This Thing of Paper: Introducing the Marginalia Jumper

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Welcome to the eighth of ten posts introducing the patterns in This Thing of Paper. We are launching the book on November 30, so I want to take you through the patterns and their stories. We are almost there!

I shouldn't play favourites, but the Marginalia jumper is really one of my favourite patterns in the book. It is a beautiful Everyday Wardrobe jumper that is easy to knit and even easier to wear. It is a top-down raglan jumper with a raised back (which makes it fit even better) and waist shaping. The only real interest is a slip-stitch pattern along the hem and the wrists. I rarely knit my patterns twice due to time constraints, but I've made Marginalia twice. 

The jumper is worked in Blacker Yarns Lyonesse DK - a gorgeous wool/linen blend which relaxes as you wear it. I am fairly obsessed with this yarn as the feel of it against your skin is absolutely amazing, It relaxes as you wear it which the pattern takes into consideration. As written and worked in Lyonesse DK, your finished Marginalia will have some degree of ease, but if you substitute with a less drapey yarn, your garment will be more fitted. 

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Marginalia is named after the practise of writing in the margins of books. I know some people hate the idea of writing in books, but I love encountering previous readers in the margins of my secondhand books. I wanted to design a garment that was relatively straightforward but had some "writing in the margins". I have been somewhat obsessed by the idea of the paratext for years and early incarnations of Marginalia had me exploring the idea of making the paratext into text. In knitting terms, that meant thinking about what made a jumper into a jumper - the body, the sleeves, the openings for the head/body/hands, the idea of a front & a back and the ribbing. After deciding that nobody wanted a three-sleeved jumper or an all-over rib garment, I started working on the idea of marginalia (itself a paratextual element) and the notion of 'making marks'. I thought about ink slipping across the surface of a page - and the idea of a slip-stitch pattern around the, ahem, margins of the jumper became obvious. 

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Like so many of the other patterns, Marginalia was shot on location at Innerpeffray Library, Scotland. We used the small room off the main reading room for this shoot — the 19th century and 20th century books are kept in there — and I loved curling up in the comfortable reading chair and looking out across the fields dotted with sheep. I could have stayed there forever. 

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This Thing of Paper: Introducing the Letterpress Cowl

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Welcome to the sixth of ten posts introducing the patterns in This Thing of Paper. We are close to launching, so I want to take you through the patterns and their stories.

The Letterpress cowl is a cabled cowl knitted in the round with an intuitive cable pattern set on a garter stitch background. It is worked in Blacker Yarns Classic Aran — the heaviest of the yarns featured in the book. 

This was one of the last pieces to be designed for the book (and I designed more than what I'm publishing). I remember spreading all the samples out on the floor and realising that the collection had a few gaps. I could talk about design processes all day long, but suffice to say that 'designing into gaps' is oddly satisfying. You know you have almost solved the jigsaw when you can see the gaps that need to be filled. Letterpress needed to be a squishy, textured piece in a neutral colour - and it was a joy to really knuckle down to design something so relatively straightforward-yet-interesting. 

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Much of This Thing of Paper would not exist without other people. The Letterpress sample was expertly knit by my good friend Katherine Lymer who is quite the cable expert. I had a family emergency at the time and, whenever I look at the sample, I can hear Katherine's calm voice telling me that a) everything was going to be fine and b) the sample wouldn't be a problem. 

Knitting is about friendship and making memories - either explicitly or implicitly. 

The pattern itself was inspired by letterpress printing - imprinting some thing on a lightly textured piece of paper. I obviously decided to have the sample worked in a paper-like colour and in a yarn that would lend an extra dimension to the texture. The essay itself was partly written while I was in Mainz, Germany working in the Gutenberg Museum. It reflects upon the name of This Thing of Paper, various modes of communication, and contains more than one reference to TS Eliot. 

Photos were taken outside the Innerpeffray Library chapel. 

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This Thing of Paper: Introducing the Majuscule & Minuscule Hat & Fingerless Mitts Set

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Welcome to the fifth of ten posts introducing the patterns in This Thing of Paper. We are close to launching, so I want to take you through the patterns and their stories.

Majuscule & Minuscule are colourwork hat and fingerless mitts, respectively. Both are knitted in the round and the colourwork pattern uses standard stranded knitting techniques. The hat has an optional pompom (although, in my head, pompoms are never optional) and the fingerless mitts have integrated thumb shaping. Both the hat and mitts are worked in Blacker Yarns Swan 4ply, a beautifully plump yarn that comes in a saturated colour range. 

This hat & fingerless mitts set was among the first patterns I ever sketched for This Thing of Paper. I have an entire sketchbook filled with drawings, watercolours, and words. When I first got the idea for a knitting book about knitting and books, I sat down to look at illuminated manuscripts and early printed books. I would sketch interesting patterns and make notes on colours. This was .. 2012? Later as I began to grow certain that I wanted to do this book, I revisited my sketchbook and found it overflowing with ideas. Ideas that were obviously perfect for colourwork. 

