You may remember some talk about pockets here a few weeks ago. I can now show you the fruits of my labours. Our recent camping trips impressed on me that I was lacking a good outdoor sweater – something that is easy to wear, that one can throw on over layers in the evenings when it gets chilly, or use to protect oneself from the wind at the coast. (I strongly suspect that such a sweater only makes sense as a Summer necessity in Scotland, but there we go). I am fond of easy, smock-style garments for walking (I am wearing a linen one here), and find myself generally interested in the idea of a smock – a loose-fitting, utility garment worn by those working in the great outdoors. Associated with shepherds and fishermen, the smock has a venerable history, a pleasing combination of form and function, and pockets. With this sort of thing in mind, I decided I would knit one for myself.

I mentioned that I had made a pocket sampler – the untidy object that you see here. Upon this I tested four pocket variations. I wanted the pockets to be inset behind the edging, and to emerge directly out of the bottom hem. What I came up with involves casting on as usual, but, upon arrival at the pocket-place, creating a double cast-on (much as if you were starting a toe-up sock). While the front set of stitches are incorporated into the edging, the back set are knit separately in stockinette. When one arrives at the pocket-tops, the two sets of stitches are swapped over, and bingo!

The result is a neat inset pocket hidden behind a deep knit/purl edging.

The edging pattern – used at the cuffs and cowl as well as the pockets – is a simple 8 stitch zig-zag, which you may have seen used at a much finer gauge on many fishermen’s ganseys. I used the Shetland aran from Jamieson and Smith for this sweater – a lovely, woolly yarn to knit with, which is much less hairy than you might imagine. It is a good strong 2ply, spun for a smooth finish and great stitch definition. I know it will wear very well.

The sleeves and body of the sweater were knit in the round, and I joined the whole thing together with the every-three-rounds raglan decrease which EZ recommends, (whose angle I had admired on something Mel had made). To make the boat neck, I carried on knitting and decreasing for just over two thirds of the armhole depth, stopped, turned the sweater inside out, and knit a deep cowl in reverse stockinette, finishing things off with the edging pattern which was turned to the right side. Cosy!


I found it interesting to knit something for myself with positive ease. This is not something I generally do – when I started knitting again, I made several sweaters from commercial patterns which ended up a very poor fit for someone of small frame, meagre chest, and narrow shoulders. Scarred by these unwearable garments, I embraced negative ease with abandon, and since then have tended to knit sweaters with a close fit, and lots of shaping. This sweater has four inches of positive ease, and minimal shaping – the complete opposite of my usual design instincts. While I was knitting, it felt absolutely huge, and mild concerns about the size were not lightened by Tom’s references to “wazz’s gigantic gnome suit” which he could see emerging from the needles. But this sweater is meant to be roomy: it is a smock, with a smock-like fit. I am glad I stuck with it, as the shape is just right, and the end result eminently fit-for-purpose.

It is ideal for walking in this Spring weather – which is glorious, but very windy. Everyone we saw while we were out enjoying it yesterday was wearing a fleece – a garment whose name and synthetic composition I regard as an insult to sheep. You probably know by now that I have firm thoughts on wool and outdoor wear – I was exceedingly happy in my Shetland smock, but restrained myself from preaching the virtues of natural fibres from the cliff top at St Abbs. . .

. . . which is a fine place for wool in all respects.

Have you ever been to this part of the Scottish coast? I think it has to be one of my all-time favourite places for a walk at this time of year. The cliffs are alive with the cries of nesting kittiwakes; the thrift and sea campion are just coming into bloom.


I know that sea campion has unpleasant associations for some, but I find it incredibly beautiful.

Just as colourful as the flowers are the rocks on which they grow.

Here England and Scotland – once separate continental plates – collided about 450 million years ago, creating the natural ‘border’ of the Southern Uplands. The erosion of the softer sedimentary material, and the crazy purples and scarlets of the volcanic rocks that remain, make St Abbs a great place to see some truly spectacular geology.

I have long enjoyed the shades and textures of these rocks and their lichen, and in fact started a colourwork project inspired by them several months ago. It is a Winter project, though, and it will probably be Winter before I get round to it again.

