Catherine Clark Talks Cladonia

At PPHQ, we're big fans of Catherine Clark's design work! If you've been following Pom Pom for a while now, we don't doubt that you'll remember Catherine's iconic pullover, Ixchel, which graced the cover of Issue 26: Autumn 2018. Well, we're thrilled to say that we've published another pullover design by Catherine in Issue 38, our Autumn 2021 collection - say hello to Cladonia! 

Pictured above is Cladonia as shown in the magazine. However, Catherine made a second sample using different colours which we also adore (see below)! Now, over to Catherine to tell you about the inspiration behind Cladonia's gorgeous colourwork - lichen! 

Cladonia's Inspiration

Lichen has always been one of my favorite natural treasures. When Pom Pom’s Fall theme was announced, I immediately knew I had to try to capture its essence in stitches. For me, lichens are tiny miracles two creatures living together creating what they need to survive in the harshest of homes. To me they represent peace, breath, beauty and perseverance.

Version One, 'Deep Woods'

I began my journey into this sweater design by researching lichen online and from my own photo library. For Cladonia's colorwork, the bright yellow/orange lichen (Xanthoria parietina) was the pop that I wanted. I then wanted two other colors that would represent the seafoam-y blue and red of the lichen with the branches and red tips (Cladonia cristatella). I was amused by the little nod to plants, so used Cosy Posy Yarn Co.’s Feather for two of the contrast colors (Hunny Bunny and Agate), both of which are merino blended with linen. I chose Little Fox Yarn Vixen in Chasing Blue Skies for the stalks of the Cladonia lichen. I love the way the silk mimics the shiny base of this organism. I love using different bases in design as they add a texture and depth that you can’t get when only using one base. 

For the main color, I searched for a yarn that could hold its own to represent bark with some variation in color, but not so much that it would interfere with the colorwork. I settled on Corrode on the base Earth by Life In The Long Grass. A dark grey, super soft yarn with warm undertones and an occasional rusty speckle… perfect for bark and a great contrast to the other three colors. 

Version One of Cladonia is shown in the pages of Pom Pom Quarterly 38. This is what I think of as the 'Deep Woods' version. Dark and moody with lichen that almost glows in the dark, creating a sort of jeweled bark appearance. I chose a dark warm grey as my main color, but any dark rich color would be beautiful…just be sure your contrast colors have that 'glow in the darkness' to get the same effect as Version One. If you look for lichen, you will find all kinds of color inspiration… from golden yellows, to reds, and even blues. Once you have your lichen colors, you can settle on a main color. While LITLG's Earth base is beautiful and has a wonderful drape, you could certainly use any fingering-weight yarn. Just be sure to check your gauge. 

Version Two, 'Coastal'

While I was swatching for my design submission, I became enamored with one of LITLG’s colors, Greywood on the Earth base. It is a lighter grey with several speckles, like the beginning seeds of lichen. However, it was a bit too busy and interfered with the colorwork of the contrast colors. I did not want to change my beautiful Agate, Hunny Bunny, and Chasing Blue Skies, so I abandoned Greywood and went with a darker grey for my design submission. 

But this Greywood stuck in my mind so I reached out to Caroline Niland of LITLG to see if she could dye Greywood without the speckles. She agreed and we went back and forth several times before settling on a solid grey we called Driftwood. So I was able to use the solid Driftwood for Cladonia's colourwork areas and used Caroline's beautiful, speckled Greywood for the areas of the sweater without colourwork. For the lichen colors, I chose three from LITLG on their sock base: Coastal (the bright pop of aqua), Beachgrass (the very light green) and Golden Green. For me, these colors spoke of the sea and the lichen that grows in the forests along the salty coast on trees, rocks, houses and gravestones. Wearing Version Two of Cladonia makes me feel like I’m part of the landscape…quiet and at peace. This version is more subtle, with the contrast colors almost melding with the main color. I call this the 'Coastal' version. 

I love my Coastal version just as much as the Deep Woods version. I find the Deep Woods bold, magical, and powerful, and the Coastal version quiet and soothing. It is wonderful to see how color transforms the essence of a sweater. I look forward to seeing different versions of this design using colors that are meaningful to different people!

Cladonia's Hidden Message

I also want to talk a little about the message inside the lower hem. I started putting messages in my designs with my last pattern, Noctuidae, that I released last January. I like to come up with meaningful words that reflect the essence of the garment and can be used as an intention when wearing it. For Cladonia, the words are Absorb, Create, and Release. This is lichen’s job... and should be ours too! I have provided an entire alphabet with the pattern, so you can write words that are meaningful to you inside your Cladonia. Plus, you have an entire sweater to knit while you think about it! 

I’ll end with a little poem I wrote about lichen while I was thinking of the words I would stitch into my knitting (and by the way… I am not a poet!)

Lichen laden wood and stone
400 million years all known

A wonder kin to starlet glow
Resting here until we know

Lichen laden tomb and stair
Soaking in the salt and air

Listening as this moment sings
Quietly painting their earthbound wings 

Lichen laden soil and sand
Sunfed memories of ancient land

An offering of steadfast truth
Simply slowly sprucing youth

Lichen laden wood and stone
Stitched into patterns all our own

Illuminating the tiniest leaves
Knitting together threads of ease


Thank you for giving us such wonderful insight into your design process and colour choices, Catherine!

As Catherine mentioned, her lovely Cladonia design is published in Issue 38, our Autumn 2021 collection, which you can order here. We can't wait to see which words you stitch into your hems! 

Want to see Cladonia in person? Catherine will be at Wool and Folk on 14th October with both the 'Deep Woods' and 'Coastal' samples. COVID-19 restrictions permitting, Pom Pom's Meghan Fernandes will also be attending Wool and Folk with all the other samples from Issue 38! The tickets for Wool and Folk will go on sale from 4th September, so keep an eye out for them! 

Love, Pom Pom xx 

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