I really love designing colourwork. Figuring out where to change colours so they hit-just-so, trying to get all the colours balanced within the design, and thinking about a pattern working across a 3D object. It is good fun. I took patterns from my sketchbook — all decorative elements in early printed books — and messed about with them until I was happy. 

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The names Majuscule and Minuscule were suggested by Amelia Hodsdon after a long editing session. I had first wanted to call the set Upper Case and Lower Case - did you know that those names are derived from how THE BIG LETTERS and the small letters were sorted by type-setters? THE BIG LETTERS went in the upper case and so forth. However, I felt that Upper Case and Lower Case felt somewhat prosaic next to Incunabula and Rubrication. When you looked at the pattern names on the page, they just stood out for the wrong reasons. Amelia understood what I was worried about, and suggested Majuscule and Minuscule. They mean the same thing, but work better within the context of the book. Thank you, Amelia

Finally, I look at this shoot and I cannot help but think of the day I bought the coat I'm wearing. It is a woollen tweed cape/coat I picked up in one of my favourite vintage shops the day after the Kickstarter campaign finished. I saw it and thought it looked almost like a monk's robe. It was perfect for the photo shoot — you will see it in the next pattern preview too — and whenever I see it or wear it, I think of that summer's day I dragged a big, brown woollen coat across Glasgow whilst being excited about the book I was about to start writing. 

That was a good day.  

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This Thing of Paper: Introducing the Incunabula Cardigan

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Welcome to the fourth of ten posts introducing the patterns in This Thing of Paper. We are close to launching, so I want to take you through the patterns and their stories.

Incunabula is a fitted bottom-up cropped cardigan with a mock-cable and textured detail at both fronts and the back. The 3/4 sleeves are worked seamlessly top-down using the short-row method. It is worked in Blacker Yarns Classic DK — a wonderful workhorse yarn on the heavier side of DK. The buttons are from my bottomless button stash but Textile Garden sell similar. I knew I wanted to design a cardigan that was technical to knit, yet easy to wear. It was also inspired by my librarian friend Lauren who has an enviable knack for wearing cardigans.

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Incunabula are books printed before 1501 (I know that some people struggle to pronounce the word, so think of it as in-ku-NA-bu-lah. Or call it Inky. We are among friends here). Incunabulum means 'cradle' in Latin - and scholars used to think of the earliest printed books as being the cradles of knowledge. I am particularly fond of this type of books as they hover somewhere between manuscripts and actual printed books (I write more about this threshold in the book essay). 

We shot the photos at Innerpeffray Library - the oldest lending library in Scotland. They own an incunabulum which I was allowed to handle. It was terribly exciting and also somewhat meta - handling an early printed book whilst wearing my Incunabula cardigan! I wore the cardigan with my bookshelf dress and my mustard brogues. I have seldom felt more stylish as I did walking around the Library, picking up 16th and 17th century manuals on calligraphy, astronomy, and mathematics. Good times.   

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Finally, I want to draw your attention to a little detail. The mock cable and textured panel on the back extends into the bottom-ribbing. Isn't that pretty? 

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This Thing of Paper: Introducing the Vellum Cardigan

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Welcome to the first of ten posts introducing the patterns in This Thing of Paper. We are close to launching, so I want to take you through the patterns and their stories. Vellum is a bottom-up cardigan worked in the round with a steek. It features a colourwork yoke with additional colourwork detail around the cuffs. It is knitted in five colours of Blacker Yarns Pure Lustre Tamar DK, a blend of Wensleydale, Teeswater, Cotswold and Black Leicester Longwool with a touch of Cornish Black Mule lending it bounce. This yarn is perfect for colourwork with a rich colour palette whilst the neutral main shade has incredible depth. The buttons are from Textile Garden: not only do they match perfectly but the design also echoes the colourwork pattern.


The book is divided into three stories. Story 1 is the story of books before printing, and Vellum is inspired by beautiful handmade manuscripts. During my research I found myself captivated by all the processes involved in producing a single page of manuscript, and I felt strongly that my book needed a pattern that encapsulated the care and knowledge needed to produce an outstanding piece of work.

Vellum is fairly straightforward to knit (all that stocking stitch!) but it also involves careful planning of the colourwork palette, patience in preparing for steeking, and care in finishing the garment to a satisfying standard. I opted to cover my steek with a ribbon that also echoes the colourwork yoke. I know that many of you will enjoy sourcing the right ribbon that reflects your own vision.

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And that is what I hope to achieve with this cardigan. Obviously it visually mimics the beautiful manuscripts I've poured over during my research, but it also involves getting involved with the process of making. The accompanying essay examines this to much greater detail, but you are very welcome to skip straight to the cardigan pattern if you just enjoy knitting! Incidentally, this is my partner's favourite pattern in the book.

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