But I am getting ahead of myself, and only meant to tell you about the Warriston smock: so-called, as it was on the paths around Warriston that I planned out the design in my head while on my daily walks with Bruce. If you are still with me after this rather long post, there are more photos and details on the project’s ravelry page. I shall write up the pattern.

76 thoughts on “A smock and a walk

  1. Fantastic jumper – it is in such a beautiful colour and loving the style! I think it is a great alternative to a fleece and wish more people would invest in clothing made of natural, wicking fibers i.e wool. Glad people like you are sharing these great designs with everyone.
    Lovely also to see St Abbs being discovered by cool people and such lovely photography. Next time you’re in St Abbs, please visit the new visitor center which is on the way down to the harbour, it would be interesting to talk to you. Interested in your design/knitting/writing background.
    An exceptional blog!

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  2. Love your photos and ‘talks’, it’s all very inspiring. Thanks for sharing your many talents with us! Oh, and the smock is perfect!!

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  3. It seems I am missing all yoour posts and most go to ravelry to see them. Oh well-I MUST make it to Scotland. I have always wanted to come but your pictures are so exquisite I feel like I am there. I love the sweater and feel the same way about” fleece” as you do-yuck!

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  4. I find it definitely beautiful !I hope i ‘ll remember the way you knitt the pockets.I love the color too, this red suits you very well :it’s all full of warm and energy !
    I wish you a happy week end.
    Kisses from France,

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  5. At the chance of sounding like a stalker – I find ou to be so inspirational – in so many ways! I literally sat here and drolled over this sweater – and I usually dont make adult sweaters cause I never finish them! But after drooling and drooling – I was knitting on my Tidal Wave socks thoroughly enjoying the pattern (even tho each leg had a minimum of 12 rip-its!) and was just looking at it…..hmm, this pattern would make a lovely pocket on something….well, maybe not cause it does have those little holes….oh wait a minute! Sleeves! Sleeves in a light weight, drapey yarn….maybe on one of those light weight drapey cardigans that are not meant to be buttoned shut or anything….wonder if I have any yarn for that??? WAIT A MINUTE!!!! ME???????? Thinking of designing something???? WOW – those blogs are really a good influence! (And BTW, I gave you credit on my blog for my delusional dreaming!)

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  6. What a great sweater! And every time I visit you and you share more of Scotland, you make me want to be there. I think I shall have to start a special fund so my daughter and I can visit! (because she’d shoot me if I went alone…)
    :)

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  7. Wonderful smock and a great cheery colour, and I’m sure the colour helps you feel warmer too!

    Have fun in the hills this coming weekend, fingers crossed for decent weather so the smock can be worn without covering up its glory in waterproofs…

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  8. Love the new sweater and all the pix. Sweaters are also a part of the summer wardrobe here too.Found the geography quite similar towhat we have in Newfoundland.

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  9. I love the smock! I’m of similar build and view of positive ease, and find it very flattering on you. I’ll have to try it.

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  10. Lovely design, and the second pic of you looking out to sea, to the right of the screen; something very refreshing about that pic; captures the moment, but in the next pic you can see that the wind is quite chilly.
    The flowers and scenery are lovely as usual, wherever you venture.
    I don’t like that so-called fleece fabric either, it’s been banished for years from our home.
    Your lovely smock could be worn over a skirt too.

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  11. kate, this is such a great sweater. i am hoping to convince my daughter to make one for me (i’m no knitter) because my current roughabout sweater is dying. this one is pretty, but not girly, a plus for this menopausal woman.

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  12. I love that you are wearing shorts with a sweater (smock). I live in Green Bay, Wisconsin USA and we also wear long sleeve warm clothes over the shorts that we can pull out for 3 months – Enjoyable and beautiful!

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  13. I so enjoy reading your blog…I love your stories, patterns, scenes of your country. Your whole lifestyle is so different and fascinating. Godspeed in your recovery and know that we are walking with you!
    Debbie in Illinois where we are sick of the flooding.

