happy tortoise and hare day!

The tortoise and the hare is finished! I am pleased with it!

I am not ashamed to admit that I had foolish ideas about an appropriate photo location, for which I blame a poster I saw a while ago advertising the LMS railway. The poster was from the 1920s, and like many of this era, it got its message about the benefits of travel across with the image of an energetic young woman enjoying a healthsome, outdoor sporting activity – in this case golf. The setting was the Fylde coast, and a culotte-clad golfer was dramatically framed against the dunes, swinging her club and staring into the middle distance. The caption read “Lytham St Annes for Sea Breezes and Sunshine.” (I’d show it to you, but it doesn’t appear to be online…this companion piece gives you a flavour of it, though). I was to be the windswept golfer, so I donned my culottes (which Tom refers to as the loon pants for perhaps obvious reasons) and we set out to find a golf course.

I was of course forgetting that golf courses are private spaces – indeed, to me golf represents a wholescale privatisation of the landscape anachronistic in a country with progressive outdoor access legislation – but clearly on this occasion politics had to be sacrificed to fashion. Golf courses are also (apparently) dangerous places, due to the associated hazards of flying golf balls and marauding golf buddies. With some trepidation, we advanced beyond the margins of public access and attempted to find a good location. I did not possess clubs or other paraphernalia; the golf buddies were circling like vultures, and a lolloping woman with a leg brace is a conspicuous figure on the green. This was a totally shite idea for a photoshoot!

The flag is there to remind you that I am on a golf course and I am staring out to sea (perhaps trying to locate my lost marbles). The whole effect is more Just William than Jordan Baker, but this interesting shot of my armpit does serve to illustrate what you are all no doubt dying to know: how did I incorporate shaping into the colourwork? ‘Traditional’ fairisle sweaters are not shaped to the bust and waist, and more modern, closely-fitting designs often get round this by allowing the shaping to interrupt the pattern (with a greater or lesser degree of success). I considered several options, none of which were totally acceptable to me: vigorous blocking; the familiar trick of working with smaller or larger needles; having half a tortoise or hare traveling up my torso; or making the sweater fit more loosely and squarely ie- not bothering with shaping at all. Waist decreases were easily integrated into the deep rib at the bottom of the sweater, but what about increasing for the bust? In the end, I realised that I could continue working peerie bands around the sweater, as long as my increases were added in multiples of 5, and I wove in the colours of the hares and tortoises along the back of the work (this is the only weaving I did). This has allowed for a difference of several inches between the measurements of the waist and chest, and the peerie band fools the eye (to a certain extent) into seeing the pattern moving continuously around the torso. In any case, as one does not usually throw armpit-displaying shapes in public, the way the increases are worked is not all that obvious anyway.

Short row set-in sleeves are my new favourite thing: I was put off them a little when I tried Wendy Bernard’s method of picking-up-the-stitches-as-I-went with a kids sweater I was working on a while ago – I made a bit of a pigs ear of it – but really much prefer doing it the way that Barbara Walker recommends: cutting the steek, picking up stitches all around the sleeve cap, and working short rows to the underarms (I used the Carol Sunday short-row method). O, the joy of setting in a sleeve without seams!

I love the triple vikkel braid that separates the ribbing from the colourwork. What I had in mind here was the decorative belt on a ’30s swimsuit, and it does give the sweater that slightly drop-waisted feel. The braids are rather time-consuming to work over a sweaters-worth of stitches, but definitely worth it.

Strangely, the pictures that we took seemed to be much better once we had escaped from golf-world . . .
Here’s a final shot of the whole thing.

