Kate Davies Designs

Cross Country Knitting: Volume 2

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You may remember that last year, my friend and colleague, Jen and I, worked together to produce a pair of designs, which we published as Cross-Country Knitting Volume 1. Volume 1 focused on bloke’s knits, and for Volume 2 we challenged each other to re-design and re-size one of our favourite patterns for kids. I designed Wee Bluebells – a cardiganised version of one of my favourite adult sweaters from my Yokes book, featuring pretty colourwork motifs around the hem and neckline.

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. . . and Jen designed Wee Bruton, an unbelievably cute miniaturisation of her Bruton Hoody.

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Our aim was to create a pair of really classic patterns – the kind of children’s garments that we could imagine our grandmas knitting for us when we ourselves were small, and which we could imagine ourselves knitting for the wee ones in our lives for years to come.

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Together, the designs have an undeniably nostalgic feel, but they are also eminently knittable and wearable.

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Wee Bluebells is knit up in 5 shades of Jamieson and Smith 2 ply jumper weight. A quick and simple knit, it is worked completely in the round and then steeked up the middle to create the front opening.

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If you have never worked a steek before, this (being small) would be a great project to try out the technique – which really is surprisingly straightforward. (You can read more about steeks by following the links from this page)

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Wee Bruton uses Excelana 4 ply, is worked back and forth, features a pair of sturdy pockets, some nifty hoody shaping, and fastens neatly with a zip.

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Together, these are two easy-to wear cardis that are ideal for romping about in!

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Fergus Ford (who is, incidentally, the brother of Felix) shot these lovely photographs of exceptionally cute wee pals, Toby and Sofia.

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Sofia you have met before from the Wowligan photographs, and Toby is Fergus’s son.

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We really wanted to show these garments being worn outdoors, by kids in a “natural” rather than a studio environment. It is notoriously difficult to photograph knitwear on little kids and Fergus has done a completely amazing job. Thankyou Fergus! And thankyou Toby and Sofia! We absolutely love these photographs!

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In each Cross-Country Knitting booklet, we like to invite someone to write a short essay that speaks to that volume’s theme. For Volume 2, our friend Rachel Atkinson has written a lovely piece exploring the significance of childhood handknits. Jen and Rachel and I all appear in the essay, in knitwear made for us by the women of our family.

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Both patterns come in 7 sizes, covering ages 1 to 12. Designing, and thinking about designing, these garments has been such a lovely project for Jen and I, particularly as we revisited our memories of our own childhood knits. We hope you enjoy knitting these patterns, and that they become the source of knitterly memories of your own!

Cross-Country Knitting, Volume 2, is available digitally via Ravelry, or in print via MagCloud.
You can also see more detail of the project, and each pattern, over on the Cross-Country Knitting website.

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Happy Knitting!

COVER

Promenade

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A little under a decade ago, shortly after rediscovering knitting, I bought a kit to knit Hanne Falkenberg’s Promenade.

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Promenade is a beautiful garter-stitch wrap, which comes in several glorious shades of Shetland wool. The wrap’s colour combinations are intriguing (and inspiring). It is a simple but nifty design, and I greatly admired it (as I did – and indeed still do admire – many of Hanne Falkenberg’s other patterns). I knit a little of the back portion, and then set the wrap aside to work on other projects.

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Around this time, I was suddenly gripped by knitting’s vast potential. I wanted to learn about different techniques, about colourwork and lace. I read Elizabeth Zimmermann and Mary Thomas. I knit up different technical swatches. I wanted to create things for myself. I began to experiment making up my own scarves and hats, and later, my own jumpers. Though I read other people’s patterns carefully as I learned about technique, I knit from them increasingly rarely. Promenade languished unfinished in a bag in my yarn stash.

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I often looked at Promenade regretfully. I really wanted to make and wear it, but, as I began to design things for myself, it was never a priority.

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A short while ago, my friend Mel spotted Promenade in its bag and took it away. It came back, finished, as my birthday present. It is completely beautiful and I love it!

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Thanks so much, Mel! x

You can find more information about Promenade here.

Wowligan (wee owligan)

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Hooray! Hooray! Wowligan is here today!