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  14. Perfection. Another brilliant design. Beautiful scenery as a bonus. Thank you. I’ll look forward to this pattern’s publication.

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  15. Your new sweater is beautiful. I do believe that polyester fleece is one of the best man-made materials . It is lightweight, lightly waterproof, and instantly warm. I’m bringing mine when I visit Scotland next month :)

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  16. Absolutely stunning ! You are in Top Form Kate. The casual splender , the color is vivacious, the way you design and wear your garments is truly the utmost in talent.

    I swear, each time one of your posts shows up on the list of updates, I get a rush of intrigue, something like a kid in front of a Christmas Tree, but when it’s a new sweater or something you’ve knit, and designed, well then, it’s just an opiate that only knitters know. Thanks for the Sweater High . ;-)

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  17. The smock is gorgeous! Perfect for freezing Ottawa winter time – look forward to the pattern (no pressure of course – if I don’t get to make it in time for this winter, there’s always going to be another one!).

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  18. Gosh, I love a good red sweater. And when my husband takes me to Ireland to visit his family (someday!) I will insist on visiting Scotland, too. So gorgeous!

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  19. What a beautiful sweater – all your works are beautiful. Your blog is one of my favourites and I enjoy reading all your posts. Your pictures today took me back to my childhood as I spent some memorable holidays at the beach in St Abbs and at the hotel that used to be close by.
    Thank you for your generosity in words and pictures from a grateful reader in Canada

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  20. I constantly envy the beautiful scenery of your area–and your ability to wear wool! I’m allergic to most varieties of wool (and oh, have I tried many), but I have yet to find any good alternative. Thankfully, southern weather is relatively temperate and we do just fine with cotton, but still.
    This is a lovely creation. I love the collar especially.

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  21. So, so lovely.

    Amongst many other things, I have always noticed your excellent choice of sophisticated mountain wear. Indeed why should us ladies have to compromise our taste when spending time in the beautiful great outdoors? Recently I been obsessing over Norah Gaughan’s Kaari smock. In my quest to find a copy of the pattern booklet in the UK, I came across your original blog post from back in 2008 (I am a relative newbie) Your reference to New Zealand’s Icebreaker clothing made me smile, as after today’s trip to my local mountain store, I am proudly wearing a brand new merino Tshirt and some stylish climbing pants made by the Italian brand E9. I then returned to the front page of your blog…et voila, the perfect compliment to my new outfit. I like the gansey detailing too, for many years, my ski base layer consisted of a gansey picked up at a jumble sale for 20p!

    I sincerely wish that womens woes regarding outdoor fashion were your only worry. It amazes me how much you manage to achieve, write, think, consider, create and do in spite of the evil fatigue and I wish you all the goodness possible in your healing. From me and my bouncing black dog (aren’t they wonderful for smiles when you’re feeling blue?) x

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  22. Hi! what a gorgeous sweater! i might borrow that cowl-neck with the zigzag ;-)

    ALSO i note in these pictures the absence of a walking stick! congratulations!!!!!!

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  23. That’s lovely. I also sport a meager chest (which explains why I love all your patterns), but the smock looks fantastic on you so perhaps it will on me too. And I love the history lessons. I always feel a little more knowledgeable after reading one of your blog posts.

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  24. I love the smock, especially the detail around the neck and pockets. I have yet to make a garment that actually fits me, but I may have to give this one a try. I love the colour as well.

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  25. Another gorgeous sweater. I wish I could find the time to learn to knit better (or a lottery win so I could commission you to fit me out in splendour!). I have passed St Abbs countless times on the Way to and from Edinburgh from North East England. Mr sebbie and I have a retirement project planned of exploring the Northumberland and scottish coast on that route because it always looks so inviting as we drive past.

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  26. As soon as I saw this design on Ravelry I knew it was a must have for me! We are off to Scotland this summer in our new (old!) campervan and it will be perfect for layering. I have a distinct lack of nice sweaters and this is my year for knitting for myself I think! If you need a test knitter I am here. :)

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  27. What beautiful pictures (though that’s a given on your blog) – the rocks, sea, and sky in the next-to-last pic should inspire a Fair Isle colorway.

