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An Autumnal Pattern Launch: the Burnet Hat

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Judging by my inbox, this pattern launch should please a lot of people out there! Say hello to the Burnet hat! This was an Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016 exclusive pattern, but the copyright has now reverted to me. Burnet is one of my own personal favourite patterns and I am so happy that so many of you agree with me!

You can buy Burnet via Ravelry and Loveknitting (where you can also peruse the Shilasdair yarn!).

I was asked by the EYF folks to design a hat inspired by the tenement tiles I document across Glasgow.

Glasgow’s weather is notoriously ‘dreich’ – a Scots word meaning ‘dreary’ and ‘bleak’ – but the city is so beautiful. Its Victorian heritage is apparent in everything from wrought iron fences to elaborate street lamps. The sandstone tenements (apartment blocks) light up the cityscape with their warm glow.

The tenements were originally an attempt to fight the widespread slum then found throughout Glasgow. The city had begun as a small, rural settlement but had grown into an industrial hotspot. The rapid industrialisation was fuelled by shipping and manufacturing – but housing had not kept up with the boom. Architects began erecting tenements and these buildings were vast improvements upon the squalor found throughout 19th century Glasgow. The entry ways – the so-called closes – were communal spaces where people would meet, children would play, and deals would have been struck. It was important that these entryways would be easy to maintain – and this is where the beautiful tiles come in. When I was approached to design ‘something Glaswegian’, I only had to step outside my front door for inspiration.

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David shot the photos in Partick, Glasgow. I loved the tiles in this entryway and they were in great condition – something which can not always be said for all tenement tiles! I love the stylised, geometric feel of the tenement tiles and I think Burnet really captures that. When I was designing the pattern, I also had the wonderful geometric nature of traditional Sanquhar knitting in mind. While Burnet is not anything like traditional Sanquhar knitting, I think it’s important to acknowledge this debt (this sensibility) to past generations of Scottish knitters.

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Burnet is knitted using two hanks of the exquisite Shilasdair Luxury 4ply which is plant-dyed on the Isle of Skye. The sample is knitted using the natural/undyed shade and the gorgeous Tansy Gold. Judith of Shilasdair is a big believer in dyeing yarns that reflect her natural environment on Skye – but she also knows Glasgow tenements with their tiles very well. In fact, she used to visit family living in my very own close! I greatly enjoyed collaborating with her on this project and I urge you to seek out her yarns. They are beautiful.

This past week I have been away on a research trip for my book. I will write more about my trip later but suffice to say that I was happy I had Burnet tucked into my bag. Autumn is very much here. I hope you’ll enjoy knitting the pattern.

PS. If you have a copy of Wool Tribe where this pattern was first published, I have a tiny piece of errata addressing Chart A.

Authors & Artists: The Frances Herself Shawl

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Helen Lockhart of Ripples Crafts dyes exquisite yarns from her home in the Scottish Highlands. I first met Helen at a knitting conference when her stall was next to mine. We bonded immediately, so I cannot believe that it took us nearly five years to finally collaborate. We decided on our collaboration at In The Loop. I fell deeply in love with the blue-teal shade (Stormy Seas) and the rest followed. The rich magenta (Jewelled) and the warm grey (Assynt Peat) worked perfectly in unison. Working with her Quinag base was an absolute joy. The BFL gave Helen’s colours additional depth and the yarn flowed through my fingers.

The construction of Frances Herself will be familiar if you knitted my Byatt shawl (though it works in a slightly different way). You increase alongbthe top edge at an accelerated page which makes the shawl grow very rapidly in one direction and at a more considered pace in the other. It makes for wonderful asymmetry when worn – yet it is surprisingly straightforward to work. I do not believe in overcomplicating patterns when wonderful results can be achieved in a straightforward manner!

A lot of the Frances Herself joy is derived from working with such wonderful handdyed yarns. Frances Macdonald McNair was a child of the Arts & Crafts movement and its truth to material ideas. Truth to material simply means that you take the material that is best suited to your project and you showcase it honestly. The shawl is designed to reflect that. I am a big fan of basic stitches (like stocking stitch and garter stitch) precisely because they let handdyed yarns take centre stage.

