I’ve had a lot of queries about Peerie Flooers over the past few days, so here are a couple more photos of the particular hat in question. After being approached by the wardrobe folk involved with Shetland, I knitted up this new sample especially for the production. I remember knitting it over the May bank holiday, while Tom was running the Jura Fell Race, and then posting it off the following week.
Mel also knitted up an o w l sweater sample, which sadly wasn’t used in the production in the end. But you may have spotted other Shetland knitwear on screen: Hazel Tindall’s beautiful Eid Top was unmistakable, even at a distance, and I was very excited to spot a Sheep Heid in the Up Helly Aa crowd. During filming in Shetland, my friend Sarah worked in wardrobe, and they did a great job.
Thanks for all your well-wishes. I am still not at my best healthwise, unfortunately, but with careful pacing hope to be back up to speed very soon. xx
Recognise the hat?
Yes! Its my Peerie Flooers!
This hat, along with a couple of my other designs, will be making their first TV appearance tomorrow in Shetland, a two-part BBC crime drama based on Ann Cleeves’ novel Red Bones. Exciting!
You can see some more stills and the trailer here, and, if you are in the UK, you can watch the first part of Shetland tomorrow night at 9pm on BBC1.
I’m not very well at the moment, so am unfortunately very behind with many things, including my email. If you have been waiting to hear from me, I’ll endeavour to get back to you this coming week. Apologies xx
While we were in the Highlands, we took the opportunity to photograph a design I’ve had ready for a while: the Sixareen Cape.
I started knitting this Fair Isle wrap last October. You may remember that at that time I’d just designed a hat especially for Shetland wool week (The Sixareen Kep) using Jamieson and Smith’s wonderful Shetland Heritage Yarn.
(Sixareen Kep at my Shetland Wool Week Workshop, modelled by Tania Ashton-Jones. Photo courtesy Charlotte Monckton)
Around that time, I was getting a lot of wear out of a circular wrap I’d purchased from Toast (which I am wearing in the photograph above). This wrap was a sort of deep tube with raglan shaping, and I was surprised at how versatile a thing it was. It was a scarf, a cowl, a snood, and very nearly a sweater. I wore it scrunched up inside a coat when I was outside walking Bruce, I wore it wrapped about me inside the house when I needed another layer, and I wore it thrown on over a suit jacket when a little extra warmth was required outside. I liked it so much that I decided to design my own version featuring a deep Fair Isle border of the same chart design I’d used for the Kep, which I’d been very pleased with. This was the result.
The border of the circularly-knit ‘cape’ features three repeats of the ‘kep’ chart. Its a design I’ve come across in several Shetland sources, and, if you look at it, you’ll see that it is an interestingly stretched-out and squashed incarnation of a traditional OXO motif. There are several things I find really pleasing about this chart. The background is unusually spacious for a Fair Isle motif (there are stretches of 7 stitches in some places), and there’s something about this space that allows the different shades to sing. Because of this, when repeated, the motif develops a shimmering near-kaleidoscopic quality, which I really love.
The heritage yarn is amazingly soft, and wonderful to work with. It is the perfect yarn for traditional Fair Isle, but it also has a marvelous drapey quality which makes it absolutely ideal for this kind of garment. The plain stockinette portion is knitted at a slightly looser gauge to enhance the drape, allowing the garment to be worn in several different ways.
It can be worn scrunched up, cowl-like around the neck . . .
Pulled forward, collar-like, around the shoulders . . .
Or pulled down, cape-like, around the torso . . .
Decreases are worked through the plain stockinette part of the garment in exactly the same way as the shaping of a raglan sweater.
. . . and the end result is a striking and versatile wrap that is also great at warding off chilly highland breezes.
These photographs were taken above Rannoch Moor on a truly beautiful evening.
The cape comes in seven sizes, with a circumference of 45″ to 59″. It is fitted by measuring the wearer’s total shoulder circumference, and it should be worn with at least 2 inches of positive ease, to allow the wearing of layers underneath. If you would prefer a deeper or shallower wrap, the length is easily adjusted following the instructions in the pattern.
The Sixareen Cape is now available to purchase digitally through Ravelry and you can also purchase the pattern in print, to be shipped directly to you, (wherever in the world you are) via my Mag Cloud store.
A few months ago, a publisher asked me if I’d like my work to be featured in a new book introducing English-speaking designers, patterns and knitting methods to a Japanese audience. I was very excited to be included, particularly as Japanese craft books are one of my secret vices — I am often bowled over by the clear layouts of these books, as well as their beautiful designs, and the quiet intimacy of their photography and styling. I also love the way that Japanese sewing, knitting and quilting patterns are charted, often making them possible for non-native speakers to interpret. Well, ‘Happy Knitting’ has just turned up, and its so nice I had to show you.
Me! In a Japanese knitting book! And I’m in good company . . .
The photography is sweet and lighthearted . . .
. . . mmmm . . . tasty yarn.
