Since it turned into my everyday workplace, the shifting colours of the shop’s wall of wool became my background, my ‘normal’ that I’ve come to regard in the passive way that we do the paperback spines on our shelves and nick-nacks on the mantle piece. And then every so often the arrival of a new yarn will make me look at the wall afresh, and I remember again how much I love it – the way the colours seem to talk, argue, interrupt and joke with each other, how the yellows jolly up the greys and encourage the blues towards the oranges and purples. I like noticing when a lime green makes sparks with a brilliant cerise pink, and seeing how the reds don’t always manage to shout above the chromatic din, in spite of their best efforts. It’s a colour story which is in constant flux, forever unbalancing and rebalancing itself. I love that there’s no right way of organising the colours and that its disorganisation is precisely what is beautiful about it.
And yet when I try to bring the beauty of that cacophony to my knitting, I almost always end up evading it, and retreating along a safer and more familiar mono-tone path. I have a technicolour dream-coat of colours to choose from, but my left overs tell the story of a conservative knitter whose comfort zone is dominated by navy blue and red. I envy the adventurous knitters who get the fantastical mix of colours in the parcels I pack, yet always have a reason not to put them into my own project bag.
Perhaps it was just one plain coloured sweater too many, or to do with the monotony of our covid-restricted lives, but in the last few weeks I began to hunger not just for colour, but to use it riotously. I picked a pattern – Sophie Ochera’s Trouville – which seemed to offer me that space to play. It became my ticket to stop sitting on the edge of the pool, to dive in and not be afraid of how the water would feel. I quickly abandoned an attempt at a colour plan in favour of just seeing where each new combination would take me. Led by nothing more than the noise the colours make when they meet each other, I’ve taken no black-and-white photos to check contrast, I’ve avoided all the colour wheel pages of my reference books, and screwed my eyes tightly shut to the colours of my wardrobe staples. This knitting is between me and the colours – and if I stop to listen to the rules or the science, I’m afraid I may climb out and get stuck back on the edge again.
And you know what – the knitting is glorious! I realise there’s a danger I may never wear this one, but I almost feel it doesn’t matter. In a time when there’s so much we are forbidden from doing, I’m here to tell you that letting your self roam free with your knitting, is a total tonic!