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Category Archives: Pattern

The Picycle Shawl – Designing for Baa Ram Ewe’s Bespoke Collection

The cat is out of the bag. Meet the Picycle shawl which I designed in Rowan Kidsilk Haze for Baa Ram Ewe’s The Bespoke Collection.


© Verity Britton

I want to write a bit about the design process because even though my name is on the design, the whole process was all about teamwork and having a great group of people supporting you.

Verity of Baa Ram Ewe commissioned the shawl and gave me a very cool and tight moodboard to work with. I outlined my initial thoughts for a design that would combine lace and bicycles – Verity was super-responsive and playful. We decided upon doing a Pi shawl Elizabeth Zimmermann-style.



The Pi Shawl construction is genius – with just 6 or 7 strategically placed increase numbers, most of the circular shawl is actually a blank slate upon which you can place your lace motifs and patterns. For a designer, this sense of “blankness” is fairly irresistible and the temptation to go overboard is always there.

I spent a lot of time taking away elements and trying to nail the essential elements. Eventually I ended up with a central bicycle spokes/wheel motif and a recurrent bicycle wheel running out the outer border. I am a big fan of early 20th century art and the design brief made me think of Umberto Boccioni’s studies for Dynamism of a Cyclist, so I really wanted to capture the idea of dynamism, of perpetual movement, within the shawl. With this in mind, I designed an asymmetrical mountain range which gave this essential sense of movement to the shawl. The outside border also denotes speed with its small oblong shapes – the shapes are not circular but are forever moving onwards.

Italian Futurism. You wouldn’t know the influence was there unless you knew where and how to look for it.

Early swatch

And then teamwork ensued.

Nicky came on board and proved an enthusiastic, perceptive tester with a lot of great suggestions (the outside border would be very different without her input). Elly was a great sounding board for technical conundrums. Rachel remains one of the best technical editors I know. Ashley is a very smart lady who pulled things together like nobody’s business. And Verity, of course. Each of those ladies made a huge contribution to my pattern and it is all the better for it (and it even comes as a half-circle! I nearly forgot to mention that) . It feels a bit wrong to have just my name on it when it was a team effort in every sense. A huge thank you to everyone involved.

The Bespoke Collection features a lot of great designs – I am honoured to be included along such names as Ann Kingstone, Sarah Hatton and Rachel Coopey. Ann’s Woodrup cardigan with its fanciful little bicycles on the yoke is one of my favourites and Rachel’s Frame mitts are incredibly clever.

Bespoke is currently on pre-order from Baa Ram Ewe (any orders will arrive towards the end of this month) and will be available to buy from Rowan stockists this spring.

Wow. That’s one way to start 2014, isn’t it?

With Love from Glasgow

When you read this, I am currently on a much-needed break. The past year has been a whirlwind of activity and I was startled when I realised I hadn’t had any time off since Christmas 2012 (when I had the flu so I am not sure it counts). I have spent some days on Aberdeen with family and now I am making my way towards London (where I’ll be at the Pompom Magazine Christmas Party – hope to see you there?) and then Denmark. Hopefully I’ll return with my batteries recharged and some major decisions made. I will be knitting whilst I am away – I am currently collaborating with Quail Books on an exciting project and I’m also working with Knit Now magazine on what promises to be their best issue yet – but I am not stressing about deadlines for once.

But first I am really happy to unveil a collaboration with my original partner-in-crime, Ms Old Maiden Aunt. We had so much fun running our Sherlock-inspired project in 2012 that we wanted to do something similar this year. Instead of doing a three-month long club, we decided to do a one-off kit that combined our love of Scotland, local history, and Art Nouveau. We began working on this some eight months ago  so when Lilith received the small booklets last week, I whooped.

November 2013 144The Tenement Tiles pattern is inspired by the late 19th century tiles found throughout the Victorian apartment blocks (“tenements”) in Glasgow. The pattern booklet includes a small essay about the tiles and Glasgow – the story of the tenement tiles is absolutely fascinating (it involves both cholera and false teeth!) and I have also included photographs of some of the tiles in my neighbourhood.

I see these late 19th century tiles every single time I leave my home – the entry way to my tenement is tiled with deep green titles depicting stylised lilies. Lilith and I began working on how to work the tiles into a design and the obvious solution was colourwork.