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I have included a guide to modifying the colour sequence so you can make it work with your given yardage. I used three colours in this shawl – one neutral and two jewel-like colours. If you are considering other colours, think about getting enough contrast between the two contrast colours. You might also be tempted by mini-packs of yarn – Col B would be the obvious candidate for this – so keep the following yardage breakdown in mind:

Col A: Gray / Assynt Peat (approx. 380m/ 415 yds)
Col B: Magenta / Jewelled (approx 180m/196 yds)
Col C: Teal / Stormy Seas (approx 180 m/196 yds)

Another modification you might like is beading. Frances Macdonald McNair used beads extensively – both as material and as visual metaphor. I opted not to add any (mostly as I was travelling when knitting my shawl and there is no worse combination than beads & a bumpy road) but it’d look incredible done right. If you want to add beads, I suggest doing it in the middle of the garter stitch sections with the beads nicely spaced out. I would also suggest choosing beads that reflects cols B and C – you do not have to agree!

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The shawl was knitted on 4.5mm needles which the beautiful 4ply yarn was more than capable of handling. I strongly urge you to swatch if you substitute with any other 4ply yarn (and also to check your yardage!). The open fabric has a lot of drape and character, yet it still retains a sense of itself. I love how the lace pattern blocked out – it looks like tiny tenement tiles which is so very apt for a pattern inspired by Arts & Crafts in Scotland.

You can buy the pattern here. If you are going to Edinburgh Yarn Festival, make sure to check out Helen’s stall where she’ll be happy to advise on colour combinations (and we might have more up on our collective sleeve!).

(Note: I am away from keyboard February 26-28 2016, so I’ll get back to any queries as soon as I can afterwards).

Authors & Artists: Hello Astrid

When I grew up my best friend was called Astrid. I don’t know if she were named after Astrid Lindgren (I suspect as much) but I do know that I loved reading books by someone called the same as my best friend. Then Astrid moved schools and met cool girls who liked clothes and makeup way more than books. Heartbreak is really hard (especially when you are a kid) but books get you through.

Yesterday I released the Astrid hat.

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When I released the Lindgren mittens back in December, I had a slew of people asking about a hat. As it happens, I had left-over yarn from the mittens – and I also had cold ears. You can see where this is going. Yes, this is a companion pattern.

It became very clear during the design process that I didn’t just want to take the colourwork pattern from the mittens and slab that on top of a generic hat. I just don’t work that way and I wanted something that had its own identity whilst still calling back to the mittens. Instead I took the pattern from the thumb and opened it up across the top of the hat. The lower rim has the same pattern as the mittens but I love how the hat plays with “open” and “close” patterns.

The pompom is striped – Katya Frankel has a neat little tutorial on how to get a speckled pompom. To get a stripe you simply add more layers of your contrast colour before going back to the pompom’s main colour.

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We had the first photo shoot on Boxing Day on the beach in my favourite Scottish fishing village. The weather was horrendous. I had sleet flying in my face and the wind was blowing a gale. I was so happy to be wearing my cosy mittens and hat. The weather did not make for great photos, though.

The next day we went back as the weather had cleared. We had a lovely time climbing the rocks, watching the surf and strolling down the coastal path.

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And I felt much better about having a camera pointing at me.

As Dave was taking photos, I thought about my life and the things we go through that make us the people we are today. As a lonely child, I found solace and strength in books. As an adult I do the same – but I also find strength and joy in making things, sharing my makes with other makers, and in walking down steep coastal paths with my best friend who understands silence and everyday beauty and me.

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Quickie, Quickie

October 2015 132twSo, I collaborated with Malabrigo Yarns on this little thing.

Crosstown Traffic is its own very definite thing.

I love really variegated yarns but I find it hard to find good patterns for them. What looks amazing in the skein can be hard to handle when knitting – and so I came up with this cowl pattern. The variegated yarn is paired with a semi-solid which lets the wild colours shine in small, controlled bursts.

