One of the very great pleasures of living here is that the West Highland Way is on our doorstep. I walk out of our steading, and about a hundred yards up the way is a glorious landscape, at the far edges of which (on a really clear day) Ben Lomond and the Trossachs and the Arrochar Alps are all visible. I walk here every day, and enjoy these walks tremendously. Today I took my camera so you can see it too.
We have just returned from a photoshoot. It is a very hot day and Tom couldn’t stop taking photographs of Bruce’s monumental panting tongue. (Don’t worry, he was supplied with plenty of water). In between the hot dog shots, he was photographing my new pattern – a cardigan, which is due for release toward the end of the month. I am very pleased with this design, and couldn’t resist showing you a couple of outtakes from the shoot.
This will be the first of three designs, all inspired by my favourite Edinburgh places. More soon!
Winter really felt interminable this year. It seemed that, for weeks I passed the same corner every day looking in vain for the snowdrops that always appear there, heralding Spring. “I don’t know what I’d do if it wasn’t for those” said one of my neighbour-buddies, indicating a single patch of struggling crocuses that provided the only cheer on a particularly grey and grim sub-zero March morning. When we visited New Lanark on April 2nd, there were no wild flowers blooming at all. The only things of colour we saw were the yellow eyelids of the nesting peregrines and the bright red toadstools that Tom struggled through some spiky undergrowth to photograph. After all of this weird nothing, May’s rapid explosion has felt particularly welcome. I began to see primroses and cowslips poking through the brown and grey . . . then the grass pinged green . . . and then there was speedwell, and bluebells, honesty, and dove’s foot geraniums . . .
. . . and then the blossom started to appear . . .
. . .and now the ordinary urban paths that I walk on every day appear like fairy glades.
. . . or rather, large black dog-filled glades.
In many respects, these past few months have felt a little odd. Tom has been living during the week in Glasgow, working really hard at his new job. Meanwhile, I have been managing various health issues with greater or lesser degrees of success, and trying very hard to work around and within my limits. These few months have made Tom and I both realise how reliant we are on each other, and how completely rubbish we are at being apart. The upshot is that we have decided to move from Edinburgh to an as-yet-unknown location close to the Highlands but within commuting distance of Glasgow. The prospect of a garden in which to grow veggies, a few chickens and another dog (or two) is very exciting to me, and I am hopeful of finding a small house or steading out West where this dream can become a reality. Less exciting is the work we have to do to our current abode prior to selling it. Apparently, property purchasers require chilly Edinburgh flats to have more sources of warmth than that which is provided by our solitary living-room wood burner . . . thus, with the help of David and Stevie and Trevor we will be installing shiny new-fangled central heating and making various other “improvements.”
Why am I telling you all this? Well, because life is inevitably going to be disrupted over the next few months. A kind neighbour is allowing me and Bruce to hang out in her flat while Stevie is up here ripping up the floorboards, but I have now lost access to my computer and work-pod during the day, so am less accessible by email. I also have to consider the implications of moving my business as well as my home. We have just a handful of boxes of Colours of Shetland left in my warehouse in Leith. Once these are sold, I will have to allow the book to go out of print until I can make new warehousing arrangements at our new as-yet-unknown locale. So, if you were considering purchasing a print copy of Colours of Shetland, my advice is to do it now, as there are not many left (the digital edition will, of course, continue to be available). I’m still taking wholesale orders (with the number of copies-per-shop limited), but for both retail and trade orders, once the books are gone, they are gone.
So, if anyone is looking to buy a flat in North Edinburgh’s leafiest and friendliest neighbourhood, then be sure to keep your eyes peeled later this Summer. And equally if anyone has suggestions for places to which Tom and I should consider moving please do feel free to make them — we are now conducting recces!
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.
2012 was really a pretty good year. Here are some highlights.
My first time as a Woolfest trader.
