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!


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.

Review: Defarge Does Shakespeare

I was asked by the lovely folks at Cooperative Press if I wanted a review copy of the forthcoming Defarge Does Shakespeare. As a former English Grad with a 'keen interest in knitting' (euphemism), I could not resist. So, just to make things clear, I was given my review copy for free because CP wanted to hear my thoughts. Once more unto the breach, dear friends!

ddsDefarge Does Shakespeare is the third book in CP's Defarge series. The series features knitting patterns inspired by classic literature (and is named after a knitter in Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities) and now the focus has landed on good, old Will Shakes.

The first thing that caught my eye was that the book is divided into Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies - just like the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays. It betrays a level of literary nerdery that I can only applaud. Each pattern is accompanied by an essay in which the designer writes about the play she has been working with and how the design developed. If you are unfamiliar with Shakespeare plays, or only know the really famous ones, then the essays are a great read. For me, the literary analyses were less interesting (I'm very tetchy about these things, sorry!) but I really enjoyed reading about the design processes.

Most of the 29 designs are accessories. Six sock patterns (all of them very strong; is a Madame Defarge Does Socks book forthcoming?), 15 other accessories, two home items, two baby items (including the very witty Exeunt, Pursued by Bear (reference) baby cardigan by Amy Tyszkiewicz), and three garments.

I particularly liked the Twelfth Night-inspired socks by Elizabeth Green Musselman called The Yellow-Gartered Dude Abides which are both fun to look at and also calls back very specifically - and wittily - to the text that inspired them. The socks have two different cuff options and they function amazingly well as a nudge-wink to historical costumes and as a 21st century knitting design. Kudos!

Another stand-out is the puntastic The Taming of the Shrug by Heather Ordover. Obviously inspired by The Taming of the Shrew, Heather's design is reversible so you can either be a flame (Katherine) or a leaf (Bianca). The shrug can also be knitted in two different weights - I always like when this is given as an option. The 'Bianca' option is especially appealing with its quirky lace edging. I have up-coming bridesmaid's duties and this shrug is now on the list of 'cover up them shoulders' options.

There is a lot to like about Defarge Does Shakespeare and you can spend a great deal of time digging through this book. Apart from the designers already mentioned, It has a really distinctive feel that is different to many other knitting books I have seen, and it is unashamedly nerdy about William Shakespeare. If you know a literature student who loves knitting small projects, DDS would make a very thoughtful gift.

Colour Ideas for Byatt

I'm already seeing a lot of Byatts in the KAL thread on Ravelry, but I also get quite a few questions about yarn and colour combinations. If you are planning on casting on Byatt, this post is for you. First, let's grab that ghastly photo I took of Byatt flat, crank up the contrast and look at the anatomy of the shawl.

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So, as you can see, there are a few key things to think about when choosing a colour combination:

  • The majority of the shawl focuses on the MC (only the edge really lets CC shine).
  • MC and CC needs to work together but have a good amount of contrast.
  • CC needs to work in semi-solid lace.

Add to that, the fact that the shawl is designed to use as much of that gorgeous hand-dyed yarn as possible, and you will want to weigh your skeins to make sure you have enough yardage. I've included suggestions on how to include a third colour (CC2) in the pattern notes too.

My original colour combination was OMA 100% merino in Crazy Ivan and Afraid of the Woods. The colours look very different in the picture above, but that is due to a) the shawl being photographed on snow and b) me cranking up the contrast, so you can see the details.


Lilith of Old Maiden Aunt is currently knitting Byatt in a combination of Lon-Dubh and Grellow.


And her studio assistant, the incredibly lovely Helen is using a heady combination of Army+Navy and Cherry Lips. I love this combination so much that I might just steal it off Helen once it's done.


If I were to knit a second Byatt, I'd be tempted to use Famous Blue Raincoat and Moody. I really like the idea of Moody as the lace edging.


At the moment I am all about teal, it seems. Different versions of teal, but definitely teal. I am working on a colourwork project that uses a great deal of teal and I just cannot seem to get enough. Is teal my new moss green, I wonder? For a while I just bought and knitted moss-green yarn. We shall see.

If you are knitting Byatt, please post in the KAL thread. We have a great discussion going and I'm loving seeing all the colour combinations. I especially loved the knitter who said she was off to look at her book shelves to see which colour combination appealed!

PS. Thanks to the wonder of Photoshop, I just came up with another colour combination for Byatt. Going back to the moss-green yarn again..