As well as introducing the work of several different designers, the book shows the Japanese knitter how to use Ravelry and other online resources produced in English, as well as illustrating techniques and equipment common to Western styles of knitting . . .
There are also a couple of simple patterns, which are used to illustrate English-speaking methods of pattern-writing and design.
Its a really lovely book. And how nice would it be to see an equivalent, introducing Japanese designers, resources, and techniques to an English-speaking audience? (I’m looking at you, Kyoko)!
BNN Publishing, Japan
Well, I had a fantastic time in Shetland. As I was on my own, I stayed in Lerwick. I really enjoyed meeting up with Shetland friends old and new, and pottering about toon.
But I was there to work — I have a couple of writing commissions in the pipeline, one of which involves producing a short history of Fair Isle knitting for a new (and very exciting) book about Shetland textiles. So I examined a lot of Fair Isle pieces, and I thought a lot about them.
I saw some truly incredible textiles . . .
. . . so many of which defied any idea of the ‘traditional’ in Fair Isle knitting.
(This striking allover features 4 shades of Shetland wool and 3 shades of artificial silk)
So much to think about.
Some time in 2005, I was walking through the Edinburgh branch of John Lewis when my eye was caught by the display of Rowan yarns and samples. The gorgeous colours of the yarns and the beautiful styling and photography of the pattern books and magazines really grabbed my attention. On the spot, I decided to start knitting again, and picked up several balls of Big Wool in, if I remember rightly, the ‘tomato’ shade. The first thing I turned out was a gigantic tomato-coloured moss-stitch wrap on 10mm needles, and since then I have not looked back. What I’m saying is that it was Rowan’s yarns, designs, and photography — their distinctive and immediately recognisable aesthetic — that inspired me to take up my needles. I am sure that many knitters (and designers) have a similar tale to tell.
I have been writing features for the Rowan Magazine since 2009, and each one has been a pleasure to produce. Marie Wallin always provides suggestive and inspiring editorial briefs; the generous word length allows one to properly get one’s teeth into a topic; and it is genuinely thrilling to see one’s words and photographs laid out in such a well-produced and seriously beautiful magazine. Research for the fine lace feature I wrote for Magazine 50 (A/W, 2011) took me to Shetland — the first of many trips, and, for me, the beginning of another journey.
Although I have worked with Rowan for almost four years, I have never met Marie or the rest of the team. Yesterday I finally had the opportunity to do so, and popped down to Yorkshire to visit Rowan’s Holmfirth HQ.
I had a lovely day. It was both fascinating and inspiring to see behind the scenes, to gain an insight into the complexities of the design and production process from start to finish, and to catch a glimpse (and squoosh) of what knitters will be treated to in future seasons. It was also lovely to put faces to design-room names, and to have the opportunity to chat about future projects in person.
As these photographs will suggest, it was one of those incredibly busy sorts of days when there wasn’t an opportunity to make use of my camera — but these tasty balls of Felted Tweed may give you some indication of various things-in-process. All I’ll say right now is watch this space!
Thankyou, Marie, David, Kate and the rest of the Rowan team for a wonderful introduction to the mill!
I encountered many knitting books in 2012, but this was my favourite by far. Unlike so many books that have recently been written about Shetland, and Shetland knitting (my own included) this one has been produced by Shetlanders themselves. And not just by any Shetlanders. I don’t think it is going too far to say that the group of women behind this book are among the best knitters in the world. Their work is certainly the very finest that Britain has to offer. In this wonderful tome, key members of The Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers share their knowledge of the old traditions and contemporary practice of Shetland fine lace knitting. It is a timely publication. I have had cause to complain here several times about the misleading rubbish that is often peddled under the name of knitting ‘history’ and, unfortunately, Shetland textile traditions have suffered more than most in this regard — partly due to bias and poor scholarship, and partly too because Shetland’s knitter-designers tend to focus their talents on their needles rather than on the printed page. But here, we see the beautiful work, hear the articulate voices, and are able to work from the stunning patterns of Shetland’s wonderful knitter-designers. In so many ways, this book is their gift to the rest of us, and a very welcome gift it is too.
The book includes a balanced collection of 21 designs. These range from familiar and simple Shetland openwork patterns (such as those that appear on Zena Thomson’s borders-in Traditional Hap, or Lauretta Robertson’s Shelley Scarf) to dazzling showcases of the finest of fine Shetland lace (such as Susan Johnson’s breathtaking Chapelside Stole, or Mary Kay’s St Ringan’s Scarf). There are also a couple of lovely lace garments to knit. No-one designs a yoked sweater better than Hazel Tindall, and her Gairdins Top is a very fine example. I also found myself drawn to Lauretta Robertson’s Laureya Cardigan , with its neat and pleasingly structural allover stitch pattern.
Photographing fine lace can be very tricky, and Dave Donaldson has done a great job here. Most of the designs have been carefully pictured on blank, dark backgrounds. Close-ups help the reader / knitter to understand the rhythm of the designs, and provide useful visual cues to the accompanying charts.
