Port o’ Leith


Here is the third garment in my Edinburgh series – the Port o’ Leith gansey.

This garment has twisted stitches and cables, that are reminiscent of maritime nets and rigging. It also features a deep, cowl-like collar, which is great for warding off North sea winds.


. . . but which is also detachable, for when the weather is warmer, or you wish to hail a passing vessel.


When designing this ensemble I wanted to retain a simple shape, as best befits a cabled gansey. But I also think that traditional gansey-gussets can be somewhat unflattering on a women’s garment, creating far far too much fabric around the underarm and upper torso.

(illustration by Felicity Ford)

So I’ve shaped the upper torso for a neater fit, following and adapting Elizabeth Zimmerman’s directions for a seamless saddle-shouldered sweater.

Centred double decreases add focus to the yoke . . .


. . . and are echoed in the twisted stitches that feature on the collar and front panel.


Creating a Wintery ensemble that has some fitted structure, but is also really cosy and easy to wear.


I am modelling it here with 4 ins positive ease, wearing a vest and woolly baselayer underneath. . .


. . . but the gansey could also be worn with zero or negative ease, and you’ll find instructions in the pattern for selecting the best size, and modifying the garment for a more tailored look.

In the essay that accompanies the design, I write about Leith’s connections with the wool trade, and with Shetland knitting, and it is fitting that the garment is knitted in a great Shetland yarn – Jamieson and Smith Shetland chunky. Having done a lot of knitting with this yarn, I’d say that it is really more of an aran-weight than a chunky, creating a fabric that seems to have just the right amount of density at a gauge of 16 sts to 4 ins (on 5mm needles). I knit this sample in the natural ‘kirn mylk’ shade but the charcoal shade of this yarn is also particularly lovely, and I’ll hopefully show you another sample knitted up in this shade very shortly.


This yarn is worsted spun, which means that, while it retains a lovely Shetland wooliness it is also very smooth, lending it a stitch definition that’s ideal for twisted stitches and cables.


These photographs were taken down by Leith’s docks and shore at the Victoria Swing Bridge – which, when it was first constructed in 1874, was the largest swing bridge in Britain.


We used to live a short walk from here. Though you’ll now find delicatesans and confectioners and michelin-starred restaurants next to the Port’s traditional maritime haunts, Leith somehow retains its character as the least pretentious of Edinburgh places.


The pattern is now available digitally, via Ravelry, or in print from my MagCloud store
(I’m currently investigating ways of including a code with the print copy to enable you to store a PDF in your Rav library. This requires updating and altering all my print files – please bear with me – I’ll let you know when this is sorted and I can also issue those who’ve bought print copies of other patterns with download codes retrospectively, if necessary).

sunshine on . . .


Yesterday we had beautiful weather while we popped back to our old stomping grounds in North Edinburgh and Leith to take some photographs of two new sweater designs. I’ve been working on these patterns for a while now, and they form part of my Edinburgh series — garments inspired by my favourite places in the great city in which I lived for a decade.

Here’s the photographer:


And here’s a wee hint of what was being photographed:


I’m really excited to tell you all about these two designs and promise you’ll see more very soon!


As well as the two Edinburgh-series designs, I’m full of woolly plans for this WOVEMBER. The French translation booklet to accompany Colours of Shetland will soon be available, as will the second edition of the book itself, which is currently being reprinted (so if you’d like a print copy of the book, I’ll soon have my online shop up and running again). As well as the book, the shop will also be stocked with other items, including kits for three new accessories which I’m busy working on right now. Moving house has also meant moving work – it has taken a while to get everything set up, but now everything is ticking away in my studio and stock room and I’m enjoying seeing it all develop.

In the meantime, here are links to two WOVEMBER posts from two of my favourite woolly Shetland folk: Take a look at Ella’s incredible Spencer Dress, and Sarah’s fabulous collection of Shetland knitwear. (Sarah, of course, is the editor of Shetland Textiles: 800 BC to the Present, of which more another time). Meanwhile, over on the WOVEMBER website, you’ll find lots of lovely things about growing wool this week, including this interview with Pam Hall about her Herdwicks and her farm. (Some of you may remember that I knitted this sweater, many, many moons ago, using wool from Pam’s sheep).


My own neighbourhood is my favourite place to walk, at all times of the year. The We Love Leith movement is currently encouraging more people to walk, bicycle, and enjoy their local patch. I am very fond of these banners, which currently festoon Leith Walk, and which celebrate Leith’s exuberance, variety, and history. This one depicts an unofficial speaker in the 1951 general election, campaigning for James Hoy, the winning Labour candidate


(dawn on mead mountain)

To say this was the most exciting Christmas morning I’ve had since I was around six years old is no exaggeration. We arose at first light and walked all the way across Edinburgh — to ascend Mead Mountain. The streets were quiet, the air was still, and the whole city felt hushed with anticipation. After reaching the summit, we located where we had buried our treat with no problems, and Tom began to dig. There was a brief worried moment when we wondered whether the mead would actually still be there but then, as Tom dug just a little deeper, we uncovered the lovely bottle, still safe in the ground. BINGO!