The end result is a cowl with a very relaxed, very urban feel. It uses two skeins of Malabrigo Twist – an aran-weight yarn which I took up to 6mm (US 10) needles. I added icord edgings for extra sophistication – such an easy technique with stunning results – but the yarn really just speaks for itself.

The name comes from an old Jimi Hendrix song – Crosstown Traffic (link isn’t very good, sorry). I was busy sketching when my partner David came home humming the song. It seemed an obvious name for the pattern: easy to remember, relaxed feel and just a bit streetwise.

I chose the colour combination of Twist in Zinc (a matte, pinkish/blue grey) and Plena (azure blue, deep purple, bright yellow and green!) for the sample, but any leftfield combination of semi-solid + variegated colours will work. Because it’s a Malabrigo Quickie, the cowl takes just two skeins – one of each.

Stashbusting. I like that.

Finally, let me just leave you with the initial sketch I did for this design. It was a lot of fun trying to capture the feel of the sketch in the pattern photos – I think we did well.

I live in a lovely, leafy part of Glasgow (which you’ll know if you follow me on Instagram) but Glasgow City Centre is frequently used as a film location ‘lookalike’ for major US cities in films like World War Z, Cloud Atlas, and The Dark Knight Rises. It was very cool to hike down some of the back alleys and find some awesome photo shoot locationssketch

Initial sketch for Crosstown Traffic.

I have a busy few months ahead of me – it’s workshop season – but I always love to see what you make using my patterns. Make sure to share your photos with me. I’m also just a tweet away – and I’ll be sharing plenty of details from my forthcoming travels up & down the country.

Yarndale, Hygge & Drift..

This is the week of everything.

My best friend is turning mumble, mumble – but she is in Sweden and I am in Scotland. I cannot celebrate with her and though it hurts every year, this year it feels worse than ever. So happy birthday to Christina, the light of my life. I miss you so much.

This is also the week in which I release three patterns (stay with me) and I’m going to a woolly event in North Yorkshire. It is the week where many other special people celebrate big events. It’s the week where I look at my to-do list and wonder what has happened to my sanity.

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This is Top Hygge – I was feeling very whimsical when I named it! It is the hat that spawned the entire HYGGE collection and the name is Danish slang for ‘peak hygge‘ -when things just cannot get any more chilled or happier. We shot the pattern photos during a picnic on Glasgow Green. It was a slightly damp day, but we had a picnic blanket and food with us plus the most amazing garden surrounding us.

The hat uses exactly one skein of Thick Pirkkalanka from Midwinter Yarns (worsted weight, it runs 170m/186 yrds per skein). It is a slouchy, relaxed hat with easy lace columns and a big pompom on top of the crown. The pompom eats up a lot of yarn, but thankfully the pattern is written so you just keep making the pompom until you run out of yarn!

I’ve been chatting to Estelle of Midwinter Yarns about Thick Pirkkalanka. It is a great woolly yarn with a lot of bounce and I found myself wondering what ‘100% wool’ covered. According to Estelle, the yarn hails from Norway before it is processed in Finland (I believe) and the wool comes from Dala and Rygja sheep. For some reason I thought there was a bit of Spæl sheep involved, but I cannot find any trace of that in our correspondence. I do love a bit of added Nordic-ness.

The next pattern from the HYGGE collection will be released this Friday. Dave and I went north this past weekend and somehow landed probably the best photos we’ve ever shot. It helps the yarn and the pattern are ridiculously photogenic, but I’m still really pleased!

bryggasmThe next pattern is called Brygga. It is a squishy, chunky cowl knitted in two hanks of Ullcentrum Lovikka (again from Midwinter Yarns). I rarely knitted with very chunky yarns, but I really enjoyed working with Lovikka which felt crisp and had great stitch definition. It is a Swedish yarn which is normally used for making mittens in Lapland and neighbouring regions, so I felt taking it out of that mitt-making context would be a lot of fun.. and it was!

