Paper Dolls anew

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When I first published this design a few years ago, I used a lovely British yarn that is sadly no longer available — Bowmont Braf 4ply. Many knitters prefer to make their sweaters in the same yarn as the pattern sample, and I often receive queries from folk enquiring about the yarn I used for my original Paper Dolls. I am always sad to tell them that it is no longer readily commercially available (almost as much for me as them — how I loved that Bowmont Braf . . . though I might have a secret stash of it somewhere . . .)*

So when, a few weeks ago, my friends at baa ram ewe got in touch to see if I’d be interested in using the new shades of Titus for a new Paper Dolls sample, I immediately said yes. Have you seen the palette? It is totally gorgeous.

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This sample is knit using White Rose for the main colour, with Parkin, Chevin, and Eccup for the contrasts. I decided that I wanted to work with three contrasts because I just couldn’t decide between these tasty shades, and they all seem to work so well together . . . though you could easily just use two.

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(ah, Bruce, always trying to get in the shot)

As well as changing the yarn recommendation, I’ve made a few alterations to the pattern. It is now nicely formatted as an eight-page booklet or ebook, which includes the (complementary) pattern for the Dollheid tam (so if you have previously purchased the Paper Dolls pattern on Ravelry, you’ll receive the Dollheid pattern as a free update). There are a few other improvements too, including clearer charts, a detailed sizing table, and a lovely hand-drawn schematic produced for me by Felix . . .

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. . . who also helped out with photography.

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I am very much enamoured of my beautiful new Paper Dolls, though sadly I shan’t get to wear it, as it will shortly be travelling to TNNA with baa ram ewe. If you see it there, please pet it for me.

The new Paper Dolls booklet is available now in a digital edition on Ravelry, or in print from my MagCloud store . . .

. . .and the print edition is also available to retailers for trade orders.

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*I purchased a few kilos a couple of years ago from Lee. If you are interested in the unique hand of Bowmont fleece, the lovely people at Devon Fine Fibres breed Bowmont Sheep and make beautiful things from the ultrafine wool they produce.

kitkin

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I thought you might like to see the shorter version of the Catkin sweater that Mel has just knitted — Kitkin! Like the original Catkin, Kitkin is knitted in baa ram ewe’s Titus, in a lovely charcoal grey shade.

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To make this cropped version, Mel simply cast on the number of bust stitches for the second size, worked the twisted rib for a couple of inches, and then knitted in pattern without shaping until the sweater measured 12.5 inches in total.

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The rest of Mel’s sweater — upper bodice, sleeves and so on — was completed exactly as-per pattern.

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I think this version of the sweater is really neat, and rather smart, particularly on Mel. Some folk much prefer cropped sweaters to tunic-length ones, and the Catkin pattern is very easily adapted to suit your taste.

Mel is an amazing knitter, and while we are on the subject of her amazing knitting, I urge you to pop over to her Ravelry pages to see her Ash. I honestly think that Mel is the only person I know who would knit an entire dress as a sort of elaborate muslin for a second near-identical garment . . . I think it looks amazing and I am really looking forward to seeing the dress’s second incarnation which will be knitted for a very special occasion later in the year.

Catkin

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In a fit of May Day fervour, I have decided to release CATKIN! Catkin is really two designs: a tunic-length sweater, and an accompanying slouchy hat.

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I called these designs CATKIN because the soft hand and haze of baa ram ewe’s Titus yarn reminded me of . . .

Pussy_Willow_001

. . . and also because the twisted stitch cable panel that runs up the centre of both sweater and hat is caktin-reminiscent.

These designs are simple and classic, so I thought it would be fun to style them in two completely different ways to give you a sense of how they might be worn. First of all, I donned some tweeds and took to the woods. . .

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Styled this way, the garments have an almost Edwardian feel. . .

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The sweater is tunic-length with sleek tailored lines that sit really nicely with a long skirt.

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. . . and neutral yarns work very well with tweeds.

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. . . but worn with jeans the sweater suddenly seems much more contemporary

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Now, here’s a thing: for about the past decade I have not possessed a pair of jeans, and for the past five there have not been long trousers of any kind in my wardrobe. The only breeks I wore were short ones, in what passes here for Summer. But I got hold of this particular pair especially to style Catkin — and I have honestly found that I cannot take them off. They are just so bloody comfortable for pottering about in, and absolutely ideal with a pair of boots for Bruce-walking. These breeks are a revelation! I am a breek convert! I heart my breeks!

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Ahem. Returning to the sweater, you’ll see that it has gentle waist shaping and neat set-in sleeves.

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The Titus yarn is lovely to wear next to the skin.