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Apparently owl cardigans are much easier to dress a wee one in than owl jumpers and I’ve been asked about the possibility of such a pattern many times. . . one can never have too many owls, so I decided to make it. The Wowligan is basically a mini Owligan, knit up in a sport-weight yarn and carefully resized to baby and kid proportions.

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Like the Owligan, Wowligan uses an all-in-one piece circular yoke construction and is knit from the bottom-up. The pattern includes a choice of charted or written instructions for working the cables, and comes with the option of knitting the sleeves flat, or in the round. It is a great pattern for any beginner knitter.

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The pattern comes in 8 sizes, from 17 ins to 25 ins, and uses Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, which is a great yarn for kids garments. In the pattern you’ll also find a schematic and a very detailed sizing table, together with instructions for selecting and knitting the right size.

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This sweet and cheery wee soul is Sofia, who is wearing her Wowligan in the fourth size. She was photographed by the very talented Fergus Ford. I’ve recently been working with Ferg on another exciting and, ahem, exceptionally cute project – which I should be able to tell you about next week.

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Wowligan is now available digitally via Ravelry or in print via MagCloud.

Happy knitting! Hoot hoot!

at Sue and Wal’s

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Hiya! It is I, Bruce. I am here to tell you about my holiday. Sometimes, when Kate and Tom go away, I get to spend time with Sue and Wal. Sue and Wal are Kate’s mum and dad and they are also my second favourite humans. Sue and Wal have a wonderful garden full of many fascinating nooks and crannies and an abundance of new smells. Being in Sue and Wal’s garden means that I get to do many things that I do not get to do at home . . .

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. . . such as relaxing with Sue in her garden pod . . .

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. . . wreaking merry havok with this interesting collection of gardening GLOVES . . .

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. . . and happily chewing up STICKS until I am sick.

Without doubt, the best thing about staying here in Rochdale is going for walks with my friend Wal. Together we have walked along many lanes, up many hills, and along many canal paths. These are the same lanes and hills and paths that Kate walked along as a girl, and I have a lot of fun with Wal exploring these interesting places. The best holiday place of all, however, is the place called Springfield Park. At this place there is a lot of green grass, large expanses of water, and many, many flowers. Strangely, though, these grasses and water and flowers are not the same as they are in the places in which I walk and run at home. Wal informed me before entering this place that here these things are in a “park” and that they are “cultivated.” At the time I did not understand the full nuances of these words, but I now think that these words mean that the flowers are not to be jumped through, and the water is not to be jumped in. These words also apparently suggest that one must not run amok among happy picnickers, leap towards a group of fleeing ducks, nor seek to hunt down elusive SANDWICHES, hidden from view in their sneaky plastic boxes. I enjoyed my time in Springfield Park immensely, but for some reason Wal did not seem to enjoy himself quite as much as I did. Most unaccountably – especially given the exciting nature of the place – we never visited Springfield Park again.

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While I was enjoying myself in Rochdale on my holiday, Kate and Tom were spending time in somewhere called Portugal, where there is sun and swimming. Well, it may be sunny in Portugal but does it have GLOVES or STICKS? Is Portugal the place of parks and sandwiches? Is there a large garden to play in all day and two humans who love to laugh at your antics? I think not. Don’t tell Kate and Tom but I know I got the best deal.

See you soon, love Bruce xxx

home : : away

Away . . .

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Home.

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Hello! We have been away soaking up some vitamin D, and enjoying the patterns and colours of lovely Portugal. There, everything was bright blue and red-brown. The contrast between those shades and the familiar green of home has seemed very striking to me over the past couple of days. There we ate tasty sardines, swam in the sea, enjoyed hot sunshine and cool evening walks along the cliffs. Here, my tatties are thriving, my potting-shed cucumber has fruited (and fruits have been eaten), everything is lush and flourishing and yesterday we saw an osprey hunting on our loch from the living room window. We ran outside for a better view and, looking up into the evening sky, saw it circling just above us with a still very-alive fish squirming in its talons. A remarkable sight.

