Eno

I have been thinking about Brian Eno since a half-remembered lyric led Tom and I to listen again to our Roxy Music albums this weekend. Genius! This morning I rediscovered these photographs of Eno in some incredible knitwear and was reminded of his fabulously singular sartorial style.

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“We got the usual strange looks in airports,” said Eno in 1972 when questioned about public reactions to his appearance, “but once they discovered we were English we were just taken on curiosity value.”

Shetland

Recognise the hat?

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Yes! Its my Peerie Flooers!

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This hat, along with a couple of my other designs, will be making their first TV appearance tomorrow in Shetland, a two-part BBC crime drama based on Ann Cleeves’ novel Red Bones. Exciting!

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You can see some more stills and the trailer here, and, if you are in the UK, you can watch the first part of Shetland tomorrow night at 9pm on BBC1.

I’m not very well at the moment, so am unfortunately very behind with many things, including my email. If you have been waiting to hear from me, I’ll endeavour to get back to you this coming week. Apologies xx

Sixareen Cape

While we were in the Highlands, we took the opportunity to photograph a design I’ve had ready for a while: the Sixareen Cape.

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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.

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(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.

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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.

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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 . . .

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Pulled forward, collar-like, around the shoulders . . .

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Or pulled down, cape-like, around the torso . . .

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Decreases are worked through the plain stockinette part of the garment in exactly the same way as the shaping of a raglan sweater.

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. . . and the end result is a striking and versatile wrap that is also great at warding off chilly highland breezes.

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These photographs were taken above Rannoch Moor on a truly beautiful evening.

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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.

Mod

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(Delaunay in an outfit of her own design)

Do you remember a little while ago I was having a Sonia Delaunay moment?

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(‘Simultaneous’ dress & car upholstery)

Around this time, I was knitting the the Puffin Sweater, and shortly afterward, I wrote a piece about Delaunay which has just been published in Rowan 53.

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The brief for my feature was to write something to accompany this Rowan design story . . .

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. . . and I felt that the influence of Delaunay was startlingly evident in mod-inspired knitwear collections.

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(Delaunay, 1923 / Céline, Autumn / Winter 2010-11)

Delaunay’s proud, modernist vision of garments as wearable art was the starting point of my thinking . . .

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(Delaunay celebrated by Vogue in 1925)

. . . but I ended up somewhere rather different.

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(Jean Shrimpton in Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian Dress, 1964)

perry&lim
(Lisa Perry & Phillip Lim’s appropriations of Lichtenstein)

You can read more in the magazine!

Shetland knitting inspiration

A final wool-week round up . . .


Shetland rams at Lunna


prize-winning Shetland fleeces

Traditional tam in natural Shetland sheep-shades from the Shetland Museum collection.


Weaving sample book from the museum collection.

Fairisle swatches from the museum collection – some worked as individual swatches, most simply cut from old garments to preserve the pattern.


Swatches of more recent ilk! Gudrun (wearing Norie and Aestlight Shawl ) and Mary Jane lay out the source material from Mary Jane’s invaluable new book 200 Fairisle Motifs. Order your copy today!

I found it quite overwhelming looking at Mary Jane’s beautiful swatches – I could have gazed at their infinite variety for hours – but I was repeatedly drawn to those at the centre of this photo.

Here is Sarah examining the gorgeous garments from Gudrun’s collection, while wearing a natty cardigan of her own. . .

. . .in fact, Sarah is always clad in interesting knitwear. He she is once again trying (and failing) to avoid the camera wearing a cardigan knitted by Sandra Manson (whose Viking Tunic you’ll find in the Knit Real Shetland collection), and a tam made by her friend Ottilie.

This is a Sanquhar glove, knitted in laceweight alpaca on teeny-tiny needles by Masami Yokoyama.

Masami (the elegant figure in the foreground of this photo, with Sue and Megan behind her) is a superlative knitter, and a great Fairisle designer too – you’ll find the pattern for her Osaka tea-cosy in the Knit Real Shetland collection).