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The sweater is knit completely seamlessly, and mostly in the round (the exception being a little back-and-forth to construct the upper body). The sleeves are knit top-down, with short rows making the length easy to adjust for the perfect fit. The end result is very versatile, and is, I think, a style that will suit most women’s body shapes (the size range in the pattern is from 32″ to 50″). Adding, or removing length from the body is very easily done, and there is a note in the pattern about this.

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The idea behind the hat was that it could be whipped up over the course of an evening or two, both as a gauge swatch for the sweater, and as a means of familiarising yourself with the structure of the cable panel.

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I love the lines of those twisted stitches!

My intention with these designs was to provide a simple, wearable showcase for a lovely British yarn, and I’m really pleased with how they have turned out.

Oh, and if you’d like to see an actual CATKIN for yourself, baa ram ewe currently have the sweater sample that I’m wearing in these photos in their Leeds shop. Why not pop in and have a gander?

I’ve produced both patterns together as an 8 page booklet, which is now available digitally through ravelry, or in print via my Mag Cloud Store. If you are just interested in the hat, a separate pattern for that is also available.

Happy knitting!

catkindunes

A tale of Titus

As you know, the story of the yarns I use in my designs is very important to me. I am always interested to know as much as possible about a yarn’s provenance and background; like to use fibres that are locally grown and processed where possible; and am especially keen on yarns that showcase the unique qualities of different breeds of British sheep. One of my recent ‘wow’ discoveries is Titus, a wonderful new yarn that has been developed by my Yorkshire friends at baa ram ewe. I am sure many of you will have heard of Titus already, even if you haven’t knit with it, as each new batch seems to disappear from baa ram ewe’s shelves in Headingley and Harrogate almost as fast as it is spun up. Why is Titus so special? Well, this yarn blends the lustrous fibres of two beautiful British sheep breeds — Grey Wensleydale and Blue Faced Leicester — together with 30% UK Alpaca. These three different fibres are worsted-spun together to create a yarn that has a gorgeous sheeny-soft hand, but also tremendous strength. What I especially like about this yarn is that it feels incredibly luxurious but, because of the particular qualities of the fibres of which it is composed, is also clearly really tough and hard wearing. It has a really unique hand — smooth, yet because of the Wensleydale, slightly hairy — and you can tell as you knit it that the yarn simply does not want to bobble or pill. So far, Titus has been available in three natural shades, but five new colours are about to be produced, meaning that the yarn now also has a beautifully balanced palette. In short, I love Titus, and have just completed a couple of designs using it, which I’ll show you very shortly (huzzah!) First, though, I caught up with Verity Britton of baa ram ewe to hear more about Titus and the thinking behind it.

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How did the idea for Titus first come about?

Owning a wool shop and choosing among the hundreds of different yarns that are offered to us does make you think about what your dream yarn would be. We love the fuzziness of our local Wensleydale and the softness of the Bluefaced Leicester and Alpaca, and when the opportunity came to have a small batch spun, we jumped at the chance. It was amazing seeing our dreams become reality!


Can you tell us about the process of the yarn’s development? What was involved?

We knew what mix of fibres we wanted in our yarn, but we’d never made one before, so we took some advice from the the wonderful John Arbon of Fibre Harvest, who spun our first ever batch of Titus. We’re passionate about supporting British Wool and UK fibres and showcasing our local breeds here in Yorkshire, so it some ways it was an easy choice to make. We could say we had a firm idea of exactly how the yarn should be spun and what it would look like but in fact we put our trust in John who had far more experience at spinning wonderful yarns than we did. We were very nervous when we ordered our initial 12 kilos- would we like it? Would anyone else like it? But when the box arrived we breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was absolutely gorgeous and surpassed all of our expectations.


Who was Titus Salt and why is he associated with your yarn?

Sir Titus Salt was a Leeds born wool manufacturer who became tired of the smoke and pollution emanating from Yorkshire’s mills and factory chimneys and built a new mill on the outskirts of Shipley, followed by houses, bathhouses, an institute, hospital, almshouses and churches which became the village of Saltaire, now a World Heritage Site. But this wasn’t Sir Titus’ only achievement. In 1836, Titus came upon some bales of Alpaca in a warehouse in Liverpool and, after taking some samples away to experiment, came back and bought the consignment. Sir Titus became the creator of the lustrous and subsequently hugely fashionable alpaca cloth, which contributed massively to his success as a manufacturer. And that’s why we’ve added 30 per cent of the finest UK Alpaca to our yarn, which adds a little bit of magic to our wonderful wool, and strengthens that connection to our Yorkshire heritage even further.

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It is fair to say that Titus has been a roaring success, recently voted no.1 British yarn by the readers of Knit Now Magazine! Do you have any plans for new colourways and ranges?

