I can’t remember where I first spotted the Sequence Knitting book, but I do remember being intrigued enough to track it down and find out how I could get my hands on a copy. It’s author, Cecelia Campochiaro, was unknown to me, so this combined with shipping and the guarantee of import duty and charges from the USA meant I didn’t order it.
A few weeks later images started appearing in the Instagram feed of all round wool lover and visible mender extraordinaire, Tom of Holland. My interest was piqued again, so I put the book on my wishlist and headed off to TNNA where I later spotted the book and raved about it to Susan Cropper of Loop. The Monday at TNNA we were lucky enough to bump into Cecelia as she was promoting her book and sat down to grab 10 minutes with her and learn more about Sequence Knitting.
I was completely swept away, listening to this fascinating and erudite woman talking passionately about such an exciting knitting technique, and oh, the possibilities! It really sets your mind racing and your hands start reaching for a ball of yarn and a pair of knitting needles.
Tom van Deijnen, or Tom of Holland as he is better known, published a wonderful and insightful interview with Cecelia on his blog and I wanted to follow this up with Tom himself and have a chat about the book, how he is developing the techniques it describes and this wonderful lady who has earned a place in the history of knitting with her incredible book.
RACHEL: Hi Tom. Thank you for taking time to appear on the blog – I know you have a pretty packed schedule. What have you been up to this past week?
TOM: Hi Rachel, thanks for inviting me! I’ve been doing quite a lot of planning for up-coming projects. First of all I’ve finalised the details for a collaboration with a vintage boutique in Brighton called Wolf and Gypsy, visibly mending a capsule collection of vintage work clothes. Then I’ve been trying out some lace knitting with silk thread on 1mm needles to repair some vintage lace pieces for Bart & Francis, who are a yarn company based in Belgium: I came to the realisation I will need to buy a magnifying glass! Last but not least my commuter’s project is a jumper in Clara Yarn Shetland 1.0, a beautiful yarn, in beautiful colours, and I wanted to do some colour-knitting that wasn’t stranded.
RACHEL: So, Sequence Knitting – what a book! Aside from it’s beautiful, modern yet classic appearance and thoughtful attention to detail, I think the thing that amazed me most is that the theory behind the technique itself is actually very simple, and yet you can create such complex patterns just from one basic knit and purl repeat. More details about the technique are in your blog post, but it was this that I found so intriguing when chatting to Cecelia and looking at her samples, the Delta Wing shawl in particular. What was it about the book that caught your attention?
TOM: As you may have gathered from my interview with Cecelia, I love this book. I’m not sure what got me hooked exactly, but I was intrigued by the title, and the scarves in the cover photo were beautiful in their simplicity, not least emphasised by their plain white colour. For those of you who spin and know the Spinner’s Book of Yarn Design by Sarah Anderson, which also had a cover photo of exciting handspun yarns; they were also all made from white fibre to take away the distraction of colour, and somehow this really appeals to me. It left me wanting to find out more about this intriguing book that hadn’t even been published yet, and in the end I took a gamble and pre-ordered the book from Schoolhouse Press – I was then told that Meg Swansen was very excited about this book, so I got an inkling that my gamble would pay off. I had already started playing around with something I referred to as ‘tweed knitting’, which looked rather similar to some of the coloured projects in Sequence Knitting.
RACHEL: Cecelia’s day job is based in Silicon Valley where she develops highly advanced machines for computer chips. Your day job revolves around the testing of software that runs medical equipment, and I once again we see the binary nature of computing and knitting crossover again? Do you think your interest in both knitting and computing are a natural progression of one another and the way your brain ‘sees’ things?
TOM: Well, despite my job I can’t profess to have a particular interest in computing as such (I wouldn’t be able to write even the simplest of computer applications). So although I agree there is a cross-over, for me personally the parallels between my day job and knitting are about attention to detail, finding the right technique for the task at hand, and seeing things through to the end. I used to think that my day job and knitting were not related at all, but some time last year I came to the realisation that there are parallels. In addition my day job involves writing test scripts that others have to be able to follow, so I’m very focused on workflows and writing instructions that others can follow through independently. These skills comes in handy when writing up a knitting pattern or doing tech-editing for other designers.
