Kate Davies Designs

a precious gift

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The day before Christmas eve a wonderful package arrived from Sweden. This was inside. Kerstin Olsson - who you may remember I had the pleasure of meeting a few months ago, and about whose important work for Bohus Stickning I devoted a chapter to in my Yokes book – had done me the honour of knitting me a scarf!

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Oh my! And this was not just any scarf! For Kerstin had knitted this lovely gift from original Bohus Stickning yarns — the same yarns with which she knit and designed during the company’s heyday in the 1960s.

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An awful lot of work went into developing and maintaining the production of Bohus Stickning yarns such as EJA (Emma Jacobsson Angora). The dye palette was rich and varied, and, to meet Emma’s exacting standards, the spinning, blending, and handle of the fibres had to always be of the very highest quality.

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When I visited Göteborg, Kerstin showed me some Bohus Stickning shade cards. Handling them, I was astounded both by the quality of the yarns and the sheer richness of the palette: the vast number of shades the company produced was really pretty astounding. These yarns and palette were Kerstin’s raw materials. It was their quality and variety that allowed her to experiment so successfully with colour, shade, and texture, and to create her wonderful yoke designs, alive with hazy, shimmering hues.

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Kerstin’s aesthetic is clearly evident in this fabulous scarf! When I took it out of the bag Tom immediately exclaimed how wonderful the colours were – and they really are.

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The scarf features several beautifully blended pinks and browns as well as some very pleasing highlights of pale turquoise and tangerine.

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It is just so lovely. I am pretty overwhelmed.

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Kerstin also kindly included some wee twists of yarn in her package – for repairs.

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As a knitter, I’m often prompted to reflect on the meanings invested in acts of making, giving and receiving, and as a researcher, I often find that objects that interest me carry a sort of numinous significance . . . .Well, as both knitter and researcher, I can tell you that this beautiful gift, from an incredible designer and artist, created with these wonderful fifty year-old yarns really means an awful lot to me. I was deeply moved when I opened the package and am so very, very happy with my scarf!

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Thankyou so much for this precious gift, Kerstin. I feel very honoured indeed to receive it, and shall always treasure it.

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So, as December draws to a close, farewell, 2014, and thankyou all for reading! Its been lovely to share this year with you!

Hat season

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Clearly it is hat season in this house, as I appear to be unable to stop churning out Epistropheids. Tom requested one, and chose the yarn – Rowan Felted Tweed in Phantom and Clay.

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Both these shades feature pleasing sky-blue tweedy flecks, and speak to each other rather nicely. Tom wanted a predominantly brown hat so I reversed the chart colourway from dark to light. I was at first concerned that the Felted Tweed feels slightly less plump at this gauge than the TOFT dk I’d used for my original, but it knit up evenly, and the fabric bloomed really nicely after blocking. It has made a lovely hat.

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When I’d finished, Tom whipped up a giant pompom with the leftover yarn.

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So now we both have matching heids. Do we look insanely his and hers? WHO CARES.

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Hope you are all enjoying the season! I have to say that it feels rather nice to slow down a little . . . which for me seems to involve less time sitting at the computer, and more time sitting in front of old films knitting like mad!

EPISTROPHEID!

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Dear amazing, wonderful knitters! I’ve had such fun reading through your comments on the last post!

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As many of you guessed, the name I’d had in mind for this hat was, of course EPISTROPHEID but there were so many fabulous, interesting suggestions I have been sorely tempted to change it . . .

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For example, “Pulsatorius” suggested the name Gåsöga – a word of which I’d never heard, but which, when I googled it revealed itself to be an incredible Swedish woven rug or blanket, highly reminiscent of the stitch pattern used on this hat. (Google it and see). (I came up with the Epistrophy pattern on my own, but there’s nothing at all original about it, as its pretty much what logically happens when you try to create interlocking diamonds over a repeat of 15 stitches.)

