A pub in town has walls smothered in old beer pump clips. Mark and I have spent enough evenings reviewing the different designs of these that I proposed one evening back in June that we select a contender to inspire one of my Quotidian Colourwork designs. (Please forgive shoddy ‘phone photos…)
I love the aesthetic of (some) pump clips*, and how this genre of design contains everything from extremely homemade designs clearly composed using old versions of Microsoft Word, through to sophisticated, classic imagery. I enjoy how some of the homemade designs are more charming than their expensively designed counterparts, suggestive of domestic and small-scale production, and there is much pleasure to be had in analysing the different font choices and colours selected by different beer-makers for selling their wares. The themes and motifs that dominate appeal to my own tastes immensely, but then who does not enjoy curling hop vines, small woodland animals, and other inferences of sylvan landscapes where the ingredients for making beer grow in hedonistic profusion?
There are many pagan motifs scattered throughout the design of beer pump clips, too, as though non-judgemental, benevolent Gods of nature watch over you as you drink the beer; as though beer is a spiritual libation rather than an immoral scourge.
Too, there is something self-conciously macho in the design of beer pump clips; in solid, no-nonsense typefaces and references to ‘manly’ professions like sailing and fighting.
However, as Mark and I perused the many examples of beer pump clip art and discussed these fine points of design, Mark made the clever suggestion that – really, because it’s the beer we have the biggest personal connection with – I should work with the label for Summer Lightning.
Summer Lightning is a great beer. It’s slightly on the strong side at 5% and I’ve paid for overindulgence on several occasions but it tastes pleasingly tangy and hoppy, and you can buy a 4 pint jug of it at our local pub for just over a tenner. Our local pub has a lovely atmosphere, it’s never too crowded, they play old rock music not too loud, and the bar staff always ask after our ‘other half’ if either of us go in unaccompanied.
A few weeks ago, I would’ve sat the design for the Summer Lightning somewhere in the average section of the ‘excellence’ spectrum for pump clip graphic design. I didn’t like the typefaces used, the gurning pagan visage in the middle, or the gaudy shades selected by the Hopback Brewery for marketing this particular ale. However the process of designing Quotidian Colourwork swatches is all about embracing the everyday and finding ways of celebrating it in stranded colourwork, and I am finding that the more I look at the pump clip and mine it for stranded colourwork design possibilities, the more I like it.
So how does one make a design for a knitted object based on a beer pump clip?
I began by analysing the pump clip for colours. I have found Pantone – Twentieth Century in Colour to be an invaluable inspiration in this regard. It’s a superb book, detailing key images from different eras of the twentieth century, and reducing each one to a select range of Pantone shades. It’s really useful for understanding how just a handful of shades can act as a reference… just look at how the influential movie “The Wizard of Oz” has been parsed by Pantone into a set of relevant shades.
I can’t be Pantone-precise when I am working with Quotidian Colourwork ideas, but I do start by imagining a sort of paint tester-strip to accompany any object of inspiration (long-term readers will know about my obsession with paint tester-strips…) and then I play with my amazing stash of Jamieson & Smith Shetland 2-ply to find a reasonable match.
For the Summer Lightning design, I played with my Pantone book and my coloured pencil, then sketched some provisional ideas extracted from the graphic design of the pump clip. I then began playing with them as charts for knitting, making modifications as I went, trying to ensure that the final ideas wouldn’t contain very long strands, and that only two colours per row would be in use.
Then I swatched a lot.
In the course of working on Quotidian Colourwork, I have also found an amazing resource on the Laylock blog: Knitting Doodle Paper. I have seen charts in Estonian knitting books which are shaped like knitted stitches rather than squares or rectangles, and have searched for years to find a paper like this which would allow me to envision designs in knitted stitch shapes rather than in rectangles. To me it’s invaluable to be able to sketch on paper and see what my ideas will look like in dozens of tiny vs rather than in little blocks.
After swatching, I used Laylock’s amazing paper design to work back into my ideas and play around with the colours some more.
Finally, I arrived at the conclusion that this Quotidian Colourwork design was destined to become amazing legwarmers, and perhaps at some stage a fabulously impish hat.
This legwarmer builds on the aesthetics of Muhu Folk Knitting – documented superbly in the incredible book (pictured below) Muhu Knitting Book” title=”Designs & Patterns from Muhu Island” target=”_blank”>Designs and Patterns from Muhu Island. Muhu stockings and legwarmers utilise a palette every bit as vibrant and effusive as the gauche Summer Lightning pump clip design, and – like the Quotidian Colourwork project in general – are pictorial and deliberately referential in nature. (I love the FLY design best of all.)
I have written before about the wonderful legwear sported by the women of Muhu, and am hopeful that this reference to female strength will work well with my appropriation of the macho aesthetics of beer-drinking!
*ETA – I am not uncritical of the ‘manly’ bent of beer marketing and indeed the pointlessly ‘masculine’ veneer applied to the act of beer drinking. I have on occasion been met with an “are you sure?” plus raised eyebrows while ordering a jug of ale to share with a girlfriend rather than with Mark, (a disappointing response IMO) and there are many beers whose pump clips are detestably sexist as documented on the amazing . Thanks to Laura of the Aran Brew blog for directing me to Pump Clip Parade! To be clear: ships and hops are cool on my beer pump clip but boobs are not.