I don’t think I’ve used an exclamation mark in a title for at least 6 years but today’s post warrants excessive punctuation! Because today’s the day my very own yarn line launches and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Lily Kate Makes patterns have been around for some time now, but to have a physical yarn to my name feels like a real next step. Meet Lily Kate Makes Axis – a worsted weight, 90% merino, 10% suri alpaca blend in 12 rather delicious shades (if I do say so myself).
The yarn is produced by Fyberspates, the company who have supported me since the very start of my yarny life when I was 13. Jeni and I first worked together on the Fyberspates Scrumptious Collection 10 years ago – I designed and modelled, my mum photographed – I think some readers of this blog may have even been around way back then! Much fun was had on the photoshoot and we worked together several more times during my teens. So early this year when Jeni proposed the idea of creating a yarn together, my answer was a resounding yes. Obviously. Looking back, I’m quite impressed that we pulled everything together in less than 8 months from first ideas to finished product in stores! Of course I’ve designed a whole new collection of patterns for the yarn – scroll down if you’d like to skip the backstory and head straight to the sweaters.
The name, palette, shade names, label, all of that jazz was totally down to me; starting from scratch felt like a daunting task at times but I appreciate the creative freedom so much. Any opportunity to combine my creative pursuits with science-y interests, I grab with both hands, so I knew right from the beginning that I wanted a reference to my astronomy / maths / physics studies in there. For the yarn name I wanted something short and snappy, and not too ‘cosmic’ sounding (as much astronomical language does) because that conjured up images of variegated, hand-dyed, speckly yarns that wouldn’t fit with my palette of 12 solids. After lots of flicking through my textbooks, I settled on Axis – short, mathematical, and with an easily-understood meaning. And it looked nice typed, which helps when you’re trying to design a label.
I design primarily garments, and this fact was the starting point for the whole idea. Jeni and I wanted to create a great sweater yarn, that would hold its shape… have a little drape (but not too much)… wear well… show great stitch definition… knit up reasonably quickly… work for most climates / most seasons… just a few criteria! We settled on a blend of 90% merino (20.5 micron) and 10% suri alpaca, all produced in Peru. The alpaca is undyed, which isn’t particularly evident on the lighter shades but shows as a lovely soft halo on the darks and brights. Hopefully it goes without saying that Axis is a sweater yarn that works for accessories too (see Starkie Beanie below!).
Creating a palette was no easy task! I had free rein to choose any colour under the sun, which was fabulous. The palette had to feel like ‘me’; I’ve been told ‘it’s very Lily‘ multiple times, so I must have ticked that box. That said, naturally I didn’t want to be totally self indulgent and disregard others’ favourites / colours that sell well. Neither did I want to simply choose one red, one blue, one green, one yellow, etc. At the suggestion of a designer friend I started with paint chips – they’re a great way to play around with options and combinations with minimal effort (and an extensive range if you raid B&Q!). I won’t try to describe every colour but shall just say I hope you like the range and find it versatile and fun.
Shade names from L-R, top row: Caldera, Love Number, Helio, Albedo, Lightcone, Quiescence.
Bottom row: Parallax, Aurora, Blueshift, Event Horizon, Dark Matter, Penumbra.
Lily Kate Makes Axis Worsted is currently available from this list of retailers.
That’s the short version – for a longer, more excitedly waffly version of the process, see my latest podcast episode where I chat about the yarn and patterns in more detail:
Onto the patterns! My favourite part, of course. These 4 garments and 1 accessory have kept me rather busy over the summer, and it’s makes me so happy to see everything come together. I tried to create something for everyone whilst remaining true to my personal style. All patterns are named after streets in the Avenham area of Preston where we shot the photographs.
Links to purchase all the patterns via Payhip are at the bottom of this page. Rather than list all the pattern details (yarn amounts, gauge etc) here and make this blog post even more wordy, I’ll simply link to my Ravelry and Etsy stores where all that information is available, and will add separate blog posts for each of the patterns over the next couple of weeks.
