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)