Bruce has been away too. Perhaps he’ll tell you about that later.

designing & publishing: part 3

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From Folly Cove by Julia Farwell Clay and Celtic Cable Shawls by Lucy Hague

Today I’m looking at another couple of recently-published books, from two very different independent designers, who both took completely different routes to publication. What these two books share, however, is an intelligent engagement with two specific aesthetic contexts, as both were directly inspired by artwork in other media. While Lucy Hague’s innovative closed-cable shawls are inspired by Pictish and Celtic knotwork, Julia Farwell-Clay took inspiration for her lovely collection from the prints, lives, and milieu of the Folly Cove designers.

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Lucy Hague grew up in Orkney, and now lives in Edinburgh. Orkney has many important archeological sites, and abounds with examples of intriguing insular art. Inspired by Pictish and Celtic carvings, as well as by the work of George Bain (whose 1951 investigation into Celtic stonework, jewellery and manuscript illustration did much to revive interest in this iconic design style), Lucy has created a truly stunning collection.

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Carradal

Lucy’s book includes patterns for seven shawls, each arranged in order of complexity, from designs with a plain centre and cabled edging, like Carradal and Kyna, to gorgeous allover patterns, such as Morvach and Malgven.

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Malgven, a beautiful centre-out shawl.

Lucy is one of those designers with a really distinctive aesthetic that she has pursued and perfected. I always enjoy reading about other designers creative processes, and you can get a great sense of the depth and thoughtfulness of Lucy’s work in this post about the Talesin shawl. Celtic Cable Shawls also includes an introduction in which she talks about her aesthetic inspiration, together with several clear tutorials for the key techniques involved in closed cable-knitting (elongated stitches, multiple increases and decreases, cabling without a cable needle). The photography is luscious and evocative and the patterns – though undoubtedly complex – are clearly explained and laid out with charted and written instructions.

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There are so many things I love about this book. The designs are breathtaking, but they are also eminently knittable and – best of all – wearable. So many pieces of cabled knitwear have sources of inspiration that have been described as loosely “Celtic”, to the extent that some styles are so familiar that they feel hackneyed or ubiquitous. Lucy’s original shawls are the polar opposite of this. With their strong lines, their carefully worked twists and loops, these designs speak of their aesthetic past, but they strongly articulate the contemporary knitterly moment too. I think that it is the sheer depth of Lucy’s intelligent engagement with insular art that makes her work so appealling and so very distinctive. I love what she’s done in this book.

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Kyna, and the jewellery that inspired it.

One of the most significant impediments to self-publishing is basic logistics: how are you going to store and distribute all those books? Lucy chose to work with Lightning Source – a large and well-established print on demand service. “It seemed like the least risky option,” Lucy told me, “you don’t have to put down a huge amount of money for an intial print-run (and you don’t need space to store thousands of books – useful for me, as I live in a tiny flat!)” And why, I asked, did Lucy choose self-publishing rather than to work with a larger publisher? “I knew that I would be making a book that would be quite long in relation to the actual number of patterns included (because of the complexity of my patterns, and the fact that I include full written instructions for all the charted sections), and I thought this might be off-putting and hard to pitch to to the types of companies who traditionally publish knitting books.” Print on demand has been ideal for Lucy: “I really love that I’ve been able to have complete control over the entire book-making process, from start to finish, and that I can so easily get my books to customers all across the world.” Celtic Cable Shawls is a beautiful, professionally produced book, that also comes with a complementary e-book, and a digital only option. You can buy the print book directly from Lucy and the digital book from her Ravelry store.

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I’m a huge fan of the work of Julia Farwell Clay, who often produces hand-knit designs directly inspired by 20th Century literature, art, and music. Her patterns have a rich context, that speaks of their creator’s breadth of thinking, and her recent collection for Classic Elite’s Viewpoints series exemplifies her intelligent approach. From Folly Cove is a collection of eleven designs inspired by a group of artists and designers, who lived and worked around Gloucester, Massachusetts, from 1938 to 1969.

