May challenge

I’ve been a bit unfocused of late; picking things up, putting them down and not really committing to anything. To cure this inertia I decided to set myself a monthly challenge, and this month’s is an idea that’s been brewing for a while – to design and knit a cushion for our living room.

Here’s the scene that greets you as you enter the room:


This much-loved sofa is generally referred to in our house as ‘the comfiest sofa ever’, but looks-wise I’ve always felt it could do with a splash of colour. All that’s required is a colourful cushion to add a bit of ‘pop’, but I’ve never found quite the right one; they’ve always been either too bold or too busy. So I set myself the task of designing and knitting my ideal cushion.


In keeping with the relaxed, slightly rustic look of our living room, with its faded navajo rug and wooden beams, I wanted something colourful yet soft and subtle. Rowan Felted Tweed DK seemed the ideal yarn choice, as the multi-coloured neps give its gorgeous hues a muted, timeworn look. Having picked the yarn I set about choosing colours, an agonising task as you can never truly tell if your palette will work until you’ve knitted it up in a swatch. Needless to say I didn’t get it right first time. I’d opted for the six above because each pair seemed to give a contrast whilst none of the shades were too strong, but therein lay my mistake, because Fair Isle works on the principle of foreground and background. The colours may be varied but these shades are all essentially background, with nothing primed to stand out. Here’s the horrible sludgy result when they were knitted together:


It was clear that I needed to introduce a bolder colour, so I opted for a fiery red, and attempted my swatch again. Things didn’t go much better!


I think I preferred the first one! Clearly something was wrong in the mix, and it didn’t take long to work out that it was the brown. Included to ensure that my cushion looked suitably rustic, its muddy hue did nothing for the overall look of the pattern, and instead of rustic I just got something that looked dirty. A complete rethink was in order, so I chucked out everything I’d already done and instead of trying to chart out the pattern first I decided to design on-the-needles, just seeing where the colours took me. With Mary Jane Mucklestone’s 200 Fair Isle Designs on hand for reference  I set about swatching, and here’s the result of my efforts:

Image 1

Finally an idea I’m happy with! I settled for pink as the background, a shade that provides a pleasing contrast to all the others. Well, the cushion is now cast on, but I haven’t left myself long to finish it before the month is out!

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