Pattern

A Doggerland Anniversary

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Four years ago I finished writing and designing Doggerland: Knits From A Lost Landscape. It remains one of the projects that I am most proud of having done. It is a collection of essays and knitting patterns inspired by a landscape that disappeared into the sea some 6000 years ago, and which made me wonder about where we live, who we are, and how we connect with our daily landscapes (whether inner or outer).

The idea for the Doggerland collection first came to me when I was looking at artefacts in the National Museum of Denmark's Prehistory section.

I was looking at a bone antler fragment carved with beautiful, simple designs when my partner started reading aloud a piece about a Mesolithic landscape now lost to the North Sea between the UK and Scandinavia (Mesolithic means "Middle Stone Age"). I loved the simplicity of the carved antler and I loved the story of a lost landscape that once formed a land bridge between Denmark (where I grew up) and Britain (where I now live).

The prehistory sections of The National Museum of Scotland and the National Museum of Denmark yielded much inspiration: worked flintstones, carved antler bones, well-preserved fykes, and excavated shell middens. Motifs and textures are either directly taken from Mesolithic artefacts found in the Doggerland region (or surrounding areas) or use them as visual cues. The Mesolithic period was characterised by very geometric designs: lines, dots, circles and simple shapes. Shapes and motifs you will find throughout the collection, both in the knitting patterns and the illustrations.

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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 (mostly Snaeldan) and the only dyed hue is the vibrant green you see in the Storegga shawl above. 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).

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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).

Four years on, I sit here looking through the Doggerland collection and I am so proud of it. Our photography have improved vastly as have our layout and pattern writing skills (I didn’t have an internal style sheet, the horror) — but Doggerland still resonates with me. I am now sufficiently removed from the project to appreciate the strong pull of ideas and the defined design vocabulary. I was working part-time for a yarn company while doing the collection, and I’m quietly amazed that it became such a good piece of work. (Is it weird praising yourself? I feel like it’s weird praising yourself.)

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In the four years that have passed, I have become a full-time designer, writer, and teacher. I have written a proper book — again, combining essays, knitting, and a niche topic — and I’m now teaching Knitting the Landscape, a class that owes its existence to Doggerland. The knitting world has seen a surge of interest in the connections between landscape and knitting: from the interest in rare sheep breeds to conversations about sustainability. We sadly also live in a world where climate change affects us on a daily basis.

I never do this, but today you can buy the entire Doggerland collection at 20% off on Ravelry. No code needed. It is one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I’d love for you to discover your own landscapes.

Pattern: Lausavisa

Earlier this year I had the great pleasure of collaborating with Kate Heppell & the Knit Now team on a very special issue of their magazine. I designed the Lausavisa jumper for the issue and also wrote an article. lausa2

Lausavisa is a traditional Icelandic yoked jumper worked in the wonderful Álafoss Lopi. The brief was to design a lopapeysa inspired by the Northern Lights and I immediately began to think about the sailors traversing the sea underneath that beautiful lightshow. The jumper is knitted bottom up and features a yoke with an abstract interpretation of a sky with sun, moon, stars, and dancing lights. Lausavisa uses four colours (navy, pale blue, pale heathered grey/beige and mustard yellow) and is so incredibly cosy.

And the name? Lausavisa is a poetic convention in Icelandic/Skaldic poetry - an interjection or a bit of a detour from the main narrative. A bit like the jumper was in my normal working life!

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My article deals with my constant preoccupations: how does the landscape influence us as human beings, how does it change our knitting, and how do we make our marks on a landscape? The North Atlantic region spans many of our best loved knitting traditions - how have the ever-moving sea and the colourful skies changed those? The article is very much a companion piece to my recent Knitting the Landscape workshop (and if you took part/missed out, I recommend this wonderful art documentary on BBC).

I also helped Kate select the other patterns in the Northern Lights collection. Murray Stewart from Orkney has designed a beautiful colourwork set depicting a lighthouse spreading its rays across the sea - I literally saw Murray's submission and yelled out loud I NEED THAT IN MY LIFE. Lana Jois uses the traditional Shetland Old Shale pattern in a lovely lace capelet and Rosee Woodland reinterprets the traditional gansey jumper. Canadian Jessie McKitrick happens to be one of my favourite colourwork designers. Her Magnetospheric Gloves are both clever and a cool colourwork project for beginners. Finally, Shetland Wool Week patron Ella Gordon is interviewed and has designed a headband pattern using a traditional Shetland motif. So, all patterns have a strong connection to the sea and to the North Atlantic region in general. I'm pretty proud of that!

Also out for old favourites like Midwinter Yarns and the Island Wool Company who make guest appearances. Thank you, Kate, for allowing me to roam around your domain briefly!

Knit Now issue 67 is out now. You can buy it from major UK retailers and supermarkets - or you can buy it online. If you are only interested in Lausavisa, I will be releasing it as an individual pattern at some stage next autumn but you will miss out on my article and all the lovely patterns from other designers. Consider yourself warned!

Photos by Dan Walmsley for Practical Publishing.

An Autumnal Pattern Launch: the Burnet Hat

b3 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.

b5 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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frances-horzsm 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.