The Tenement Tiles gloves come in three sizes and the kit includes an exclusive Old Maiden Aunt colourway that won’t be available anywhere else. We were really passionate about trying to capture a slightly weathered green-grey and Lilith came up with a colour that just blew me away. It is the exact shade I had in my head when I first started sketching all those months.

(An addendum: Glasgow’s the first place I have really felt at home and it feels so very poignant to have worked on something so quintessentially Glaswegian at a time when Glasgow has been hit by tragedy.  It feels even stranger to be writing about my beloved home when I know this blog post will be posted when I am not here. Glasgow has a reputation of a hard, tough city but it is a city of beautiful architecture, amazing art and (most importantly) an incredible community spirit. )

Many thanks to the overwhelming response to my post about appreciating hand-knitting. I have much I want to say in response to your response but first I have some travelling to do. Also, in lieu of a big gift guide for the knitters in your life, I have compiled a small Pinterest board of some good gift ideas.

The Ythan Hat

Ythan HatLet’s talk a little about what goes into a producing a design.

I will usually start by sketching and annotating the sketch with keywords. Then I start to look for yarns that will work with the idea and if I haven’t worked with the yarns before, I will swatch to check stitch definition and drape. Next on the agenda: a skeleton pattern. This pattern is pretty rough-looking, though you’d be able to follow it without any difficulty. It has a full set of instructions, a rudimentary chart and my first sketch. The sample is knitted using the skeleton pattern. After the sample is knitted, I will clean up the pattern:  eg. making sure the same abbreviations are used throughout, special instructions are spelled out, flesh out the materials section, and checking the charts are clear and correct.

Now comes the stage where the other half of Team Bookish gets involved – and that is him in the photo to the left. David will redraw my preliminary sketch and work on the actual photo shoot. A photo shoot includes finding the right location, making sure that the clothes work with the knitted item, and obviously taking the photos.

Working on the Ythan hat pattern was no different except that suddenly David had to step in front of the camera and I had to take the photos. It was interesting to swap places but try to look at the difference between the photo of David and the photo he shot of me some five minutes later. One of us is a talented photographer – the other one is a middling amateur!

Ythan HatI am not posing in the photo, I’m not dressed for a shoot, it is the same location, and we are using the same camera .. but Dave’s just a far better photographer than me. Something about the way he uses light and understands depth of field.. well, I just cannot do what he does with a camera.

However, I can knit and I can design and this is the Ythan hat.

Ythan is the fifth pattern to be released from the Doggerland collection. The first four patterns were all about the periphery of the Doggerland region but I wanted to travel into the heart of Doggerland with this pattern.

Ythan is inspired by the carved artefacts – particularly antlers – that have been uncovered from the seabed underneath the North Sea. Most of the artefacts just have a few lines incised across the antlers – nothing major in terms of decoration or ornamentation – but I wanted to explore the idea of carved lines and how simple lines across a surface can be both functional and decorative. Knitted ribbing is a great example: it is elastic (functional) but also provides vertical lines (decorative). And what would happens if you sudden added texture (twisted stitches) and a very simple motif of vertical lines to the ribbing?

I’m tempted to say that just like the North Sea, this design has a lot more going on under the surface of things.

(And next time David will be back on photography duty.)

How the Land Lies: The Gillean Hat

Gillean HatHow do we understand a landscape?

From satnavs and street lights to bus routes and border controls, our twenty-first century landscape is controlled and marked in a myriad of ways. We are told how best to reach our destination (the destination being more important than the journey!), not to trespass, and to have our passport ready for inspection. Not only does Google Earth enables us to walk the streets of cities we will never visit from the comfort of our own homes, but computer-generated landscapes can end up feel more real than the landscape outside our windows.

(I still remember the shock coursing through my body when I first played Diablo II and discovered the village in Diablo had been burned down. It was a real, physical reaction to a simulated environment.)

Thankfully human beings still want to feel we are part of our actual, real surroundings.

We want to inhabit our landscape emotionally as well as physically. We take shortcuts (‘desire lines‘) when the official path seems too circuitous; we respond to stark urban environments by planting trees and flowers; and we turn spaces into places by telling tales about them: “This is where I played as a child” and “Turn left at the tree that was hit by lightning.”

And the Gillean Hat is partly a response to this story-telling impulse, this desire to belong.