A pattern shouldn’t be too long in coming; I’ve planned everything about this design really carefully, so hopefully there will be no unknowns. I also had the idea of writing a companion design for tortoise and hare fingerless gloves / armwarmers to be included with the sweater pattern (these might be worked as a sort of tester swatch or sampler for those unfamiliar with colourwork techniques like the vikkel braids, and could be rather fun).
Here are the project specs in the meantime:

Design: the Tortoise and the Hare
By me! Pattern forthcoming
Yarn: 4 shades of Blacker designs Shetland 4 ply; Katmogit, moorit, white and dark. This is an exceptionally soft and tasty Shetland, which I know will wear fantastically well. I used 180g /675 yards of the katmogit, almost a whole 50g ball of each of the moorit and dark; and around 30g of white.
Needles. 2.75 circs for rib, and on 3mm for body.
Ravelled here

In other news, it was my birthday yesterday (huzzah!) and there were macaro(o)ns. Tom used the Humble Pie recipe a few of you recommended and attempted three varieties: almond and rosewater; pistachio and vanilla; and hazelnut and orange. I have to say that there was a lot of cursing coming from the kitchen the night before last: Tom felt the recipe was a little too sweet and too eggy and removing the macawotsits from the greaseproof paper proved to be a total nightmare. The almond ones were the first batch, and he felt that he overbeat the egg whites, and overcooked them to boot. But the pistachio and hazelnut varieties turned out extremely well, even though Tom was not at all pleased with what he felt was their rather rustic appearance. Indeed, he seems to have gone off the idea of fiddly pattiserie altogether, since his first response to making the macaro(ons) was “I’d rather bake a big ol’ cake and cut you a giant slice.”

From my perspective, however, they were damn tasty – particularly the pistachio ones. And I mostly had a great birthday, but I have to be honest and say that the combination of excitement and exhaustion proved to be a little toxic: I spent the early part of the morning motoring around the flat with the hill-walking poles that Tom had got for me, not thinking about what the effects of learning a new skill of reciprocal bodily co-ordination, combined with putting a lot of unexpected weight through my left arm, would be. I stupidly wore myself out, collapsed for the rest of the day, and then had to sleep for a few hours before I could muster up enough energy to nip out to North Berwick for Tortoise and Hare photography. After that, we bought a fish supper and sat on the sea wall to eat it, looking out at The Bass Rock almost luminously white with gannets – a lovely evening, but an at times frustrating day.

112 thoughts on “happy tortoise and hare day!

  1. Happy belated birthday, Kate! The Tortoise and the Hare is amazing, and I wouldn’t want it in any other color than the ones you used. A little scared of the steeking though, while at the same time savoring the idea of endless colorwork in the round… : )

  2. The macaroons look fab, the tortoise and hare a triumph, and I’m looking forward immensely to the pattern.

  3. Happy belated birthday!

    What a lovely design, and I really like how you incorporated the shaping at the sides.

    Also, those macaroons look very tasty.

  4. Happy belated birthday! Wonderful wonderful sweater. And congratulations too to a man in the house that makes macaroons for you. ;)
    They look wonderful, too!

  5. Happy Birthday wishes, Kate! The Tortoise & Hare is wonderful, of course, and the “loon pants” look great and especially fun to wear for anything, including golf! ;)

    best ~ Annri

  6. A very happy birthday! Yes you do look like a naughty school-person in the golf course shots – tsk tsk! It always strikes me as anachronistic that my husband loves golf and yet cares about ecology and conservation. He does however, point out that there is no law of trespass in Scotland, so you are perfectly within your rights to stride across the course as long as you don’t damage it!

  7. Happy birthday! Here’s hoping next year it will just be a lovely day, and not at all frustrating. I must say, too, that you had me cracking up with your golf course photo shoot, and your narration of it. This line is by far my favorite: The flag is there to remind you that I am on a golf course and I am staring out to sea (perhaps trying to locate my lost marbles).

    Absolutely hilarious.

  8. What an incredible sweater! Sweltering in the heat here and the thought of wearing a sweater is quite overwhelming. Happy birthday!

  9. Oh happy day! A beautiful birthday, along with a new fantabulous pattern! A treat for us as well…I know once I have that pattern in my hands, I’ll always think of it as the Kate’s birthday pattern.

