A wolf in sheep’s clothing (Toby’s coat)

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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.

sandraandtoby

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Charts by: me!
Pattern by: Sandra Manson
Tech-editing by: Jen Arnall-Culliford

You can now buy a kit for Toby’s coat directly from Jamieson and Smith, and the pattern is also available to download individually from Ravelry.

WOOF WOOF!

Knit Real Shetland


Hurrah! Hard copies of Knit Real Shetland are now available to buy from Jamieson & Smith – with free UK shipping! A digital version, for those who prefer it, will also soon be available.

It was a real honour to be asked to write the introduction to this book, celebrating 65 years of Jamieson & Smith. As well as super designs from names that are no doubt familiar to you, Knit Real Shetland also includes gorgeous patterns from designers you may not have heard of but should know: Mary Kay, Hazel Tindall, Lesley Smith, Joyce Ward and Sandra Manson – lovely women all, and talented Shetland knitters.

The official book launch was last Friday evening at the Shetland Museum . I was having so much fun that I managed not to take a single picture of the assembled throng which included 8 of the book’s 15 designers (Gudrun, Mary-Jane, Masami, Mary, Joyce, Hazel, Sandra, and Lesley). So, in the absence of launch photos, I instead present to you Sarah Laurenson, who took on the project, and curated Knit Real Shetland. Sarah’s energy and spirit are behind so many of the good things happening at Jamieson and Smith.

Thanks and congratulations to Sarah!

ETA: free postage within the UK only.

knitterly things


(Tom takes a wee break from knitterly things in the Unst Bus Shelter.)

As you may have guessed, I was occupied with a few knitterly things while visiting Shetland. I can’t really talk about these yet, unfortunately, but hopefully it will be worth the wait. I can say, though, that I met some truly lovely people, all of whom were involved with knitting in some way. As a knitter, in fact, I found Shetland a rather humbling place: Fairisle colourwork and Shetland Lace are Britain’s most unique and innovative hand-knitted textiles, with a long and important history. Women have been spinning, designing, and creating the most beautiful things on these islands for generations, and these knitterly traditions are still very much alive. I met some incredible knitters of whose skills I was completely in awe, yet who were totally unassuming about their talents. But while these women seemed to regard their own knitting as quite unremarkable, they also held a profound respect for their craft and its local traditions, which also made a deep impression on me. While I have to hold fire on the detail, then, I can mention the knitterly highlights of my trip. If you are ever visiting the Shetland Islands, here are three places not to miss.

1. The Shetland Museum and Archives

(left to right: yarn sample card; Robert Williamson’s pattern book (reproductions of which are available from the Museum shop); Tom tries his hand at cairding; marvelous 1860s tam)

Now, I got to go behind the scenes at the Shetland Museum and Archives, where I enjoyed a feast of breathtaking lace (of which more later), but what is front-of-house is just as inspiring. What’s on display here is certainly the best, most thoughtfully-curated exhibition of hand-knitted textiles I’ve ever seen. Knitting can sometimes be difficult for the visitor to get a sense of in a museum context, but here good use is made of nifty drawers and pull-out cases which enable you to get a look at some marvelous things close-to. A well-chosen selection showcases a wide range of examples of the many different kinds of knitted garments that were produced on Shetland over the past couple of centuries: from luxury or prize-winning one-offs; to commercial responses to changing fashions; to functional shawls, socks and sweaters that were worn by islanders themselves. In the latter category is this century-old fisherman’s undershirt, with which I was very taken:

Knitted in the round, grafted at the shoulders, and featuring underarm-vents, this garment’s construction is intuitive simplicity itself: a sort of light and airy prototype of EZ’s seamless hybrid. Better than any modern merino baselayer, I reckon. (Memo to self: it is time to complete the J&S Shetland baselayer that you began knitting before life interrupted by stroke)

2. Unst Heritage Centre

I think that the Unst Heritage Centre may well be the spiritual and material home of knitted lace. I saw some incredible things here that completely blew me away (again, I must keep schtum. . . frustratin!). It is a small selection, but it really is worth seeing, so if you are a lace knitter or handspinner, with any interest at all the history of fine lace I strongly urge you to visit the Unst Heritage Centre. You will not be disappointed. During the Spring and Summer months, there are displays of traditional skills from some of the most talented knitters and spinners you will ever meet, and the wonderful Rhoda Hughson (formerly Britain’s most northerly head-teacher) runs a series of great heritage walks from the centre, one of which is herring-themed. How cool is that?

Unst is a beautiful place. I have to go back.

3. The Woolbrokers
It is no secret that Jamieson and Smith produce some of my all-time favourite yarn, and simply being at Woolbrokers HQ on North Road was enough to fill me with foolish excitement. I dashed about snapping pictures and squooshing yarn and fibre like a loon.

When I had calmed down, Sarah and Oliver kindly showed me around. It was a privilege to learn about Shetland sheep and wool from someone of Oliver’s knowledge and expertise. And did you know that Jamieson and Smith grew up and developed around the herring industry? Neither did I. The woolbrokers buy more than 80% of Shetland’s clip . . .

. . . and here is a mere fraction of that annual haul of fleeces, with Sarah looking rather pensive in the foreground. For those of you who know how pasture can affect the quality of fibre, these true Shetland fleeces — soft and fine and springy — are are the real deal. While the finest wool is transformed into J&S’s amazing new worsted-spun laceweight (of which more another time), the heavier grades are put to use in the Shetland wool carpeting, with which I now want to cover my home. And then, of course, there is the Fairisle yarn. . .

. . . tasty jumper weight, in over 100 different glorious shades. Here are the skeins I needed to complete my project ( Shades FC61, 72, and – probably my current favourite – the elusive and complex 366).

Thanks for a great day Oliver, Sarah and Sandra!

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