Fómhar Cowl & Colour Dominance

Written by Eimear Earley.

The Fómhar Cowl, designed for this year’s Autumn Seasons Club, is inspired by blackberry brambles. ‘Fómhar’, pronounced ‘for’ or ‘foe-wer’, means ‘Autumn’ or ‘Harvest’ in Irish.

Here in Ireland, blackberry brambles grow anywhere they can. Any bit of untended land will have a few brambles. They grow in hedgerows in fields & along roads, under parks in trees, and in the hard-to-reach spots at the back of large gardens. They are hardy, and spread quickly, taking root wherever they touch the ground. They can form impenetrable thickets, and are covered with large sharp thorns that can cause injury.

And every autumn, they grow the most delicious fruit. The wild blackberries are easily picked when out for a walk, sometimes brought home for jam or a crumble, but often eaten on the spot. Though make sure you collect all your blackberries before Hallowe’en, to make sure the Púca hasn’t spit on them!

Blackberry Lifecycle

The Fómhar cowl features small colourwork motifs, based on a simplified version of leaf and berry shapes. The Seasons kits use a green main colour, with warm ‘berry-like’ shades for the contrast colours.

The berry & leaf motif is fairly simple and can be easily memorised, making it suitable for someone new to stranded colourwork.

Fómhar cowl

Stranded Colourwork Tips

Stranded colourwork is when multiple colours, usually two, are worked in a single row of knitting. You will work one colour stitch at a time to create the colourwork pattern. The colour not being used for each stitch is carried, or stranded, across the back of the work.

One of the difficulties that knitters new to stranded colourwork may experience is managing the multiple colours. There are many different ways of holding your yarn. The version that suits you will probably depend on how you hold your yarn when knitting a single colour.

Some, myself included, work with one yarn in each hand.

Some hold both yarns in either their right or left hand, tensioned over separate fingers.

Some use a knitting thimble (or ring), over their finger, to separate the two yarns. This can be used on either your right or left hand. You can see the colour dominance more easily at work here, with the lower yarn needing to move for a shorter distance so the stitches will be slightly larger, or more dominant.

Knitting Thimble

Each method will take a little practise as your hands build up new muscle memories. The main thing to remember is to hold your yarns consistently, with main colour and contrast colours held in the same manner throughout the project.

With colourwork, it’s important to consider yarn dominance. When you are working stranded colourwork, one of your yarn colours will sit slightly higher in the knitted fabric. The difference is tiny but worked over a full project it can have an impact. Usually, yarn held to the left will become the dominant colour, its stitches will sit slightly higher in the fabric.

The usual advice is to hold the background or main colour to the right, and the contrast or motif colour to the left, to ensure that our motifs stand out.

When knitting the Fómhar cowl, I found it necessary to reconsider these conventions.

I found that the main colour would sink down into the fabric, especially in areas where there is just one main colour stitch.

Green is background colour held in right. It ‘sinks into’ work in this example.

In the pictured swatch, when working with grey and green, the green main colour was held in my right hand, and the grey became the dominant yarn. The green stitches almost disappear.

When working with pink and green, the green main colour was held in my left hand, making the green the dominant colour. The stitches worked in the main colour are clearly visible, and the fabric appears flat, without puckering.

Green held in left hand.

One additional tip before you begin your stranded colourwork journey, you may find that the strands carried across the back of the work can pull a little too tight, leading to puckered fabric. Turning your work inside out may help, as the strands have to travel a little further, along the outside of the work.

Turning work ‘inside out’ to keep floats loose.

To summarise, I think the best advice to offer someone new to colourwork is to take your time, practise, and work consistently. And enjoy your knitting!

Learn More

You can find more of our colourwork knitting tutorials here.

If you want to follow along with a colourwork video project you can try out the Wobble Wave Hat or the Yule Wave Socks.

If you’d like to join us on our next Season Club, you can learn more about the club here.

This project is knit with Nua Worsted, you can see our range of colourways here.

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