My sister, Martin Curtis and me, meeting Sophie, Countess of Wessex (note: Helen is wearing a Manu and knitting a Betty Mouat Cowl, I am wearing a Deco and knitting a puffin sweater, and Sophie is looking at a copy of Knit Real Shetland).
Travelling with Tom and Bruce to our favourite Hebridean spots . . .
Working with my favourite folk . . .
. . .to make a book!
But if you asked me what was my biggest achievement in 2012, then I would say . . .
. . . learning to ride a trike, and inspiring a few other people with brain injuries, balance issues and similar disabilities to give it a go as well. In 2013, I intend to try moving things up a gear, and am about to begin learning to drive again. My aim is to be pootling about in our van by June. If I say it here, then it has to happen!!
Most of all:
I am so grateful to all of you for stopping by here, for continuing to read this blog, for leaving so many lovely comments, and for supporting me in all sorts of ways in 2012.
THANKYOU, ALL OF YOU! x
I’ll be back shortly with a couple of related posts about my favourite books and yarns of 2012. . . .
In the meantime:
My pal Jen is having a New Year pattern sale. This includes a 3 for 2 deal on some of her super newly-available designs (I particularly like the Porlock socks with their gansey-inspired stitch patterns and personalised lettering) and 25% off the lovely Cloudy Apples accessories collection. Pop over to Jen’s blog to find out more.
And finally, if you are knocking about Pittenweem this Saturday and fancy meeting me and the samples from Colours of Shetland, then pop down to The Woolly Brew between 12-2pm. I’ll be signing books, too, if you’d like a copy.
An obligatory tree-hugging photograph whilst wearing an outrageously festive gnome-suit can only mean one thing . . .
Yes! The Snawpaws pattern is now OUT!
If you have a desire to sport hand-wear to match your heid . . .
. . . and fancy adorning your wrists with cute wee pompoms (these ones are a mere 1.5″ in diameter). . .
. . .then this is clearly the design for you!
The pattern includes instructions for both mittens and mitts. . .
To take advantage of this promotion, simply enter the code PAWS when prompted to do so at the Ravelry checkout.
We had a lot of fun when we were out taking these photographs — sometimes dressing up is all that is required to induce some festive cheer. I have to say, though, that we were certainly getting a lot of curious glances from onlookers — though I reckon that might have been due as much to the get-up of the photographer as my 100% wool tri-coloured gnome suit. . . .
What do you think?
Happy knitting xx
We got up early, and drove down to the Borders. It was a beautiful crisp morning.
When we arrived in Lauder, the sun was already turning the frost into a magical, dewy haze.
Today, the Autumn colours seemed even more deeply saturated. I want to knit everything in these tapestry blues and golds.
While Bruce and I were enjoying our morning walk, Tom was making preparations. . .
Off he goes!
Ah, Cross Country season . . .
What’s this? A fence?
A fence and a flowerbed?
Take a closer look . . . for this is no ordinary fence. . .
. . .this is a knitted fence . . .
. . . a Shetland lace fence, no less.
This beautiful and imaginative creation is the work of Anne Eunson of Hamnavoe, Burra. Anne loves lace knitting, and how better to express that affection than by completely wrapping one’s garden up in Shetland lace? The fence is fashioned from strong black twine (the same kind that is used to make fishing nets) and Anne knitted it up on specially adapted curtain poles. It took her about three weeks to knit enough lace to surround her front garden, using a 23 stitch repeat of a familiar Shetland lace pattern.
It kills me how the pattern is revealed so strongly, as if it were stretched around the garden on gigantic blocking wires. I gasped when I saw it and really think it is just about the most beautiful fence I’ve ever seen.
I love the way that the lace and Anne’s planting speak to and interact with one another, as the heads of daisies peak through the yarnovers. It is as if the flowers are wearing a shawl, and the shawl has been decorated with flowers. A knitterly Eden! Anne told me that she was really pleased with the finished fence, and says that she now has plans for further lacy additions to her garden. Watch this space, Shetland!
Thanks so much, Anne for your kind permission to write about your work and reproduce these photographs.