And to close – perhaps the most inspiring hand-knitted piece I saw in a week full of knitting inspiration. This is a prize-winning lace dress, owned by Cathie Leask and knitted by her aunt over fifty years ago. The tale of this beautiful garment was part of Cathie’s entry in the Shetland Stories Competition. I felt very privileged to be able to see this dress, while reading Cathie’s memories about it.

Reversible Knitting: a conversation about sizing


(the front cover of Reversible Knitting features Norah Gaughan’s innovative Reverse Me jacket)

Today, I’m very pleased to introduce Lynne Barr, whose recently published Reversible Knitting has already become a must-have knitting title. The first part of Lynne’s book explores her original and exciting approach to stitch, with fifty swatches that that will make your eyes pop, your jaw drop, and your hands immediately get busy with needles and yarn, to work out exactly how she managed to do that.


(Lynne’s “Half Nelson” pattern – one of my favourite stitches in Reversible Knitting)

The book’s second part features some incredibly inspiring takes on the idea of reversibility itself, with twenty patterns from all of your favourite designers. There’s a great range of garments here that are both experimental and wearable: dresses and tunics, vests and sweaters, knitwear for the shoulders, feet, and head. Some of these innovative garments can be turned inside-out, or outside-in—such as Veronik Avery’s classic Lice Jacket, or Teva Durham’s bold Geometric Dress. Others, like Lynne’s playful Two Tone Vest or her stylish and eye-catching Folded Mini Dress can be worn back-to-front or front-to-back. Wenlan Chia and Norah Gaughan, meanwhile, have contributed designs that work equally well downside-up or upside-down. Chia’s Winding Path transforms itself from cropped-sweater to long tunic, and the cable-adorned shawl collar of Gaughan’s Reverse Me jacket morphs easily into a deep and richly textured waist band. In the world of reversible design, there is no right or wrong side—but how does one go about sizing these unique garments for a range of different body shapes? Lynne, and the tech editor for Reversible Knitting, Sue McCain, dropped by to tell us more.


(Lynne Barr’s Two Tone Vest)

KD: Recently I’ve been thinking more about sizing in order to extend the range in my own patterns, so I wonder how much more complex it was to size some of the reversible garments in your book?

LB: Sue McCain, our tech editor for the book, sized all of the patterns, and I too wonder what additional issues she had to contend with — in particular for Reverse Me by Norah Gaughan and Winding Path by Wenlan Chia. Both of those sweaters are designed to be inverted top to bottom, and I believe most women don’t have identical bust and hip measurements. But in both designs, having one wearable version short and the other long when flipped upside down, eliminates the need for both measurements around the bottom to fit the widest part of a body. It’s a clever design element that serves two purposes – to increase the visual difference between the two versions and to simplify potential fit problems.


(Winding Path worn as a cropped empire-style sweater)

KD: That’s really ingenious—in the book, the two versions do look very different, while both fitting well. Did these upside-down reversible designs involve their own unique sizing problems?

LB: Let’s bring in Sue, and hear her thoughts on the sizing of Winding Path.

SMC: Working with the large gauge and 4-stitch rib pattern repeat while grading Winding Path was the biggest challenge. With a gauge of 1.375 stitches per inch over the rib pattern, each four-stitch sizing increment used to maintain the pattern added just under 2.75”. Fortunately, the finished piece is fairly forgiving in terms of stretch, and the fit of the stockinette stitch portion is intended to be close to the body.


(Winding Path worn tunic-length)

KD: And did grading Reverse Me pose a different set of challenges?

SMC: The most important task when grading Reverse Me was to really understand how the pieces went together, and how changing the length and width of each piece would affect the other pieces. When grading any pattern, it’s important to remain true to the proportions of the original size, while keeping in mind potential fit issues arising from increasing or decreasing the measurements. The back width at the cast on edge was decided by the desired bust sizes, and once this width was determined, it was easy to grade the remaining dimensions following the proportions of the original garment. We did, however, keep some of the measurements fairly close from one size to the next (neck width, sleeve length and width, length to armhole) as these are dimensions that don’t change much from the smaller end of the size range to the larger end. Aside from limiting the size range, the reversibility of Reverse Me didn’t present any special issues.


