As promised, here are Mel’s goats. She selected Buachaille shades Squall, Islay and Haar for her set, and the effect is quite different to the colours I chose for mine. Here’s a good shot of the top of her heid, where you can see the amorous goats, and the hearts at the centre of the crown.
I say “you can see” but it now turns out that many folk don’t see the goat-iness of this pattern at all. I find these optical preferences quite interesting, and suspect in this case its largely because the goats are rendered in a lighter shade on a darker background. So if you aren’t seeing it immediately, just stare hard at the lighter shade on Mel’s heid and THINK GOATS.
Do you see them now?
Only Mel would have carefully selected a colour-co-ordinating nail polish to wear with her goaty gauntlets.
I’m pleased to say that I’ll be putting more goat kits up in the shop later today, in both colourways.
. . . and (small fanfare) we’ll also be putting Buachaille on general sale.
Our plan is to update the shop every Sunday afternoon (around 5pm) and to re-stock it with what we are able to prepare and ship over the coming week (without driving ourselves donutty). We had a delivery of Buachaille last week, so do be assured there is enough yarn for everyone, but we have to phase its release in terms of what we can feasibly manage. If a particular shade sells out quickly, it is likely to be available again the following week. Tom is labelling and stringing yarn tags as we speak in preparation for today’s update. We have a good system and some great new shop software in place and everything is ready!
Buachaille retails at £7.49 per 50g / 120 yards / 110 metres and all seven shades will be available.
The shop update will be at 5pm GMT.
I’m off to tag some skeins. See you later!
Oftentimes, in the wake of finishing a large project, I am gripped with the urge to knit a hat. While I was waiting for my copies of Colours of Shetland to appear from the printer, I worked away on Snawheid, and similarly last year, in the hiatus between going to print and shipping Yokes, I happily whipped up Epistropheid. This year was no different and, once we’d finished work on the new Buachaille book, the familiar hat urge gripped me once again. I found myself unable to resist, and before I knew it, I had charted a hat and found myself knitting it. The hat featured goats.
Goats? Yes, goats.
In the areas of rough, brushy woodland that connect Loch Lomond, Loch Katrine, and Loch Ard live several herds of feral goats. Much beloved by walkers of the West Highland Way, goat and human paths frequently cross near Inversnaid, which is where I’ve most often come across them. The Inversnaid goats are thought to have the longest pedigree of any Scottish herd, and are associated with one of many legends about King Robert the Bruce. As Bruce fled from his English enemies along the shores of Loch Lomond, he took refuge in a cave near Inversnaid. The goats surrounded the King’s cave, and lay down in front of it, disguising its entrance.The English soldiers paid no attention to the goats, passed by the cave, and Bruce remained safe. In gratitude, Bruce passed a decree, stating that the goats should never be harmed, but despite this their numbers now have to be controlled due to their destructive effects on the surrounding woodland habitat. As you can see from Mark’s photograph above, with their shaggy black coats and long curving horns, the Inversnaid goats are spectacularly beautiful and characterful beasts.
I am very fond of Loch Lomond’s wild goats, and fancied celebrating them in a hat.
As you can see, happy goats chase each other around and around the hat, and amorous goats encircle the crown.
I played with and pared down a few different goat-y motifs until I settled on this one, and was really pleased with the overall effect. One never quite knows how repeated motifs will work until you knit them, and what I like about this one is that it has a graphic simplicity and rhythm that is almost independent of its goat-iness. What I mean is that the fabric of the hat possesses its own overall visual structure – and then you notice there are goats on it.
I was so pleased with the fabric, in fact, that I couldn’t stop at a hat, and whipped up some goat-y gauntlets to match.
The rib and main colours are reversed on hat and gauntlets and together they make a really fun, wintery set.
I knit my goats in Buachaille shades Highland Coo, Between Weathers, and Ptarmigan, and the Scandinavian feel of these accessories is not unintentional – I have been an avid fan of the Gävle goat for several years, and I felt that that the Inversnaid goats might be similarly celebrated. The hat and gauntlets are probably a better idea than my other plan of erecting a massive straw goat at the bottom of the garden. Tom felt that the giant goat would have divided neighbourly opinion.
