I am extremely hap-py, because I am about to leave for a research trip to Shetland to do some work for a very exciting book that we will be publishing later this year. Do you want to hear a little more about it?

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The subject of the book is haps – the beautiful everyday shawls that were knitted, sold, and worn by women in Shetland (and elsewhere in Scotland), particularly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

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The hap has seen something of a renaissance in recent years. Contemporary knitters love making and wearing shawls, and haps are both infinitely knittable and eminently wearable in many different contexts: haps are not heirloom lace, but garments to be worn every day. Haps can be wrapped about ones shoulders or knees; knitted for a new baby, for oneself, or as a gift for a dear friend. The word hap means to “wrap” or “cover” and shawls of that name are always simple and beautiful in design: a canvas for our yarn or colour preferences, a project that relaxes as well as inspires.

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Working together with my good friend Jen Arnall-Culliford, and with these ideas of the wearable and the everyday in mind, we commissioned haps from 13 esteemed colleagues, who also happen to be among the world’s most exciting designers of hand-knit shawls. The haps that have been created for our collection are incredibly beautiful, and incredibly varied: as varied as the designers’ aesthetics, inspiration, and locales, from Shetland to Finland, from Edinburgh to Nevada. To accompany these designs, I’m now writing and editing a group of essays and conversations, which will explore the history of haps, hap knitting, and hap wearing, and form the first half of the book.

So I’m off to Shetland to happily think more about haps.

If you have a hap or shawl-related story or anecdote you think might be of interest, I would really love to hear from you! Please leave me a wee note in the comments here, or email me at the address below and I’ll get back to you when I return from Shetland.

haps@katedaviesdesigns.com

See you soon!

All images in this post are from the Shetland Museum and Archives Photographic Collection.

69 thoughts on “hap-py

  1. This is a very fascinating project. I have a question: The haps worn by the women in the fields that were criss-crossed in the front then tied in the back? Were the ones worn on the heads tied in the back too? It would be practical to secure them while working.

    “Head scarves” were worn here in the USA until the 1960’s. The custom must have derived from haps that were worn by immigrants who settled this country.

    I can’t wait to see the book and knit some of the haps.
    Anna

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  2. Hi Kate, Can’t wait to read your new book! I think I’ll start a hap, just to spread the hap-piness. On a different note, JI’m having trouble navigating your new website…its seems that the most recent post does not appear on your ‘front page’. Perhaps I just don’y understand the new layout.:)

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  3. I wish you lots of fun with your new project. The hap for Harriet is on my list. I’m looking for your new book. I hope to read more about it in your blog which is so much fun to read.

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  4. I hope you will enjoy your trio and I’m looking forward to your new book. The hap for Harriet is on my list. The combination of historical research and knitting is so interesting. I wish you good weather and health and lots of fun and success with your new project. It will be exciting to read about it in your blog which I enjoy so much.

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  5. love Shetland. had a friend who was from there and she always wore a knitting belt and used double pointed needles. She could even fall asleep and continue to knit the pattern. sadly she is no longer with us

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  6. I think you first mentioned the word alongside a vintage photo of a man wrapped — almost swaddled — in a woven piece of fabric. It seemed practical for a long walk in the drizzle-y rain and I wanted to have the lifestyle that would make such a garment welcome and necessary. Now I think a knitted hap would be an easier garment to throw on and off as my indoor life actually requires.

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  7. I shall really look forward to this! I love the “wholeness” of your books – they are not just patterns and ideas but social histories on the necessities of life!! I love haps and shawls and will have twittering fingers when I get hold of this book! I always remember how in Maisie Mosco’s “Almonds and Raisins”, about poor Jewish immigrants in early 20th century Manchester, the main mother character was, after many years, presented with her first winter coat – but she found it just did not keep the bitter winter weather out as well as her beloved shawl had! Have a wonderful trip, Kate!

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  8. I will need more bookshelves soon, what a great project! I love my Northmavine Hap and wear it all the time.

    Haps seem to have a timeless but modern shape – they remind me a bit of those Palestinian Keffiyeh scarves practically EVERY STUDENT (me included, I had a purple one) wore in the late 80s/early 90s – which just look good with anything. The coat my Northmavine looks most brilliant with is a biker jacket!