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Piece about the Folly Cove Designers in Life Magazine, November 1945

Many of you will know the books of Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios. You may not know, however, that under her leadership, an important collective of artists and craftspeople flourished in and around her Massachusetts home. Demetrios developed a design course, followed by several of her friends and neighbours in Gloucester. As the Folly Cove course grew in popularity, the group was structured as a guild, with regular meetings to scrutinise and support each other’s work. Few of the group were otherwise professionally trained, but the collaborative structure of the Folly Cove Collective enabled them to grow into designers of the very highest standard, each developing their own signature style. The Folly Cove designers were mostly women, and I find something extremely inspiring in the way this group supported and enabled one another to combine their creative with their domestic lives, growing together into artists and craftspeople of international repute. Julia’s collection is infused with the spirit of Folly Cove, drawing inspiration from the lives and works of these women.

Folly Cove Designers Elizabeth Iarrabino "Butterflies" n.d.

Some of Julia’s designs are directly inspired by the graphic allover repeats created by Folly Cove designers, such as her Iarrobino Butterfly Cowl which echoes Elizabeth Iarrobino’s tesselating butterflies (above).

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Iarrobino Butterfly Cowl

Other pieces are not only linked to specific Folly Cove designs and designers, but also seem to celebrate the ethos of the collective in a more general way. One of my favourite patterns in the collection is Hetty’s Garden Coat, a garment inspired by one of Julia’s favourite Folly Cove prints, Victory Garden , by Hetty Whitney Beatty.

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(Hetty Whitney Beatty, Victory Garden ).

“This scene,” Julia explains in the accompanying text, “speaks clearly of the community and hard work of this period and place. Making and growing what you needed was essential to comfort and survival during the Second World War and a lesson for the years that followed.”

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This is a beautifully structured garment, whose flourishing sprigs really capture the mood and feel of Beatty’s victory garden.

Elsewhere in Julia’s collection, you’ll find pieces that are more about suggesting Folly Cove’s moment and locale than they are about direct design inspiration.

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I love Lanesville‘s neat vintage details.

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. . . and the cosy wearability of Natti, named for Lee Kingman Natti, a key member of the Folly Cove collective.

Taken together, Julia’s collection is powerfully suggestive of Folly Cove both as a place and a group of inspiring women. Many pieces have an eastern-seaboard, maritime feel, while others carry a graphic exuberance which echoes both the energy and the aesthetics of the Folly Cove collective.

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Kenyon Dress

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Meteori Shawl

And there are other important echoes with Folly Cove too, as Julia’s collection is not simply the work of one designer, but the product of a supportive collaboration. From Folly Cove is part of Classic Elite’s Viewpoints series, “an open collaboration between the indie designer and the resources at Classic Elite” the aim of which is to “give a talented designer the freedom to tell a story with a themed collection of their designs.” Julia worked closely with Classic Elite’s creative director, Susan Mills, honing her design ideas, and developing them into patterns that would work with particular Classic Elite yarns. “Classic Elite were a complete joy to work with”, says Julia, “they gave me this great freedom to imagine what the book would be about, and what it would look like, and then let me run the show.” Thus, in this collection, Julia’s voice doesn’t just speak through her patterns, but she has the space to introduce and talk about the inspiration behind, and context of, each design, as well as discuss the work of the Folly Cove collective more generally. I think this publishing model – in which an independent designer is commissioned and supported by a yarn company to tell their own design story in their own way – is really refreshing and inspiring. As I write this post, Julia preparing to talk about the Folly Cove designers and her collection at Slater Mill. How I wish I could be there!

You can purchase From Folly Cove as a print + digital package direct from Classic Elite, as an ebook only via Ravelry, or as individual patterns.

designing & publishing: part 2

Well, I sat down a couple of days ago and thought I’d write a quick post about the great new books I’d come across, all of which had been either produced completely independently, or had been commissioned from an independent designer. As I reflected on recent directions in hand-knit design, and digressed into my own thoughts on self-publishing, I realised that one post had turned into two . . . and today I predictably find that two has turned into three. . .

Yesterday I mentioned Felicity Ford’s Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook and Gudrun Johnston’s Shetland Trader Book 2 as inspiring examples of independent design and self publishing. Here are two more brilliant designers, and two more brilliant – and very different – independently produced books that have recently appeared. I’ll mention a few more in my final post tomorrow.

Rachel Coopey, Coop Knits Socks Volume 2.

