Kate Davies Designs

at Scottesque

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Hello! Hope you have had a nice weekend! On Saturday Mel and I took a wee trip to Aberdeen, to visit Scottesque. You may remember that I’ve mentioned Scottesque before (in connection with the midi kilt with which I styled my Buchanan yoke).

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I absolutely love my midi-kilt – I think its handkerchief paneling and bias-cut lines makes it an incredibly flattering and feminine way to sport tartan, and I find it really easy to wear. I commissioned my midi-kilt from Scottesque by email: having found an iteration of the “ancient” Buchanan tartan that I liked, and which was a good match for my yarn palette, I sent them my measurements and they designed and made my kilt for me. Anyway, I recently had an idea for a special and slightly more complicated garment (of which more later), and I thought it would be great if I could talk to Scottesque about creating it for me. So Mel and I hit the road, and found Scottesque in the lovely Rosemount area of Aberdeen (just down the road from the Beechgrove Garden, which I confess I found rather exciting).

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Scottesque is run by Jan, who has worked with textiles in Aberdeen for many years. Her business began with vintage and upcycling, and grew to focus on giving tartans and tweeds a contemporary feminine look. When she applied techniques of draping and folding to the design that became her signature midi-kilt, Scottesque never looked back. The bias lines of the fabric, and the design’s subtle volume and drape means this is a skirt shape that looks good on just about everyone.

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It was fantastic to see Jan’s shop and workshop, and get a sense of what’s going on at Scottesque.

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Mel fell in love with the greens and magentas of the Lindsay tartan.

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And I was blown away by the array of beautiful fabrics . . .

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. . . and colours . . .

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. . . but most especially by Jan’s design acumen, bringing tartan to life with characteristic pleating, volume, and drape.

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Mel and I had a fantastic time, and, ahem, placed some orders . . .

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. . . so if you find yourself in Rosemount, I highly recommend a trip to Scottesque (especially as there’s a spring sale on at the moment!) But if you are unlikely to able to get to Aberdeen, you can always order a kilt to fit you, in your choice of Tartan, by contacting Scottesque directly.

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Thanks, Jan!

potential

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These are my wonderful new raised beds. Soon they will be filled with a muthaload of topsoil and compost, and shortly afterwards will be home to my vegetables. The layout and space means that I and my wonky leg will have no problem getting around and managing the beds, and I took this photograph from inside my lovely new potting shed / mini greenhouse which I’ll show you once its all finished and painted up. I’m really excited to get my plants in. That is all! Enjoy your tuesday!

Fantoosh!

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FANTOOSH! – my new spring shawl – is now available.

Fantoosh is a top-down triangular shawl featuring a tesselating allover motif defined by centred double decreases and twisted stitches. Its a lovely rhythmic knit with a pleasing end result!

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In Scots, fantoosh means “fancy”, or a wee bit “over the top”. When I was at the beginning of the design process, this shawl felt quite fantoosh to me (although I suppose if you compare it to, say, any design of Shetland fine lace, it is not in the least fancy at all). But because it is worked in a beautiful, luxurious yarn (of which more in a moment), coupled with the fact that it features twisted stitches and openwork, the design idea initially seemed a wee bit more elaborate to me than my usual style. I really enjoyed creating this shawl, and spent quite a bit of time swatching and re-swatching as I honed the motif. I like tesselating shapes, and my favourite kind of lace patterns are those with a well-defined geometry. Playing around with the decreases and twisted stitches meant I could lend this large leafy motif a really graphic strength and structure. Then, once I’d finalised the stitch pattern, I was pleased to discover that the shawl itself was going to end up being incredibly straightforward: memorised after just one repeat, the motif is extremely easy and satisfying to knit. Its an intuitive design whose slightly fancy appearance in fact belies its real simplicity. When I’d finished, it was the exuberance of the shawl that pleased me most – I think it really suits its name – Fantoosh!

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The yarn is (gasp, sigh) Old Maiden Aunt Aunt Alpaca / silk / cashmere 4 ply. This blend of luxury fibres makes it a very fantoosh yarn indeed for me to work with. . .but I took one look at Lilith’s colours on this base and I was completely hooked. I knew I had to work with it. The shade is called “Pretty Floral Bonnet” and it really is exceptionally pretty: a subdued shade of pink-y purple, just slightly semi-solid, with these amazing luminous pops of eau de nil running through it. The overall effect is subtle but luminous.

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It knits up into a wonderfully soft, drapey fabric that also feels substantial and warm. Perfect to wrap oneself up in on a breezy day.

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The shawl is knit from the top-down, to create a triangle twice as wide as it is long. I personally love the flexibility (and wrapability) of a Really Big Shawl. With a wingspan of almost 2 metres, this sample is, ahem, quite large, and uses around 700 yards of yarn (2 skeins).

