It’s time to show you the second design I’ll be launching at Woolfest. . . I confess that this one has been quite hard to keep quiet about . . .
Dear tea-obsessed knitters, I present to you . . .
The Sheep Carousel Tea Cosy!
I suppose it was inevitable that at some point I would combine two of my favourite things – sheep and tea – into a single design.
The tea cosy is designed in the shape of a stripey merry-go-round upon which eight jolly Shetland sheep seem to be having quite a bit of fun.
Why not put the wool of your favourite sheep to good use warming your teapot?
In his History of Hand Knitting, Richard Rutt dates the appearance of the knitted tea cosy to 1867 with the first “batchelor” cosy (incorporating openings for spout and handle) being published in Weldons in 1893. I’ve long been intrigued by Rutt’s remarks about tea cosies – he seems simultaneously fascinated by, and dismissive of, them. Perhaps he had a large, secret cosy collection squirrelled away somewhere:
“Crinoline dolls, thatched cottages, beehives, brooding hens, pineapples, even television sets and electric toasters have been the models for knitted tea cosies that hover uncertainly between trivial novelty and serious pop art.”
Oi, Rutt! We’ll have less of the “trivial novelty” – - I’ll have you know that this particular cosy has a serious technical purpose, acting as a miniature sampler upon which one can practice many different knitterly techniques: stranding, steeking, vikkel braids, centred decreases, i-cord . . .
. . . and the design has, of course a second crucial function in keeping your pot toasty-warm while you are waiting for your TEA to brew.
mmm . . . tea . . .
I will be launching the Sheep Carousel pattern at Woolfest in kit form which will enable you to knit it with my favourite sheepy wool - Jamieson & Smith Shetland Supreme. One kit contains enough wool for two projects, so you could easily make both of the moorit-on-white and white-on-moorit versions pictured here.
Each carousel kit comes complete with wool, printed pattern, a professionally printed project bag and, in honour of Cumbria (where Woolfest is held) a card depicting a noble Herdwick ram whom I met and photographed at Woolfest in 2009.
The Sheep Carousel now has its own ravelry page, and the digital version of the pattern will be released when I return from Woolfest on the 24th June.
I had a total blast with this design – I hope you have as much fun knitting it!
Hmmm . . . do I spy . . . some sheep?
. . . . many sheep?
. . . and many rams?
120 yowes and 48 rams?!!
Yes! It’s the rams and yowes lap blanket!
In case you were wondering, yowe means ewe in Shetland dialect and, just like the sheepheid design from which it emerged, the rams and yowes blanket is a celebration of the many-hued variety of Shetland sheep. The blanket uses all 9 natural shades of Jamieson & Smith Supreme jumper weight, and it is very simple to make: the body of the blanket is first knit up as a steeked, colourwork tube. When the colourwork is complete, the steek is cut, and stitches are picked up for the garter stitch edging. Increases and decreases create mitred corners, which fold to the back of the work, creating a neat facing inside which the steek is completely hidden. If you have never steeked before, this would be a good first project to try out the technique.
Here is the facing from the back with the steek hidden inside. To my mind, there are few things more lovely than graded shades of natural Shetland worked in garter stitch. So very pleasing!
Can you tell that I am stupidly happy with this design?
I love the way that the 120 yowes, worked in the graded Shetland shades, give the effect of a massive, ever-receding flock, and the rams lend a graphic, carpet-like aspect to the blanket’s centre
The finished blanket measures 3 feet square. It is just the right size for draping over your knees, or the back of the sofa, and can also be worn as a very cosy wrap or shawl.
And in case you are wondering about my hand wear – yes, those are a pair of Muckle Mitts that I whipped up yesterday from a lovely free pattern – a new year’s treat from (who else?) Mary Jane Mucklestone – go and download yourself a copy!
A miscellaneous post:
First, a reminder that there are only five days remaining for entries in the Wovember competition. You could win some amazing things! One grand woolly winner will be selected by our friends at Jamieson & Smith, and there are other great prizes too: Blacker Designs are offering three runners-up awards for the best photos of sheep, and the Wovember team will also be choosing three “3 bags full” winners for the entries that best capture the creative use of wool. Above you can see some of the contents of the “bags” – a selection of lovely British wool in appropriate colours!
Next, I don’t know if you have had a look at the Wovember blog recently, but if you pop over there you’ll find some great posts from our wonderful woolly guests. For example, in from Sheep to Skein, talented British designer Susan Crawford tells us about the development of Excelana, a superb new breed-specific wool. You can also hear Diane, the Spinning Shepherd, talk about her woolly year, see Deb Robson’s take on endangered sheep breeds, learn about the different meanings of wool from inspiring artists and makers, and read some truly beautiful woolly stories, such as Rachael Matthews account of Walter’s Crook. But I am particularly excited today, as our guest blogger is none other than Oliver Henry — world expert on Shetland wool! You can read Ooey Ollie’s account of what wool means to him here.