Like all HYGGE patterns, I wanted the knit to be cosy and relaxed. I also wanted it to be really wearable and practical. In Scandinavia you are never far from the sea (we are the Viking nations, after all) and everybody spend so much time either on boats or watching the sea from the shore.

Brygga means jetty in Swedish – the quintessential place to watch life go by during the summer (either hurling yourself into the water or dangling your feet) and a fabulous place to rest during a chilly autumnal walk. We shot the photos in a small Scottish fishing village overlooking the North Sea – thoughts turned both to the lost landscape of Doggerland underneath the calm surface, but also of Scandinavia just beyond the horizon.

And then, finally, I am thrilled to say that I am one of the designers behind the brand-new Drift collection from Eden Cottage Yarns. I am honoured to be included with international names such as Thea Colman, Åsa Tricosa, and Justyna Lorkowska as well as homegrown talent such as Louise Zass-Bangham and Clare Devine (among many others).

I was asked by Eden Cottage if I wanted to design a shawl in the most soft, delicious alpaca you can imagine. I accepted the challenge and played with the traditional hap construction to come up with the Swale shawl.

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(photo by Eden Cottage Yarns)

Like so many of my patterns, I tried to keep it simple but effective. If you have never knitted a hap before, this would make a great introduction to the construction. Swale is knitted almost entirely in soothing garter stitch with just the edging providing a little bit of space. The shawl is quite large – but I find that I often prefer large shawls these days and Swale is relatively to knit because ECY Whitfell is a DK yarn. The alpaca also allows for fantastic drape.

You can see all the other Drift patterns at the Eden Cottage Yarns stand at Yarndale this forthcoming weekend. I’ll be at Yarndale on Saturday (catching the dawn train from Glasgow!). I’ll be bringing the HYGGE samples to the Midwinter Yarns stand (meet me there at 12.30!), hopefully get together with the Scollay-alongers at 2pm (check out the Brityarn group on Ravelry for more info), and then see you at the ECY stand at 3pm! Hopefully I’ll also get a chance to browse stalls as a regular person as I missed out on the marketplace at Edinburgh Yarn Festival.

Wowza, what a long post but so much is happening at the moment! I’m off to have lunch and will then attack my inbox with gusto. Wish me luck – and if you are going to Yarndale, make sure to say hello!

HYGGE Pattern #2: Skovtur

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Time is a rare gift. This month sees friends and family celebrating big birthdays or momentous life changes; I am travelling a lot for work; and I struggle to find pockets of time between it all. The air now has a slight touch of chill to it in the mornings or evenings. The world is slowly tilting and I feel the pull inside me to embrace it.

Skovtur is the second pattern in the HYGGE collection to be released. Skovtur means “a trip to the forest” or “a walk in the woods” in Danish. I designed these fingerless mitts knowing that I’d be reaching for them again and again. Right now they are a perfect layer of protection against that slight chill, but soon the long cuffs will come into their own as the autumn winds hit Scotland. The colourwork lends an extra layer of warmth as well.

Sept 2015 055Skovtur [Skorw-tur] uses two colours of Thick Pirkkakanka from Midwinter Yarns. I used the Teal and the Deep Orange (I also used this colourway in the Fika shawl but in the thinner Pirkkalanka yarn) – but the world is your oyster when it comes to colour combinations.

Some possibilities:

+ Barely There Grey & Stonewashed = wintery North Sea colours.

+ Raspberry & Plum = fruity jams and preserves.

+ Mulch & Mustard = earthy, autumnal leaves.

+ Denim & Natural Pale Grey =  your favourite jeans.

+ Blush & Soft Turquoise =  stones and the sea touching each other.

+ Black & Barely There Grey = class Scandi combination of high contrast

As long as you use two colours with sufficient contrast, you will be fine. If you are unsure whether there is enough of a contrast, take a black & white photo. Do the two colours look identical? Then you need to switch out one of them. Do the two colours do distinctly different? Then you are fine!