The Goats of Inversnaid are now available as a single download from Ravelry. Additionally, we had a delivery of Buachaille last week (hurrah!), and, as we are still waiting for the books to arrive, I had some time to prepare a few kits. So if you fancy knitting yourself a goaty hat and gauntlets in Buachaille, I’ve put a few kits up in the shop. The kit contains 3 skeins of Buachaille, a wee project bag, and a PDF download of both patterns. At the moment the kits are just in the shades I’ve knit my set in, but Mel has of course knit herself some goats in a slightly more restrained and classy colourway, and I should be able to make up a few more kits in her choice of shades next Sunday (which will be our regular day for shop updates going forward).
We’ve really enjoyed getting out in this spell of fine weather. Hope you’ve also had a great weekend, everyone! x
Autumn has definitely arrived in Scotland and it is, as they say, sweater weather. I have been very busy making samples for the Seven Skeins club, so there has not been much sweater knitting around here of late. But the other day I found something that I knitted up a while ago that needed adapting into a sweater. . . my oystercatcher yoke
Oystercatchers are one of my favourite coastal birds. Skittish and characterful, I love their high pip-pipping alarm, and the warbling noise they make in the evening is one of the most familiar and lovely sounds there is of the Scottish Summer. They are also fabulously graphic birds, with their bright orange beaks and eyes set against the strong black and white lines of their plumage.
I have numerous bird-inspired ideas knocking around in my design notebooks and my oystercatcher yoke idea was one which, for a while, I considered including in Yokes. In the end I decided against it: the yoke uses a combination of intarsia and stranded colourwork, plus three-shades-in-one-round over some rounds. It seemed a little too involved for such a simple sweater . . . plus I had already come up with a good Alafoss Lopi idea when I designed Jökull. So other ideas went to the top of the list, while the oystercatcher was rejected. This didn’t mean I couldn’t knit it for myself, though!
As you can see the yoke features bold motifs which recall the oystercatcher’s beak and eye. I knitted the bottom half of the beaks with intarsia, shifting to stranded colourwork further up the yoke, and working the three-shade rounds using Elizabeth Zimmermann’s slipped technique, (also deployed on my Foxglove design).
For reasons which now elude me, I originally knitted this as a dress. But I soon discovered when I blocked it that it was, as a garment, pretty unpractical. Knitted in Alafoss Lopi, it was unbelievably warm, a wee bit baggy, slightly unflattering and not particularly comfortable. So today I unravelled the bottom of the dress, knit on an edging at sweater length, and finally made my oystercatcher wearable! The lopi is still super-warm of course, but there is less of it: the effect is similar to one of those ubiquitous padded gilets that suddenly appear on everyone’s backs at this time of year. It is ideal, in other words, for October.
I am very happy with my re-adapted oystercatcher and can see myself getting a lot of wear out of it this Autumn. I’ve made this design for myself only and do not intend to produce any kind of pattern for it. But if you were interested in knitting an Oystercatcher yoke, then please feel free to improvise your own.
Happy knitting! Pip pip!
Well – we shipped all the Seven Skeins Club packages, and they are now starting to arrive all over the world. Parcels of yarn were landing in Denmark and Germany by the middle of last week, and there were sightings yesterday in Illinois and Texas. If you are waiting for a package yours should not be far behind.
Friends in my Ravelry group have set up this fantastic map through which its been exciting to track the parcels. As and when your Seven Skeins package arrives (or if it has already done so), please do feel free to add your pin to the map so we can see you! And if you aren’t already part of my Ravelry group, there is a thread set up especially for Seven Skeins Club chat, and there will be further threads for discussion of the patterns, when they start to appear, so please pop along there and join your knitting comrades. Its been so lovely to see photos of the yarn arriving, and hear your reactions (I am especially pleased you are enjoying Buachaille’s colours, and its sheepiness)!
