The Knitting Basket Still Life Oil Painting – Karen Winters

“The Knitting Basket”
SOLD (commissioned work)
11 x 14 oil on canvas

This painting was a pleasure to paint for a client as a Christmas gift for a family member, portraying the items the person uses in pursuit of her favorite hobby, knitting.
Although I had not painted knitting before, I felt confident that I could do it, because, after all, painting basically comes down to seeing shape, color and value. You don’t think about painting a ball of yarn, a straw basket or a soft bit of knitting, you think about how light interacts with a surface, how the form turns and how the colors work together.

The first challenge was assembling the materials that would represent the colors the knitter liked best and the type of yarn she liked. A local fabric store made that part rather easy. The second hurdle was a little harder. I decided that I didn’t want to just position a few needles with a ball of yarn, but that I wanted a sample of knitting to go with it, as though the knitter had been interrupted in her work. Because the painting is to be a surprise, the client could not ask the person for a sample – so I had to remember what my grandmother had taught me so many years ago to produce the small sample. Surprisingly, the technique came back to me right away.

Next came the challenge of arranging the still life into what I felt was an interesting relationship of diagonals and curves – both in the needles and the spokes of the basket … incorporating the rhythmic line of the knitting as well as the individual strands of yarn that connect the balls of yarn to the piece of work. Because the yarn had to be blue, I chose supporting elements that would be in the orange and brown range for a complimentary color scheme.

Finally, came the fun of painting the setup – from the block in to refinement of shapes to final details.

Here’s a closeup of one part. I used a very small sable brush in the last layers to suggest the wispiness and softness of the fibers of the yarn.


  1. Wendee
    December 4, 2009

    Gorgeous, Karen! Glad to see how this all worked out!

  2. Folk Heart
    December 4, 2009

    What an interesting composition, and it is so well executed. Someone is going to be really, really happy! Beautifully done!!

  3. Timaree (freebird)
    December 5, 2009

    I am a knitter Karen and when I saw this picture I thought it was super. You did a great job and used some of my favorite colors too! The yarn looks very soft and fluffy and the basket came out great. The knitting is realistic. She’s gonna love this painting!

  4. Becky Joy
    December 7, 2009

    Nice work Karen. I thought your name sounded familiar. You are on my facebook and DIAPG with me.

  5. wendy
    December 7, 2009

    This has a lovely contrast of warm colours with the deep bloue, and of course the subject matter has a meaning.

  6. Meinhild Selbach
    January 1, 2010

    When I first saw this painting either on Facebook or Google Reader I thought it was a photo. Very realistic.

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