In Living Color: Brandon Mably's Multi-Hued Braincomments (5) October 30th, 2008
Brit knit wunderkind Brandon Mably’s Color Design Workshop dispelled the myth that color knitting is for experts only. I was lucky to get a spot in a recent workshop hosted by Yarns 2 Ewe a wonderland LYS in an industrial chic neighborhood just north of downtown Houston, TX. At the end of a five week North American tour culminating at the International Quilt Show, Brandon was a charming and generous motivator. He doesn’t like to be referred to as a “teacher” because he feels like he motivates knitters to look at color in a new way and to feel confident in learning new techniques.
Surrounded by a multihued spectrum of a yarn, Brandon began his workshop by explaining how one color plays off of another to create a pleasing montage. “Nothing is ever one sided. Every color is affected by what is next to it.” Pulling out a bilious green skein and combining it with a limp peach yarn created a magical transformation elevating the colors to a gorgeous duo. He demonstrated his uncanny ability to flawlessly combine color time and time again with astonishing results. Following his lead we were encouraged to choose our colors to begin the swatching process.
To some people, including myself, just the mention of Fair Isle knitting brings on a cold sweat. I admire the results and had the technique on my to-learn list but have been shy to take on the challenge. “The yarn is not going to come to you” he commented when explaining the elusive technique he uses to carry the yarn along the back of the work. Once you practice the two handed style of manipulating the active yarn, weaving in the waste yarn and carrying and burying the inactive yarn, you feel like you could take on the world! His technique is detailed in his latest book Knitting Color: Design Inspiration from Around the World along with some of the most inspiring landscapes in exotic countries like Guatemala, India & Vietnam which were his motivation for the color and design of the 19 projects contained in the book.
During his 5 hour class he was patient, encouraging and very entertaining. I especially loved his unorthodox descriptions of color as the finished swatches were pinned up on a board including the unflattering (old chewing gum & popped blister) to the poetic (Ralph Lauren palette & water lilies). Those of us who were off kilter in following the pattern were comforted by Brandon’s philosophy that they were not mistakes just “design elements.”
Brandon’s overall design methodology is driven by the available color palette in a particular yarn he is designing for. Up until recently Rowan yarn has been his muse but Alchemy Yarns has entered the picture and has broadened his available scope of not only color but fiber. When designing Brandon explains that the color does the work. Most of the ingenious patterns Brandon develops come directly from swatches he knits. Once he has the design swatched up in various colors and yarn weights then he comes up with concepts. He explained that the actual garment shape takes on a language and once you knit up the design he decides on the yarn which in turn indicates the size of the design to be interpreted on the finished piece. Brilliant.
Branching out into new creative endeavors, Brandon was at the International Quilt Market in Houston to promote his new line of fabrics with Westminster Fabrics called Brandon Mably’s Collection 1. Six designs in six colorways, Brandon describes the collection as “cheeky and charming.” Funny, that’s how I would describe him!
Traveling five months of the year must be grueling but it provides a wealth of inspiration for Brandon’s designs and allows him to share his love of color and knitting to like-minded people worldwide. This is a most rewarding endeavor because he loves to see the confidence he inspires in this “therapeutic, feel good activity.” Teaching provides unexpected delights and helps him remain “fresh & juicy.” If you ever have the opportunity to participate in one of Brandon’s workshops, do not miss it. You will look at color a entirely new way and become a better knitter because of it!