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.
I called these designs CATKIN because the soft hand and haze of baa ram ewe’s Titus yarn reminded me of . . .
. . . 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. . .
Styled this way, the garments have an almost Edwardian feel. . .
The sweater is tunic-length with sleek tailored lines that sit really nicely with a long skirt.
. . . and neutral yarns work very well with tweeds.
. . . but worn with jeans the sweater suddenly seems much more contemporary
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!
Ahem. Returning to the sweater, you’ll see that it has gentle waist shaping and neat set-in sleeves.
The Titus yarn is lovely to wear next to the skin.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve been really inspired by some fantastic knitting books which have turned up here recently, so I thought I’d give them a shout-out. First up is Rachel Coopey‘s much anticipated first collection. Rachel is truly the Queen of Socks — she has a distinctive feel for pattern and structure which suits her foot-shaped canvas perfectly. Her designs are thoughtful, precise and definitively knitterly — she often reverses or mirrors stitch patterns across her socks in ways that are not only aesthetically pleasing but will really engage the maker’s interest through a pair. For example, Milfoil (the green pair that you can see above), has a horizontal mirror between cuff and foot that makes each sock the opposite of the other, while in Budleigh (my favourite design in the collection) neat cables and twisted stitches flow through the design with a vertical reflection that separates left from right.
Inside the book are ten beautifully written and laid-out patterns; a technical section with instructions for essential sock-knitting techniques (including a useful illustrated afterthought heel-tutorial) and jolly English seaside photography. What’s not to love?
You can pre-order the book directly from Rachel here.
Next up, and top of the tree for pure knitterliness, is Lynne Barr’s new book, The Shape of Knitting. Lynne has an amazingly innovative approach to stitch, and I think she is one of the most creative and inventive designers around today.
My approach to design tends to be very referential. I see a thing, or read a thing, or hear a thing — I like the thing — and I want to somehow render, or celebrate, or get to the heart of the thing in stitches. Lynne’s approach is completely different, and I completely love it. She says:
Inspiration isn’t always derived from things we see around us — or even from words we read or hear. Sometimes it comes from something intangible within us. When playing with a technique, I sometimes feel like a dowser, but holding knitting needles instead of a dowsing rod to guide me toward an unknown goal.
I feel about two hundred years behind Lynne’s design-aesthetic — a plodding Wordsworth to her John Ashberry. Don’t get me wrong — I love the technical aspects of designing, and I like to make stitches do things for me, but I think that Lynne’s relationship to stitch is on another level entirely — like the listener of a symphony who has somehow become a sort of instrument themselves. If you have any interest in the creative possibilities of knitwear design, then you need to immediately get hold of a copy The Shape of Knitting to put on your shelf next to Lynne’s previous book.
Finally, here is a book I’ve been looking forward to seeing for some time.
I admire Rosa Pomar for many reasons, but perhaps most for her thorough commitment to exploring and documenting the history of Portuguese textiles from the grass-roots up. Behind this wonderful book stands several years work, as Rosa has travelled around Portugal, researching animal husbandry, spinning, weaving, knitting, garment construction, and the traditional craft and design practices of men and women all over her beautiful country. Though my Portuguese is non-existent, I still find so much food for thought here.
As well as exploring the history and distinctive techniques of Portuguese hand knitting, the book also includes patterns for twenty lovely accessories inspired by traditional design. I think that this one is my favourite . . .
. . . not least for the way it showcases Rosa’s own Mirandesa yarn, which is hand spun and plied in Trás-os-Montes from the wool of Churra Galega Mirandesa sheep. This book marks an important landmark in the way the history of hand knitting is researched and written about, and you can buy it from Rosa here.
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.