Patterns are priced at £7 per garment and £3 per hat, with an additional option to buy an eBook containing all 5 patterns for £27. This is listed as a separate product – the discount won’t be automatically added if you add each item to cart separately.
the Winckley cardigan
The cardigan I shall be wearing all winter! The Winckley cardigan is my first design to feature a slip stitch colourwork pattern. I love yellow on other people but find block yellow doesn’t do my skintone any favours, so I wanted to design an item that allowed the knitter to use bright colours in a non-scary way. That was the starting point, anyway – I’ve since thought of about 10 other combinations I want this cardigan in! See a couple of examples in the tester photos below. A slipped stitch pattern gives the impression of colourwork but without the hassle, and piping around the buttonband ties it together nicely. Fitting neck shaping into the slipped stitch pattern was a task and a half but worth it. The Winckley cardigan is worked seamlessly from the bottom up (body), then top down (sleeves), and shown here in shades Albedo and Helio.
the Bairstow sweater
My dream cosy sweater. I’ve always loved a waist tie, and the Bairstow sweater incorporates a deep sash belt into the construction of the garment. It’s worked from the top down in one piece, with wide sleeves that can either be worn long or folded to bracelet length. My favourite feature is the way the waist tie folds the back into 2 wide pleats – it just adds a little something! The shoulders, shallow sleeve caps, and slight dipped hem are all shaped with short rows for a neat finish. My sample is in shade Lightcone.
the Cadogan sweater
I had to get puff sleeves in there somewhere, didn’t I? A square neck is new territory for me though and I think it extends the wear time for a sweater – you don’t feel quite as hot with lower, wider necklines as with the high neck sweaters I’ve designed in the past. The Cadogan sweater was actually the first to grace my needles way back in April when the first 10 sample skeins of navy (later named Event Horizon) arrived. Like the Winckley cardigan, this sweater is worked seamlessly from the bottom up for the body, then the sleeves are picked up and worked from the top down.
the Ribblesdale vest
I have two samples of my Ribblesdale vest and I can’t decide which is favourite! The beige is shade Lightcone and green is Penumbra (a green for people who don’t ‘do’ bright green, like me). Something sleeveless was definitely on the list as I thought it important to have a garment option that didn’t require much yarn (4 skeins for the size 2 shown here). I’ve designed vests, slipovers, and tabards, so this time I thought I’d mix it up slightly with a waistcoat-inspired shape. They’ve turned out to be really useful items in my wardobe – worn buttoned over tops and dresses as you see here, but also worn open over tshirts just to keep my upper back warm. Very useful for these transitional times of year! Brioche stitch is a firm favourite of mine, and it’s squishy-yet-stretchy nature worked perfectly for this design. My mum knit the second sample with no prior experience of brioche stitch whatsoever, so I’d say it’s a good starting point for a first brioche project, too.
the Starkie beanie
Last but not least, the Starkie beanie. More brioche stitch because I love it so! Once I’d swatched two colour brioche in shades Caldera and Love Number I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head. They worked together so well. I love simple, sporty-ish hat styles so didn’t want to add any fancy stitch patterns, and instead kept things clean with a panel where the colour dominance is reversed. The folded brim shows this particularly well, especially around the line where the colours (seamlessly) switch. The Starkie Beanie uses just under 1 skein in each of 2 colours, so it’s a nice introduction to the yarn.
test knitter roundup
Now for the test knitter versions! Working with my small team of wonderful testers all around the world has been an absolute joy over the last few months. Of course everybody used my yarn, and it was so exciting for me to see the palette and designs come to life. Thank you so much to all my testers for your help, support, advice, chats and company throughout the process. You’re the best!
purchase AXIS patterns & eBook
I could ramble on for another thousand words but should probably call it a day now. If you have any questions about either yarn or patterns, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you’re interested in stocking the yarn, please email Jeni at email@example.com. Hope you like it!
Lily Kate x