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Alixpearson suggested Pibroch (a Highland theme and variations), and among the many of you who deftly explored the realms of literary rhetoric, Pomona was the first to suggest Apostrophe or Anaphora. . . .genius!

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I was also excited by your many insightful jazz references! Janine was the first of many of you to suggest Fly Right (a name under which Epistrophy was also known when recorded in 1942 by Cootie Williams) and among many of my other favourite Monk tunes that you suggested, Helen Y chose Little Rootie Tootie (a tune with a special significance for me, because of the proximity of my childhood home to the transpennine railway line)

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Your comments also gave me a good laugh! The thought that I might, at some point call a design Jazz Wazz as Stacy suggested, or create matching mittens or gloves named Jazz Hands (thanks, Trish) has been the source of much amusement. Monkheid (first suggested by Louise) also caused some hilarity. Who knows, these patterns may well appear at some point. . .

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Anyway, in short, I’ve had a blast reading through your suggestions and, as promised, there are prizes!

MrsPotiron wins a Betty Mouat Cowl kit for being the first to correctly guess Epistropheid
Pulsatorius wins a Snawheid kit for pointing me in the direction of Gåsöga
AlixPearson wins a Sheep Carousel kit for Pibroch
Pomona, Trish, Helen Y, Stacy, Janine, and Louise each win a KDD tea towel for their great suggestions . . .
and there are spot prizes for Jo (Epitome), Inge (tracks in the snow), Marilyn (Bebop top), and Pamknits (Crepuscule with Brucie) – who each win a free pattern of their choice from my Ravelry store.

Could those of you to whom I need to post a parcel please email me at infoATkatedaviesdesigns.com, letting me know your shipping addresses? (I’ll email those of you who have won a pattern with a download code shortly).

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Anyway, as these pictures might suggest, my new Epistropheid is seeing some wear. I’ve made this sample rather large and slouchy – which is just how I like it – but I’m currently knitting up a slightly smaller second sample (for those with smaller heids, or who would prefer a neater fit). When that’s done (hopefully this evening) I’ll write up the pattern – so those of you who would like your own Epistropheid will also be able to knit one very soon!

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Thanks for playing along, everyone! x

Guess the name of my hat

Good morning! This week I have news other than logistical matters from Yokes dispatch central (though I’ll return to these things in a moment). For example, we had our first snowfall . . .

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I do find that snow affords me a welcome shift in perspective on the winter months. The world of relentless grey becomes pleasingly crisp and white, and there is nothing like a good walk in the snow on a still, bright December day. Bruce is also very fond of snow

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. . so we have both enjoyed some decent walks this week. I’m also pleased to say that I finally found the time (and wherewithal) to do some knitting. I confess my knitting mojo has been somewhat lacking of late. This is always a slightly troubling state of affairs, but in this case I’ve just put it down to being very busy and rather tired – a little too tired for getting excited about new projects or thinking about charts and stitch counts. But this week I took a wee break, and over a couple of afternoons I charted and knitted up another lopi yoke (so speedy! so warm! I’ll show you soon!) Then yesterday I whipped up a hat that’s been brewing in the back of my mind for some time.

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This hat is based on my Epistrophy yoke, and the first person to correctly guess the name I’ve given to it will win a special prize! (I’m serious! Leave a comment! Give it a try!).

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Like the yoke, the hat is knitted in Toft Ulysses DK, and, as pleased as I am with the crown design, I suspect one of these fluffy alpaca pompoms will be being popped on top once its finished drying on the hat block.

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As these hastily snapped images of my workstation might suggest, it has been another busy week here at the logistics coalface, and I’ve spent the majority of my time processing and packing and shipping orders. In all respects, I’ve found the response to Yokes pretty overwhelming. It has made me really happy to hear of the book appearing in different locations around the world, and especially to read everyone’s kind reactions, which makes all the hard work this year worthwhile. Thankyou, everyone!

But soon I am going to take a proper break, so if you would like me to post you a copy of Yokes, please place your order in the shop before December 19th. Orders placed after this date will be shipped on January 6th.