The Gillean hat is named after Caisteal nan Gillean – a Mesolithic archaeology site on the Scottish island of Oronsay. I am fascinated by how we choose to name sites and how many layers of stories we can find in place names. Caisteal nan Gillean literally means ‘the fort of the boys’ and since we will never know the actual Mesolithic name of the site, the boys will linger.Gillean Hat

But there are other ways of marking your place in the world when words are no longer remembered and myths about a place have ceased to be told. Caisteal nan Gillean has plenty of evidence that it was a place tied to memories, stories, experiences and meaning. People inhabited the island on many occasions and left behind traces of their lives.

I am using a stylised shell/limpet motif in this hat. Oronsay is famous for its shell middens – solid evidence of human activity in a landscape – and I wanted to throw a handful of these shells across a hat. The hat uses beautiful organic Faroese yarns that reflect an isolated island environment: a grassy green flickers at the edge whilst the two greys capture the idea of shells strewn across weathered stones. A link to a past landscape in a own present-day world.

If you want to read more about how we relate to landscapes – both internal and external ones – I recommend Robert Macfarlane’s beautiful The Old Ways: a Journey on Foot.

Pattern: Hoxne

Hoxne ShawlHoxne is the second pattern to be released from the Doggerland: Knits from a Lost Landscape collection.

The shawl is named after a small village in Suffolk. Hoxne was inhabited as early as 320,000 years ago but the site shows signs of continual flint tool production through the ages. Flint is one of the key materials of North European prehistory – and I knew I wanted to design a shawl evocative of flint tools.

I know flint very well.

My childhood landscape was shaped by the ice age: softly rolling hills and a large moraine we called Tornved Bjerg (literally: Tornved Mountain).

Local farmers cursed the vanished glaciers for leaving so much debris behind as they worked the stone-filled fields, but I loved running across the newly tilled land and finding pieces of flint. I held the small stones in my hands as though they were gold nuggets. They were warm from the sun, yet cool to the touch. They were soft to hold, yet had sharp edges. I didn’t realise until much later in my life that I had probably been picking up worked pieces of flint in a landscape full of prehistoric archaeology.

Hoxne reminds me of being that child – so inquisitive and seeing something special in everyday things. I hope I haven’t lost either quality.

The shawl is knitted in Snældan 1ply – I keep referring to this yarn as Karie’s Favourite Lace Yarn and that still holds true (I should write a Desert Island Yarns entry at some point). It is soft, holds so much character and it blocks out beautifully. Snældan is still spun in the way that it was spun in the 1940s and I love how it feels alive in your hands. Some yarns are processed beyond recognition but Snældan 1ply retains this magical feeling of authenticity and landscape which is so central to what I’m trying to do with Doggerland.

The Island Wool Company will be featuring Hoxne on their website – keep a look out and do browse that Snældan section. I continue to be thankful that Fiona & Daniel have chosen to make my beloved Faroese yarns available for UK knitters. It makes my life a lot easier!

Tomorrow I will be heading to Woolfest with my Glasgow knitting group. If you see me, do say hello!

Doggerland: Ronaes

Ronaes ShawlSo here we are.

I released the Ronaes shawl pattern on Monday. It is the first of the Doggerland patterns to be published and I do so with a sigh of relief.

I’m really proud of Ronaes – it was one of those designs that just fell into place really quickly and where the finished object looked even better than I had imagined.

(I have issues with the way I look in the pattern photos: oh, all the issues that arise when you stare at your own face and body as you edit photos and patterns – but I think that’s a topic for another day.)

The original Ronaes was knitted in Garthenor 1ply – a beautiful and bouncy laceweight. It’s called a cobweb on Ravelry which I think is a touch misleading. It’s more like a heavy 2ply or a light 3ply. Maybe if I spun yarn I’d have a better idea? Looking at all the different yarn choices made for Ronaes in the Doggerland KAL is my favourite activity at the moment.

Also this week I could finally share some really exciting news. The Island Wool Company is the UK importer of the fantastic Snældan yarns. They love the Doggerland collection so much that they asked if they could team up with me. Imagine that. How could I say no? So, apart from Ravelry, the Doggerland patterns will pop up on the Island Wool Company website. I have already ordered some Snældan 2ply in Mist, so I can knit myself another Ronaes.

And in final Ronaes news, Louise Scollay of the excellent Knit British blog took an early look at Doggerland – and especially Ronaes:

What excites me about this collection is the connection to landscape and the past, and also a sense of otherness – something I often feel keenly in my own landscape.


So here we are.