Note that Skovtur uses one hank of each colour – but in reality you are using roughly a quarter of a skein of the contrast colour. The next HYGGE pattern is also knitted in Thick Pirkkalanka and uses just over 1.5 skeins. In other words, if you think you might want to knit something to go along with your Skovtur mitts, you will want to order an additional skein of Thick Pirkkalanka in your contrast colour of choice. 

You’ll be able to see the HYGGE samples at Yarndale later this month (note to self: stop wearing them!) and Estelle of Midwinter Yarns will be super-happy to offer colour advice.

Enjoy – I am off to knit :)

Authors & Artists: The Mahy Shawl

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The Mahy shawl is the second instalment in the Authors & Artists series. It is a traditional hap shawl knitted in Shetland Organics 1-ply and some of the motifs are traditionally Shetland – yet the shawl also takes it cue from a place on the other side of the world.

I was 13 when I first came across Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover. It was a YA book about Laura Chant who lived with her divorced mother and her baby brother in Gardendale – a modern suburb of Christchurch, New Zealand. I recognised myself in Laura: she was stubborn, a head too old on her shoulders, and she felt uneasy in her surroundings. Many’s book was cleverer than I realised when I first devoured the book. It is a subtle post-colonial book about finding your own identity in a young country; it references Alice in Wonderland constantly; and Mahy plays riffs on rites of passage. I had my first literary crush on the male protagonist, Sorry Carlisle – the complicated boy with labyrinths in his eyes.

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Waitangi River

But it was the mundane exoticism of New Zealand that caught my eye. I recognised the remoteness, the myths woven into every branch and stone, and the complexities of the past mixed with the present.

The Changeover sparked a lifelong romance with New Zealand. I would later drive through Paraparaumu – a town dismissed by Laura in the book – and I felt like I was walking inside the book. I re-read the book at least once a year and I still find myself reflected in it.

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Lion Rock on Piha Beach

The Mahy shawl owes its name and soul to a New Zealand author – but much of its philosophy belongs to another Margaret from New Zealand: Margaret Stove. Stove is a lace knitter and designer who I admire very much. Her book Wrapped in Lace is not just a fine collection of patterns, but Stove also writes passionately about the need to develop a local lace vocabulary. While Stove understands and respects lace knitting traditions, I am utterly fascinated by Stove’s insistence that her work needs to reflect her landscape and flora. In the book she charts local New Zealand flowers and plants – kowhai features heavily together with ferns – and I find that overwhelmingly inspirational. Why should we not respond to the world in which we live? Why should we not design inspired by what we see around us rather than base our work upon age-old stitch patterns that do not reflect our own lives?

The Mahy shawl uses old Shetland patterns as inserts, but the main motif is inspired by the stylised ferns I saw carved everywhere in New Zealand. The carved section is reflected by the applied border which is a smaller version of the carved section.

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I wanted to knit a hap shawl out of the beautiful yarn, but the design itself surprised me. I find knitting is a form of autobiography, but I had not expected to dwell on my love for The Land of the Long White Cloud. And yet it seems so obvious to explore a landscape which has had a huge impact on me: Laura Chant’s infinitely complex inner life in Mahy’s book, the music from Karekare beach, the lighthouse dwellers, the man on the Lone Kauri Road, and even comedy. For a myriad of reasons, this seems the most personal of designs.

You run from the river, when it long ran over you..

Mahy is now available from Ravelry.

Pattern: Proserpine (An Autobiographical Note)

Growing up I was a bit of an odd child. I preferred reading to playing with the neighbours’ kids, and I had strong imaginative/romantic streak which manifested itself in archaeological digs in the backyard and an unhealthy obsession with medieval architecture. As a teenager, I became even more of a bookworm and, thanks to my school’s eclectic library, I fell in love with Rupert Brooke (hot; dead; wrote poetry) and Lord Byron (hot; dead; wrote poetry).

On a trip to Copenhagen, I bought a slim volume of love poetry which turned out to be one of the key book purchases of my life. The slim volume introduced me to a wealth of poetry beyond the “hot & dead” category. One of my new discoveries was Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a 19th century English poet and artist. I never imagined that years later I’d be designing knitting patterns inspired by his work.

