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.