  10. Wow!!!! I absolutely love the sweater. A lot of colourwork is very girly or overly intricate. I like the simplicity of this, and the fact you’ve used a small wool company (I like supporting small british wool, but all too often I buy a couple of balls when shopping and have no idea what to do with it; far better to have a pattern then go buy the yarn-well better for my budgeting anyway!).

    And you might feel frustrated over having to rest, but you are still able to achieve an amazing amount. My dad who has quite a rare illness that has caused him to retire early says the thing he is most proud of in his life is when faced with chronic illness, the ability to change from a type A to type B personality. If you like changing from the hare to the tortoise. It seems a bizarre thing to be proud of, but perhaps has been the key to his happiness (not that there aren’t bad days).

  11. Happy Birthday for yesterday. The sweater looks great – love the braiding.

    The macaroons look so decorative and delicious. Non-stick baking paper does seem to be actually more non-stick than greaseproof paper – you might recommend that to Tom.

  12. Happy Birthday! The sweater is fantastic and the macaroons look very lovely. Tom did a great job. The thought of baking three kinds like that is enough to make me lie down to let the thought pass. :)

  13. Happy happy birthday and congratulations on a beautiful sweater. Yes yes yes to the mitts pattern!!! I think the macaroons look lovely too. All best.

  14. I love the sweater and the story behind the photos. I always have trouble posing for photos in my handknits, because I tend to have a dumb expression on my face and wish the whole time, that even though this was my idea, we weren’t taking the photos with me in them. In any case, happy birthday!

  15. Happy Birthday! I think your solution to bust shaping in the sweater is rather clever and effective! It seems to have turned out beautifully.

  16. Belated Happy Birthday! I love, love, absolutely love the sweater but my knitting skills aren’t up to it. Please let Tom know I’ll eat all his macaroon failures!

  17. Gorgeous work, as always–and happy, happy, happy birthday to you. May your new year bring you abundant healing, joy, and all that your heart desires.

  18. Happy birthday to you!! As a professional bake, I must say that those macarons are beautifully executed. And I was pleased to see that the sweater pattern is in the works. I plan to make one just like yours.


  19. Happy Birthday! The top looks stunning. I love the detail of the three braids just before the ribbing. Would love to do some stranded knitting but find it very hard to keep concentrated with little children around. Maybe in a few years I’ll be ready to tackle it.

  20. Happy Birthday!!

    I absolutely adore this sweater (the vikkel braids!! the sheepy colors!!), and your description of your solution to the increasing issue sounds brilliant. I think including a pattern for mitts or something similar for practice is a fantastic idea.

  21. Love, love, LOVE your new design! Can’t wait until our pattern comes out. :) Beautiful shots of you modelling it, despite the complications in taking them! Also a very nice picture of the macaroons. Don’t think they look “rustic” at all. I’m impressed!!

  22. Gorgeous as always! Your outfit made me think of various sporting event scenes from Jeeves and Wooster–love it! And Happy Birthday!!!

  23. What a happy day! Best wishes for 37. My birthday is in 9 days, so I am really considering your humble pie, but perhaps, being no expert baker in residence here, we shall go with Tom’s idea of a big cake cut into big slices.

    I love your new sporting top and very nice presentation.

  24. I loved everything in that post! The jumper is totally gorgeous. And the cullottes – great! And then finished off with the macaroons. Superbe!
    Happy Birthday.
    I absolutely love your knitting designs. Would you do a book?

  25. Happy birthday! The sweater looks lovely. Do tell, what is a peerie band? Do we call them that stateside? I’ve Googled and found nothing.

  26. HOLY WOW! I have just recently started following your blog (about 2months) and am simply flabbergasted by your zest for life and determination! This pattern is outstandingly beautiful! I have yet to attempt any color work, but hope to be able to make this sweater some day soon!

