I wanted to discuss my pattern and project photographs with yous. Specifically, my love of the humble red brick.
Now I clearly love this kiln-fired clay block enough to list it alongside wool in my brand, but the reasons for this might not be immediately obvious to everyone! I know it’s maligned by many in the UK due to its ubiquity in working class areas of built-up cities of Northern England, conjuring up images of outhouses, unwashed masses, and damp squalor, but I adore the rich tones of red brick.
Not the sexiest of backgrounds for pattern photographs, I know, but I’m not trying to sell a lifestyle with my patterns, just the pattern and what you can knit with it. I don’t live an idyllic homesteader’s life on a small-holding somewhere quiet and rural, but a hectic city life in the oldest industrial city in the world.
I live in a red box on a street of red boxes, in a neighbourhood of red boxes conveniently arranged on a grid. My home is small and dark, my climate damp and esoteric, my garden barren besides some pots and raised beds. There’s nothing aspirational to convey, so why pretend? Instead, I am surrounded by the unpredictable yet earthy shading of this beautiful brick:
The tonal variation between one brick and another is a reason why it’s tricky to pin down a perfect brick red yarn, but it also allows the colour description to apply to a whole range of shades, giving the “the brick red palette” a richness that reflects the diversity of applications for brick:
(Medieval York landmarks)
So, to crack on with the yarn element of this post I’m going to begin with a British yarn that I used successfully for Netherton, a cardigan pattern that features a stitch pattern evocative of terraced rooftops – Coldharbour Mill DK in Russet. Two years on, it’s wearing well and I still love the deep red shade with heathered yellow variation:
A similar shade of red without the obvious gold tones is Isager’s Tvinni Tweed in shade 28s. I confess I haven’t yet used my skein of this, but I wanted to include it for the sake of the shade!:
Red brick’s warm clay tones do often turn to a terracotta sort of shade, and here are some of my favourites.
ColourMart’s 2/9nm Shetland in Terracotta is one of the best. It’s currently sold out on their website, but comes into stock periodically. This hardwearing yarn is another one that some won’t like next to skin, and others will find just fine. I’m in the latter camp and have several garments made from this yarn in different colours:
Titus by Leeds-based baa ram ewe is a thoroughly local affair, spun in Yorkshire from BFL, Wensleydale, and alpaca. It’s soft, hairy, and drapes to stunning effect. Parkin is a nutty dark orange shade that isn’t really brick-toned, but I wanted to include for its unusual provenance and qualities:
Another Yorkshire-milled yarn in a similar dark orange is Cinnamon Woolyknit Aran by the Saddleworth company. I have worked a lot of projects in this yarn and return to it time and time again for its value-for-money and toughness, which make it brilliant for hats, slippers, and thick socks:
I really had to restrain myself much more with this post than with the moss/green one, as my stash overfloweth with warm red/orange yarns, not to mention the odd blue toned red that fits neatly into the category as demonstrated in the top left of this photo:
I just can’t get enough of these funky blocks! If you’re wondering about that blue-toned red, my favourite is Jamieson’s Spindrift in Cardinal. This is one of my all-time favourite yarns that wears like iron yet is soft enough for many to contemplate wearing next to skin. If I had to choose one yarn to knit with for the rest of forever, this would make the shortlist:
Its prominence in the urban housing solutions of the Victorian era renders the red brick an heroic object, responsible for the transformation of many people’s lives from shanty towns with no drainage into neat rows of terraced houses complete with outdoor plumbing.
As a symbol of social housing in the industrial city, the red brick takes on an even greater significance than its colour alone. Maybe one day it will be seen as as interesting a background for a photo than cornfields and rolling hills…