(Reverse Me worn both ways)

KD: I had a sort of eureka moment while grading my manu pattern, when I realized how very little the neck width would differ between smaller and larger sizes. Proportional progression is one the things I’ve been finding most interesting (and tricky) the more I explore sizing from a design perspective. In “standard” sizing terms, I’m quite wee — 30″ chest, 23″ waist, 34″ hips. My fuller-figured friend might think she has little in common with my body shape — and yet when you work out the percentages — my proportions are actually exactly the same as hers (44″ chest 34″ waist, 50″ hips) — we are both equally proportioned pear shapes. Why can’t the smaller and the larger “pear” wear exactly the same style of garment, equally successfully? I’m still finding my way with this (when I began designing my size ranges were quite conservative) but am hoping to improve my sense of how garments work for fuller figures by getting feedback from test knitters in that size range.

LB: I’m not sure that sizing is a simple proportional progression though. When Sue sized the Folded Mini Dress in Reversible Knitting, I noticed that the armhole shaping changed significantly from the two smaller sizes I had already knit. Sue explained that the span under the arm is a greater percentage of the overall chest measurement in the larger sizes than in the smaller ones. And she also pointed out that if sweaters were a constant incremental increase for each size, plus sizes would have shoulders that would be enormous and they’re not.

KD: The variance of underarm width really does add another dimension. And then, within a single size range, individual body shapes can be so very different when one starts to consider waist position, shoulder width and so on . . .

LB: This makes me recall years ago when I worked for a bathing suit designer, whose business consisted of mostly custom-made work. It seemed easier working with an actual body to measure and fit rather than trying to fit everyone into a standard ready-to-wear suit. But still, we generally started a fitting with specific styles depending on the individual’s body type and whether they needed support, or wanted to look like they had more than they did. But I hate to think that a style was chosen simply based on some stereotype of what should or should not be worn by different people.


(Lynne’s fab Folded Mini Dress)

KD: Yes, the idea that there are definitive ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ styles for particular body sizes can be so prohibitive. Perhaps it’s just a mater of knitters being brave enough to experiment, feeling confident about adding shaping or changing a part of the sizing of a pattern to suit their particular body shape, as well as being able to visualize oneself in a range of different garment styles. I think it’s often difficult for knitters to picture themselves in a piece they only ever see in one size — and then there is the problem of encountering patterns that really don’t seem to accommodate body shapes outside the US or UK “standard” size range. I wondered whether you had any thoughts on the ways in which “non-standard” knitters might adapt Reverse Me or Winding Path?

SMC: For Winding Path, if you want to work larger sizes than offered in the book, it’s easy to do. While maintaining the given gauge, for every 4 stitches you add to the cast-on, you will add roughly 3″ to the circumference of the piece. When shaping the armhole, work half of the stitches before transferring them to the stitch holder. The sleeves can be graded in increments of 4 stitches as well – just make sure that you work a longer armhole length on the body to accommodate them. We don’t recommend working Reverse Me any larger than the largest size given, unless you don’t intend to wear the piece upside-down, because the bottom band has to increase quite a bit as the sizes get larger, and it will hang too low when worn upside-down.


(Teva Durham’s Geometric Dress, worn both ways)

LB: One last thing for knitters who believe there is a dearth of patterns, both smaller and larger than the typical middle range, I recommend they visit Sue’s website. She offers a line of knitting patterns with the widest range I’ve seen — sizes xx-small to 6x-large. And to expand your sizes upward, this site featuring plus-size patterns looks like a great resource.

KD: I second the recommendation of Sue’s website. And for those of us at the other end of the sizing scale, I remember Kristen Hanley Cardozo writing about some of the issues encountered by xxs knitters in a particularly moot and interesting way.