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But a mahooosive shawl is not for everyone. I knit up a second sample and found that a single skein (400 yards) still makes a good-sized shawl with a 114 cm / 45 in wingspan and yarn to spare – so I’ve written the pattern for two sizes, small and large. And because the repeats are short and simple, you’ll find its also really easy to adjust their number to suit other size preferences (and yarn quantities).

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Fantoosh is both relaxing and fun to knit – there’s enough variety in the stitch pattern to keep things interesting, and its satisfyingly addictive seeing each new motif appear.

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Designing and knitting Fantoosh has put me on a something of a roll, and I suddenly find myself with quite a few ideas fizzing around my brain.

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Lets see if these ideas come to fruition!

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Fantoosh is available digitally via Ravelry and in print via Magcloud

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Happy knitting!

a treasured gift

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What’s this? A handknitted hoose?

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With flowers in the garden . . .

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. . . and a wee gate . . .

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. . leading to a horse-shoe adorned front door . . .

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. . . there are flowers in the windows too . . .

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. . . shrubs round the side . . .

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. . . a tiled roof, and a jolly chimney!

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. . . the back of the hoose is just as inviting as the front

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. . . and it also has a useful function . . .

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To keep my teapot warm!

This hoose is a gift I was really, really touched to receive. Long-term readers of this blog may remember this post , which I wrote in 2009, following a visit to the Royal Edinburgh Repository and Self Aid Society – also known as the Treasure Trove – on Castle Street, in Edinburgh. At the Treasure Trove you can find a multitude of wonderful items, all hand-made by the society’s talented members, and all sold with the sole aim of supporting the knitters, sewers, quilters and bakers who created them. The quality of the knitted items the society’s makers produce is really superb: in the bustling Treasure Trove shop you’ll find fine Shetland lace shawls, Fairisle tams and gloves, and beautifully-made childrens jumpers and garments. Over the years, I’ve stayed in touch with the Treasure Trove, and whenever I receive an email asking me for good knitterly places to see in Scotland, its the first place to which I direct any visitor. Having an abiding interest in, and admiration for, the society, I was really pleased and honoured when Liz, the chair of its committee, invited me along to say a few words at their AGM. This meeting was today, and it was absolutely lovely to meet everyone, to hear more about the society’s important work, and to tell the committee a little about what it is I do. At the end of the meeting I was presented with their wonderful gift with which, as you can all imagine, I was really delighted. The hoose had been made especially for me by a society member. Everything about it – the knitting, the embroidery, the stitching, the finishing – is absolutely impeccable.

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In 2009, when I wrote my first post about the society, my interest was, in a way, purely academic: if you read it, you’ll see me musing in a rather wordy way, on how making things lends people who’ve suffered long-term illness or disability an important means of self-support. But weirdly, less than a year later, I became one of those people myself: following my stroke, I was rather unexpectedly transformed into someone who supported herself through making. As you all know, knitting played an enormously significant role in my recovery – a role that was certainly not just financial – and, six years after writing that initial blog post about the Edinburgh society, I find I have a rather different – and certainly much stronger – appreciation for what it is they do. The society provides a really important network of support for many talented makers all over the UK who find themselves, in one way or another in difficult circumstances. If that is you — if you are in the UK and would like to become a member-maker — you’ll find information on the society’s website here. And if, like me, you’d like to support these makers and their work, I suggest you pop along to the Treasure Trove shop on Castle street as soon as possible! You can also place special commissions for members of the society to make items to order.

So I want to say a huge thankyou to the talented society member who made my lovely hoose, and another thankyou to Liz and the society committee for inviting me along today. I hope to be back to see you soon.

Thankyou xx

here’s a sneak peek . . .

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. . . of my new shawl. I’ve so enjoyed working on this design!

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It is elegant and simple and just a little bit luxurious.

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It is coming soon!

you say “potato” . . .

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Hiya! It is I, Bruce. Today I am here to tell you about a delicious and intriguing object: the POTATO.

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Also known as “tattie” or “spud”, and, often (for some mystifying reason) prefixed with the adjective “humble”, the POTATO is one of my all-time favourite foods. Together with other wondrous food-objects (for example, CHICKEN, SAUSAGES and HAM), POTATOES are sadly not something I am able to consume on a daily basis. I find this extremely disappointing. Instead of a tasty varied diet of tubers cooked in several different ways (roast POTATOES being a particular delicacy), twice a day I am offered what in this house is designated dog food, viz, a sort of arid, brown space-biscuit. Though I am told the space-biscuits provide me with fully-balanced canine nutrition, I find them frustrating in many respects. . . perhaps particularly the miniscule amounts in which they are dispensed. I have frequently tried to suggest to Kate and Tom that POTATOES would be much preferred to space biscuits by this hungry labrador, but as they are foolish humans, who do not speak DOG, they fail to understand my chagrin. But here is a top-tip, dog friends: if you too exist on a bland space-biscuit diet, you may be able to supplement it with the delicious food your humans prepare for themselves by presenting them with the face known as “GIVE ME A POTATO”.

