Fiona Ellis says that one of the most popular questions she's asked as a knitwear designer has to do with where she gets the inspiration for her designs. She shares the inspiration and stories behind 20 different cabled knitting projects in her book Inspired Cable Knits: 20 Creative Designs for Making Sweaters and Accessories.
The inspirations of change, nature, energy and time are reflected in the projects in the book, which should inspire cablers experienced and less so to branch out and try a new design.
Getting Started with Cables
While most of the projects in Inspired Cable Knits are not really for beginners, Ellis still offers a comprehensive introduction to how cables are formed, how to read and use charts (all projects are charted but also have the instructions written out in words), pattern repeats, placing markers, knitting and sewing in sleeves and other finishing advice.
There's also a brief glossary of terms and abbreviations and explanations for a few key techniques, such as backstitching, short rows and the three-needle bind off.
The book includes 20 patterns, mostly for sweaters and mostly for women, though a few of them could also be knit for men. The women's sweater patterns mostly have five or six sizes, ranging in waist measurement from around 30 to around 50 inches.
The three projects specifically for men have four sizes, ranging from around 44 inches up to 58 inches, depending on the pattern. There's also a project for babies and one for children.
A hat and scarf set is described as being for knitters new to cable knitting; most of the others are best suited to those with a few projects under their belt and a few are downright advanced.
The projects often use meandering cables or varying panels of cables across the garment, so a lot of attention is required. But a little bit of a challenge certainly isn't a bad thing.
All of the patterns include some information about the inspiration or thought process that went into the design. One is about friends and other people coming into and out of our lives, for example, while another is about the thought processes that happen before we set the intention to make a big change in our lives. Others are inspired by patterns in nature, from tree bark to the waves in sand on the beach.
The patterns also include thoughts about meditation and mindfulness and how we can use knitting to get more in tune with ourselves, our surroundings and our craft.
Some of my favorite projects include Go with the Flow, a tank top with a lace edging and a cable panel up the center front; Wrap Yourself in Nature, a large L-shaped wrap with big loopy cable patterns; the men's Inspired by Your Surroundings sweater, which features chunky cables and a tweedy yarn; the clever Tree Pose Yoga Bag, with a cable that looks like a person in tree pose; the Beachcombing pillow, covered with multicolored waves; and Peek-a-boo, a simple, summery sweater with intentional holes at the neck and on the sleeves.
The only major complaint I have about the book is that sometimes the photos are more cutesy (or perhaps artsy would be a kinder term) than useful for seeing what a garment actually looks like. One sweater is mostly shown in a full-body shot of a man jumping, for instance, while another involves a woman getting a hug. A couple of projects you can't see the whole garment, which makes it tough to visualize if it's something you'd want to knit.
Other than that, Inspired Cable Knits offers some really interesting, innovative designs that aren't like the more traditional cable patterns you've seen. They provide a nice challenge even to knitters with some experience, and give you a chance to broaden your skills while becoming more mindful of your knitting and your life.
Publication date: February 2006 (hardcover); September 2009 (paperback)