LB: Kate, I’ve enjoyed meeting you. Thanks so much for having me on your blog… the topic of sizing is an interesting one that I think merits more in depth attention.

KD: Thanks so very much for being here, Lynne, and Sue, and for opening up a really stimulating discussion. I feel I’ve learnt a lot from your insights on sizing and grading. Very many congratulations on an inspired and inspiring book.

lyttelton

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Hello! If you don’t come here for the knitting and are bored with talk of garment construction, stitch patterns, and the like, then my apologies. Move along please! Nothing to see here!

I can now report that another pattern is ready. This was a very interesting project for me, as it is the first garment I have designed in which I began by thinking about what writing a pattern would involve. Shrugs are pretty much a summer essential in my wardrobe: personally, I find that they are more wearable than shawls, and look neater than a cardigan over the dresses that I tend to favour at this time of year. Lots of knitters (like my sister) seem to make shrugs to match individual outfits, particularly those that they intend to wear at summer weddings. I’ve noted quite a bit of shrug-related discussion along these lines over recent months; for example here on stash and burn and here over at fig and plum.

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Shrug-construction is an intriguing matter. Once one moves on from the basic idea of a side-to-side seamed rectangle, they can be formed in a multitude of ways: from centre to sides (as in Lisa Daehlin’s perenially popular Viennese Shrug), as a square or lozenge with a knit-on edging (as in Mel Clark’s lacy hug me tight), or in a novel modifed T-shape (as in Alice’s Ester). The diagram shows the construction I’ve used here. I started with a provisional cast on, knit up the back, increased stitches to shape the sleeves, put the centre stitches on hold for the neck, worked over the shoulders and fronts, and knit back down again, mirroring the back shaping. The seams are joined under the arms (where you don’t see ‘em), then stitches are picked up all the way round the front and back openings, and joined to those on-hold, before adding a ribbed edging which is worked in the round. The key to this construction is a stitch pattern that looks exactly the same right-way up and upside-down. I had such a one in mind, and built my shrug around a modified version of what Barbara Walker calls ’tilted ladder’, but which has other names elsewhere. This is the kind of lace-and-cable stitch that I really like. It is logical, it is rhythmic, it is fixed in my scatty brain after just one repeat, I can immediately see where I am in the pattern, and its so berloody simple even I can knit it on a train in a near-comatose state after a long day at work.

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Its also one of those deceptive stitch patterns whose visual and textural interest suggests more complexity than it actually possesses. Ah yes! My very favourite kind. I’ve used a yarn with a bright, sharp stitch definition that I really like: rowan 4 ply soft. It shows off cables and lace superlatively well, is easy to care for, and comes in a good range of colours. One thing to note (if you are looking at the way the shrug sits in this photo) is that one of my physical peculiarities is a short torso, matched with comparatively long legs (long? who am I kidding? for I am 5 ft 2″). Anyway, the garment’s finished length is between 15 and 16 inches, and the back will look shorter on anyone whose torso is longer. There are just three easy fitting sizes in the finished pattern, which will accommodate any chest measurement from 28 to 44 inches. That’s it for the detail, then, but can I just say that from start to finish, this has been an immensely satisfying project? I enjoyed thinking about the design, loved knitting it, and am very pleased with the end result and indeed the finished pattern (though I do say so myself).

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The design name is Lyttelton, and I shall now tell you why (though I fear my reasoning has a degrees-of-separation quality which makes it completely inexplicable). Here goes, anyway:
1) the pattern involves a lace trellis
2) the word ‘trellis’ kept popping into my head while I was knitting.
3) this put me in mind of Mrs Trellis of North Wales, the eccentric and mysterious correspondent of Radio 4′s long running antidote to panel games, I’m Sorry, I haven’t a Clue.
4) until his sad death last year, this show was chaired by the incomparable Humphrey Lyttelton, jazz trumpeter and comedy genius, who has held a place in my affections since my Dad took me to hear him play a gig in Todmorden in 1985.
5) this shrug’s for you, Humph.