If you are a Seven Skeins club member, some preliminary welcome information will go out to you on Tuesday, 13th October . This information will be delivered by email, to the email address associated with your order, and will be sent using MailChimp. Please double check your inbox settings, as well as any “promotions” or spam folders (in case the message is fired off there) and if you haven’t received your message by Thursday, please get in touch with us (infoATkatedaviesdesigns.com) so we can iron out any glitches. The first pattern will be delivered on Friday, 16th October, and then you can really start to enjoy your yarn!
As we are in the final stages of pattern / book preparation, things are incredibly busy here, as you might imagine, and any photographs I have are of things I cannot yet show you. But I will leave you with a wee video clip that friends of Bruce will enjoy. On the morning of our wedding, Tom and I went for a walk around the woods and beaches near Port Ellen with Bruce. In the woods we found a buoy hanging from a tree – an object which Bruce found extremely exciting. The quality of the video is a bit rubbish, as it was taken with my phone, but it still makes me laugh every time I see it. I think he would have happily played with that buoy all day.
I have a great fondness for birds, and bird-inspired design. Like many designers, I adore the work of Charley Harper, because of the way that he manages to capture the bird-ness of a bird with such admirable economy of line. Harper somehow really got how birds – with their simple shapes, their distinctive characters and behaviours – seem to lend themselves naturally to repeating patterns, as can also be seen in the work of my favourite printmaker, Dee Beale.
Swallows in Chalky Blue by Dee Beale
Dees joyful kaleidoscope of swallows just sings out with the exuberance of a returning Spring!
Avian shapes are particularly effective when worked over small repeats of knitted stitches. SpillyJane is a master of this kind of thing, and her Flamingo Mittens blow me away every single time I see them.
There’s that same economy of line . . . and those flamingos are so neat! So inscrutable! So chock full of retro vim!
I also love to create bird-y designs, and as well as some work of which you might be aware, I also have a notebook filled with numerous unmade avians. In that notebook there are sketches for lapwing and gannet inspired knitwear, and perhaps one day I will show you the crazy oystercatcher intarsia that almost made it into Yokes. . .
Anyway, about the only other person I know who is just as obsessed with birds, and avian-inspired design, as I am is my friend Jen. It was a natural decision that birds would be the subject of our next Cross-Country challenge. This is the result.
My design is the murmuration scarf, and it was inspired by spectacular collective displays of starlings in the autumn months.
As you can see, a flock of starlings rises up and disperses across each end of the scarf. The repeats are really simple – just a few stitches – but I hope I’ve managed to convey in these few stitches the feeling of a rising flock in flight.
I like a big woolly scarf and I won’t lie – there is a lot of knitting in it. But I do think the end result is worth it.
Jolly puffins parade around the hat, and the crown has a beak-related surprise.
There’s also another surprise, as a single puffin at the front of the hat is picked out in full colour embroidery (worked in simple duplicate stitch and back stitch).
The mitts mirror the stripes and stitches of the hat, with another embroidered puffin on one hand.
Tom shot these photographs on a lovely evening out at Inveruglas.
This was a particularly fun photoshoot, because it was with Jen.
Cross-Country Knitting, volume 3 includes the patterns for the murmuration scarf, and the Fufnip hat and mitts. I’ve also written an essay for this volume about the love of birds that Jen and I share.
Both our designs use one of my favourite yarns – Jamieson and Smith 2 ply jumper weight. Why not stock up in Lerwick if you are there for wool week?
You can now find Cross Country Knitting, volume 3, digitally on ravelry and in print on Mag Cloud.
A couple of days ago, we announced the Seven Skeins Club – a venture we’ve been planning for many months, and which we hope will allow everyone who wants to to sample our lovely new Scottish wool. (If you are interested, you can read more about what the club involves here.)
People have been writing to me with their concerns about availability. Will they miss out on membership if they aren’t sitting by their computers on Friday? Well, we really are hopeful we have enough yarn for everyone. . .
