Kate Davies Designs

Thinking of Shetland

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It was this time of year when I first visited Shetland. How well I recall that crazy drive across Unst in a blizzard! The weird half-light at midday! My first feeling of the profound difference of the place, but my immediate sensation that it was somewhere I could easily feel at home. . . Anyway whatever it is, for the past few days, I’ve been strangely feeling the pull of Shetland on me. Perhaps it is because I’m wearing a lot of Shetland wool: I’ve scored quite a few vintage sweaters recently, and these are now in regular circulation in my winter wardrobe.

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(My new favourite gansey – an eBay find)

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(Bright red Shetland yoke found in a Milngavie charity shop)

Perhaps it is because I’ve been listening to Shetland voices. A recent episode of Radio Scotland’s “Our Story” featured many of my Shetland friends and acquaintances talking about knitting. Please go and listen to the programme if you haven’t already. This really is a great programme (in a great series) which, because it is largely shaped by the words of ‘real people’, rather than the agenda of ill-informed researchers, is SO much better than the ‘novelty’ accounts of knitting of which the mainstream UK media is often sadly so full. You’ll hear Oliver Henry enthusing about the unique qualities of Shetland’s “kindly wool”, Carol Christiansen unpacking the origins of island knitting in the Shetland Museum, Hazel Tindall on the cost of knitting, and knitting as ‘wearable art’, Jan Robertson’s truly lyrical account of the colours of Shetland sheep, and Ella Gordon talking in a most inspiring fashion about design and her sense of place. (The programme is just under half an hour long, and is available on the BBC iplayer for the next 29 days)

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(image from Misa Hay on instagram)

Perhaps its because I’ve been reading 60 North . This issue of the magazine (which is newly available in print) could really be described as a bumper Shetland knitting edition.

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There’s a lovely piece by Donna Smith, this year’s patron of Shetland wool week, about the importance of knitting to her own sense of heritage and identity. Donna is one of those people who just seems to have an easy and effortless sense of style, and this image of her knitting a beautiful fair isle glove while wearing a sleek bright blue leather makkin belt and an Orla Kiely print really sums her up for me.

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“Shetland hosiery taken in exchange for shop commodities”

Glasgow University’s Ros Chapman shares her research in a brilliant and very telling piece about knitting and Shetland’s truck system – which made me think differently about the various ‘repository’ shops that sprang up around Scotland and England in the late nineteenth century, some of which still exist today.

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. . . There’s a feature by Alistair Hamilton about Edmund Hillary’s world famous Everest sweater (a Shetland icon) as well a fabulous account of last year’s Wool Week by Diana Lukas-Nulle and a profile of Selina May-Miller, Shetland Wool Week’s new co-ordinator.

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Finally, I wonder if my current yen for Shetland has anything to do with what arrived in the post this morning? These are seed potatoes – Shetland black tatties, to be exact. Last time I saw Misa we spent a good hour enthusing about gardening, and particularly about the joys and challenges of growing vegetables in our respective parts of the world. I am intrigued to see how Misa’s Shetland black tatties fare down here with me in the west of Scotland, and how lovely it was, on a cold January day to open this parcel, see its sprouting contents, and to feel excited about growing things again. Thanks so much, Misa!

So, in short, I find myself with a curious yearning to be in Shetland . . .which sadly cannot be fulfilled right now. I’ll just have to make do with the live broadcast from Up Helly Aa next week . . .

Jazz Hands are here!

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Good Morning!

We have released the Jazz Hands pattern!

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Skein Queen has also been very busy preparing yarn bundles for these mittens. The yarn – Voluptuous Skinny – is a lovely plump, woolly 4 ply. It is spun up by John Arbon, and composed of 80% Exmoor Blue and 20% organic merino. The yarn is just ideal for a pair of colourwork mittens – the stranding creates a fabric that’s dense and warm, soft and springy. The pattern includes instructions for two sizes of mitten, small and large, and each Skein Queen yarn bundle will include more than enough yarn to knit the largest size.

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I’ve also put together a time-limited promotion for those who want to make Jazz Hands to match their Epistropheids. If you purchase both patterns on Ravelry, using the code HEIDANDHANDS you will receive 40% off your total – that’s both patterns for £3.95. Please be sure to add both patterns to your Ravelry cart (using the ‘add to cart’ option) before entering the code or the system won’t apply the discount. Previous Epistropheid purchases should also count toward the promotion – if you encounter any problems please do let me know.

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I’ve been enjoying the snowy weather and have been wearing my Jazz Hands pretty constantly since the cold snap started – my hands have been toasty warm!

Jazz Hands pattern is here
Jazz Hands yarn bundles are here

Mel’s knitting

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I’ve had cause to celebrate Mel’s knitting on more than one occasion here. . .

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Some of you may recognise Mel as a model from Yokes: Mel has many strings to her supremely talented bow, and I’m lucky enough that she works with me on projects such as Yokes as a sample knitter, design consultant, and all-round offerer of sage advice.

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My principal aim when pattern-writing is always clarity, and Mel’s suggestions often help me to achieve that. Keith Moon is a simple sweater with a few nifty details, and Mel’s advice after knitting her version really helped me to hone the instructions for finishing the collar.

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Mel and I have very different colour insticts – though we rarely gravitate towards the same shades, her choices always appeal to me, and often make me think about colour in a different way. Her teal-y green, coal black and silver grey Keith Moon is completely different to my nautical original, and it is totally gorgeous.

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Mel also recently knitted an Epistrophy in exactly the same yarn (tasty Toft DK), but the reverse colourway to the original. Again, it looks very different to my sample, and it is just so neat and lovely I had to show you.

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I don’t mind admitting this is one of my all-time favourites of all the sweaters I’ve designed and knit and -ye gods – I want a dark grey Epistrophy now! Indeed I might have tried to sneak off with it after we took these photographs this afternoon, but Mel is wise to my ways. . .

Here are Mel’s Keith Moon and Epistrophy on Ravelry.

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

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