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Proserpine is a half-circle shawl inspired by Rossetti’s painting by the same name (and also a tiny bit by the Daydream painting). Both feature contemplative women dressed in blue-green drapes surrounded by nature. I wanted to capture the drape and flow in my shawl design, and also introduce a leaf motif in a way that was subtle. As I was originally commissioned to design this pattern for Knit Now‘s Arts & Crafts issue, I also wanted my design to reflect the Arts & Crafts Movement’s ‘truth to materials’ tenet – I needed the shawl to show off the quality and beauty inherent in hand-dyed yarn.

The pattern is now available in general release. It uses roughly 850 yrds of 4-ply/fingering-weight yarn (this equates to 2 skeins of hand-dyed gorgeousness) and is knitted on 4.5mm needles to ensure drape. The pattern is both charted and contains full written instructions (because that is how I roll). Most of the pattern uses soothing stocking stitch, and the increases are worked EZ-style, though the lace cleverly disguises this. I know I go on about my patterns being relaxed knits, but this is another one of those (sorry folks).

Some of you have asked if this is the next instalment in Authors & Artists? I suppose I could easily have added Proserpine to the series, but I have decided that Authors & Artists will be featuring women writers and authors. I may have grown up being enamoured by hot, dead poet guys but now I find strong, smart women far more cool. If you are going to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, I will be talking to Louise Scollay in the Podcast Lounge about Authors & Artists, you’ll be able to see the Proserpine shawl sample at the Old Maiden Aunt stall, and I’ll be wearing the original magazine sample too.

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Authors & Artists: the Byatt Shawl

January 2015 112After a few teasing posts, I am happy to say that the Byatt shawl is now available from Ravelry (and will soon be available from LoveKnitting too).

The shawl is named after one of my favourite novelists, A.S. Byatt.  I first encountered her books when I was a young woman on the cusp of starting university. I read her Booker Prize-winning novel Possession in translation by Claus Bech. I later learned Bech had been awarded the Prix Baudelaire for his work, but that was no help to me as I diligently worked my way through dense poetry sections.

A few years later I read Possession in its original English and Byatt’s book was transformed. While Bech’s work was lauded, I could not connect with it in the same way I could connect with Byatt’s own language. It was rich, layered, warm, gently witty, and wonderful. The book became a touchstone and I have read it eight or nine times now.

And so Byatt’s novels became part of my life.

The Frederica Potter novels – The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower, and A Whistling Woman – kept me company as I grew from a young woman to whoever it is I am now. I read The Biographer’s Tale whilst travelling around New Zealand (it remains my least favourite Byatt novel to date). And I curled up with her short stories – Angels and Insects and the Matisse Stories, among others, when I lived in a suitcase trying to figure out who I was going to be. Reading Byatt quietens that voice inside my head that urges me to be less bookish, less arty, and more .. normal. I owe her much for writing about quiet, creative people with complex inner lives who muddle through life trying to remain intact. We exist too.

The Byatt shawl takes its main design cues from the cover design of  The Children’s Book. The rich teal and the golden brown are obvious nods towards the teal and gold found on the cover. Insects recur often as motifs in Byatt’s books – the slip stitch pattern forms braids on top of the garter stitch, but the individual stitches can also resemble tiny wings or delicate leaves.

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The horseshoe edging was my toughest design decision. I wanted the shawl to have an Art Nouveau feel, so I first added leaves to the edging. Interestingly, I found that very open lace patterns clashed with the remainder of the shawl and I experimented with bold chevrons until my eye was caught by the classic horseshoe pattern. Its light chevron feel and close/open movement worked both within the context of the fabric and also with the design inspiration. The edge is finished off with a picot edging which just adds a touch of polish.

I’ve had a few questions about the shape of the shawl. Funnily enough, neither my photographer, my tech editor nor myself even considered that issue, so I have uploaded the schematic to my Rav project page to tide things over until I can get my photographer (also known as David, the boyfriend) to shoot some photos. Many apologies for the oversight. On the other hand, it is the sort of feedback that improves my patterns, so thank you for getting in touch!

