fugue

Things are moving along, pattern-wise — Manu is now at the testing and editing stage, and so, I am happy to report, is this project, which I’ve been working on for a while, and have really enjoyed both designing and making. This is FUGUE — a tam / mittens set, designed by me, using Bowmont Braf yarn, beautifully dyed by Lilith of Old Maiden Aunt. The pattern will be available from Lilith in kit form, together with yarn, for the knitter to make the accessories of her/his choice. I knit my samples in Lilith’s londubh / dreich colourways — but the lucky test knitters have been treated to range of Lilith’s other signature colours, including “Hebridean” and “Moody”. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been reading a lot about Estonian/ Latvian textile traditions, and one of the things I’ve found fascinating is the mutual influence of weaving and knitting in the Baltic nations. This particularly interests me because it is the case in Scotland too — one need only look at a pair of Sanquhar gloves to see the obvious influence of the black-and-white woven cloth of the Scottish Borders. While weaving undoubtedly influences the surface design of knitted textiles, knitting is much better than weaving at making things circularly, without seams — things like hats, gloves, and mittens.

Here we have a bit of both worlds, then: a circular, knitted garment, with the inimitably graphic logic of weaving thrown in. My FUGUE stitch pattern is inspired by one I saw used on a Latvian tablecloth, and it took me a few attempts to get just right. After knitting the tam, I stared at the finished knitted fabric for a long time and decided to rework a couple of points on the chart. So I got up very early a few Sundays ago to fiddle with it, and spent the morning thinking and knitting and listening to Bach. I had a sudden eureka moment with the stitch pattern, which is entirely attributable to the effect of Bach’s Art of Fugue — hence the design name. The pattern is actually very fugue-like — made up of alternating tones of dark and light; rhythmic, contrapuntal, and slightly mesmeric. Anyway, having experienced it, I highly recommend knitting FUGUE while listening to a FUGUE — the hands, ears and brain really work in harmony! I perfected the stitch pattern on the mittens, and am pleased with the final result.

Both tam and mittens feature braids (also fugue-like, I think, in their twisting forms) — and the fugue stitch pattern is (though I say so myself) intriguing to knit. The zigzagging blocks shift to left or right on alternate rounds, while those inbetween are all worked on the same, simple, 2×2 repeat. I find that there is is a singularly graphic pleasure in seeing a stitch pattern like this emerge from one’s needles — anyone who has knitted a pair of Endpaper mitts will know what I mean. I’ll show you some more of the braids, and the wrong side of the knitting (which I find very interesting too), when I get the time to take some more shots. These were snapped rather hastily — it had started to rain, and I had some errands to do. Still couldn’t resist throwing a few mild shapes, though.

Project: Fugue, tam and mittens, designed by me, inspired by JS Bach, and Latvian weaving.
Yarn: delicious Old Maiden Aunt bowmont braf 4ply (so very, very tasty!)
Needles: 3mm and 3.5mm circs
Ravelled: here

47 responses

  1. Love this.

    The FUGUE design is amazing; I remember discovering linen-stitch a while back and being fascinated by the potential of that stitch for replicating the structure of woven cloth in knitting. However I have found linen-stitch difficult to execute in the round, whereas your wonderful, visual exploration of woven-cloth seems perfectly suited to this pleasing method of garment construction.

    I love the connections here between two ancient Scottish textile traditions, and how these traditions have been contemporised (is that a proper word?) by your cunning use of a local dyer’s prodigious talents.

    I quite understand how listening to Bach would enhance the execution of this logical, progressive, developing stitch sequence. I am a great fan of mixing up the knitting and the listening, as you know.

  2. Kate! The hat! The mittens! The amazing combination of inspirations! That coat! That satchel! I die! (So do you, probably, from all these exclamation marks polluting your nice, intelligent post…)
    What beautiful work, I shall be beating poor Lilith’s (electronic) door down to get my hands on one of these kits.
    :)

  3. Gorgeous knits! And the photos are as well. Will the pattern be available separately or solely as part of a kit? I’m in Canada and would love this pattern but not sure if I want to pay shipping for the kit…

  4. The hat and mittens are absolutely stunning – congratulations! After your recommendation I bought some Bowmont Braf to try and I cannot wait until the kit is available – it’s an incredible fibre to knit with.

    I also second Tania’s question about the satchel – I would love to get one for work!

  5. What a great pattern! I was experimenting with some zigzaggy lines in a hat a few weeks ago…it didn’t work out. Maybe I need Bach to get the mindset for finishing.

    I hope the kits will be available for shipping to the US!

  6. Beautiful set. I love hearing about your eureka moment — I’m not a designer but I can spend oodles of time trying different ways to achieve the desired effect and that moment of satisfaction is glorious.

  7. As always, Kate, a lovely set! You are creating things I want to try faster than my needles can keep up..

    These “quick, it’s raining and I’m in a hurry photos” are fantastic, too.

  8. As a professional musician and keen knitter with a healthy interest in Bach and baroque music, this is possibly the best thing since I realised I could knit and listen to a podcast at the same time whilst on a train to a gig. They look gorgeous. more please.

  9. Kate, the hat and mitts are inspirational – i love the detail – the braid and the way the pattern moves and shifts yet seems to blend into one. The colours are just right too- nothing fights for supremacy yet each one looks good in its own right. Contrapuntal?? you always have a word that has me reaching for the dictionary – every day’s a school day!

  10. Great design and the colors are perfect for me. I usually don’t make things up in the same colors shown on the pattern, but you made it perfectly for me. I live in western U.S. and am somewhat concerned about shipping (the kit) as well but the yarns of your supplier are delicious. Please let me know when pattern/kit are available. Thank you for sharing your insightful moment, as an artist I’m always interested in hearing what works for others. Thanks again!

  11. This is a wondrous tam, right name to the perfect Novemberish choice of colours. I found a Bach fugue on youtube that did a pattern thing along with the music and your choice of name clicked. I am in awe.

  12. The temptation to add another project to my ever-growing list is great, but I’ll have to wait. At least until I knock a few more things off my own list.

    But is it so wrong that I want the coat and satchel? I’ve really tried to be good this year…

  13. I was just browsing the Cambridge Satchel Company website (thinking about a lovely pressy for myself!) when I saw a familiar looking photo…the top photo is featured in their ‘Stylish Customers’ section!

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