I am hard at work writing and knitting the club patterns, and Mel is knitting too. Some designs will have both plain and colourwork options, so we are making two of everything.
We are also producing a new book especially for club members – Buachaille: at Home in the Highlands. The exciting thing about this tome is that it includes much more than my designs! As well as essays about the landscapes that inspired (and raised) our yarn, Tom has been developing and perfecting some delicious highland recipes. . .
. . . and he and our friend, Gordon Anderson (a qualified mountain leader), have been out and about in the highlands, preparing a beautifully photographed guided walk up Buachaille Etive Mor, the iconic mountain which lends our yarn its name.
We are all enjoying working on this project tremendously! If the Seven Skeins Club is of interest to you, you will be able to join from this Friday, September 18th by purchasing a membership in the shop.
Thankyou for your comments on the last post. When I settled on this new venture, I felt it was important to be able to show you some of the usually hidden processes behind yarn production, so I’m glad you are finding it interesting! I thought you might also like to know a little bit more about the decisions behind my yarn’s development, and who I chose to work with.
(Tom’s kilt hose show off some of Buachaille’s characteristics: the yarn is smooth, yet springy; durable yet soft, and with great stitch definition)
How exactly does one go about developing a yarn? I know what kinds of yarns I like, and what I love to knit with, as I’m sure every knitter does. As you will no doubt be aware, I like sheepy, characterful yarns best of all, and I have some knowledge of how different preparation and spinning techniques can get the best out of different fleece types and wool. I also like to work with a product whose origins I can trace. Knowing what one likes is one thing, but manufacturing it is quite another. This was a big step, and I knew I wanted to work on developing my yarn with someone I liked and trusted. I also knew that person was Adam Curtis. I met Adam and his family through our Shetland connections. They know more about wool than anyone I know, and Adam has a particular talent for developing beautiful and interesting wool products: things that really showcase the best that British wool can be. His family were kind enough to invite me to represent hand knitting and design at this event a few years ago, and, from our opposite ends of the industry, we’ve always regarded each other with mutual respect. In the UK, most raw wool is sold at auction through the British Wool Marketing Board, and the vast majority of it is purchased by merchants such as Curtis Wools. They are a well-regarded Yorkshire company whose commitment to wool is deep and long-standing, and whose resources and reach are pretty unparalleled. I knew they could find exactly the wool I wanted, and help me to develop it into an interesting new yarn.
KD: What were your initial thoughts when I approached you?
AC: I was delighted when you approached my father and I to develop a speciality yarn. Creating unique yarns for customers is one of the challenges we genuinely enjoy and pride ourselves on. With the enormous reserves of British and foreign wools held by Curtis Wool there are few requests that we can’t cater for.
KD: But even so, I came to you with quite a long list of things I wanted the yarn to be! What were your priorities?
AC: We knew you wanted a thoroughly British yarn with traceable links to Scotland, and the Scottish highlands. And we knew you wanted the yarn to be light and lofty. So we were looking for Scottish-origin fleeces with a natural crimp that would add loft, and which would spin up to create a classic hand that would just feel right to the knitter.
KD: How did you go about selecting the wool?
AC: We decided that a combination of wools from different breeds would be necessary to arrive at the perfect match for your requirements. We then sourced and chose a selection of the finest hand-sorted Scottish origin fleeces. These were then scoured at Haworth, combined together, and combed to create the perfect top. Combing your wool allowed us to remove any coarse fibres and noils [short fibres] in the fleece, and to create a blended top with maximum smoothness and softness. Combing and blending the wool really made it sing! As you know, the blend we’ve created for Buachaille is unique and exclusive to you. I was very pleased with the result.
KD: so what happened then?
AC: Then I sent you a sample of the combed top for approval. You were just as pleased with it as I was, which was great! With the blended constituency of the combed top in place, we were then able to begin developing the two other natural shades you wanted to complement your dyed palette.
KD: Yes! As you know, Adam, I’m very pernickety about colours. . .
