Braid Hills

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So here is my new design! The Braid Hills Cardigan!

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This is the first in a series of designs celebrating my favourite Edinburgh places. Regular readers will know that I’ve mentioned The Braids on this site many times: the view of the city from here is spectacular, and the landscape is gorgeous for a ramble particularly in Spring when the air is heady with the smell of gorse and the sound of skylarks.

gorse

The colourway I chose for my sample was inspired by gorse too – Blacker Swan DK. This is a deliciously squooshy light DK / sportweight merino, grown in the Falkland Islands and then processed in Cornwall by the Natural Fibre Company. It is airy and bouncy and, because it is worsted spun, it also has a really smooth hand. All of these characteristics means that when knit up the yarn has great definition, and shows off twisted-stitch cables superbly.

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I have recently been on a bit of a cable kick, and have been really inspired by Maria Erlbacher’s classic Überlieferte Strickmuster (available in English from Schoolhouse Press). Because the ‘action’ of these stitches occurs on every row, their look is, I think, particularly neat and sinuous. So pleasing.

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Many cables are worked as braids, and as I began swatching various twisted-stitch panels, I was strongly reminded of the braided structure of eighteenth-century laced stays and stomachers.

VAME.5091-1905

(Victoria and Albert Museum)

C.I.39.13.211

(Met Museum)

I thought there might be a way to use braided micro cables to lend structure and focus to a garment . . . without, of course, the attendant damage to one’s rib-cage involved in eighteenth-century corsetry.

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The neckline of eighteenth century garments above a laced bodice tends to be low and squarish, framing the the high bust . . .

1751_louisa_balfour_by_phil

(Philip Mercier, portrait of Lousia Balfour, 1751)

. . . so this is how I structured my neckline too.

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Because of the low neckline, it is important that the cables and ribbing of the neckline sit across the high bust without undue stretching. So I recommend knitting this cardigan with a little positive ease to give a neat neckline – paerhaps 0.5 – 1 in. I am modelling the garment with around an inch of positive ease (31 in bust / 32 in garment). (The pattern includes a detailed sizing table and schematic to enable you to choose the size that’s right for you)

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The braided micro cables flow down into the ribbing at the neck and hem, and this intertwined patterning is also echoed on both cuffs . . .

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I am fond of these cuffs.

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Because this pattern is part of a series inspired by the city in which I’ve lived for the past decade, I have decided to add in a few Edinburgh extras – so the pattern booklet includes a short editorial feature exploring the history and geography of the Braid Hills, as well as a photographic lookbook. If you have a copy of Colours of Shetland, you’ll see that the way I have structured the booklet is very like one of my chapters in that book.

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This is a design I’m very pleased with for many reasons, and my cable kick is not quite over yet…

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So if you’d like to knit your own Braid Hills cardigan and / or read more about this lovely landscape and how it inspired my design, the booklet is now available!

You can purchase the digital edition of the Braid Hills booklet via Ravelry, or it is available in print (professionally produced in either the EU or US and delivered straight to your door) via Mag Cloud.

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Happy knitting!

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Surely one of the most satisfying things about any kind of journal keeping is the Gilbert White-like sense it can convey of seasonal continuity or change. At dusk yesterday, Jesus’s plum tree burst into bloom. I note that last year, after a particularly long and evil Winter, it had just started to flower on April 4th; in 2009, blossom had started to appear on March 23rd. I don’t know what the plum tree was doing in 2008 because I didn’t mention it. However, I do recall hailstones the size of golf balls at Durness – it certainly wasn’t plum blossom weather.


nor were there butterflies . . .


. . .or beetles on the budding gorse.

Anyway, the Spring weather is glorious, and we have been out enjoying it at The Braids



hang on . . . are those your feet on a rough path, in normal shoes?

you fookin bet they are!

and what’s Tom doing off work on a Thursday?

Well, today he is on strike, and a walk was just what was needed after a morning on the picket line. If I had any labour to withdraw, I would certainly be withdrawing it.

Slow-cooked lamb for supper. The windows open. A good day.

The Braids

Hill four of the seven is Braid Hill, or in local parlance, The Braids. Rising from a wooded valley floor to an undulating hillside a couple of miles south of Edinburgh, The Braids are part managed parkland, part urban corridor. By day, a place for golf buddies and walkers; by night, the hideout of youths and foxes. With its rosebay willowherb and corners of abandoned furniture, the landscape reminds me of the canal-side walks of my childhood, but it can feel quite remote at times at well. Tom often runs here, and occasionally crosses paths with a startled deer — it is a marginal sort of place where you feel that you are just about to leave the city. Edinburgh’s eighteenth-century poets regarded The Braids as a rural retreat: it was one of Burns’ favourite walking spots, and Robert Fergusson wrote a rather conventional pastoral in which he counseled his readers to forget “the city’s allurements” and “to this spot of enchantment retire.” But my favourite Braids-inspired poem is from the hand of a far less-well-known local writer, Rebekkah Carmichael, who in 1790 chose The Braids as the setting for a curious poetic re-enactment of the Choice of Hercules.

Thankfully I did not have to make a choice between Pleasure and Virtue today – in fact, my walk seemed to involve both. The Hedgerows were glorious. I enjoyed having my macro lens to photograph late blooms . . .

. . . and new fruits



Bruce came too.

The walk was certainly a challenge — the ground was thankfully even underfoot, but with over a mile of steady ascent, things were a bit more tricky than Blackford . . .

We had a wee rest at the top. There’s Castle Hill, in the patch of sunlight behind me.

This was quite a tough walk for me, and I will probably now be bushed for the next couple of days, but I have to say I much prefer a bit of exertion followed by rest, to the interminable purgatory that is pacing oneself. That’s just me, though – and it is so nice to ramble about the landscape again on a lovely late-summer’s day, beneath Edinburgh’s shifting skies, with my man and my dog.

Look! The Pentlands! One day not too far away, perhaps . . .

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