The rest of today involves eating a pheasant and decorating a tree. I hope you are all enjoying your weekend too.

Don’t forget! Leave a comment and guess the name of my hat!

ETA – comments are now closed

Cockatoo Brae

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Yes, you did read that correctly – Cockatoo Brae. This remarkable phrase is, in fact, the name of a lane in Lerwick, Shetland, and it is also the name of the final yoke in my collection.

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This design emerged from an exciting collaboration with my friend Ella. In Shetland, machine and hand knitting go very much, as it were, hand in hand. In fact, at certain crucial points in its twentieth-century story, machine knitting might be said to have saved the Shetland hand-knitting industry from extinction. The two crafts (and they are both crafts) are importantly imbricated, and perhaps especially so where the yoke sweater is concerned.

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Hybrid yokes – where the body and sleeves are knitted by machine, and the yoke subsequently knitted on by hand – were one of the mainstays of the Shetland wool industry from the 1950s through the 1970s. I devote a chapter to this topic in my book, and you can read more about it there, but suffice it to say that, after my research I felt it was very important to include one such hybrid yoke design in my book. Cockatoo Brae is that yoke.

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On one of my recent visits to Shetland, I was very keen to learn more about machine knitting from Ella, who runs her own business centred around the wonderful machine-knitted items that she designs and makes.

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Ella’s Crofthoouse Cushions

At her studio in Cockatoo Brae, Ella introduced me to the process of creating machine-knitted fabric. Like many committed hand-knitters, I suppose I had certain lingering assumptions about what machine knitting involved (knitting by machine? surely this is the devil’s work?!) but these were quickly exploded. I discovered that the process was not only extremely skilled, but also – in the simple act of making stitches – much, much more like hand-knitting than I’d imagined. It is also quite physically demanding!

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(A swatch we knitted on Ella’s machine)

When I returned home after my visit I began designing a chart using an interesting variant of the ubiquitous tree and star motifs that appear on countless Shetland yokes. It is no coincidence that the shades I chose echoed those of the swatch we had created in Cockatoo Brae. Much of the inspiration for Ella’s design work comes from the 1970s: a decade during which Shetland knitters were producing thousands of yokes for a buoyant commercial market, but when the advent of North Sea Oil also changed the face of the Shetland knitting industry. The 1970s are an interesting moment of transition in Shetland, and Ella’s work interrogates and reflects this. I wanted the palette of our yoke to reflect it too.

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The bright green is Jamieson and Smith shade FC11 and the orange shade is 125. (This rich tomato-soup shade is one of my all-time favourite Jamieson and Smith colours – I absolutely love it!). For the main body of the sweater I chose FC58 – a wonderfully complex heathered brown that in fact has more individual colours blended in it than any other shade in the Jamieson and Smith palette. After Ella and I had settled on the chart and palette, I provided her with a pattern and she got to work creating the sweater’s machined components. (Ella will write in more detail about the process of knitting the body and sleeves on her machine, and you’ll be able to read about the process on her blog)

Some time later, I received this bundle in the post

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As machine-knit yarn is oiled, I decided to block the separate pieces quite vigorously first so I could see that the hand-knit and the machine-knit fabric were behaving the same way, and that I could be sure that my gauge would match up. After blocking the pieces, I seamed them up with matress stitch. Ella had left small sections of ‘waste’ knitting at the tops of the sleeve and body pieces that could be unravelled to create a set of live stitches. So I unravelled the waste, set sleeves and body on a circular needle, and cast on a nine stitch steek over the cardigan’s front opening to enable me to knit the yoke on in the round.
Here’s the yoke in progress.

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Here it is blocking

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and finally . . .
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Creating this yoke with Ella was a fascinating and really enjoyable process for me, and I felt I understood much more about the textile practices and history I’d been researching through the simple act of knitting this garment. Sometimes making really is learning.