AC: Well, like all designers you knew what you wanted, and we had to get those natural shades just right.
KD: I just love the two other natural shades you’ve created – sheepy fleece colours really are my all-time favourites.
AC: Yes – and they sit really well with the dyed shades you created too. So after your tops were combed at Haworth, we had them worsted spun – a spinning technique which completely suits the wool type and its preparation – and we were then able to arrange for you to see your yarn being dyed. I think you are going to talk about that later?
KD: Yes, I certainly took lots of pictures that day! I am very happy with the yarn, and I know you are just as excited about Buachaille as I am!
AC: Yes indeed -its one of my favourite yarns and I’m really pleased with what we’ve achieved. I think we’ve managed to create a yarn that combines all of your requirements, and perhaps added a little bit more as well. Best of all, its a yarn with a heritage that can be traced from the hills and mountains of Scotland to the textile powerhouse that still exists in Yorkshire. Its a thoroughly British product, made entirely in the UK and inspired by some of the worlds most beautiful mountains, Buachaille Etive Mor and Beag!
KD: Thanks, Adam!
We’ve designed seven distinctly Scottish shades for Buachaille, including four dyed shades to complement the three naturals that Adam created. In the next post I will talk a little about the inspiration behind each shade.
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It has been an incredibly busy week here! As you might imagine, the imminent arrival of Buachaille means we have a lot to do, and I am hard at work creating a small collection of designs to accompany the yarn’s release (only a few weeks to go!) Then my friend and colleague, Jen, came to stay with us for a few days – together Jen and I are currently developing several rather exciting projects . . . one is a book which will appear next Spring, and another is a new volume of Cross-Country Knitting. Above is a sneak peak at the latter’s content, of which more very soon.
Jen and I got lots of work done, laughed a lot, and had time for a hearty post-photoshoot dinner at the Bridge of Orchy hotel. It was lovely to see her.
Meanwhile, In the Loop 4 was happening down the road in Glasgow (one year I will make it to this event, which always features a fantastic line-up of speakers and some important research). This year, the conference was hosted by my friends at the Knitting in the Round project (who you’ll remember I’ve mentioned before). I was really honoured when they asked me to provide some samples for the fashion show which closed the conference!
Jade Halbert selected three of my designs, and I styled them with the original garments I’d used when photographing Yokes. I genuinely love styling – visualising a look is often the starting point of the design process for me – and I really appreciated the thoughtful way that Jade styled the models to suit the work of each designer in the show.
The lovely model wearing Buchanan even had her hair in braids!
I loved the soft and subtle palette of the beautiful garments shown by Jade Starmore , and was blown away by their styling with these stunning leather skirts (also the work of Jade)
The show featured well-established names of Scottish knitwear design such as ERIBÉ
. . . and Di Gilpin
. . . alongside the work of emerging contemporary designers like Laura Muir
It was lovely to see the work of some of my friends and comrades in hand-knit design, like Gudrun Johnston . . .
I also came away feeling inspired by the work of designers I’d never previously encountered. This cashmere dress by Stephanie Laird was truly gorgeous.
And I loved the fresh take on colourwork in Hilary Grant’s bold machine-knit accessories
Thankyou, Lynn, Marina, Jade, and the whole team at Knitting in the Round and In the Loop 4 for inviting me to be part of this fantastic event! Thanks too to Tom, who took the great catwalk photos in this post.
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 blokes’ 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.
. . . and Jen designed Wee Bruton, an unbelievably cute miniaturisation of her Bruton Hoody.
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.
Together, the designs have an undeniably nostalgic feel, but they are also eminently knittable and wearable.
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.
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)
Wee Bruton uses Excelana 4 ply, is worked back and forth, features a pair of sturdy pockets, some nifty hood shaping, and fastens neatly with a zip.
Together, these are two easy-to wear cardis that are ideal for romping about in!
Sofia you have met before from the Wowligan photographs, and Toby is Fergus’s son.
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!
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.
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.