  27. I love The Tortoise and Hare pattern, especially that braid at the bottom.

    And even better, happy birthday! Best wishes for the year ahead.

  28. Lovely, lovely design and beautiful photos!
    (I ended up here via a post on your latest design in The Yarn Yard forum on Ravelry)
    What really caught my eye though were the macaroons! A tip I’ve read (and have yet to try) to get them off the &^%$@ baking paper is to pop them into the freezer for a few minutes, still on their tray and paper.
    (Happy Birthday!)

  29. What a lovely day. Many happy returns! The tortoises, hares, braid and shaping of the sweater– all are admirable. I look forward to the pattern.

  30. Happy day – yesterday, today and tomorrow. It doesn’t matter if you are hare-ing it around a golf course or tortoise-ing it around the flat, each step of your journey (forwards AND backwards) offers inspiration not just for those learning about recovery from brain injury but for those who recognise an indomitable human spirit.

  31. I cannot believe those macaro(o)ns are homemade – everything about them is totally amazing: shape, colour and, by all accounts, taste. The notion of a knitting photo shoot on North Berwick links was brilliant – I’d love to have watched the reactions of the earnest golfers…!

  32. Happy Birthday Kate! This sweater is absolutely gorgeous. I’ve recently been knitting with Rowan Pure Life wool and really love the natural colours, so this is even more appealing! It looks like you had a really lovely day.

  33. Happy happy birthday! Good to hear that though you wore yourself out, you managed to have a lovely evening as well.
    The sweater looks really cute and I like how you’ve made your shaping! Very nifty!

    Sometimes a score of macarons can be more than a big piece of cake… you know, they might just sum up to more because they are small, tasty and really good looking! ;)

  34. I saw this on my Ravelry friends page yesterday and went straight for the favourite button, It’s looks superb. I love the tortoise and hare repeat around the body and it makes a nice every now and then to be adventurous with colour work and sweaters after just knitting small projects for a while. I also love the neutral yarns you’ve used throughout the compliment each other well. xx

  35. Happy birthday for yesterday! The sweater is gorgeous – all those clever little design features, but the colours make it very understated and classy.

    (Speaking of which – my newly-finished Manu is soaking in the sink so I’d better go and rinse it out and block it!)

  36. Happy, Happy Birthday! Gorgeous sweater, really stunning on you. I’m so amazed and inspired by what you’ve accomplished at your new normal. So multilayered, the intricacy, the meaning behind the hares and tortoises…Girl, you are too much! And now I’m craving a macaroon. I’ve never even had one, but Tom’s rustic macaroons look so good!

  37. Lovely looking macarons and jumper; I have the same misgivings about making something that is “just as easy as making meringues rise beautifully in the oven and not collapse in a heap of rubbish” as I have about steeking, so it’s heartening to see both fears in the same post.

    Look after yourself xx

  38. Happy Birthday from the other side of the world Kate !
    – and what a wonderful sweater, I’ve been waiting to see how it would turn out.
    I was born in Dunbar but now live in Matauri Bay, New Zealand and I read your blog with total admiration of both your knitting skills and your mental determination.
    best wishes – Jennifer

  39. Finished knitting looks fab! You might try edible rice paper for the macaroons, I’m sure I’ve eaten them with the paper still on – my gran always used to do that with her meringues, and you got a lovely chewy stickiness with the cream softening the paper, a nostalgic memory for me, yum…

  40. The sweater is quite stunning – well done esp. re the braiding. I have a friend who has a poster exactly as you described – you totally got the look you were after.

  41. Happy birthday to you!! Macaroons are truly a lovely way to celebrate, I absolutely adore them. And I LOVE your tortoise and hare sweater- it’s amazing!!

  42. Hi Kate, Your beautifully modelled sweater is lovely – I really envy your knitting skills.
    And Tom’s macaroons look highly professional.