We cleaned that baby up and then . . .


. . . it was time to taste it!


This picture cannot suggest to you just how bloody good the mead is. This is the first time we’d tasted it, and we were both seriously impressed. This stuff is not sweet or syrupy or any of the things you imagine mead to be. It is dry, fizzy, and fragrant. Containing raspberries, ginger, and lemongrass, it tastes like a sort of light botanical champagne! We really, really enjoyed it.

Now, you’d think things couldn’t get much better than a belly full of home-brewed mead and a heart full of seasonal good cheer — but then they did!


The Mule recently bought Tom some floating balloon-lanterns for his birthday. It being an unusually still and mild morning, we decided to fire one up. We lit the wick, the thing expanded rapidly and then it went . . .
UP . . .


Up . . .

. . . and away!


It was a truly beautiful sight to see our wee balloon floating gracefully high above the city.


For a while, we thought it might make it all the way across to Fife!

(crappy digital zoom)

But then we saw that the flame had gone out, and the balloon started to descend somewhere over Leith. Perhaps it was trying to get home. So we followed it back on foot, to see if we could find it. We didn’t, unfortunately, but as these balloons are flimsy, and biodegradable tissue paper things, I don’t feel too bad about it.
Thanks for the lanterns, Mule!

I’m going to take a break now until after the New Year, and I wanted to thank all of you who have stopped by during 2008. I always enjoy your comments, and have been blown away by the debates, exchanges and, in some instances, friendships, that have arisen from conversations here. I also particularly want to thank those of you who sent us messages of support after Belle’s death and Tom’s accident — it really meant a lot to us. Seasonal joy to you all. And a very happy new year.



It is Tom’s birthday. We both have the afternoon off so I took him out for lunch to Kitchin. What a treat! (for me as well as him). The food was fantastic, as it always is there, and it is the kind of superbly prepared, seasonal, Scottish fare Tom really likes. In fact, the whole lunch experience was so damn fine in every way that I really wanted to take a photo or two. But the lighting in the restaurant is rather sepulchral, and I did not fancy disrupting the subdued and tasteful atmos by whipping out my gorillapod, attempting to adjust the white balance, and getting the camera into macro-cuisine mode. . . So then we went to the Whisky Society for coffee (and whiskies). We sat by the fire, and admired their beautifully decorated tree. Here, again, were birthday photo opportunities a-plenty, but things are Really Very Civilised at the whiskysoc, and cameras are not permitted in the members rooms.

But I wasn’t coming home without a photograph. And so, I here present a picture of a slightly sinister, and quite suggestive sign Tom spotted through a frosted window in Leith on our way home. And no, it wasn’t that kind of frosted Leith window. . . well, it didn’t seem to be anyway . . . I’m really not sure where or who the referents of this sign are, nor do I have any sense of its context or meaning. Probably best not to investigate any further. . .

PS I am very much enjoying reading your children’s literature suggestions. Thankyou!

monkey (shrug)

Wot? Actual knitting content? Warning: I’ve got a little over-excited by the fact I’ve actually knitted something, so this post is picture-heavy.

Given all my quilting/ stitching / sewing activities, knitting has been taking something of a back seat recently. It is nice to stitch when the evenings are so light and this is a novelty I feel I should take advantage of. So this shrug thing has been on my needles for some months, now. I’ve been rather faffing around with it — knitting it on and off — and finally finished it last week.

The pattern is built around the basic shape of the shrug in this book (see pic in purple toward the bottom of the page) but there are a few mods.
1) The stitch pattern is different: I used a 10 row back-and-forth version of the lace pattern in Cookie A’s ubiquitous Monkey, alternating with a 6 row front-crossed cable.
2) Why is there so much berloody seaming in these patterns? I just picked up the edging and knitted it in 1×1 rib one one circular needle, in the round, all the way along the back and two fronts. This has drawn the front in nicely and gives a good fitted shape. Can’t see what would be added by knitting the back and front edgings separately. This is a garment that needs to hug the body. It would not benefit from tailored seams. Weird.
3) I knitted this with thinner yarn, at a tighter gauge, on smaller needles: 3.25 mm and 6 stitches to the inch. I used Rowan 4 ply soft. Not a particularly interesting yarn, but I am actually quite fond of it. It comes in some nice colours, wears well, and has super stitch definition.

So I got to wear the monkey shrug out for a nice lunch in Leith. Here come the pics.

(Nce view there of my midge-bitten calves. Highland walking wounds. Oh well . . . )

And because I felt you should see some of Leith as well as me:

This is Paul Grimes tribute to Leith, its working people, and their history. I am very fond of it.

Pattern: Debbie Bliss Shrug (with mods)
Yarn: Rowan 4 ply soft. 4 x 50g. (I used exactly 4 balls).
Needles: one 3.25 circ for the whole thing.
Ravelled here.

I really like it — all except the shoulder seams — which I reckon it would look better without. If only I had thought beforehand I might have devised a way of kitchener-ing it together, or just having a seam at the underarms. Shrugs and boleros do not need seams. Hmm. I am now very tempted to knit Ysolda’s lovely Briar Rose which neatly illustrates how this is the case.


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