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  9. This sounds wonderful, I can’t wait – another of your delectable books. My mother knits me shawls and haps, and they are in use in all sorts of ways – on my bed as an extra blanket, over my chair to keep off the draughts, over me to keep me warm…… I love them. Will all the photos above be in the book? They are really interesting (especially the women with two haps, one over the head and one round the body).

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  10. I know nothing about these shawls but I know something of you through this lovely blog – your interesting, high-quality writing and your lovely designs – so, I’ve very sure this book will be a winner. Haven’t tried your yarn yet. All in good time. I look forward to this book and learning about your progress along the way!

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  11. I was lucky to visit Shetland 6 years ago on a fiber tour with Joyce James. I purchased Shetland Supreme roving plus a bag of the 4 natural brown colors at Jamieson and Smith. I handspun it all them using Sharon Miller’s book “Shetland Hap Shawls Then and Now” as a guide, I knit myself a hap with the contrasting colors in the border, which serves as a wonderful afghan. I consider it to be a “magnum opus”! Here’s the Ravelry link: http://www.ravelry.com/projects/spinsjal/shetland-inspired-hap-shawl-1

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  12. Enjoy your research trip to Shetland. Very much looking forward to the publication of your new work. I have made many haps and have a couple more in my queue. But one can never have too many. Perfect for showcasing special yarn and for practicing different stitch patterns.

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  13. To me there’s always some magic about objects that were originally created for utilitarian purposes. So many stories lurking in those items of yore. I have enjoyed the wonderful research and scholarship that has gone on about the history of quilts (both UK and US) and I shall look forward to your essays about the Humble Hap’s History! I too participated in the Hapalong last year via Gudrun’s Craftsy.com class. This blog reminds me to get on with my Northmavine Hap which has been languishing on my needles for a few months! I shall be looking forward to ordering the new book!

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  14. I am so excited!!!!! I love Haps, my favourite shawls. No wonder you are so happy.
    One of my favorite hap shawl is Chameleon by Paulina Popiolek. Very simple and beautiful. Knitted it in 4ply and DK, although the pattern is for 2ply.
    Do you have an idea of a publication date?
    PS
    Thanks for your Nepal shawl, which I have knitted five times in lots of different yarns and using 3:75mm & 4mm needles. Your Hap for Harriet is also a very clever design. Thank you.

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  15. Oh dear, the queue is a mile long but you’ve got me hooked! (Happed?) love the history. Thanks for the photos. Can’t wait for the book. I’m saving for some of your books against this dastardly exchange rate.

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  16. Lace shawls are lovely, but I’d enjoy a well-researched, pattern-idea packed book about haps. Having seen your previous books, I know you are the author and knitwear designer to write it.

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  17. Wonderful news. Actually, come to think of it, you have been full of wonderful news recently; no wonder I so look forwards to your blog post in my inbox. My hap is a wonderful garment that I have worn for the past fifteen or so years, so long in fact that I have worn it out and repaired it several times. I think I will go and get it and put it on right now. Have fun. Save me a copy of the book; I’ll buy it.

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  18. Fantastic!!! I have done 2 of your Hap for Harriet and love them. SO practical. Wore a ‘Maud’ to church this morning with a Cairngorm and the woman behind me WANTED it :)

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  19. How apropos your post is! I just unpinned my Northmavine Hap from my blocking board about half an hour ago. Now I am sitting here, well happed and thinking of the new hap I want to knit for a good friend to wear as she is running her Victorian-themed “bread and breakfast” in Port Townsend, WA. I have been poking around on your blog, Ella Gordon’s blog, and, in Ravelry to find the perfect everyday hap. Can’t wait to see the commissioned haps and to read your new book! Have a wonderful time in Shetland!

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  20. Really looking forward to this one – should be stunning. I love knitting shawls, despite our strong local tradition in Wales of woven equivalents to the hap. Still beautiful, mind…

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    1. I have several wonderful woven Welsh shawls, the first bought for me by my mother as a present for passing an exam! We were on holiday in Borth when I got the results. Now she knits me haps and shawls…… the most comforting garments ever.

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  21. How wonderful! Coincidentally I recently signed up for Gudrun Johnston’s Craftsy class on haps, and am looking forward to knitting one, plus a miniature for my dolls. (The dolls have a miniature Rams and Yowes blanket already!). Enjoy your trip. I can’t wait to see the book.