  43. Happy birthday Kate the macaroons look delicious I may try and whip some up over the weekend. My birthday is the day after yours and I got a lovely sponge cake made by my husband and decorated very enthusiastically by my 4 year old – not as glamorous as macaroons but very special nonetheless.
    The hare and tortoise jumper has turned out beautifully, I love the braids (to match your hair) and the story of the photos made me smile. I used to wear culottes and had forgotten all about them, it must be time for a new pair.

  44. i think the sweater may be your best, the light, the dark, the shaping and streeking (i don’t even know what that means). but the kinetic energy of the design in the round, with the shadings, and the white zig zags, is perfect. the macarons too look perfect. many, many happy returns of an excellent day.

  45. Hurrah for the hare and tortoise sweater, for it is a thing of JOY, and for the clever increases concealed under the armpit, for the stack of tasty macaroons, for the amazing LOON PANTS (where can I find a pattern for LOON PANTS?!) and for the walking poles of joy.

    Boo for the exhaustion of doom, for the frustrations of the day and for marauding golf-buddies – truly a scourge on progressive outdoor access legislation. And Boo for the lack of a nice big swinging golf-club when you so needed one!

  46. HI KATE — what a great design – have been waiting to see what you planned to do with those little animals—- love your pictures of the country side and the sea , its so what you love

    – glad to see you getting about , and pushing the limits , even when there is a price to pay—better that , thats what life is all about anyway —

    – birthday belated wishes , and for a great year ahead

    pat—- in ontario canada

  47. The tortoise and hare sweater is wonderful. Top marks to Tom for persevering with the pretty macarons, though I know just what he means about a nice big slab of cake….

  48. Happy belated birthday, Kate! The sweater is beautiful and your post hilarious – thank you! I have a kind of self-imposed rule that I don’t attempt anything adult sized in a yarn lighter than aran weight, due to the pressures on my time, but I just KNOW that one of your patterns is going to make me crack.

  49. Happy belated birthday! The sweater is a feat of genius and beauty, and I love it to pieces. You keep releasing beautiful patterns faster than I can catch up! I have Paper Dolls and the yarn therefore sitting here, waiting for me to get to it, and I don’t know when that will happen, and in the meantime, Manu is calling to me, and I want to make another Owls, and now this will come out and provide further temptation to abandon my own projects in favor of your beautiful work.

    The macarons look beautiful, and I’m glad they were tasty. I hope the coming year is one of healing, happiness, and good news for you.

  50. Gorgeous jumper, Kate, & happy birthday!

    Tell Tom that if he’s game for making macaroons again some day, there’s an easy trick to releasing them from the baking paper:

    Have a spray bottle of plain water at the ready as you take the pans out of the oven… CAREFULLY lift up the entire sheet of baking paper & generously mist the underside with water. Lower the paper back onto the hot pan & let it steam for a few minutes – the macaroons will magically loosen & you can slide them off with a fish slice :)

  51. Buon compleanno! May your next year bring a complete recovery!
    Those photos. that sweater, the model…….they are perfect for the Rowan magazine!!!
    Love from Italy

  52. Beautifully thought-out sweater. I’ve never been tempted to do stranded knitting before, but this sweater may change that. You seem like you are progressing well. I’m always happy to see the improvements.

  53. Happy Belated Birthday Kate!
    The Hare and Tortoise sweater is just too cute for words! I think I may just have to dig on my Shetland fiber stash and spin some yarn for one for myself.

  54. Happy belated birthday.

    Two steps forward and one step back increments to moving forward overall. Congratulations on focusing on the positive elements because they are outweighing the negative. I’m a mathematician & a great fan of moving averages!!

    Fantastic sweater – terrified of steeking but I must overcome my fear if it produces anything remotely as cool as that. Love the braids & am dying to know how they are done.

    I too remember macaroons (and indeed meringues) involving rice paper so you can eat the whole thing! In fact rice paper enhances the taste as well as removing the need to fight to get the cakes off the tin/greaseproof. Or the re-useable silicone tin liner might come in handy – mine has been going strong for years now & just has a trip in the dishwasher when it’s been used.