The only other issue is that I am currently waiting for my lovely friends at LoveKnitting to publish the pattern, so it becomes available in all EU countries. I am keeping tabs on the situation and am exceedingly frustrated that not all you lovely people can buy the pattern straight away. Maybe an excuse to go stash-diving or plan colour combinations?

Stay tuned for colour combination suggestions from Old Maiden Aunt Yarns. If you are planning on going to the Edinburgh Festival, you will want to stay tuned to learn why knitting a Byatt shawl might be a good idea. I did say plans were afoot, non?

Noblesse Oblige – Pattern & Brief Thoughts on Language

I have been collaborating with my good friend, the marvellous Susan Crawford, and Noblesse Oblige is my contribution to her “Knits in a Cold Climate” collection.

 

When I was given the design brief by Susan, I knew I wanted to use the wonderful colour range in Susan Crawford Fenella. Inspired by my recent forays into knitting archives, I began sketching Fair Isle bands but it was not until I uncovered a photo of a 1930s knitting pattern that I decided upon the colour scheme. The jumper is charming, but I fell in love with the red/green/yellow motif. Could I use these colours in a more traditional setting?

After several attempts, I hit upon a 1930s inspired hat and scarf using that red/green/yellow combination, but also tempered by a soft porcelain blue and a delightful creamy white. The jaunty beret features two Fair Isle bands that counteract each other to create a sense of dynamism.

The scarf comes in three sizes – you can make it a neckerchief, a small scarf or a full-sized shawl. To optimise knitting pleasure, the scarf does not use Fair Isle bands but features narrow stripes in a colour sequence that calls back to the beret. After much discussion, Susan and I agreed that small, felted pompoms would add a delightful finishing touch.

Naming the pattern was harder. I wanted to use one of Nancy Mitford’s book titles, but neither Christmas Pudding nor Pigeon Pie seemed appropriate! Finally, Noblesse Oblige seemed to suggest itself – it is a collection of essays and I rather enjoyed Nancy Mitford’s essay on the English language. So, Noblesse Oblige. A lovely hat and scarf set. I hope you will enjoy knitting it.

But let’s talk about Nancy Mitford’s essay briefly.

Found in Noblesse Oblige, “The English Aristocracy” is her most famous essay. Nancy Mitford had recently read an academic article by a British linguist and was inspired to write her own examination of how the British upper class (“U”) and the middle class (“non-U”) spoke. The essay is very much of its time – apparently only non-U people would speak of telephones! – but that is also part of its appeal. It is a snapshot of a world in transition where old notions of class and importance are slowly eroding. It is particularly interesting to compare Mitford’s essay to Grayson Perry’s TV documentaries about Class in Britain. The economic barriers between the classes may have eroded, but cultural markers such as language and taste have not.

“The English Aristocracy” is an early example of what we know today as sociolinguistics. A “sociolect” is a type of language associated with one socioeconomic class, age group or gender. The British 1990s sit-com Keeping Up Appearances uses Mitford’s little U vs non-U markers and sociolects to great comic effect. The main protagonist, Hyacinth Bucket, insists her surname is pronounced Bouquet, and she keeps grasping at big, fancy words in her attempt to sound more refined (something Mitford notes is the true mark of a social climber – why use the word “lavatory” when “loo” is perfectly adequate?). The underlying class anxiety so evident in Mitford’s 1950s essay is very much visible even forty and fifty years on.

If you have half an hour to spare, I suggest you read Mitford’s little essay in Noblesse Oblige – I assure you that you will notice amusing little things about how you and the people around you speak.

Now for the important pattern details: you can buy the pattern from Ravelry here. It is £4 and the pattern uses five shades of Fenella. Susan is planning on offering a kit which you will be able to buy from her shop.

It has been marvellous working with Susan on this pattern – she understands my shorthand descriptions so very, very well and has an incredible eye for details, style, and colour. I also really enjoyed working with Fenella which has a such lovely bounce in its step.