The charts are large and well laid out, and the patterns clearly written and explained.
One aspect of Shetland knitting that non-Shetlanders are often bamboozled by is its basic equipment. How are long wires and a makkin belt really used? What exactly is a woolly board? One of the many lovely things about this book is that the women involved in it have taken time to illustrate and explain these mystifying objects . . .
Included here are also instructions for different methods of blocking and stretching (careful finishing really is crucial in all kinds of Shetland knitting), and there’s also a useful glossary of Shetland knitting terms unfamiliar to most of us. If you don’t know what “wrang loops” are or what it means to “spret” your knitting, here is the place to find out.
In amongst the designs and patterns, you’ll also find informative and witty anecdotes, together with interesting explanations of other knitting-associated dialect terms, all of which lends the book a distinctive Shetland flavour.
There are many things to love and admire about this book, but one of its most enjoyable aspects for me was reading the brief biographies of each designer. All of these women are truly amazing award-winning knitters, but I know from having met several of them that they can also be modest to the point of total silence about their considerable talents. Through their short biographies, we learn about what knitting has meant to them, about their own aesthetic tastes and predilections, and much more generally about a community in which lace knitting developed its own particular practices and economy, and played (and indeed continues to play) a crucial role in the lives of many women. Shetland knitters should be proud of their legacy, and it is wonderful to see that pride evidenced — albeit quietly — in the hopes that each designer expresses here for the book to which they have contributed. Winne Balfour hopes “that this book may encourage young knitters to take an interest in and enjoy learning, developing and continuing the skills of the legacy we have been left.” Zena Thomson hopes “that the clear patterns and photographs in this book will help people to try out patterns they might otherwise not have tried.” Pearl Johnson “is very glad that this book has been produced by folk living and knitting in Shetland and hopes that it will raise more awareness of Shetland traditional knitting,” and Susan Johnson “hopes this book reaches everyone interested in Shetland, Shetland lace and knitting, and that they receive and appreciate the spirit of quiet enjoyment that produced it.” That quiet enjoyment is evident on every single page of this great book, which should have pride of place on every knitterly bookshelf.
Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers, A Legacy of Shetland Lace (Lerwick: Shetland Times LTD, 2012). ISBN 978-1-904746-76-8
*And did you know that the Shetland Guild of Spinnners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers have their own Ravelry Group?
I don’t know what has happened to my knitting. You’d think that with January’s dim light and grey palette I’d be longing for colour, but somehow, all I want to do is knit teeny tiny cables in neutral wheat and putty shades.
These two swatches were knitted with two of my current favourite yarns. The swatch at the top of the post was knitted in Sue Blacker’s Swan DK – a rather lovely, smooth and very well-spun Falkland Island merino with a bouncy hand, good stitch definition, a pleasing matt quality, and a lot of life and spring.
The second swatch was knitted in Baa Ram Ewe’s delicious Titus — a wensleydale, BFL and alpaca blend that is so popular that it keeps selling out!
Titus is, in many ways, the complete opposite of Swan — drapey and fuzzy with a slight honey-coloured sheen. While cables pop right out of Swan, they flow through, and merge into Titus. Very different effects, but both are equally pleasing.
There is something so quiet and meditative about these netural shades, and I am really enjoying knitting with them. I think these swatches might want to be designs. We’ll see.
I’m really pleased to be able to release another sheepy pattern! This design is a collaboration between myself and the wonderful Sandra Manson of Jamieson and Smith. As you can see, this cute canine coat features the same charts as my Sheepheid and Rams and Yowes designs, but the pattern is all Sandra’s. It was designed for her characterful Yorkshire Terrier, Toby, who is a true Woolbroker’s icon. Here they are together at Jamieson and Smith HQ.
Toby is such a lovely old boy — he will be 17 next month — and is often to be seen around Lerwick and Bressay sporting a very impressive range of Fairisle knitwear, all of which is designed and made for him by Sandra. Without doubt, Toby is Shetland’s best-dressed canine, and it is about time that he had a pattern of his very own!
Toby’s coat is made from the tail upwards and, in the same way as you’d create a mitten thumb, uses contrast yarn to create ‘afterthought’ front leg openings which are picked up later.
The neck of the coat is shaped with decreases and a ribbed edging is added all around the sides, creating a button-and-buttonhole band for the coat to fasten securely around the chest. Stitches are then picked up for the front ‘sleeves’, and a pair of neat straps are knitted to fasten the back of the coat underneath the hind legs.
Toby’s coat should fit any small-breed dog, such as a Westie or Jack Russell. The pattern includes detailed schematics, enabling you to adjust the dimensions if necessary to best fit those of your dog by adjusting gauge, or the length of the fastening straps.
Charts by: me!
Pattern by: Sandra Manson
Tech-editing by: Jen Arnall-Culliford