  55. Happy hare and tortoise day ! The macarons look every bit like the ones I get from posh places here so I’m not sure what reason Tom has to complain about their appearance. I hope those walking poles get a lot of use this summer and enable you to walk the places you love – it will certainly do you good, and we will be able to enjoy your beautiful pictures. Many thanks for the witty writ and inspiration.

  56. I love the braid on the waist of your jumper, it’s a real feature. Tom’s macaroons look very professional to me.

  57. Happy birthday. I’m so glad you are doing well. Birthdays make one think of still being alive, for me after cancer. Never, never will you or I whinge about growing old.
    I love the new fairisle sweater. Can’t wait for the pattern.

  58. Oh yes, gloves/mittens would be wonderful with this – the motifs are so cute and I love the braid-work. I made a baby sweater for a friend last year with this braiding along the cuffs and as a border for the button band and, while it is fiddly, it is so very worth it. Your designs are always so beautiful with that perfect balance of nature, practicality, and lovely aesthetics.

    (Happy late birthday – June’s a great month for birthdays, eh? :D)

  59. I love the Tortoise and the Hare sweater Kate and the story you told us about a while back about those 2 playing such an interesting metaphor!

    You look lovely in your new sweater and the loon pants…

  60. Tee hee. I think this line is my favourite Kate blogpost so far: “indeed, to me golf represents a wholescale privatisation of the landscape anachronistic in a country with progressive outdoor access legislation” . Hear, hear. I met someone at a conference in Aviemore who spent time trying to make golf courses more biodiverse – I’d never realised how environmental damaging they are. Anyway, I love the 1920s photo concept and boo to the golfers for not understanding the reference. (I also think the loon pants are very stylish and I’ve always been a bit suspicious of the culotte).
    The jumper is magnificent, I absolutely blooming love it! Also Tom’s macaroons look very professional to me – I have been harbouring a desire to try my hand at these but always a bit put off by the level of faff required. And you can’t go wrong with a nice slab of cake… Happy belated birthday Kate xxx

  61. Happy Birthday, love the new design, how talented you are, absolutely wonderful. It is great to see you looking so much better. I have thought of you often. Best wishes Anne

  62. Belated happy birthday! The tortoises and hares should be a good present to yourself; I love them!

    (And I love macarons too. Pistachio are my favourite, but lemon and raspberry are rather good too.)

  63. Just popping to say ‘hey’ and that this new sweater is sheer madness. I love it. Also? Macarons are the new cupcakes over here at the moment, which is to say that they are exploding. I love that, too!

  64. You always inspire me in so many ways. The sweater is amazing and I can only dream of being able to knt that way. I know you won’t, but feel that I need to say, don’t forget to protect your design and intellectual property. ~Kelly

    unDeniably Domestic

  65. Happy belated birthday :-)

    After taking a macaron class in Paris – (the chef was Italian and we learned the “Italian Method” involving boiling syrup!) – I’ve had a go at making these three times, omitting the syrup part, and have had some limited success. No matter, however, what colour I make them the tops always brown….I reckon it’s my dodgy old oven which is on it’s way out.

    I follow the basic recipe at http://www.mytartelette.com which appears to be the same as the one Tom used….but mine just don’t look as pretty!

  66. Just discovered your site and realised why my friend had talked about you so long – my two favourites of the tops she’s knitted are your designs! And I have fallen in love with the hare and tortoise so will give proper colour work my first go… The details of the design are just lovely.
    Added to that your post made me laugh out loud, which is an excellent way to end a day at work!
    Thank you, hope the recovery is going well :-)

  67. i was looking for an image of a hare, found one, then skimmed a bit through the writing
    that is a very elegant sweater :)

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About Kate Davies

writer, designer and creator of Buachaille (100% Scottish wool)