If you’d like to create your own Cockatoo Brae in exactly the same way we did, I’ve included instructions for flat machine-knitting body and sleeves in the book. But don’t worry –if you’d prefer to hand-knit the design in its entirety – working the whole garment in the round and then steeking it open afterwards – those instructions are also included.

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We shot these photographs on a lovely autumn day around the lower slopes of Ben Lawers and Meal nan Tarmachan, where Tom was running a hill race. Tom ran very well, and I think the photographs he took after the race show the garment perfectly suited to its setting.

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I’d like to give a big shout-out to Tom today, who has really shared my Yoke vision, and whose considerable skills as a photographer are in evidence throughout. His images – which beautifully illustrate each garment in a separate, distinctive location suited to its style – are an essential element of the larger creative process behind this book. Thanks, Tom x.

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You’ll find more information about Cockatoo Brae here
And the book is available to pre-order here

Jökull

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When I began thinking about putting together this collection, I felt it was important to include a design that might serve as an introduction to circular yoke knitting: something that was speedy and straightforward to knit, with some interesting details and a characteristic construction. That design is Jökull.

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Jökull is a yoked mantle. Though the design is extremely simple to knit – it is basically a decreasing circle decorated with some striking chevrons – Jökull also has some neat features, such as buttoned hand-openings, corrugated rib, and i-cord to stabilise and finish the garment edges.

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Worked up in Alafoss Lopi, at a gauge of 4 stitches to the inch, it is an extremely cosy outdoor garment. (Having worn the mantle on some wild days in Iceland, Mel and I can both vouch for it being wind and weatherproof!)

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Jökull is the Icelandic word for glacier – the name seemed appropriate in reference to the garment’s chill-defying properties, as well as the palette of shades we chose for this sample.

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This is Mýrdalsjökull, a glacier in southern Iceland that Mel and I were lucky enough to visit. You can see what I mean about those icy shades. . .

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Like many designs, changing the colourway of Jökull completely alters its appearance. Mel and I knit up a second sample, whose bold high-contrast shades produce a rather different effect from the subtly graded teals and icy blues of the original. We have not depicted this sample in the book (one of the shades we chose is now unavailable) but I will show you here just to illustrate how different the chevrons can look when other colours are selected.

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Jökull is a super-simple, quick and enjoyable knit – ideal for any knitter attempting their first yoke, or first colourwork.

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You can find more information about Jökull here
And the book is now available to pre-order here

I will be back tomorrow to tell you about the collection’s final design. We are very busy preparing packages and labels here – I can’t wait for you all to see the finished book!

Bluebells

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Good morning! Here is today’s yoke from my new book – Bluebells. In the 1950s and 60s, there was a particularly popular style of sweater featuring a rather narrow circular yoke. In such garments, the sleeve and body shaping tended to be a little more neatly tailored than other circular yokes, and the colourwork motifs were placed high up on the neck, necklace style. I wanted to include one of these necklace-yoked sweaters in the collection, and this is what I came up with.

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There’s really no need of much explanation for where I drew inspiration for the design.

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One of my favourite wild flowers, bluebells transform the woods and glens with their luminous glow throughout the month of May and are one of the undoubted highlights of a Scottish spring.

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Bluebell flowers seem particularly lovely to me when they flip upwards just before they turn to seed, and this is how I represented them in my chart.

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Bluebells encircle the neck of this garment like a garland, and the floral motifs are echoed in colourwork bands at the hem and cuffs.

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Jamieson and Smith shade FC37 really is the perfect bluebell blue, and the chart also features two of my all-time favourite greens – FC11 and FC24. The finished sweater is neat, simple, and easy to wear – even on a very breezy day like the one on which we took these photographs.

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These photographs were taken in late summer, above the Blane Valley, a place which in the spring is awash with bluebells. I knit this sweater during bluebell season, and loved to see how bluebells took over the woodland and darker north-facing slopes of the valley, bringing them to life with their luminous glow.

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You can find more information about Bluebells here
And Yokes is now available to pre-order here

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