Finally, on a personal note, things have been quite busy round here. There’s apparently a discussion of my work in the latest issue of Vogue Knitting, and, (just as exciting) on the pages of the new Shetland sheep magazine. I’ve yet to see either, but several folk seem to have found me having encountered Sheep Heid in the latter publication, so a big welcome to all you Shetland sheepy folk. Also, I’m pleased to say that some of my patterns will soon be available on the shelves of several UK retailers. I’ll be “launching” my new range of printed patterns at Baa Ram Ewe in Leeds on December 3rd. Just pop along between 4 and 6 if you’d like to have a chat! I’m not exactly sure what a pattern launch usually involves, but I’m pleased to say that this one will also feature my Ma and my sister, and perhaps a mince pie or two.
If you are a UK retailer and are interested in stocking my patterns, then do get in touch with me at the email address you’ll find over here. Meanwhile, I am working on two new designs which, all going well, will appear next month. One takes my Shetland sheep obsession to new levels, featuring over a hundred of them, and the other is inspired by this:
Huzzah for Shetland Wool Week! I have been enjoying:
Spectacular landscapes in beautiful weather . . .
(The Drongs from Braewick)
. . .hanging out with my favourite woolly creatures
. . .meeting inspiring people . . .
. . . good company . . .
(Wool Holiday comrades)
. . . and glorious knitting as far as the eye could see.
I feel both proud and immensely humbled to have been involved.
There has been much talk over the past few days about the general handsomeness, and nobility of the ovine. Here is a supreme example. Just look at that marvellous phizog! So calm, so gentle, so self-contained, so . . .sheepy! I spent a long time admiring this fine herdwick at woolfest the other day, and find it hard to articulate for you quite how much I like him. He is a bit like woolfest itself, then, which has sort of left me lost for words.
It was the best fest because it was spent in the company of friends.
Felix & Monkl
Inside la fest there were so many people to meet, and I was particularly excited to run into Amanda and Lily, who was also sporting her paper dolls (Lily is absolutely lovely). It occurred to me after I’d seen her that the sweater I was wearing was made from yarn I’d got at last year’s woolfest: I acquired my bowmont braf from the man at bowmont braf. I was able to talk to him about the character of the breed, the properties of the wool, and the qualities of the finished garment it might produce. We also talked about the economic realities of small-scale yarn production, and the future of projects and flocks like his. I went away thinking about those questions, and inspired by both sheep and wool, designed and knit up my paper dolls sweater. These conversations are what makes woolfest so amazing.
(Shetland markings. Designed by Sue Russo and available from the Shetland Sheep Society)
The material and sensory impact of the interior of Mitchell’s livestock centre is completely overwhelming. Faced with all that bounty, its quite hard to stop oneself running around, shouting and cooing, squeezing yarn, fundling sheep, and throwing oneself at fleeces like a crazy lady. . . But I found an oasis of calm among the stands of the coloured sheep breeders, to whom I was repeatedly drawn. The proximity of the sheep themselves certainly had something to do with it, but I also really enjoyed chatting to the representatives of the different breed societies, particularly Joy Trotter, who keeps the Rivendell flock of Shetlands. After talking to Joy, I had a sort of moment concerning the sheer range of shades in the fleece of British sheep, and spent much of the rest of the day reflecting on this, and being inspired by these colours: the creamy blue-greys of the north ronaldsays, the choclatey browns of the jacobs, the soft, almost powdery ginger of the manx loghtans, and the breathtaking non-technicolour dreamcoat range of shetlands. These colours were everywhere: on the backs of lovely beasties, in the deft hands of spinners, in plump finished skeins of yarn, in beautiful knitted and woven items.
(Yes, that cake and those chocolates are fashioned from coloured Shetland. Delicious!)
It is fair to say that I am on a shetland roll right now, and that you will no doubt see and hear more of this in the coming months. If you are interested in quality natural-shade British shetland, I would warmly recommend getting it from Garthenor Organics. Chris King is such a thoughtful man who knows his wool, and this knowledge really tells in the finished skein. More of his yarn later, meanwhile, here is a picture of the only dyed stuff I took home:
I met the lovely folk from Artisan Threads last year when I was writing a piece in which they featured for Yarn Forward. Their sense of colour, and the feel they have for the process of natural dyeing is just fantastic. They have such a marvellous Autumnal palate, and I shall be doing something with their lovely muted shades this Autumn.
After the fest, we retired to the Bitter End in Cockermouth for some much-needed refreshment and de-briefing. Really, I can think of no better way to spend a Saturday evening than surrounded by yarn, in a good food-and-ale serving pub, in the company of friends, discussing the political economy of British wool. I will say it again: great women, great knitters. The excitements of the day were more than matched by a night full of stimulating conversation. When the menu came round, we all put our money where our mouth was, and chose lamb. I had such an amazing time and am still reeling and thinking — both about woolfest itself, and the conversations it provoked. I sort of feel like I spent the whole weekend following the narrative thread of John Dyer’s seminal 1757 Georgic The Fleece which traces the economic, political, material, and indeed intellectual journey of wool from the sheep’s back to the human’s. Perhaps I shall bore you with John Dyer — and the vexed question of how to produce poetry about “the care of sheep in tupping time” — on another occasion. But that’s me all fested out for now.
**Bee-bag competition winner will be announced shortly!**