Thoughts on Foxthoughts

Nearly every member of the Pom public must be familiar with Foxthoughts, Issue 35's cover star by Hiroko Payne! If you’ve never seen this magnificent pullover and cardigan design before, feast your eyes on the image above! The samples are made with gorgeous yarn from our friends at La Bien Aimée, who are now selling Foxthoughts bundles in their brand new Helix and Felix bases if you’d like to re-create this traffic-stopping colourwork yoke yarn-for-yarn!

Team Pom and Hiroko have been contacted by knitters who wish to re-mix the colour palette, and want to substitute the yarn used in this pattern. Hiroko’s thoughts on yarn substitution are available on her Ravelry thread here (scroll down to the ‘On Substitution’ section at the bottom of the page), and she has generously allowed us to reproduce her blank colour keys for you to fill in if you’d like to go on your own Foxthoughts colour adventure!

To replicate the durability of La Bien Aimée’s Helix and Felix bases, we recommend yarns which are on the toothier, rustic side to allow the fibres to ‘grip’ together. This is also important as the cardigan requires steeking. In particular, we think Jaimesons of Shetland‘s Spindrift, Holst Garn‘s Coast, Supersoft, Nobel or Tides, and Isager‘s Tvinni, Spinni, and Highland would work as great yarns to marl with!

The Pom Team called on Juju Vail, artist, speedy knitter, and dear friend of Pom Pom, to make some swatches using scrap sock yarn from a variety of brands to show you the colour possibilities of Foxthoughts, and to illustrate that you don’t necessarily have to have 14 colours from the same brand of yarn to make an awesome sweater or cardigan. Juju has passed on her notes, tips, and photos, which we’ve published below. We’re so looking forward to seeing your Foxthoughts, and we can’t wait to see our first two-colour version! Show us using the hashtags #FoxthoughtsCardigan and #FoxthoughtsPullover in your Instagram captions!

Foxthoughts in Left-over Sock Yarn, by Juju Vail

Step 1: play with colour! 

  • The yarn used in the pattern is La Bien Aimée Helix Minis which are listed as a lace-weight, but include Gotland wool, which will makes them floofier – yay for floof!
  • First, I check that my gauge for standard sock yarn matches that of the pattern. My standard sock-weight stranded knitting gives me about the same gauge (28-29 Sts per 10cm), so I have a suitable gauge for Foxthoughts. If your gauge is different, re-swatch with the next needle size up or down accordingly.
  • I love the neon in the original design, but don’t have any in my stash. I may buy some to pick out a few areas. CoopKnits is always a good place to start when looking for neon yarn in the UK, but I have lots of non-neon options in my stash to choose from!
  • Before I start, I want to ensure that my left-over sock yarns work together in the same colour palette, so I test the yarn by wrapping it. To make the wraps, I cut strips of cardboard about 15cm long. I put a strip of double-sided tape on each side of the cardboard and then begin neatly winding stripes of yarn around the cardboard.
  • My first wraps focus on what I might do for the background colours. I was thinking of yellow-greens and browns with pops of pink (right). But I also audition warmer browns, maroon, and beige with pink, just to compare (left). 
  • I have lots of both the greens and the brown so could use either palette as the main colour for the sweater or cardigan.
  • Next, I make wraps to audition potential colour combinations for the yoke.

Step 2: swatch, swatch, and swatch again! 

  • I make my first swatch, repeating the motif twice. I knitted the swatch below in the round with circular needles, as I intend to knit the final sweater in the round. There are also about 20 stitches in stripes that will be cut later when I’m steeking. Not visible in the photo are tiny machine stitches down the stripes either side of the swatch.
  • Top tip: if you have never steeked a sweater before, it’s great to experiment with a swatch. You will feel much more confident cutting the final sweater.

  • I’m not happy with my first swatch because I think it’s too stripy. That said, I do like the beginning where I switched the background colour from violet to ochre for a single row. But where the background colours jump from green to pink to light green is too much.
  • I really like the original pullover, which has a background that moves from deep blue to violet to aqua to deep blue with a centre row of pale blue. The cardigan has a background of forest green to dark purple, lavender, pale pink and a row of orange before mirroring the sequence. Both are subtle gradations. The motifs are mostly subtle gradations as well, with a few single rows that pop in colour, and this is what I want to achieve, too!
  • I make more wraps with a more subtly gradated background and foreground.
  • I hold the wraps side-by-side so that I’m sure the colours will have enough tonal contrast to show up against each other. If you’re not sure, try converting a photo of your wraps into black and white and see if they read well. But don’t worry too much if small areas don’t distinguish themselves clearly. It adds to the mystery of stranded knitting!

  • I swatch a small section again, using the colours from my new wraps.

  • I LOVE the third swatch with the moss green-yellow main colour, so this is the option I’m going to go with!

Alternative option: to marl, or not to marl? 

  • During her swatch experimentation, Juju played with using only two colours. We love how a two-tone Foxthoughts makes the motif pop!
  • She found an additional way to play with colour by adding little bobbles after she’d finished swatching!

Thanks for walking us through your process, Juju! We hope this blog post has given you a dose of inspiration to take ownership of this design and the confidence to make something unique! Happy knitting, Pom Pals! Xx

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published