Some time in 2005, I was walking through the Edinburgh branch of John Lewis when my eye was caught by the display of Rowan yarns and samples. The gorgeous colours of the yarns and the beautiful styling and photography of the pattern books and magazines really grabbed my attention. On the spot, I decided to start knitting again, and picked up several balls of Big Wool in, if I remember rightly, the ‘tomato’ shade. The first thing I turned out was a gigantic tomato-coloured moss-stitch wrap on 10mm needles, and since then I have not looked back. What I’m saying is that it was Rowan’s yarns, designs, and photography — their distinctive and immediately recognisable aesthetic — that inspired me to take up my needles. I am sure that many knitters (and designers) have a similar tale to tell.
I have been writing features for the Rowan Magazine since 2009, and each one has been a pleasure to produce. Marie Wallin always provides suggestive and inspiring editorial briefs; the generous word length allows one to properly get one’s teeth into a topic; and it is genuinely thrilling to see one’s words and photographs laid out in such a well-produced and seriously beautiful magazine. Research for the fine lace feature I wrote for Magazine 50 (A/W, 2011) took me to Shetland — the first of many trips, and, for me, the beginning of another journey.
Although I have worked with Rowan for almost four years, I have never met Marie or the rest of the team. Yesterday I finally had the opportunity to do so, and popped down to Yorkshire to visit Rowan’s Holmfirth HQ.
I had a lovely day. It was both fascinating and inspiring to see behind the scenes, to gain an insight into the complexities of the design and production process from start to finish, and to catch a glimpse (and squoosh) of what knitters will be treated to in future seasons. It was also lovely to put faces to design-room names, and to have the opportunity to chat about future projects in person.
As these photographs will suggest, it was one of those incredibly busy sorts of days when there wasn’t an opportunity to make use of my camera — but these tasty balls of Felted Tweed may give you some indication of various things-in-process. All I’ll say right now is watch this space!
Thankyou, Marie, David, Kate and the rest of the Rowan team for a wonderful introduction to the mill!
I’m really pleased to be able to release another sheepy pattern! This design is a collaboration between myself and the wonderful Sandra Manson of Jamieson and Smith. As you can see, this cute canine coat features the same charts as my Sheepheid and Rams and Yowes designs, but the pattern is all Sandra’s. It was designed for her characterful Yorkshire Terrier, Toby, who is a true Woolbroker’s icon. Here they are together at Jamieson and Smith HQ.
Toby is such a lovely old boy — he will be 17 next month — and is often to be seen around Lerwick and Bressay sporting a very impressive range of Fairisle knitwear, all of which is designed and made for him by Sandra. Without doubt, Toby is Shetland’s best-dressed canine, and it is about time that he had a pattern of his very own!
Toby’s coat is made from the tail upwards and, in the same way as you’d create a mitten thumb, uses contrast yarn to create ‘afterthought’ front leg openings which are picked up later.
The neck of the coat is shaped with decreases and a ribbed edging is added all around the sides, creating a button-and-buttonhole band for the coat to fasten securely around the chest. Stitches are then picked up for the front ‘sleeves’, and a pair of neat straps are knitted to fasten the back of the coat underneath the hind legs.
Toby’s coat should fit any small-breed dog, such as a Westie or Jack Russell. The pattern includes detailed schematics, enabling you to adjust the dimensions if necessary to best fit those of your dog by adjusting gauge, or the length of the fastening straps.
Charts by: me!
Pattern by: Sandra Manson
Tech-editing by: Jen Arnall-Culliford
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
(image via Morgan Morgan)
Number of different countries to which Colours of Shetland has now shipped: 35
Number of US States to which Colours of Shetland has now shipped: 50*
Number of pompoms I need to make for my new design samples: 8**
Number of stitches I failed to increase when working from my own pattern: 20***
*I was very excited when we received orders from Hawaii and West Virginia, bringing the US State total to a nice round 50!
**I am almost as excited about my new design – Snawpaws – mitts and mittens to match Snawheid. (The pattern is written and we will hopefully be taking some photos this weekend. More soon!)
***I am somewhat less excited about having to knit yet another Snawheid (in a different colourway, to match one of the new pairs of Snawpaws). The other day I began to whip it up, and thought it was looking a bit wee, and only when I reached the crown shaping I did I realise my fatal error . . . this evening I shall rip back, and start again!