient formed by knitting with two strands held together and switching the color of one strand at a time. The Anastasia Scarf, for example, has been on my mind since well before I wrote about knitting with two yarns held together in September 2016.
Color play has always been one of my favorite aspects of knitting. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I can hardly ever limit myself to one color in any given project. When I wander about the yarn shop or peruse my personal yarn stash, I’m always thinking about color combinations before thinking about weight, fiber or even what I intend to knit. I once visited a yarn shop that was organized entirely by color rather than yarn weight, yarn company, or fiber content. Even yarn from the same line was separated by color. I imagine it was a nightmare for most shoppers, but it completely delighted me. Patterns like the “Find Your Fade” shawl are all about the color play, and I personally love it!
I think knitwear designer Andrea Mowry has been the vanguard of the latest gradient knitwear trend ever since she released the “Find Your Fade” shawl pattern in December 2016. To date, 4048 Ravelry users have shared photos of their own Find Your Fade shawls and 17,408 people have added the pattern to their favorites. Frankly, it’s surprising how popular this particular shawl is because it’s a big project. I mean, it’s really huge – it takes at least five full 100g skeins of fingering weight yarn, and it recommends using seven colors. It’s like a blanket. A big, gloriously colorful and eminently wearable blanket. But on the other hand, it’s the look of 2017!
Find Your Fade is different from the popular gradients of a few years back in several ways:
First of all, you get to pick your colors. In my opinion, calling it “Find Your Fade” was a stroke of genius. The implication is that you played a part in the design of your own shawl. And you did! A shawl of seven colors affords you all kind of opportunities for personalization!
Second of all, it typically features the speckled and hand-painted yarns that are also wildly popular these days.
And thirdly, it’s less subtle. You can make a fade out of any bold combination of colors – be free, color-loving hearts! The transitions from one color to the next are simply produced by knitting a swath of color A, then a swath of Colors A and B alternated every other row, then a swath of color B.
Andrea Mowry and other designers including Stephen West have released a number of fade-themed patterns this year, so the sheer big-ness of the Find Your Fade shawl need not stop you from getting your fade on. I’ve collected a few patterns for your viewing pleasure and inspiration, and maybe for posterity. I’m really curious too – are any of these fade-themed designs on your to-knit list? Which colors would you choose?
Other posts that might interest you: