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Tag Archives: Doggerland

Now We’re Getting Somewhere

October2013 141

I was looking through an old photo folder when I came across this swatch I did for what would eventually become the Proserpine shawl. The swatch was knitted in an unreleased Old Maiden Aunt shade and I love how the camera picks up unexpected shades in the soft khaki green. Patterns have an interesting path they take from initial swatch to finished object. Proserpine was always going to be knitted in a rich, jewel-like shade, but for a short period of time it only existed partially in my head and partially in this soft green shade. Colours play such a part in how we see designs – once I knitted Proserpine in Caerthan‘s rich teal, it became a different, separate thing to what it was at this early stage. Part of me still wonders what it would look like in the OMA colourway. If I had but world enough and time..

.. if I had but world enough and time, I would knit many things.


(Loch Fyne earlier this year; so many ideas)

Maybe this is a good time to tell you that I have tentatively begun doing research into Something New. It is much too early to say more about it as I want to run this very differently than Doggerland. In fact, the research is at such an early stage that I’m yet to pull together a colour palette or formulate a design vocabulary (and all those other things that make my partner laugh when I start talking about them – “are you sure you didn’t go to art school?”). But the idea is there, it has been there for some time and it keeps nudging me. All this is good.

However, first I will be focusing on other things. It is Wovember, after all, and I have a lot of travel time over the next few weeks. I am hoping to get a few knitted gifts done (strong emphasis on hope) and I have some delicious Blacker Yarn earmarked for that. I’m finishing up a few articles too and there is something very special in a knitting magazine later this month.

Just a brief, final note. I have been out for the count with a dreadful migraine for the first five days or so of this month. I took three days off (as I couldn’t see out of my left eye!) and I’m now trying to get through all messages, mails, edits, revisions, and so forth as quickly as I possibly can – please be patient with me!

Storegga Shawl – Leaving Doggerland

October 2014 325sm Storegga is the very last pattern in my Doggerland collection. It is always odd when a journey comes to an end. I wrote about this yesterday, but today it feels even stranger.

When I started working on Doggerland, there were two stories I wanted to include:  the story of the Vedbaek excavations and the story of the Storegga Slide – the story of how Doggerland ended. During my research I found other stories I loved (as well as some unlikely sources of inspiration) but I knew the final pattern of the collection would have to be inspired by the Storegga Slide.

The Storegga Slide was a massive landslide off the coast of Norway around 6200 BCE. The landslide prompted a tsunami which rippled southwards. At this point in time, Doggerland was already drowning due to rising sea levels and had been reduced to a marshy island in the middle of the North Sea – but the tsunami marked the end of it. You can still see soil deposits around the east coast of Scotland: the tsunami came with devastating force.

This proved a really difficult source of inspiration for me: how could I base a knitting pattern on a natural disaster? I began thinking about the need to capture beauty wherever we see it and how some things only exist in a brief pocket of time.

And so the shawl began to take shape. It is a crescent-shaped shawl with an easy stocking stitch body and a delicate lace border. The lace border is where I decided to incorporate my inspiration: the opening-up of the lace is countered by sharp decreases. It is a push/pull movement that works to create an abrupt, yet beautiful motif. Just as you can begin to glimpse the formation of the motif, it is gone.

Poets have written of carpe diem and gather ye rosebuds while ye may. In a strange way, I think that is also what I wanted to say with Storegga. The ground can shift beneath your feet at any given time, so treasure those fleeting moments of absolute beauty and joy. For that reason I would recommend working the Storegga shawl in the most beautiful yarn you own. I used the glorious Snaeldan 1ply in “Turf” for my Storegga. It is quite a heavy laceweight (almost 3ply, I reckon) and I used around 380 yds. As with most of my shawl patterns, I have included tips on different yarn weights and modifications in the pattern. You can do a lot with Storegga – just make sure you keep the lace motif open.

And so I leave Doggerland – both the collection and the lost landscape. It started with Ronaes and a beach. Hoxne had you knit your own flint scraper. The Gillean hat & gloves looked at traces left in the landscape. Ythan examined material remains dredged up from the sea bed as well as the ephemeral art of tidelines. Vedbaek was a meditative knit designed to comfort and cradle you. Ertebolle was a deliberate nod towards the shifts in technology and used Mesolithic motifs we still recognise today. Storegga is the final chapter with its drowning landscape and fleeting moments of joy.

People have asked if I plan on turning Doggerland into a physical book. You will be able to buy some of the patterns as single paper patterns in selected yarn stores soon, but there will not be a full book to put on your shelves. I have made this decision partly for practical reasons and partly because  I do not want to expand it: it is a complete work on its own.

People have also asked me what is next. Well, you will have to wait and see. Come travel with me through Doggerland for the time being. Come catch your own moments of joy.

On the Threshold: Doggerland

October 2014 326Tomorrow I am releasing the last Doggerland pattern (more on the actual pattern when it’s released!) and it is a bit emotional.

I first started working on Doggerland in 2011. The first few sketches were rough outlines of motifs, but soon I began sketching all sorts of things: shells, driftwood, coastal outlines.. then I started reading about Mesolithic archaeology, I met with archaeologists, I delved into Land Art & psychogeography, and then set myself some parameters:

+ The Doggerland moodboard

+ A limited palette of colours:  I ended up using mainly undyed yarns and the only dyed hue is the vibrant green you see in the last shawl (and in the Gillean hat & wristwarmer set). I chose the green because it reminded me of seaweed – it’d be a colour that Mesolithic people would have seen. I did wonder about using wool rather than flax, as domesticated sheep for wool-production would still be a few millennia out.

+ A limited palette of stitches: I wanted to strip back what I understood about lace knitting, colourwork, and textures. I looked to Mesolithic artefacts like worked flint, carved bone, and late-Mesolithic pottery shards for inspiration. I was really interested in how Mesolithic people used geometric shapes and lines in their work. Garter stitch ended up forming the backbone in the collection and i also strove to use a pared-down lace vocabulary (which was one of the hardest challenges I set myself).

I ended up designing and writing nearly 25 patterns for the collection – most of which I also knitted. Obviously most of these designs never made it into the collection for one reason or another – and it meant an enormous amount of work on my part. Still, I wanted a coherent collection with a very distinct formsprog (mode of expression – though I like the Danish phrase better: “shape language” which contain the making and moulding aspect of creating your own creative idiom).

I got there in the end.

It was not all plain sailing. I became increasingly critical of the work I was producing. I also found myself being dragged in various directions because Doggerland was all me – and I still had other work commitments. I was working on some very non-Doggerland commissions as the same time and it was very, very hard to keep the various design vocabularies apart. I think I succeeded, but only through gritted teeth and a lot of determination.

Throughout my life I have continued ploughed  my own paths and Doggerland was yet another one of those endeavours. I could have made things easier for myself by hiring people or doing it through a publisher, but I wanted total creative control. So, from 2011 to 2014 and we are on the threshold. I am nearly there. I feel very, very odd about this.

Stay tuned tomorrow x

A Visit to Doggerland: the Ertebolle Hat

June 2014 624I have always been drawn to liminal spaces. Places that are thresholds (like beaches, doorways, or bridges). I think it stems from always feeling slightly out of time and place myself. Part of my continual fascination with the Doggerland landscape is that we only know glimpses and we can only see traces. Early pottery in northern Europe can be interpreted as having that liminal quality too – we only find tiny fragments and they speak of a transitional culture moving through an uncertain time and space.

Pottery can seem so straightforward to modern people and we can play with its perceived primitivism in our heads: man reaches down and scoops up a handful of humble soil; with his bare hands, he sculpts a crude looking retainer; the small pot is baked on a fire. The reality is somewhat different as pottery is a sophisticated technology. Still, there is something so very fundamental about the relationship between earth and fire – one that calls for story-telling and myth-making.

I read extensively about the pottery shards found at the Danish site of Ertebølle. It is a site mainly known for its big shell middens and it lends its name to a particular coastal culture  overlooking the present-day North Sea (and Doggerland).  Mesolithic pottery finds are relatively rare – maybe because they are liminal objects existing on the cusp of something else – but some fragments survive in peat bogs and in excavated settlements. The fragments tell stories about how landscapes are embedded into the very fabric of our existence; how humble materials can be transformed by the human hand (maybe the most fundamental story about our selves?); and how art and craft are continuously intertwined.

And so I designed a hat.

I wanted it to take its cue from Ertebølle pottery (the so-called beakers) but I could not resist looking at the exquisite collection of prehistoric pottery at the Denmark’s National Museum – the result is a relaxed, textured hat with little graphic nods to the geometric patterns found in Mesolithic pottery (and other artefacts) as well as the shapes found in early Neolithic pottery.

In other words, this may well be the nerdiest pattern I have ever designed.

The hat itself is fairly straightforward. It is knitted in a soft aran-weight yarn (my beloved Snaeldan), it is knitted in the round and it uses just knits and purls to create the textured bands. For me, this is a design that is as much about context as it is about the design itself. It tells stories of transitory life and of human hands pressing reeds into soft clay. I like these stories. They keep me warm in more than one way.

The Ertebølle hat is part of the Doggerland collection. I write a lot about liminality, thresholds and storytelling in it. But you may just like the knitting patterns and that’s just fine too.

Hey! It’s a Doggerland KAL with Prizes!

March 2013 443We only have two Doggerland patterns left to go, so while I get those ready, I thought it would be fun to set up a Doggerland KAL in my Ravelry group. We’ve been having a sort of unofficial-official KAL since the first pattern was released, but I thought it’d be fun to add prizes to the unofficial-official KAL (thus making it an official-official KAL?).

I just confused myself.

The basics: Knit a Doggerland project, post a photo in the official Doggerland KAL thread, and you can win yourself a yarny prize! On April 15, 2014, I’ll draw random names and THREE lucky people will win prizes.

More basics: For every finished project, you get ONE token. The official KAL tag is “DoggerlandKAL”. You can enter as many times as you’d like.

The relevant patterns are all from the Doggerland collection – they are available individually as well as a collection. You have the choice of Ronaes, Hoxne, Gillean Hat, Gillean Wristies, Ythan and Vedbaek. Any additional Doggerland patterns released before April 15, 2014 are also eligible.

Please note: if you have knitted any of the patterns knitted above – please post a photo of your finished object on the thread and tag your project. You can enter as many projects as you’d like into this KAL contest. I’ll draw names at random – winner A, winner B and winner C.

June2013 019Which brings me to the fun bit. The prizes! I did think about sourcing Mesolithic lithics (worked pieces of flint) but I wasn’t too sure about the ethics of removing pieces from public access. Also, I think you knitters prefer yarn. Right? Right.


Winner A will win a skein of Snældan 2ply from The Island Wool Company. Seriously gorgeous yarn – it is one of my favourites – and once you start knitting with it, you won’t believe the drape or feel.

Winner B will win a skein of Håndværker yarn from Hjeltholt Yarns, an artisan Danish yarn spinning mill dating back to 1878. It is the type of yarn I just love: full of depth and texture. Håndværker yarn is currently only available to a select few Scandinavian retailers, so it’s a rare chance to get your hands on proper heritage artisan yarn. (I cannot believe I’m letting this go)

Winner C will win a £15 gift certificate to Old Maiden Aunt yarns. One of the best UK hand-dyers and a gift certificate means you get to choose your own favourite yarn base and colour!

Recap: Knit a Doggerland project, post a photo in the official Doggerland KAL thread, and you can win yourself a yarny prize!

Doggerland: the Vedbaek Shawl

December 2013 1295aaThe Vedbaek shawl is the latest pattern from my Doggerland collection. Vedbaek is also one of my favourite things I have ever designed.

When I began designing the Vedbaek shawl, I started by reading a lot about the Mesolithic finds of Bøgebakken, a site within the small seaside town of Vedbæk, Denmark. Between 1987 and 1990 more than 79.000 Mesolithic artefacts were found in a small contained area.The finds spoke more of a community than any other Mesolithic site I had read about up to that point.

And so I wanted to design something that spoke of people whose lives were inextricably tied to the sea and the rhythms of nature. People whose lives had a rhythm tied to seasons and a specific landscape. I also sought to design something that had a meditative rhythm to its own construction – something that would give comfort both while it was being made and afterwards.

Vedbaek is a story of continuity. It is also a story of making sense of life and carving out a space within everyday life.

One of the most poignant stories uncovered by the archaeologists was the one of the mother and child found sharing one of the graves on site. The mother was young – maybe no more than eighteen years old – and had died in childbirth. Her new-born baby had been placed right next to her. The mother had been adorned with snail shells and animal teeth; the baby was resting on a swan’s wing.

That image of a swan’s wing offering comfort captured me. It is a powerful image. We will never know what a swan’s wing meant to Mesolithic man, but we can imagine words like flight, preciousness, grace, and (as anybody will know if they have disturbed a nesting swan) protectiveness.

The Vedbaek shawl is the end result of that design process. It has long, deep ridges that end in elongated points. I thought of spears used to capture fish and I thought of flint arrowheads secured to long, thin reeds. I also wanted to capture that wonderful, affecting image of the swan’s wing. I wanted to make something with the weightlessness, grace, and beauty as the single swan’s wing cradling something lost, something precious. December 2013 1239

I knitted Vedbaek in Snældan 2ply (which is actually a 4ply) and I used almost 2 skeins of it. The yarn is lofty and soft (particularly when blocked) and the shawl is big, yet lightweight. Absolutely perfect.

It has been a long time reaching this point of finally release Vedbaek. I feel it is a bit ironic that my own life fell short of its own internal rhythms and comforts to the point where I could not release a pattern which is intrinsically about framework, rituals, rhythms, and solace. But we all muddle through somehow, don’t we? Life takes its own quirky detours and I did have a beautiful shawl to wrap around my shoulders when life got cold.

I like telling stories through stitches.Vedbaek holds so many of them – both deliberately and accidentally.

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.)

Made by Hand: The Gillean Wrist Warmers

GilleanThe fourth pattern from the Doggerland collection was released today: the Gillean wrist warmers. I am slightly perplexed how we have managed to hit the halfway mark already – but I am also proud of how the collection is coming together. I was so nervous that I wasn’t going to be able to do justice to the ideas in my head but somehow it is all working out.

The Gillean wrist warmers are all about my fascination with hands.

Since I began knitting again, I have been aware of my hands in ways I had not been before. There is an element of inhabiting the craft with your body and being conscious of how your body influences the craft. Sometimes I get into a creative flow: I no longer notice what my hands are doing and how they are moving. I am knitting and yet I am no longer knitting. My hands have taken over and they work the stitches, carry the yarn and hold the needles while I am doing something else. My body occupies another space to me. It is a peculiar feeling.

But then the flow is interrupted. A stitch is snagged on the needle, I need to change colour or the yarn has fallen underneath the chair. And that is when I start to contemplate my relationship with my hands.

My hands are fragile and sore today but they fascinate me by being so capable and strong. They are marvellously complex and marvellously versatile.  They ache sometimes, oh yes, and I can see an indenture on my finger where I carry the yarn, but my hands is what makes creation possible for me. I write, paint and knit. My hands turn my ideas into reality – these 54 bones enable me to articulate and transform my thoughts.

Our hands hold, break, give, take, make, mould, and change things.

Humans have been employing their hands since prehistory and we can read the past through the traces of their hands: a crushed hazelnut shell, a crafted tool, smears of paints on a cave wall. I look at my knitting and I know I am leaving behind my own traces, however ephemeral. These wrist warmers did not exist before my hands made them. They will shelter my hands; they are my crushed hazelnut shells and discarded flint flakes.

I have long considered taking on an art project regarding crafters’ hands – how our hands interact with our craft, how our chosen craft have a physical effect upon our hands. Hand-spinners often see their drafting hand take on a different appearance to their non-drafting hand, I have an indenture on my finger from carrying yarns, and needle-workers can develop callused fingers immune to any needle-prick. I am sure there are many other examples. The question is really if I have enough time to take on such a project – and so I leave the idea here (though comments with examples of crafters’ bodies changing due to chosen craft would be appreciated).

Halfway through Doggerland. Next pattern will be an actual journey into Doggerland itself – we have just been visiting its periphery so far.


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!