Make a Statement – WYS x Zandra Rhodes collection
Earlier this year, I was chatting to my friends at West Yorkshire Spinners.
“We’re really excited that we’re going to be working with an iconic designer this year,” they said. “Would you like to be involved?”
“Ooh, that sounds fab, who is it?”
“We’re not telling you until we know that you’re in – and then you can’t tell anyone either!”
Well, with an invitation to be part of a secret like that, who was I to turn it down?! I was most definitely in and now, many months later, I can tell you that the iconic designer is Zandra Rhodes and there’s a whole new collection of WYS Signature 4ply and Colour Lab DK yarn and a new pattern book that has been created which includes patterns for socks! The yarn has been out in the shops for a month or so now so I am definitely allowed to share the secret – wow, that was certainly an exciting adventure to be involved with and I have pinched myself more than once over the last few months to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming!
Whether you’re in the UK or not, there’s a good chance that you’ll have heard of Dame Zandra Rhodes and no doubt seen her fashions whether straight from her fashion house or influenced by her designs. She has a very distinctive style both personally and in her designs and you certainly aren’t going to miss her!
She has been a stalwart of the British fashion scene since the 1960s and has witnessed the changes in fashion over the decades through the hippie styles of the 1970s, the punk era which rebelled against pretty much everything (she was one of the first punk rock designers); the 1980s which seemed to be a bit of a free for all (power shoulder pads, big hair, shell suits … shall I go on?!) and on into the 90s and now the noughties. This lady has seen it all and has helped to shape the trends that we have later been able to buy in the shops.
She has been the designer of clothes worn by people we have all heard of – Diana, Princess of Wales, Jackie Kennedy, Freddie Mercury, Marc Bolan – as well as many other celebrities, and that often makes us feel that a designer’s clothes are out of reach for the rest of us, both in price and because often what we see on a catwalk or a stage wouldn’t be quite the thing to wear to the supermarket! However, one thing that Dame Zandra is particularly good at is creating clothes in her inimitable style for a market where we aren’t all six feet bean poles or addressing thousands in an arena somewhere. You might have seen her Per Una range in Marks and Spencer in 2009, for example, bringing her fashions to the high street in an affordable way.
Now, in 2021, she has turned her attention to the yarn industry and to a collaboration with a British company that is just as iconic in its own field – West Yorkshire Spinners. When you stop to think about it, you do wonder why it hasn’t happened before but everything happens in its own time and the time is right for it now.
The new Zandra Rhodes yarn collection is six shades which have been developed in both Signature 4ply and Colour Lab which is a DK yarn. That makes it ideal for a whole range of garments and accessories and – you guessed it – socks!
Source: West Yorkshire Spinners
That’s the Signature 4ply on the left and the Colour Lab is on the right. All of the colours are based on a nature and British wild meadows and for the six colourways there is a mixture of stripes and a brand new technique which sprayed the yarn to create a whole new look when the yarn is knitted up. Zandra’s Rainbow and Forest Stripes are striped, Sunset Bouquet and Bluebell Mist are merging stripes and Botanical Bloom and Woodland Awakening are the new spray technique. Having all of the colours in both 4ply and DK makes them much more versatile for a wider range of projects and not just those in the pattern book.
There are 15 patterns in the collection and Zandra drew from her own knitwear archives of the 1980s to create them, bringing them right up to date. I like that you can see her style immediately in the designs – look at this:
From the Zandra Rhodes SS 2019 Looking Back, Looking Forward collection …
And here the lovely flowing shape is echoed in the Cloud Belted Shawl.
How about this one? The sleeve isn’t quite the same but it reminded me very much of the style. This dress is also from the Zandra Rhodes SS 2019 Looking Back, Looking Forward collection …
And here’s the Harriet Poncho from the Make A Statement collection. This poncho can be worn either over or underarm thanks to the buttoned sleeve sections which makes it a highly versatile addition to anyone’s wardrobe – and at a fraction of the price of the photo above thanks to great value West Yorkshire Spinners yarn!
The patterns are fabulous and even the pattern book itself makes a statement with its bold pink pages. If you’ve got a WYS stockist close by, I’d definitely recommend having a look through next time you’re in the store!
Have you spotted where I might have been involved? Shall I give you a bigger clue? 🙂
The three pairs of socks in the collection are (from left to right): Lottie (mid-calf), Kelly (long socks) and Tiia (even longer socks). Lottie is knitted in Zandra’s Rainbow with a Cayenne Pepper heel and toe. Lottie is knitted in Forest Stripes, and Tiia is knitted in Botanical Bloom with contrasts of Cherry Drop, Blackcurrant Bomb and Honeysuckle. Lottie and Tiia have short row heels and Kelly has a heel flap and gusset heel – by having both styles in the pattern book, you can mix and match if you want to!
The way it worked is that Zandra designed the socks as she wanted them in the yarn colours that she thought best for the styles – these are her original drawings …
and then it was my job to make the socks come off the page and into something that the models could wear for the photo shoot – and to create a pattern that matched Zandra’s drawings that someone else could knit. It was quite a strange and definitely new experience for me to work that way – usually what I want to knit is in my head and I adjust it as I’m going along until I know that it works, so to create something that had to work to someone else’s drawings was quite a challenge at times, especially as that pair of long socks on the right needed the addition of some woolly flowers! I am not known for flower embellishments on my socks so it was another learning curve to firstly work out how to knit them, and then to knit them in such a way that they were original to the design!
They have a picot edge which makes them look a bit frilly which I thought would be fitting for flowery long socks!
What I like about this collection is that there is something for everyone and you can have designer fashion that you knit for yourself. I think that the patterns all fit perfectly into WYS’s overall pattern collection – if you’ve never had a look at how many patterns they have, you can find them here on their website – there are 18 pages of patterns and pattern books!
It’s been a real thrill to be able to be part of this, and I am very grateful that WYS asked me to be involved. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I didn’t meet Zandra herself but she did have my socks in her hands which were later sent back to me so having touched the same socks makes me very famous indeed 🙂
Designs from one of Britain’s most well-known fashion houses combined with yarn from one of Britain’s most well-known yarn manufacturers, secret socks, woolly flowers (and maybe a few other patterns too 😉 ) – it’s all here in this pattern book at a yarn shop near you!