We have been completely bowled over by the popularity of Titus and can’t thank knitters and customers enough for their support, especially for their patience when we sell out! It’s been so popular that we have now been able to introduce a brand new Titus colour range spun by the amazing Peter Longbottom of West Yorkshire Spinners. There are eight shades, all inspired by our Yorkshire surroundings, which blend beautifully together making them ideal for colourwork. It’s being dyed up as we speak and should be available in the next week or so- we’re so excited!

baa ram ewe is located in the historic hub of the UK textile industry. Is that heritage important to you? How?

One of the biggest reasons for opening baa ram ewe in Leeds and now Harrogate was to reaffirm Yorkshire’s historic link to wool and to celebrate that heritage. Industrial towns like Leeds, Bradford, Halifax and Huddersfield would not have flourished without the wool trade, and towns like Harrogate with the Yorkshire Dales on its doorstep mean sheep breeds like the Wensleydale and Swaledale are practically on your doorstep. We want to celebrate that woolly heritage and we love that so many of our customers want to see and buy yarn that is local to Yorkshire- it means we must be doing something right!

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I lived and worked in Yorkshire for many years, and love it for many reasons. What is special to you about Yorkshire and its landscape?

It’s hard to put your finger on it, but for me there is an understated natural warmth and beauty to both the Yorkshire landscape and the people that live here. Yorkshire has a really captivating mix of both industrial and rural heritage that is really unique, creating a quiet confidence that envelopes you and makes you proud, even if- like me- you weren’t born here. It’s a rich, varied and special place and if you haven’t been- come and visit soon!


What is your favourite Yorkshire expression or dialect word? (For the record, mine is probably GINNEL).

Oooh I like Ginnel too! Joint favourite though is one I got from my husband and is RADGED, as in ‘he were proper radged’, meaning very, very angry. To me, it’s almost an onomatopoeia. My mother in law says it all the time and it always makes me chuckle.

Finally, what’s next for baa ram ewe?

Oh Lord, who knows? We’ve just opened a second store in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, so we’re still recovering from that. We can’t wait for our new Titus colour range to hit the shelves any day now, and then we’ll be taking that to Woolfest in Cumbria and TNNA in the U.S in June, as well the new Yarndale show in Skipton this September. Oh, and then we’re organising the second Yorkshire Wool Week in October. So just another quiet year for us again then….

Thanks, Verity!

And finally, here’s a wee hint of what’s to come in my Titus designs :

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neutrals

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

news &c

A miscellaneous post:

First, a reminder that there are only five days remaining for entries in the Wovember competition. You could win some amazing things! One grand woolly winner will be selected by our friends at Jamieson & Smith, and there are other great prizes too: Blacker Designs are offering three runners-up awards for the best photos of sheep, and the Wovember team will also be choosing three “3 bags full” winners for the entries that best capture the creative use of wool. Above you can see some of the contents of the “bags” – a selection of lovely British wool in appropriate colours!

Next, I don’t know if you have had a look at the Wovember blog recently, but if you pop over there you’ll find some great posts from our wonderful woolly guests. For example, in from Sheep to Skein, talented British designer Susan Crawford tells us about the development of Excelana, a superb new breed-specific wool. You can also hear Diane, the Spinning Shepherd, talk about her woolly year, see Deb Robson’s take on endangered sheep breeds, learn about the different meanings of wool from inspiring artists and makers, and read some truly beautiful woolly stories, such as Rachael Matthews account of Walter’s Crook. But I am particularly excited today, as our guest blogger is none other than Oliver Henry — world expert on Shetland wool! You can read Ooey Ollie’s account of what wool means to him here.


(Oliver Henry demonstrates sorting Shetland wool. Photo by Billy Fox.)

Finally, on a personal note, things have been quite busy round here. There’s apparently a discussion of my work in the latest issue of Vogue Knitting, and, (just as exciting) on the pages of the new Shetland sheep magazine. I’ve yet to see either, but several folk seem to have found me having encountered Sheep Heid in the latter publication, so a big welcome to all you Shetland sheepy folk. Also, I’m pleased to say that some of my patterns will soon be available on the shelves of several UK retailers. I’ll be “launching” my new range of printed patterns at Baa Ram Ewe in Leeds on December 3rd. Just pop along between 4 and 6 if you’d like to have a chat! I’m not exactly sure what a pattern launch usually involves, but I’m pleased to say that this one will also feature my Ma and my sister, and perhaps a mince pie or two.

If you are a UK retailer and are interested in stocking my patterns, then do get in touch with me at the email address you’ll find over here. Meanwhile, I am working on two new designs which, all going well, will appear next month. One takes my Shetland sheep obsession to new levels, featuring over a hundred of them, and the other is inspired by this:

more anon.

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