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The Knit Generation

A little something on the dining table today. October2014 042

A book from Quail Publishing filled with the most glorious autumnal knits: The Knit Generation - curated by Sarah Hatton.

What's this?

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Is that my name? I do believe so! I have two patterns in The Knit Generation and I am so awfully proud to be included. It is really the most beautiful book I have ever been involved in. Sarah has an eye for detail and her stylistic instincts are incredible. Everything from colour palette to layout has been carefully considered and I just love leafing through the end result.

The Juniper hat is one of those knits I finished and didn't want to send away. It is worked holding one strand of Rowan Felted Tweed and one strand of Rowan Kidsilk Haze together - the end fabric is lush: full of drape, full of warmth, and full of colour depth. The sample hat uses FT Clay and KSH Cream together, but I keep toying with the idea of knitting myself one for winter. Maybe holding FT Watery and KSH Trance? FT Seafarer and KSH Turkish Plum? FT Avocado and KSH Jelly? FT Rage & KSH Strawberry? Worryingly, I can do all those from stash (don't judge!). The nature of the fabric meant I didn't want a complex stitch pattern - instead I chose a simple knit and purl pattern which showcases the fabric without overshadowing it. And a pompom on top. Of course.

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The other pattern is the Pinecones Shawl. It is a simple triangular shawl with an autumnal border and it is knitted in Rowan Fine Art, their handpainted sock yarn. The fibre content of the yarn is slightly unusual (it includes silk and mohair) and again it was a case of designing a pattern that emphasised the nature of the fabric (and the lovely, lovely drape).

I am teaching a class at McAree Brothers in Stirling in support of The Knit Generation - we will be taking a look at contemporary lace knitting, shawl constructions and students will have a chance to give designing their own lace a go! Something like Pinecones can look overwhelming to the uninitiated - but my aim is to demystify shawl knitting and show people just how satisfying it can be to wrap yourself in something beautiful. And if you are an old hand at lace knitting, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that'll (proverbially) blow your mind. Promise.

I designed and knitted both Juniper & Pinecones last year - it is so satisfying to finally see them in print. I am particularly pleased to see my name next to people like Andi Satterlund, Anni Howard and Rachels Coopey and Atkinson - all thoroughly good eggs.

I cannot help but laugh, though. Due to the vagaries of publishing, you will see an absolute deluge of patterns over the next few months. I apologise in advance.

On an Adventure with Knitters

alp This past weekend I packed my bags and went on an adventure. We went through Glen Croe..


.. which is part of the Loch Lomond & Trossach National Park. We passed Rest and Be Thankful, the most famous peak in the Arrochar Alps before locating a small pottery studio (complete with Badger the Border Collie) on the banks of Loch Long.

alp3We eventually made it to our cottage on the shores of Loch Fyne. This is the actual view from the living room window. Not a bad view for a dreich February day.


And this was the view from the kitchen. Scottish Blackface sheep keeping a watchful eye on us. They were slightly less fond of the chickens roaming the fields. I liked the chickens. They reminded me of my childhood when my gran kept chickens. Also: fresh eggs from the landlady!


We didn't get a chance to sample any Loch Fyne seafood - but I did accidentally kill a mollusc when I tried to throw it back into the sea at low tide. The colours were amazing: rich browns, deep greens, and the most beautiful indigo blues. So many ideas in my head.

1653731_10152242786299725_1910867078_nAnd I finished knitting my Bute - whilst being near Bute. Mattress stitching fair isle that incorporates purl stitch is not my favourite activity. It doesn't look as neat as I'd like but I don't think that's possible with this pattern. I also did a temporary stitching-together of the body and .. it is not the most flattering knit in the world. I may need to look into some post-knitting waist-shaping. I do love the colours and the yarn. It's been a great knit. I just think I need to think about the shape of my garments more than I have done in the past.

After a long, relaxing weekend in the most beautiful lochside cottage you can imagine, it was time to head home. A landslide had closed the Glen Croe road and so we were looking at either a 70-miles detour north via Oban or hop on a ferry from Dunoon. This Dane still marvels at how the Scottish landscape thwarts attempts to tame it: the road across the Arrochar Alps is really the only way to access the entire Argyll & Bute peninsula by car and the road is plagued by constant landslides. We opted for the ferry which gave us a few comedy moments..

.. but I had a lovely time with some of the best people I know. I can certainly recommend a knitting retreat as a good way of restoring cheerfulness and well-being (my leg is slowly getting better and the main issues are now fatigue & stamina.).

It will not be the last time we do this.