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I love how Rachel uses the sock’s small canvas as a place to explore stitch and creativity. This book includes twelve different patterns, from Dave (a plain vanilla sock with a choice of simple heels) to Otis (a striking colourwork sock, designed for a set of chromatic mini-skeins) to Wilbert (a cabled sock for blokes or women). Rachel has all needs of the contemporary sock knitter covered here! The book also includes a few well-illustrated tutorials, and (as someone who mostly knits socks for men), I appreciate the fact that relevant designs are photographed on a male model. As well as her characteristically careful attention to structure (all of these designs are supremely well balanced), there are several other things about this book that strike me as being “very Rachel”: 1) the palette (the whole tome has a pleasing ice-cream feel), 2) the design names (who can argue with Dave, Delbert and Ernestine?) and 3) the styling and photography.

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Believe me, it is really difficult to photograph things like socks and gloves. Just when you want them to look elegant, feet and hands have an annoying tendency to look weird instead. Photographing 12 pairs of socks well is an unenviable task, but every pair here is placed on the foot so that the patterns sit just right. There are things that knitters need to see, and Rachel has made sure that you can see them: features like heels and shaping are well-illustrated, differently textured fabrics lay flat on leg and foot, every detail is clear and crisp, and the yarn colours are lively and luminous. Look at how the lighting and angles are the same, and the horizon lines up neatly on all four shots above. I know from experience that such consistency is very difficult to achieve. Jesse Wild was responsible for the photography and has done a fantastic job.

Hannah Fettig, Home and Away: Knits for Everyday Adventures

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I’m a big fan of Hannah Fettig’s work and this is a really beautiful book of really beautiful designs. Hannah is in possession of that indefinable knack of creating wearable, contemporary garments with an elegant simplicity that absolutely sings. That’s in evidence here in nine designs, six of which are cardigans (which I think are her real forte). Hannah correctly describes the designs in Home and Away as “knits that will become wardrobe essentials – pieces with simple lines knit in wonderful, hard-wearing wool.” Surely that’s what every knitter would like to make and wear? There are many distinctive things about this book, top of the list of which is its enabling inclusivity. The patterns are written for the knitter to make them in their preferred way, using a seamless or a pieced construction. Having recently decided to provide seamed and seamless options for one of my own recent patterns, I know that this can be quite a bit of work for both designer and editor. But I also know that the choice of construction methods is something that’s really appreciated by knitters. So whether you prefer your garments with seams or without, you could make yourself Hannah’s lovely Rosemont cardigan, or any of the other sweaters in the book.

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(Rosemont can be knit in seamed pieces, or seamlessly, from the top down).

To my mind, such “bonus” features (such as alternative constructions methods, choices of charted or written instructions etc) are one of the many additional elements you are most likely to find in patterns that have been created by independent designers, rather than large companies (to whom it would perhaps be difficult to make the economic case for the added value of such “extras”). And Home and Away is packed with many other knitterly “extras” too. There are several super essays about swatching, blocking, reading a knitting pattern, and substituting yarns. I particularly enjoyed the conversation with Quince & Co’s Pam Allen, whose lovely yarns are really shown off at their very best in these pages. I think that this is a book that would make a wonderful gift for an enthusiastic beginner, as well as being a source of enjoyment and inspiration for any knitter who wants to make herself a classic, wearable garment.

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And I have to say that I find the photography and styling of this book completely gorgeous and deeply appealing. Simply browsing through these pages makes me want to immediately head out to Maine, take a brisk walk in a snowy rural landscape, hunker down for the winter, and knit myself a cardigan. There’s a very well-thought-through balance between interior and exterior shots, between detailed garment photography and lovely locations – between the “home” and the “away” of the book’s title.

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I visited Maine in the summer of 2005. I loved it. This book makes me want to go back. And definitely in the winter.

Rachel’s and Hannah’s books are, as I said, very different but what surely connects them is the strong stamp they bear of their creator’s personality and individual style. From the curly-wurly fonts and candy colours of Rachel’s book to the hand-drawn maps and warm neutrals of Hannah’s, these are tomes that are definitely and distinctively theirs. Both books are available in print, as digital copies (via Ravelry), or in a print + digital package.

More to come tomorrow.

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