Sontag

I have a design published in the new Rowan Magazine! It is a simple triangular shawl or “Sontag” knit up in three tasty shades of Rowan Fine Tweed.

sontagfabric
(shades Wensley, Bedale, and Dent)

The garment is named after Henriette Sontag — a German singer, who brought this kind of shallow, front-crossing shawl to the attention of fashionable Victorians. The OED describes a “Sontag” as “a type of knitted or crocheted jacket or cape, with long ends which are crossed in front of the body and tied behind, worn by women in the second half of the Nineteenth Century.”

henriette

Curiously, I have been unable to find an image of Sontag sporting her signature garment . . .here’s a better representation of a Victorian woman wearing the shawl-style in question:

sontagphoto

Receipts for Sontags (also called “cache coeurs”, or “bosom friends”) are to be found in many women’s magazines from the 1860s onwards. They are, in fact, one of the first styles of shawl to be written up in modern pattern form.

1860+Sontag

But Sontags aren’t just Victorian. Here, for example, is a very similar garment being modelled in the Missoni A/W 2012 collection.

missoni
(I have strong feelings about high Fashion’s use of exceptionally thin models, and, confess to a degree of discomfort about this image.)

Mashing up these Victorian and contemporary influences, I came up with my design. Rather than being worked from side-to-side, my shawl is knit top down. It begins with a garter-tab cast on, and, following a simple stripe sequence, uses paired increases at the centre and outer edges to create a shallow, elongated triangle with front-crossing points. Optional ties can then be added to secure the garment around the waist.

This is the result:

wrap

My Sontag design appears in the magazine’s ‘Folk’ story, under the name ‘Nepal Wrap.’ If you’d like to knit it, Rowan 54 should be hitting shelves (and the doormats of subscribers) very soon!

frenzy

Happily, I always love to knit, but it has been a while since I have found myself in a total knitting frenzy. This particular frenzy struck on Friday, took over my brain and hands, and meant that I had to knit all weekend until I was done. To explain: on Friday morning, I popped into John Lewis for some snap fasteners for my cardigan. I picked those up, had a nice chat with Lindsay, and a good squoosh of the new Rowan yarns. I was particularly pleased when I saw the new ‘fine tweed’ range – one of my all-time favourite Rowan yarns is the now long-discontinued Yorkshire tweed and this new ‘fine tweed’ is very reminiscent of it. The colourways are named after Yorkshire and Lancashire villages, and the yarn is also spun in Yorkshire.


Fine tweed is a lovely nubbly, woolly single. It is very fine – the weight seems a little more sock yarn than 4ply – and the twist is punctuated with little tweedy flecks. There are 24 colours, and they are all amazing.

AMAZING

I went home, and spent the afternoon walking in the rain. I couldn’t stop thinking about those colours. Some were soft and faded, like old crewel wools, others were deep and rich and Autumnal. And tweedy. So tweedy. The frenzy slowly took hold – I just had to knit fine tweed! I needed to make colourwork! NOW! I had many other projects on the go, but to hell with them! To hell with everything! My fingers were itching for fine tweed. By Saturday morning, I was sorted. Oh, you tasty little yarn cakes. You are MINE, all mine.

I had lots of fun swatching

Did I mention how much I FOOKIN LOVE THOSE COLOURS?

Though the frenzy had by now seriously taken hold, with uncharacteristic restraint, I decided to draft up a whole pattern beforehand rather than, as per my usual practice, having a few design thoughts and knitting them up on the hoof. I spent the day immersed in Illustrator and came up with some hat charts from a couple of ideas I’ve been playing around with for a while.

These wee flowers have been knocking around my files for over a year now – I had intended them for something I’d just not got round to knitting. I find them very pleasing, but I was perhaps even more pleased with my crown chart. While the body of the hat would be covered with little flowers, the crown centre would resemble a larger flower. Big flowers! Little flowers! FLOWERS ALL ROUND!

Then I sat down and I knit like a loon.

By today – Monday morning – I had a fun new hat!

The frenzy has now evaporated, but it has been replaced by a sensation of self-satisfaction, which to others may manifest as the annoying smugness of a person who feels that she has got something RIGHT. I am really very pleased with this hat.

I think I am so happy with it because all of its design elements made total sense to me from start to finish. The yarn was utterly compelling and I felt I knew before I began how the colours I’d selected should work together. The design idea is simple, but this is really often best. It was fun to knit and to design (I enjoy playing around with charts in Illustrator). Though I think the crown chart placement still needs a stitch or two of tweaking, I love its kaleidoscopic effect and the way its decreases line up like a little braid.

This hat began in the FRENZY. It was made for the pure, knitterly pleasure of making it, and the fact that it turned out well is an unintended bonus. I didn’t intend to make a fine-tweed floral hat, much less to write a hat pattern, but this is what appears to have happened. I have lots of other things in the pipeline (including Betty Mouat, and the next issue of Textisles which will be out very shortly) but I am glad I gave into the frenzy and knit my arse off this weekend. Anyway, if anyone fancies covering their head with knitted flowers as the weather starts to turn, you should be able to do so in just a few days.

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