The past fortnight has been crazily busy – but I’m happy to say that I’m meeting some absolutely fantastic people as part of the general insanity. If you’re reading this, you are one of them.

Bookish Knits in Knit Now

Photo by Dan Walmsley; © Practical Publishing

There is a reason why I call myself Karie Bookish – I love books and I love reading. Family lore has it that whenever they couldn’t find me I’d be hiding somewhere with a book. I also love knitting. When I was asked to design a number of bookish knits for Knit Now Magazine, I had to pinch myself. What a dream assignment.

The first pattern is the Eyre Shawl.

I reread Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre in 2011. The novel was extraordinary – far richer than I had grasped when my 14 year-old self had first read it. Jane was a study in self-respect, self-reliance, and intelligence:

“I can live alone, if self-respect, and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.”

But Jane wasn’t the only reason why I wanted to design a shawl. The housekeeper at Thornfield Hall – the inimitable Mrs Fairfax – was constantly knitting throughout the novel and kept having small asides about how she really had to finish this row..

The recent film adaptation featured a number of knitted shawls – one spawned several garterstitch shawl patterns on Ravelry – but I wanted to take a different direction. I wanted to design a shawl that was both as delicate and strong as Jane herself – something which Mrs Fairfax would have enjoyed knitting.

My Eyre shawl has an all-over chevron pattern which gently fans into a leaf border. It is very easy to customise: like most of my shawl patterns, Eyre has a design feature which means you can repeat the central chevron stitch pattern as many times as you’d like before starting the border. I like shawls like that because it means you can customise the size of the shawl to suit your yardage.

Photo by Dan Walmsley; © Practical Publishing

The sample shown was knitted in Malabrigo Lace in “Applewood”. It blocked out beautifully and is wonderfully soft.

I also designed a hat and fingerless gloves set for the magazine.

I set myself the challenge of designing an Art Deco-inspired accessories set which would be accessible for beginner knitters. That means everything is knitted flat. It is a bit of a controversial decision in these Everything Must Be Knitted On Circular Needles times, but I’ve spent so much time teaching beginning knitters that I understood how frustrating it can be to see a beautiful pattern and not be able to knit because you’re not yet confident enough to use double-pointed needles or circs. So, everything is knitted flat.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was my starting point – after all, Baz Luhrmann has an adaptation out later this year and the High Street is already filled with Art Deco inspired clothes. The 1920s silouette was boyish and simple, but the details were everything but. I wanted to capture the lavish and carefree world of Gatsby and I did so by choosing a cashmere-blend yarn and use a glitzy metallic yarn as contrast. Likewise, I decided against designing something practical – this Gatsby set will not keep you warm, but it will make you feel glamorous and feminine.

The set is knitted in Rowan Cashsoft 4ply and Anchor Artiste Metallic in “Thunder” and “Blue” respectively. The hat is photographed as a beanie but is meant to be a very nonchalant beret à la Faye Dunaway in Bonnie & Clyde.

Photo by Dan Walmsley; © Practical Publishing

Knit Now Magazine issue 18 will be in stores from Thursday. You can order it online too.

PS. Knit Now has a history of supporting some truly talented indie designers like Jacqui Harding, Anna Elliott, Ella Austin, Elly Doyle, Anni Howard, Woolly Wormhead and Rachel Coopey. Just one reason among many why they are awesome.

The Light Is Pale & Thin

Oh, 2013. You are off to a slow, slightly bemusing start.

Life is slowly creeping back into Casa Bookish. The suitcases are nearly unpacked, the laundry basket is nearly empty, and the fridge has been emptied of all holiday food. I still feel exhausted and I get easily winded, but I am feeling much better than I did just a few days ago. We’ve caught up with several friends and everybody seems to have been laid low with something this past holiday season. One thing is certain: I’ll be getting the flu jab next winter season! No need to go through this %&¤#! again if I can help it..

So, I’ve been crossing off items on my giant To Do list. One of the top items was “preparing patterns for release” – and I crossed that one off my list today. All three yarn club patterns are now available for general consumption via Ravelry – you can buy them individually for as a bargainous e-book collection. Seeing as the original yarns are not available, I’ve worked together with Old Maiden Aunt yarns to find good colour substitutions.

At Midnight

At the same time I am busy designing some new things – I currently have two new designs on the needles and three other designs somewhere in the process between sketch and knitting.