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Now to what you are all wanting to know if you have actually stayed with me thus far: where the hell were you throwing those shapes? Well, yes this is Scotland, and these photographs were taken a couple of weekends ago on Traigh Lar beach on the Hebridean island of Harris, a location of unique and tremendous beauty to which I am already looking forward to returning. That beach really is that incredible — the weather was hot, the sea was cool, the views were amazing, and there was no-one else around.

So to anyone who fancies knitting themselves a Lyttelton: the pattern is now available through ravelry or above from the designs page. And to my mother who has an unshakeable idea of Scottish island weather based on one blustery school trip to Arran many, many moons ago can I just say: Yes, Ma, Harris is just like Barbados.

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paper dolls

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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 . . .

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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. . .

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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.

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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. . . .

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EDIT! Pattern is now available here

o w l s. the pattern.

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Yes, the o w l s pattern is ready. You can now download it as a PDF under ‘designs’ (see tabs at top of page). Later today I hope to be able to contact all of you who requested the pattern by email. I’ve encountered several wrongly-typed or rejected addresses on the list, so if you do not receive a message from me, it is not because I’m ignoring you — just please download the pattern here. I hope to soon have it listed as a ravelry download also.

A few things I wanted to say:

THANKS. Big thanks to my knitting comrades Hannah, Kate B, Melanie, and Ysolda, who have shared their champion knitting skills and technical expertise most generously. As with most things knitwise, this pattern has really benefited from collective knowledge and effort.

Short rows. The original o w l s featured Japanese short rows. These can be tricky to work in the round and (I discovered) it is even trickier to describe precisely how to work them in the round. The horror! There are some great online tutorials for working Japanese short rows back and forth (here, for example). But when you are working in the round, you encounter the turning point / gap in (as it were) the wrong direction, and face the tricksy problem of forcing the turned yarn back on itself, up onto the needle, and closing the gap by twisting the previous stitch so that it sits the wrong way round as well as knitting through a loop that is stretched to near breaking point. Sheesh! I take my proverbial hat off to anyone who has figured out a straightforward way to describe this. Anyway, for ease, clarity, and my general sanity, the pattern has reverted to good old ‘wrap and turn’ to work the short rows. This is certainly an easier method for beginners (and many people who have asked for the pattern have described themselves as beginner knitters). But I do like Japanese short rows (even though I can’t for the life of me describe how to close up their gaps in the round) and if you like them too, I recommend you use them in place of the wraps and turns the pattern includes.

Expertise. Lots of you have emailed me asking if o w l s is suitable for a beginner knitter, or as My First Sweater. ™ I would rate the design as reasonably easy, but while my pattern shows you how to make an owl sweater, it cannot teach you to knit. The pattern begins with a list of necessary skills. If you are familiar with the techniques on this list, you should be able knit the sweater.

Yarn rationale and working at different gauges. Many knitters are not fond of chunky yarn, either because it can be a rather blunt instrument, design-wise, or because of its general bulk. This pattern reduces bulk through the fit of the sweater and uses chunky yarn because 1) I wanted to be warm and 2) I wanted BIG owls. A chunky yarn produces several large, tall, owl cables standing proudly on the yoke. If you re-work the pattern for finer yarns and gauges, your owls will be smaller and perhaps a little less owlish. On the other hand, a finer yarn would produce more owls. This is always a bonus.

Labour. Value. Credit. Designers should be paid for what they do. For us to keep knitting the shawls and sweaters and socks that we love, we should be supporting our designers, and paying them in a way that reflects our appreciation and their hard work. To not do so devalues both their talents and their labour. It is the same issue as with other forms of work that are performed independently, or (in a rather different way) within the domestic sphere — such labour should be properly remunerated, and properly valued. This is why what Twist Collective is doing is so great, and I have no truck with those who churlishly complain on Ravelry and elsewhere about paying for individual patterns. Seriously, folks! Should your pleasurable hobby be the focus of designers’ charitable endeavours? I think not.

The pattern is available to buy here or here.

Thankyou. And enjoy your owls.

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