    Outdoorsy wool sweaters are also practical for summer in the fog belt of the northern California coast. Wool hats too!

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  28. That looks like an eminently suitable smock for outdoorserly things. I hate hate hate being cold, so I’m always on the look out for good patterns to throw over other clothes. Off to sneak a peek at the Rav page now.

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  29. I love the smock and can only agree about the use of “fleece” for the polyester stuff. I rarely wear it but do have an old one that I wore the other night when letting the puppy out in the wee sma’ hours, thereby discovering another hazard. Skye is a long haired German Shepherd pup and after being carried out to the garden and put on the grass her fur was standing out like a little black dandelion head and when I touched her I got a static shock! Woolly jumpers only from now on and the smock looks perfect for chilly pre-dawn mornings.

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  30. Sweaters are also a necessity in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live. I bet you also see the summer tourists clinging to their touristy sweatshirts whining about how cold it is for summer. I am totally in love with your rugged coastline, as well as the sweater – pockets are a must. Looking forward to your posting the pattern, as I also need a new summer sweater to rescue me from fleece.

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  31. Another great pattern to add to my ‘to do’ list. I used to have a Kinsale smock which was the very dab and I wore it till it fell to bits – it lasted me for years.

    St. Abb’s is lovely. We go there a lot and take a walk up around the headland – and you certainly need a cosy sweater there. We went on New Year’s Day and the wind nearly took the face off us. It was great, though.

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  32. We were there on Easter Monday, last week but we were plagued by St Mark’s Flies which hatch on or around the 25th April (St Mark’s day). You may have been lucky and avoided them, as they only live for a week. I am sure that I saw a stoat flash past me on the path that day which was a bit thrilling for a townie like me.

    Very inspired by your latest knit, I spent the weekend looking in vain for just such a thing in my wardrobe.

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  33. Beautiful smock, landscape, flowers and photos of all.

    Maybe we all should be “preaching the virtues of natural fibres from the cliff top” where ever we are!

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  34. I love your Gnome Suit! Although usually, gnomes wear some sort of headgear (a hood or a hat would do) so I think Tom may not have been entirely accurate there. Those rock formations look astonishing! If I ever make it up to Scotland, I will definitely look back through your blog archive for inspirational places to visit!

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  35. Oh Kate, this is just lovely.
    I love the idea of a smock and categorized it just as I do aprons – something I love to wear around the house. I am always on the lookout for smock/aprons (what they used to call Bungalow Aprons decades ago here in the States) because they are so practical and (to me, at least) stylish. This wool smock is so fantastic. Thank you for the design – looking forward to the pattern.
    And may I also say – I just loved the photos of you (and Bruce) here.

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  36. This turned out beautifully, and you look fabulous in red. This sweater reminds me of your Kaari, which I’ve been coveting for ever so long (to the point that I even have some Cashmerino Aran lined up in the same color). Do you still like to wear it? I bet this new one might be warmer in the Shetland wool, though.

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  37. This is one I must knit. My late sister knitted a large red “lumber jacket” as they were called in those days in the then new chunky weight. She made it more stylish in a longer length with pockets like the smock and a fabulous big collar . When I was at high school…I was allowed to borrow it and wore it to school with my navy uniform a few times and got into serious trouble- but I was warm and your Warriston Smock just takes me back to those good times when the butterfly was emerging from the cocoon (me) …it is fabulous Kate. Big applause!! I had a textile assignment due yesterday and supplied the class with tweed and brocade samples and information on the fabrics(my specific assignment). I enjoyed the tweed assignment so much…your lichen and wool information over the past few months, and the Harris Tweed folks at the shop on the Isle of Harris,were a great help. Yes, I never thought it but I am preaching about natural fibres and promoting my homeland ‘s wool product yet again but with more enthusiasm and interest than I have ever had and understood. I also ordered Ms. Campbell’s book about life on Harris. You are an inspiration and a wealth of information. Many thanks,much appreciated. My grade should be good eh! Looks like you had a great walk and you are lookin good in the red!!

