This Thing of Paper: Introducing the Psalter Shawl

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Welcome to the third 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 Psalter shawl is knitted in two colours of DyeNinja camel/silk 4ply. You will need one skein of the pale parchment colour, and two skeins of the rich contrast colour. The shawl is a variation upon pi-shawls with an easy slip-stitch section (you never use more than one colour a row and the repeat is surprisingly small!) and an equally easy knitted-on border (again, a surprisingly small repeat). Psalter was my travel project last autumn and it lends itself very well to being an on-the-go project as the small repeats work up as satisfyingly tiny chunks. The just one more repeat mantra works so very well with Psalter. The end product is big and gorgeous.

This was one of the first patterns I designed for the book. I knew I wanted a big, sweeping shawl (because big, sweeping shawls are the best) and I knew I wanted it to look like an illuminated letter. Indeed, the Psalter shawl is a giant C if you look at it at a 90-degree angle! I loved the idea of wrapping myself in a piece of writing, and when I fell in love with the geometrical motifs in the Luttrell Psalter, I knew exactly what to do. The yarn choice was also a no-brainer. I am a big fan of DyeNinja's saturated, rich colours and the drape of Sheila's camel-silk made it ideal for Psalter. The sik content makes the colours look as though they are illuminated from within — perfect for this shawl.

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The photo shoot look place in front of a 15th century building. We styled it with dramatic, strong colours and a simple red linen dress so we could really make the shawl pop. Psalter did not really need our help though - it proved to be endlessly photogenic (as the 150 photos on my computer hard-drive can testify). 

The accompanying essay looks closer at the Luttrell Psalter and asks questions about who gets to make books, and who is allowed to have a voice within these books It is possibly the one essay that comes closest to my old métier of writing about texts — but I also reflect upon the idea of agency and authority in a wider sense. I wrote This Thing of Paper during a period of personal upheaval, and I think this is where you might be able to tell.

I am very much looking forward to seeing people's own takes on both the Psalter shawl and the essay. This book is so much about giving you agency to tell your own stories through my patterns. 

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Yarns of This Thing of Paper: Dye Ninja, an Interview.

Yarn. The cornerstone of every knitting obsession. When I set out to make This Thing of Paper, I knew I had to get the yarns right. I spent a lot of time looking for yarns that had the right feel and the right colours. Sheila of DyeNinja is a real genius with rich, jewel-like colour with subtle semi-solid effects. When we started talking about the project, I knew she understood exactly what I needed in terms of colour and texture.  


Hello. You were a relatively new yarn dyer when I first came across your yarns, and I quickly became obsessed with your sense of colour. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

A lifetime ago, well four years (they were big years), I was a successful Programme Manager with thirty years experience of implementing Computer Systems for Banks and Hospitals. I was good at Planning, Budgeting, Organising and Risk Assessment. But there wasn't a lot of time for knitting, and I had way too many Capital Letters in my life.

One day, on the way home from a wool dyeing workshop, I had a life-changing moment. My heart and mind were filled with the possibilities of colour and wool, alpaca, silk, and so on but mostly colour; glorious, bright, joy-filled, life-enhancing colour. So I gave up the salary and the car and the ninety-hour weeks (I kid you not) and the capital letters and became a yarn alchemist.

Yarn alchemist. I really think that sums up your approach to colour and bases! Could you tell my readers about your yarns and colour, because I think you do something very special. 

Yes, yarn alchemist! Now, my life revolves around steaming cauldrons, jewel-like dyes, luxury yarns and vibrant colour. For me, the most important thing about yarn is that it handles well - if you're going to spend some of your precious leisure hours working with it, then it has to feel good in your hands. So I have luxurious yarn bases that I treat with care and respect, so that I can give you vibrant depth of colour without the dye bleeding, or the yarn scratching, or splitting and unwinding itself as you work.

Then, with beautiful yarn as a place to start, I layer on the colour - oodles of colour. I'm looking for depth and vibrancy, a bright richness of hue in almost solid, semi-solid and tonally variegated yarn. Used as a single colour the layering and shading give life to what might otherwise be flat colour, so a single-coloured sweater becomes a thing of infinite interest as it moves in the light; while the subtlety of tonal changes will set-off beautifully those multi-coloured and speckled favourites in the stash. 

You chose the baby camel/silk fingering for This Thing of Paper and it's arguably the most luxurious yarn I dye. It gives wonderful deep jewel colours and interesting multi-layering in the neutrals. It drapes like a dream and makes the most wonderful shawls, cowls and hats

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That yarn is absolutely spectacular and your colours are so subtle & rich, it was difficult to capture them properly. We spent ages trying to get the photography right! I also have a little box you made me of all your shades and I often go back to it just to play with colour combinations. I love how rich your colours are, yet they are never overpowering or flat. 


I have asked the next question to all my lovely yarn supporters, but I think I already know your answer .. seeing as This Thing of Paper is about books, what book would you recommend? 

What - apart from anything by Sir Terry Pratchett? (Guards! Guards! Mort or Witches Abroad would be good places to start). 

I knew you were going to say Sir Terry Prachett. In fact, you do a series of colourways inspired by Prachett's work - the proceeds of which you use to fundraise for Alzheimer's Research UK. As someone whose family has been touched by dementia, I am very grateful for this. Thank you. 

Finally, where can people find your yarns? ? 

I have a website shop with good photos and a simple process for buying. But one of the great joys of this life is yarn festivals. I love everything about them from deciding which colours to take, to flitting across country with the car stuffed to the gunnels with yarn and setting up my stand with dozens of like-minded crafty folk. Best of all I love meeting the people who knit with my yarn, who seek out vibrant colours and delicious yarn bases; they always have interesting things to say and they're just such nice people. I try to go to at least half a dozen festivals each year, this year it's been Edinburgh Yarn Festival, WonderWool Wales, York Wool Fest, Perth Festival of Yarn, Yarndale, Loch Ness Knit Fest and Nottingham Yarn Expo

Next year I hope to add festivals further afield! I'm already looking forward to seeing everyone.

And everyone should look forward to seeing your colours and bases. I bought some yarn from you recently earmarked for a new design. You do stunning work, Sheila. Thank you!

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