Paper Dolls anew


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.


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.

(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 . . .


. . . who also helped out with photography.


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.


*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.



Many apologies for the fuzzy-wuzzy macro, but I am so excited by this sort-of-secret-ish project I had to show you just a little a bit of it. This thing is one of the satisfying fruits of a collaboration with my favourite Scottish dyer, and my favourite Welsh yarn producer. Working on it has lifted my spirits during a week in which they’ve felt rather downcast. Have you ever worked a two-colour braid? They are immensely pleasing and simple to produce. I’ve been reading a lot about Latvian and Estonian textiles recently, and followed up my reading with some happy experiments in casting on and braiding. This braid follows the method described by Lizbeth Upitis in her “Mitten from the District of Latgale.” There is a sort of mystery to working braids — in their early stages they don’t look like anything much at all, but then they literally unravel into a thing of beauty. I love the way that the two working yarns become entwined, and then magically untwist themselves on the final row. This particular method produces a very neat braid with a dense, raised appearance, and is definitely the best technique that I’ve found so far. There are two different “elements” to this collaboration, and I am enjoying them both immensely. Indeed, I can barely contain myself from foolishly raving about them, but I will save that for later, so prepare yourselves. In the meantime, I wonder whether any of you might be interested in test knitting one “element”? If so, please drop me a line at wazzuki AT gmail DOT com. Also, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about shaping and sizing, and would really like to get some feedback on the Manu pattern, before I release it, from anyone who knits sweaters for themselves in the 42 to 50 inch size range. If that’s you, and you fancy test knitting Manu, please do get in touch with me at the same address.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I shall return to the pressing and incredibly tedious business of Getting Well.

paper dolls


I’m glad the early mornings are becoming lighter, otherwise I (or rather, Tom) wouldn’t have been able to take these speedily snapped shots of my new sweater. Spring is definitely on its way . . .


Did I mention that, undoubted tweeness notwithstanding, I heart this sweater? I love the velvety braf yarn (particularly the semi-solid pale blue colourway I used for the corrugated rib). I love the ridiculous dancing doll figures (a modified version of a chart in the 1950 edition of my trusty Odham’s Encyclopedia of Knitting). I love the icord edging (O the wonder of producing that edge from those three knit stitches!). I love the light feel of the sweater (the yardage of bowmont braf is pretty amazing — even with the doubled-layers of the stranding and corrugated rib, this sweater weighs just 160 grams); I love the colourwork (wot fun it is) and, well, you probably know already that I love anything with a yoke. . .


In fact, the only shortcoming of this sweater (for me at least) is that there are a couple of places where my blue weaves show slightly through the cream fabric on the front. The legs of the dolls are 11 stitches apart — too far to carry the yarn — but if I knit the yoke again, I think I may manage to avoid this by alternating the spots where I place the weaves, rather than stacking them up (silly me). Still, I am really pleased with the general structure of the yoke, and with the effect of the colourwork overall.


The basic design of the yoke is a bit like the owl sweater, in that there are no decreases until 4 inches have been worked. But the back of the neck (which you can see here) is more structured and shaped than the owls, using a gazillion short rows, which I have hopefully calculated correctly. There is also some gentle waist shaping, but no bust darts. I am going to wear this lots this Spring! Now I just have to write up the pattern. . . .

Pattern: Paper Dolls (by me)
Yarn: Bowmont braf 4 ply in natural, indigo, and ‘ocean mist’
Needles: 3mm circ
Ravelled here

Oh, and here’s some obligatory throwing of shapes. . . .


EDIT! Pattern is now available here



twee, a. Now only in depreciatory use: affectedly dainty or quaint.
(Oxford English Dictionary)

I’ve just knitted something that is undoubtedly, incredibly twee. But I am really hoping it falls on twee’s acceptable side. Because however “affectedly quaint” it is, I love it! I have had a serious thing about patterns that feature repeating figures since I bought this fabric last year . . .


These Madeiran dancers look like paper dolls to me. And there’s just something about the flatness, and the repeating geometry of paper dolls that I find incredibly pleasing. And as with all dolls, there’s also something a little bit sinister about them too. They have a clone-like quality, as well as the suggestive potential of repetition, self-generation, usurpation . . . like those unruly brooms in the Sorcerers Apprentice. . . .

