Karie Bookish Dot Net

The Proserpine Shawl and the Arts & Crafts Movement

Yesterday I had a long conversation with my friend Natalie about life, work, and the whole big thing. I mentioned a long-term project that is slowly coming together, and Natalie laughed: Art history, storytelling and knitting. That is so very you, Karie. It is nice when others can see what I try to do. Still, I suppose it is rather obvious when you look at my latest collaboration with Knit Now magazine.

This is a bit of a first for Knit Now. I collaborated with a host of talented designers on a mini-collection inspired by a 19th century design movement, Arts and Crafts. I was also asked to write an article about the Arts and Crafts Movement. It was one of those pitches where I was on board from the very first sentence. You can read more about the design movement in my article for Knit Now – I wanted to explain why so many designers continue to be inspired by it, how core ideas spread throughout the design world and – crucially – why it continues to influence knitters throughout the world (whether you know it or not).

proserpine_medium2The Proserpine Shawl is my contribution to the mini-collection. It is a semi-circular shawl knitted in a stunning custom dye merino/silk 4ply yarn from Triskelion Yarn in Wales. Caerthan was inspired by 19th century tiles at the V&A  and came up with this stunning teal especially for my shawl.

It was very important to me that the yarn should be something special as I was designing the shawl with the Arts & Crafts idea of truth to material in my head. Truth to material simply means that you take the material that is best suited to your project and you showcase it honestly. The long stretches of stocking stitch are designed with a stunning yarn in mind. I am a big fan of basic stitches (like stocking stitch and garter stitch) precisely because they let your materials take centre stage.

Still, you do get lace sections in the shawl. Proserpine was named after a painting by 19th century painter, poet and all-round bohemian, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. I read a lot of his poetry when I was an impressionable teen and it remains absolutely lovely. Quite apart from wanting to capture the drape of Proserpine’s gown and sighing over DGR’s the dragon-fly / Hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky, I also took inspiration from the Roman myths of Proserpine. She was the Roman equivalent of the Greek Persephone: a goddess abducted to the underworld but restored to the world where her arrival heralds spring. So if you look closely you can see some leaves sprinkled into the shawl.

I am really quite in love with the entire project. It combines so many of my core beliefs about design – many of which I have inherited from the Arts and Crafts Movement.

I have been asked the following by a lot of people: if  you are outside the UK you can buy a digital copy here, though most UK shops should also stock the magazine.

All photos are © Practical Publishing.


(PS. the shawl edge looks a bit wonky. I was trying to block the shawl not long after I injured my knee in a serious accident. That was interesting)

5 Thoughts on “The Proserpine Shawl and the Arts & Crafts Movement

  1. amberfaithaz on May 16, 2014 at 6:30 pm said:


    I so enjoy your brilliant blog, your works, those creation-of-project stories and our shared obsession with Doggerland and Neolithic thru Iron Age fibreworks and skills.
    This is about the photo — and I beg you, please do not be offended. You and your knitted work are truly loved.

    Ok. I find the above-photo to NOT showcase your gorgeous shawl very well. Too many hard colours, patterns and eye distractions for me… the details and vibe of the shawl are lost in the visual flurry.

    As an artist/illustrator/handspinner/fragrance packaging designer who also photo-styled many artworks, textiles and singular bijoux for 40 yrs, I can only say — remember the ‘star of the show’ must *always* be the creation/product.
    In this case, a return to your Arts & Crafts palette will prove aces. :)
    If—the lovely model wears a light, plain-weave garment, and the photographer might use a May pasture background — think actual Proserpine/Persephone/Kore myths and settings — then, that sumptuous soul-borne shawl will be revealed. IMO.
    Your oneness with and love of the deep natural world is your strength. Use it with a flourish! x

    Your fan,
    –Amber in Snowflake AZ — a former longtime resident of Christian Malford WILTS and the Preseli Mountains, Dyfed.

    • Karie on May 16, 2014 at 7:14 pm said:

      Hello Amber, thank you so much for your lovely comment. It warms the heart after a very, very long week :)

      The photos are from the magazine itself – as much as I’d love to be a Renaissance woman and do everything myself (as you probably know!), sometimes I am handing things over to the professionals – in this case, Practical Publishing.

      I love the styling idea of a Persephone/Kore-referencing photo shoot. I might just steal it from you once the rights revert to myself and I cannot use the magazine photos!

      Take care and do keep in touch x

  2. Karie, I’ve just ordered a copy of this issue online, having looked high and low for it both in Glasgow and Edinburgh! Perhaps they are selling like hotcakes? Anyhow, your pattern looks beautiful and I love the whole idea of the theme. Well done to you!

  3. As ever, this is stunning, but in all honestly it is the stories that attach to your pieces that often capture me first. I do something similar, in my own lowly way, and not just with knitting, so I think I understand your need to fashion a whole from all the things that absorb you.

  4. I do love a shawl:). I also got a great love for the Arts and Craft Movement. What an amazing time period! Good idea to get it digitally, think I will just get it!

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