In-between all my sample knitting, I have been knitting on my Bute cardigan. I cast off the second front last night which means I only have two sleeves to go, huzzah! I’ll be block the back and fronts this week and hopefully get the body seamed, so I can pick up stitches for the button-band. I have a couple of different button styles to decide between but we’ll cross that hurdle when we get to it.

Resident Photographer ran off with the camera today or I’d show you the unblocked pieces.

And if a blog entry could have a colour, this entry would be pale blue-grey with a dash of pink blush. The colour of winter slowly turning on its heel. Just like this photo from the Botanic Gardens we took late last year.


Pattern & FO: Baker Street Gloves

Baker StreetBaker Street is the third and last pattern in the Old Maiden Aunt/Karie Bookish yarn club collaboration.I feel a bit sad about the yarn club drawing to a close. It has been a lot of fun for both Lilith and I – not to mention the horde of knitters who have been taking part.

Also, I cannot believe it is December already!

The Baker Street gloves are knitted in the “221b” colourway in Lilith’s Bluefaced Leicester Aran. The gloves are knitted to an unusually tight gauge on 3.75mm in order to make the gloves extra warm and also extra durable.

Lilith loves these gloves and nearly nicked them when I first showed them to her. I really like them too. They are super-cosy and due to the nature of the stitch pattern and construction, they fit snugly across many shapes/sizes of hands. I like having my fingers all cosy, so the gloves are rather long – but as with most of my patterns, I have shown how to modify this in the pattern.

A little bit about how I put the collection together.

I started out by sketching a motif I could play with across many types of accessories. The motif becomes increasingly more elaborate and complicated throughout the club patterns: the shawl had a fairly easy repeat and the hat started incorporating the motif in the round and into shaping. The Baker Street patterns adds twisted stitches to the motif and instead of repeat it in a sort of diamond formation, I chose to stack it. OK, so this is designer mumbo-jumbo. Basically this just means that all the patterns use the motif differently and yet they all work together.

I have been wearing my Baker Street gloves these past few weeks: winter has hit the UK and I needed something a bit more cosy than my usual fingerless mitts. These were perfect – heavier yarn than my other fingerless gloves and the length/fit of them ensured my hands were warm. Of course I were slightly worried that I’d meet a knitter who’d ask me about my gloves. Well, I was on constant Whip-‘Em-Off alert, but I escaped unscathed. It’s a pleasure to be able to wear them with pride in public now!

Baker Street

Thank you so much to all yarn club participants. The club-only exclusivity for all the patterns runs for the remainder of this month. By the beginning of January, the patterns will be available for everybody via the magic of Ravelry.

I’m off to make æbleskiver now. The Old Maiden Aunt studio is open tonight as part of the West Kilbride (Craftstown Scotland) Yule Night and I offered to bake some Danish Xmas goodies for the Knit-In. Yes, it’s most definitely December..

Pattern & FO: Baskerville Hat


The November pattern in the Old Maiden Aunt/Karie Bookish yarn club is now live. SO excited!

Baskerville is knitted in OMA Bluefaced Leicester DK in the club-only colourway Grimpen Mire. I originally asked Lilith for a green that was somewhere between sage and hunter green – I think she outdid herself with this one. I want to knit everything in this colourway.

Every time I release a pattern I say that this is my all-time favourite pattern, but it’s particularly true for this one. I first toyed with the idea of creating an even lacier hat based upon the stitch pattern I first used with Serpentine Avenue, but I realised that I like hats to be warm. So, instead I let the stitch pattern run all over the body of the hat before incorporating it into the crown decreases. I love how it looks.


Pretty, right?

Designers like to talk about “samples” and “not touching the samples”. I can tell you that I will be wearing the beep out of this so-called sample because I just love it so much.

(It is also a handy replacement for the hats I lost to the moths but I couldn’t tell you before now)

All the patterns and colourways in the yarn club take their cues from late Victoriana with a special nod to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Baskerville takes its name from the Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles in which Holmes investigates the mystery of a supernatural hound that supposedly takes revenge upon the Baskerville family. It’s a also a sly nod to baskerhue – a Basque hat – which is the Danish name for a beret!

The colourway is named after the location where the Baskerville Hound roamed. There is no actual place called Grimpen Mire but Conan Doyle was inspired to write his story after a visit to Dartmoor’s Fox Tor Mire.

Many thanks to my testknitters and my patient stylist/photographer/cake devourer. Let the knitting commence!