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  38. Love it! I find myself more and more attracted to the comfort and coziness of sweaters with a bit of positive ease. In fact, I have been raiding my husband’s handknit pile lately, thinking I should make my own roomy sweater. I even started thumbing through my old pile of Rowan mags from the early 90s. But I much prefer your version of positive ease. Roominess without bagginess… I don’t really want to look like I’m wearing a potato sack. And pockets, oh how I love pockets. Can’t wait to cast on for this!

    And I would also like to tell you that woollies can also occasionally be a summer necessity here in Canada, especially along the coast. Down with synthetic fleece, hurray for wool, I say!

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  39. Oh that’s just perfect! Cowl neck AND pocketiness? :D
    Can you manage to use a sewing machine? If so, the Lisette Portfolio dress/tunic pattern has a great pocket in it, for days when aran weight wool is a bit too much!

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  40. Oh my! This is the loveliest smock I’ve seen for ages! It makes me want to knit one exactly the same. Are you thinking of writing down the pattern? Lovely pictures too!

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  41. I’m so happy I stumbled upon your blog! Being more into sewing myself, I’m very impressed with your beautiful creations. You make me wish I could knit! I also love seeing pictures of Scotland, I wish I could see those coasts and mountains myself! Thank you for your beautiful blog!

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  42. I can’t believe you knocked out a design & knit up the sample with all that you have going on right now! I am very impressed. The smock is fantastic.

    …and you are right about that need for a sweater in Scotland. We visited a few summers ago & despite it being August – we were desperate for sweaters. A good excuse to do a little shopping.

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  43. The smock is just perfect. I love how you stand out in your red against the browns and oranges and greens and grays of that scenery. :)

    p.s. Hi Bruce!!!

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  44. Just love this, can’t wait for the pattern! Also love the wild flowers and lichen covered rocks – so very similar to the coastline where I live here in the far west of Cornwall.

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  45. I love your blog! All your posts, the beatiful black dog and all your wonderful hand made knits!
    Reading your web made me wish to come to Scotland and to Edinburgh:
    Sorry for my english, i studied it a long time ago!

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  46. Dear Kate, your new smock is beautiful! And the landscape surrounding you in these pictures looks very interesting too. I have never visit this part of Scotland, but your presentation of it makes me want to take a trip straight away – !

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  47. Warriston is a triumph of design!

    I too am an admirer of The Smock and Utility garments. I have long fostered judgemental views on the polyester “fleece” too and am grateful for your invention of the phrase “insult to sheep!”

    Pockets are an essential component of anything intended to be useful to the wearer, and I admire your fine pocket-construction technique and the logical manner in which you went about researching it. What a triumph your gansey/smock is and how cosy you appear to be in it! I await the pattern release with glee!

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  48. Wonderful combination of pattern, proportions, pockets and poppy.

    I have a gansey made many years ago which I wear out walking in the winter/cooler months/Scotland. It’s so wind-proof and insulating it’s impossible to wear inside at any time of year without suffering heat-stroke. Also ever so slightly waterproof.

    But for us larger-framed (Junoesque) types the problem becomes one of the weight of the acreage of wool.

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  49. This is fabulous – I too have a love for Fisherman’s smocks and love how sturdy and practical they are – my sturdy canvas one cheats the wind quite unlike modern windproofs which wither in comparison.
    I knitted this one from a strange Debbie Bliss Pattern for my nephew:
    http://www.ravelry.com/projects/TessVintageKnits/denim-tunic-with-pockets
    and despite the problems with the pattern have had sweater envy for a 6 year olds sweater ever since, and the intention of making one for myself which hasn’t yet happened. Will eagerly await this pattern…

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  50. Wow, it’s love at the first sight. I like the smock soooo much. Really looking forward to the pattern. Can u let me know the gauge of the yarn first so that I can order some yarn on sale? Thx!

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  51. That smock looks fantastic and definitely fit-for-purpose. Another gorgeous design! I wholeheartedly agree with the wool wearing – far superior to that nasty ‘fleece’ stuff. And such a lovely colour. Thanks for sharing yet another pretty part of Scotland with us.

    Like

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