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Sometimes the GIVE ME A POTATO face is literally all that is required to make a POTATO materialise. How well I remember the day I made this face at our next door neighbour, Mairi, and was rewarded with two entire baked POTATOES. How delicious! How fluffy! How utterly POTATOE-Y those POTATOES were! This event was truly the stuff of canine dreams – indeed every time I’ve encountered Mairi since, I’ve presented her with the expectant face of one who anticipates its recurrence. But I digress.

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If, after making the GIVE ME A POTATO face you get lucky, and a POTATO actually appears, you may find yourself having to work for your reward. Humans refer to such matters as training, and your successful response to their commands is a simple way of compounding their mistaken belief that they have the upper hand. We dogs know better. And let me tell you, friends, that while some foolish canines regard such tricks as demeaning, there is nothing at all demeaning in the tasty joy of a POTATO. My philosophy is: if you want the POTATO, you’ve got to throw the shapes.

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And while I am on the subject, it is worth bearing in mind that cooked POTATOES are always to be preferred to those that come straight out of the ground, or sit in the bathroom performing the mysterious process known as “chitting.” I myself have little idea what this “chitting” involves, but I do know that at this time of year the bathroom becomes a sort of POTATO nursery, a space in which I show much interest but out of which I am frequently shooed. Kate spends a lot of time in the POTATO nursery, and it has to be said that in spring she seems, if possible, even more excited about POTATOES than I: continually fussing and muttering about the correct timing of “getting the POTATOES in”. But the fussing seems to pay off, as by late Summer we find ourselves with a glut of tubers, and as she often reminds me, the best POTATOES are those that are home grown.

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Well, enough chit-chat, already. May I eat my POTATO now, please?

See you soon, love Bruce xx


Kate adds: there is indeed much potato anticipation here as my spring planting has been held up by shed-construction and associated landscaping. Hopefully the work will be completed soon and I can get the potatoes out of the bathroom and into the ground!

Delaunay retrospective

You all know of my Sonia Delaunay obsession, and I was extremely excited to attend the opening of the retrospective of her work at Tate Modern last week.

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Box, (1913)
Delaunay crossed disciplinary boundaries effortlessly, and it was wonderful to see her ease in various aesthetic / commercial contexts properly represented. Delaunay did not impose artificial disciplinary separations on her work, but strove to develop a continuous aesthetic across all the media in which she worked – an approach I find really inspiring. I was moved to see the cradle quilt (out of which one might argue her distinctive take on colour and contrast emerged) and her incredible painted boxes (much derided by short-sighted critics when they were first exhibited alongside her paintings). One of the aspects of her work I find most interesting is her commitment to transforming her own domestic space into a sort of spectacular lived artwork. For Delaunay, the boundaries between the intimate and public spheres seemed pretty irrelevant: only she could have created a curtain-poem.

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Curtain Poem (text by Phillippe Soupault) (1924)

However many times you look at an art-object in a book, nothing quite matches actually being there with it in front of you. This was the first time I’d seen Delaunay’s work up close, and doing so made me reflect on many things. I thought about circles and discs and just how important rotation was to her aesthetic (a swirl of dancers, a spool of film in a projector, the whizzing mechanisms of a car or aeroplane).

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Robes et Tissus Simultanes de Sonia Delaunay (film, 1925)

I began to really appreciate the difference in her materials and techniques between the early and later periods; I thought about how soft pinks and and purples really defined her palette in the teens and twenties, and then how grassy, mossy greens later dominated her work. Looking at the way she blended and overlaid shades in the remarkable canvases she produced in the years that preceded the first world war, I felt that for the first time I was beginning to understand what she was doing with colour — how colour had really become form for her.

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Electric Prisms (1914)

The retrospective also lent me a renewed appreciation of Delaunay’s playfulness, her confidence, her joie de vivre. In the body of work included here – in these rooms full of objects alive with such a profound and continuous aeshetic energy – you can really feel that Delaunay was not in the least hesitant or self-questioning, either as artist or individual. Her approach to both life and work seems to have been basically to embrace the moment and just get on with it. This appeals.

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Discs (1968)

I also confess to an, ahem, mild excitement at hearing myself talking about Delaunay on the audio guide to the retrospective. I’m proud to have been invited to contribute: it was one of those moments where my old life as an academic and my new one as a creator of textiles happily collided. So if you visit the retrospective and take the audio tour, you’ll also hear me talking about the garments Delaunay designed and made in the 1910s; the innovative patterns she created for Metz & Co, and her carpets (such as this one, produced in 1968).

This is a groundbreaking and breathtaking retrospective of this important, polymathic modernist. If you are in London, I can’t recommend a visit highly enough. The accompanying book – including several illuminating essays exploring Delaunay’s work – is also superb.

The EY Exhibition: Sonia Delaunay
Tate Modern: 15 April – 9 August 2015

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