. . . Anyway, I was unable to resist incorporating a string of paper dolls into the new sweater I’ve now made for Spring. Given my current fondness for — nay, obsession with — Bowmont Braf and stranded colourwork, this sweater features both. It is also finished with corrugated rib (I love it!) and lots and lots of icord. Since I made those fiddlehead mittens I have developed something dangerously close to an addiction to icord — it produces such a neat edge! I just had to use it for every cast-on and bind-off.

The sweater is blocking now, but I couldn’t resist showing you a quick peek before I put it on and (no doubt) run about in it, throwing some foolish shapes:


This really is one of those instances where knitting makes me stupidly happy. Clearly I have also been bitten by the designing bug, as I thought I’d write this up into a pattern to fit anyone from 4 years old to full-grown woman, who doesn’t mind sporting something just a wee bit twee.



In Welsh, braf means fine or delightful. I have been knitting with tasty bowmont braf recently, and can confirm that it is indeed a fine yarn for producing delightful garments. Above, you see my swede in a bowmont braf Selbu Modern that I started knitting while in Islay. I like all of Kate Gagnon’s designs, and this is a very nifty one. I thought the colours of the yarn were suggestive of spring, and of snowdrops, but the look of the finished hat turned out to be much more wintry than I expected. Wintry in a good way, though. I really like it. ( Ravelled here).

A few weeks ago, I also made a pair of two-colour fiddlehead mittens for my sister.


I love the edge that the i-cord cast-on produces, and you just can’t argue with those swirling scroll motifs. Being quite substantial, these mits are made without the suggested lining and are ravelled here.

These two projects have confirmed two things for me:
1) I heart stranded knitting
2) I heart bowmont braf

Its been a while since I knit anything using more than one colour, and I had forgotten how much I love it. I am also so enamoured of the bowmont braf 4 ply that I’ve just had to keep on knitting with it. It really is a very distinctive yarn. It is almost airy to work with, yet it produces a dense, matt fabric of incredible velvety softness. There is also no give in the yarn at all — knitted up, it is robust, solid, and inelastic — but still very light.


This was meant to be an edging, reverting to plain stockinette after 2 inches, but I am liking the effect of this rib so much I fear I may not be able to stop knitting it.

no stash guilt here!

(warning: long post!)

Guess where I’ve been this weekend?

(Bruno, the North Ronaldsay ram).

. . . to marvel at some wonderful beasties . . .

(these two lovely ladies belong to Robin and Caroline Sandys-Clarke of Why not Alpacas)

. . .and the stuff that comes off their backs . . .

. . . yes, I was at WOOLFEST!

This year I am writing an article about Woolfest, and this gave me an opportunity to meet and chat with some really lovely people, and to hear about some inspirational businesses, projects, and initiatives. My piece will be about what makes this show so distinctive: its contemporaneity and energy coupled with a deeply held respect for regional identities and long-established craft and textile traditions. And all of this is thanks to the women of the Woolclip co-operative who organise the show.

Woolfest is wonderful! But I have to save its bigger picture and my thoughts for the magazine article. So heres some stuff about what I did and (gulp) bought this weekend.

Some of my work at the moment involves writing about a group of Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century women whose attitudes to consumption are hesitant at best, and I think that their negative view of shopping (as something in which you are inevitably exchanging/ losing part of yourself) rather rubs off on me. As a consequence, I tend not to talk about my stash, or about buying yarn or fabric on this blog. And my not-buying-clothes-for-a-year project-thing has also made me regard stuff and its acquisition with a weird, nigh pompous embarrassment. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I discussed my stash-ambivalence with Felix, who among her many other talents, is a fount of tremendous Good Sense. In response to my problem with yarn as just another soul-sapping commodity, she spoke articulately about 1) how her stash represented a series of promises of time saved up, time that was going to be well spent in the future; 2) how her stash spoke to her of a whole world of creative possibility, enabling any project or experiment that might spring to her mind; and 3) how it was an incredibly positive thing to be spending one’s money in support of yarn producers, spinners and dyers — the artists and artisans one respects and admires. In the face of this wisdom, my concerns about commerce, stash guilt, and yarn p*rn all seemed rather foolish, frankly. Why should I be embarrassed about the stuff that I buy?