RACHEL: I know we both have ‘substantial’ crafting libraries and you discussed seminal knitting books with Cecelia. I think Sequence Knitting is the first new book for quite a while that I have gotten ridiculously excited about; a whole new technique explored in glorious, and beautiful detail by Cecelia who’s enthusiasm is infectious. Can you remember the last book you were this excited to discover or is there a particular book on your shelves that you will not be parted from?
TOM: I’d love to one day have an actual library or study with all my crafting books categorised and alphabetised and a big chair and a fire place, but at the moment I just have overflowing book shelves in the living room. The last book before Sequence Knitting I got REALLY excited about is a Dutch book called “Het Breien in Betere Banen” (A Better Course in Knitting”), published in 1953. In my blog post I wrote about it, I called the author, L De Vries-Hamburger, a proto-Elizabeth Zimmermann. She was very much of the opinion we can all be designers, and we don’t have to be dictated by a knitting pattern. Like EZ, she is also very much opinionated, and I love that. I don’t have to agree with everything they say, but it’s only through strong opinions that you are challenged yourself and thus work out what your own ideas and opinions are. One idea from that book that I particularly like is the one should start with thinking about what garment one wants to make and therefore, what fabric would be suitable for it. This will allow you to make an informed choice about suitable yarn and stitch pattern. Because let’s not forget that knitting is about making a fabric, and the exciting thing for me is, that making the fabric for the garment will allow you to shape it (and not just by increasing or decreasing, you can create subtle effects by playing around with needle sizes, too), change patterns or colours as you please, and if you have a seamless pattern at hand, even make the garment all at the same time. Amazing!
RACHEL: Whilst chatting to Cecelia, I likened her enthusiasm and passion for this single subject to your approach to visible mending and repair in general. What aspect of Sequence Knitting really grabbed you and how are you planning to explore the technique further…I think we’ve been seeing swatches and sneaky previews of something you are working on at the moment?
TOM: Gosh, that’s a difficult question to answer. It’s about the concept, it’s about freedom, and it’s about colour. What I like about the concept is that it is very simple to execute, yet it will allow you to create complex looking fabrics. The concept translates to other knitting techniques: Cecelia hinted at a second book with colourwork, more ways of knitting the sequences, and possibly some lace knitting, and those are exactly the kind of ideas that come in my head when I read Sequence Knitting; it frees up the mind to explore a whole new world. At the same time, the ease of execution allows you to explore colour. Many of the sequence patterns are suitable for knitting with two different colours, and I think many of them are particularly suited for hand-painted yarns. So that’s exactly what I’m doing: the jumper in the Clara Yarn Shetland 1.0 will have Sequence Knitted motifs on the front, which I knitted free-style, and they’ll be incorporated afterwards – I was inspired by 80s colourwork, which was often intarsia, but the most exciting thing for me there is that it was more than just intarsia, it combined this with different stitch patterns and even differently textured yarns. Secondly I bought some yarn from The Uncommon Thread, in a colourway especially dyed for Brighton’s newest kid in town, Yarn and Knitting. This yarn is hand-dyed and particularly well-suited for a jumper in a sequence knitted pattern. Unfortunately I will first have to work on some other projects before I can cast this on in earnest.
RACHEL: Thank you so much Tom for taking time to chat. I can’t wait to see where your sequence knitting adventures take you and keep my fingers crossed that you one day get the opportunity to meet Cecelia – that’s a table I’d like to be at!
Cecelia has kindly posted her Abelan scarf pattern on Ravelry so you can try the serpentine method of Sequence Knitting before committing to the entire book. Sequence Knitting, self-published by Cecelia Campochiaro, is available in the UK from Loop both instore and online, and in the USA from Schoolhouse Press and other retailers.
Beg, steal* or borrow a copy – it’s an absolute joy!
*Please don’t steal!