The Colours of Pebble Island
Erika Knight tells us about how the island way of life and natural landscape inspired her colour and design process.
Before I had felt and squished this exceptionally soft knitting yarn, it was the provenance of the wool, and tracing it all the way back to the sheep and the distinctive landscape of Pebble Island, that informed my design process and inspired my colourwork choices.
I researched the remote island where the sheep are reared and hand-sheared and learnt that Pebble Island is so-called in reference to the jewel-toned agates that once littered the shore. In contrast to the pebbly beaches most familiar to me in East Sussex on the South Coast of England, Pebble Island in the Falklands Archipelago boasts spectacular sandy bays and rugged rocky shorelines home to four different species of penguins. These include my personal favourite Rock Hopper – with their shock of bright yellow ‘eyebrows’ (original punk-rockers, I’m sure!) – which I instantly knew would become the perfect moniker for one of the yarn shades, along with Macaroni.
The farming lifestyle of the family that live on the island is so in sync with the seasons and the landscape, and this knitting yarn so intrinsically of that place, that any deviation from colours of nature felt somehow inauthentic. Reading about the indigenous flora and fauna, of which there is much to be celebrated, there were a few plants that really caught my imagination and became shade names for this traceable yarn:
Diddle Dee – bittersweet red berries with a name straight out of an Enid Blyton storybook, and which I hear make the most delicious jam - the thought of tea and toast being never too far away from my consciousness (it might be a British thing!)
Kelp – the nutrient rich brown saltwater seaweed which I have learnt reduces the methane emissions of the sheep when they graze it – one of the methods being employed by farmers Alex & Dot Gould in their move towards more sustainable farming practices under the Responsible Wool Standard.
Tussac – the distinctive grass that even features on the Falklands coat of arms providing an important habitat for birds and other wildlife, and for capturing carbon.
Rock Hopper and Macaroni – not plants, but the penguins of course – which I believe one can adopt in support of Falklands Conservation – and who wouldn’t want to receive a postcard from a penguin pen pal!
There is something very appealing about the remoteness of the island and the associated connection to the here and now that one only really experiences when out in nature with no distractions, nor hum of urban life at the back of one’s mind. Although I live in a busy seaside town, and mostly revel in the hubbub of beach bars, takeaway coffees, and my proximity to ‘junk’ shops full of overlooked treasures (read other people’s trash/stuff I don’t need), the paradoxical appeal of big skies, wide horizons and quiet is never too far from my daydreams.
I can sometimes achieve moments of that feeling of faraway seclusion, the kind that I imagine could never be punctuated by the shrill ringing of a mobile phone or the one-tone ping of a new email landing in my overflowing inbox. These moments are to be found when walking along the beach where I live, early in the morning or at dusk, when there is a very low tide and the pebbly beach peters out into the water revealing sand fleetingly marked with undulating textures by the shallow waves. Taking time to stop, look and breathe in the salty air is at once restorative and grounding.
Of course, the other way to get a sense of quiet peace (for me at least), is in the meditative act of knitting. Focusing on the rhythmic in, over, under, off and losing oneself in the activity.
So, the design collection for Pebble Island features classic shapes with stitches, techniques and finishing details designed to keep your mind on the project in hand and celebrate the roots of this traceable yarn.
The count of the knitting yarn was important to me, as I wanted something hardwearing and versatile. Worsted weight is slightly heavier than double knit, so can be layered up against the elements, but also works well for fairisle knitting and intarsia, without being too bulky. ‘Meredith’ is based on a traditional yoked fairisle sweater, made in two tonal colours, and elongated into a wearable tunic length with a kick vent in the back hem for practicality and comfort. I like to use a ‘fly stitch’ across the body of the garment to keep the two colours in play and have added deep rib cuffs that feature a simple thumbhole for added cosiness when out and about.
‘Plateau’ is a riot of colour in six of the salt-washed shades of Pebble Island put together in a random sequence, with the colour change ‘blip’ rows designed to show, for textural interest. It’s probably not a project for taking on the train (and it does come with a potential hazard warning of becoming tethered to your chair by multiple balls of yarn!) but the result is multi-coloured happiness in cardigan form. Or you can make it in just one block colour – it’s your choice - these are recipes, not rules!
Photography India Hobson