My experience as a Woolfest consumer was Immensely Satisfying. So I thought I’d show you the stuff that I bought, and why I bought it.

Evidently I am in my blue period, or summat, as I bought a lot of blue things.

1) Bowmont Braf 4 ply. A few skeins in a few different colours — enough to make a fairisle-ish top. Bowmont Braf is a new Welsh cross-breed and the wool these sheep produce is completely amazing. It’s a shame you can’t really see how it feels — otherwise the knitters among you would be making peculiar appreciative noises. It is incredibly soft and springy and, knitted up, has a very pleasing velvety, matt quality that is very distinctive. It feels like cashmere, frankly, but with much more loft and body — it behaves like wool — which of course it is. I saw and felt a sweater knitted in it at last years Woolfest and haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I had to get some. It is spun and dyed in Wales too.

2. Linen embroidery thread from Mulberry Dyer. The dye is woad and on linen it is luminous and lovely. I can stitch with it and foolishly imagine I am back in the early eighteenth century.

3. Several skeins of wonderful Blue Faced Leicester DK from Artisan Threads. (My photo here does not do the range of subtle blues in this yarn any sort of justice). Jill and Penny are two talented textile artists based in Nairn, in the Scottish Highlands, who just launched their new company selling naturally dyed fleeces, yarn and thread. (Their website is not up yet, but should be very soon). Most of what they sell is locally sourced and produced, and they talk about the animals from which their yarn originated as articulately as they do about dyes and dying. Their knack with colour is really amazing and their yarns are all utterly beautiful — subtle, and slightly semi-solid. At every stage, process is an important part of the end product — and the end product is very good indeed. Perhaps the best compliment I can give this yarn is to say that the only place I’ve ever seen anything remotely like it is at Shilasdair. It is truly beautiful stuff and, if I was a spinner, I’d have been snapping up a fleece or two as well.

Top and bottom left are laceweight cashmere/silk and bluefaced leicester ‘dazzle’ sock yarn, both from the Natural Dye Studio. Their yarn is Very Nice. Top right is merino sock yarn from The Yarn Yard. Natalie is based just outside Edinburgh, and this is the first time I’ve met her or her yarns — which are gorgeous. She runs a sock club which is unlike others I’ve come across as you can drop in and out as and when you like. Tempting. Bottom right is rather a poignant purchase — this is Cheviot Aran dyed by Carolyn Rawlinson, who established Woolfest in 2005, and who recently sadly died. I actually bought two skeins of this same raspberry coloured yarn last year at the WoolClip’s shop in Caldbeck and have been playing around swatching with it and thinking that two skeins just weren’t enough to do justice to the yarn — which clearly wants cables. I bought a few more skeins in exactly the same colourway yesterday with mixed feelings — this was the last of her yarn. When I make something with this, it will have Carolyn Rawlinson’s memory knitted all the way through it.

and finally . . .

. . .no, I did not buy myself a ram. In fact, I only purchased the last item — a herdwick-themed gift for Mr B. The other three pics provide context for his Herdwick obsession. Item one is a noble animal I saw at Woolfest on Saturday; item 2 is himself cavorting in his Herdwick sweater, knitted by me from the wool from Pam Hall’s Herdwicks, and item 3 is his proudly-owned Herdwick tie, bought last year at the Woolclip. He likes Herdwicks. So I bought him item 4 — a rather nice china mug with the phiz of a herdwick upon it — just one of many new products designed by the talented team behind Herdy, an interesting new initiative now lending these quintessentially lakeland animals a new identity and, through their range of lovely bespoke wool products, a vital new lease of life as well.

Other weekend highlights included these beautiful hand-carved sticks on show at the Ullswater Country Fair. . .

. . . and the lush variety of colours in the Cumberland Pencil Museum in Keswick.

Did you know you can see the world’s largest coloured pencil there? Well, you can . . .


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