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  22. I’m so excited to hear about your upcoming book. I’ve lived in Scotland for a number of years but only knit my first hap last year as part of the Hapalong with the KnitBritish podcast group. I made a Hansel by Gudrun in J&S 2ply for my first one and I used my own handspun to make my second from a pattern called Gaia. Your Hap for Harriet and another of Gudrun’s shawls are in my queue.
    Haps are so addictive and some in the Hapalong made quite an impressive number. I’ve been wearing one of my two haps at least once or twice a week since last summer. I also throw them over my lap when working on other things. They are such perfect companions for the everyday things of life, both entirely hardworking and simply beautiful. I want to make another square hap that is large enough to go round my shoulders, cross in front and tie around my back. I have a feeling that I’ll be knitting haps for a very long time and I’m sure your book will add another few to my list! I can’t wait to see them.

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  23. How exciting and interesting. We were in Shetland last summer and visited the museum in Lerwick. I’m very interested in your historical articles. I also know a lady who is a Shetland knitter so I will ask her about haps. I have knitted a few from a German pattern which I’ve given a presents. They’ve been very popular. I also like the idea of prayer shawls. Not sure where this idea originates from. I hope the weather up there calms down for you!

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  24. Look forward to seeing your new book Kate, and congrats on your win! This afternoon I cast off your hap for Harriet, a present for my niece Kate for her wedding day (October 2014). It’s taken me two years and a lot of learning, just have to block it and send it to her in France then I can start the next one, for my mum for August. Wish me luck.

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  25. I can’t wait for the book to come out! I have an obsession with Shetland lately and feel I must travel there soon…. In the meantime, I can live vicariously through books such as the one you are planning. While waiting, perhaps I will try my hand at a hap shawl. Thanks for the inspiration. : )

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  26. Well, now I don’t know what I’m more excited for: the much anticipated arrival of my Deco kit and copy of The Colours of Shetland or your new project! Thank you for keeping us interested and informed, not just in the knitting, but in the history and the details.

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  27. Have a wonderful trip! I’m desperate to visit Shetland and my partner Malcolm is getting used to the idea (he is a sailor). Any information on good places to stay there would be so welcome. And I’m planning to knit a hap for a new baby so you’ve just inspired me!

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  28. How wonderful. I’ve knitted ‘Hap for Harriet’ twice now and it is so warm when worn as a scarf in the winter, so really looking forward to the new book. Envy you going to Shetland as well, I had a wonderful holiday there and can’t wait to go back again one day.

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  29. I am just knitting my first hap/shawl, Aestlight by Gudrun Johnston and now have the wool to make my first half Hansel hap by her too. Very addictive knitting! how timely you new project is!

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  30. Oh how exciting! I knit a hap last year as a blanket for our baby boy (of Scottish descent!) and was so captivated by the history and utility of these garments. Can’t wait to see your collection,

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  31. I am so excited for this new work! Both the patterns and essays are so important historically. My mother and grandmother, both immigrants to the US from Poland, had their version of the hap that we always knitted up with our stash yarns; some of them are exquisite. I have always wanted to learn more about the history of these garments. Thank you for bringing us this gorgeous and important work – once again!!

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  32. Oh how wonderful – I’m sure there’ll be some lovely patterns. And a great advantage for us ex-pats in the U.S.: by this time next year, I won’t have to explain myself when I say I’m well happed up. 😉

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  33. One place where the word hap changed a bit but is still in use is in the colder areas of the Appalachians, where it can mean a whole-cloth quilt. We had some really beautiful pieced quilts in the house, but it was a hap that we slept under. Mine was the same rose colored print cotton fabric on both sides, was bound in plain pink, and from the weight of it, must have had 3-4 layers of worn out woolen blankets as the batting. They were tiring to sleep under, but you didn’t get cold.

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    1. There is a Appalachian history in my family, so perhaps that explains the comforter-like quilt that I inherited. It is filled with wool that was hand- carded by my grandmother. The wool is contained by a flour sack material, making a thick batting. It is very heavy. And warm. The batting was covered by a whole cloth cotton flannel cover and hand tied. I can remember my mother showing me my grandmother’s carding combs when I was a child, but I don’t know where they are now. I wonder if yours has a wool filling.

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    2. Fascinating that old wool blankets were used for batting. Where there is a need, there is a way – and it sounds like your family found a way. My maternal grandmother was a quilter perhaps out of necessity, but I believe mostly it was her craft. Thank you for sharing your experience – it is something I will remember.

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  34. I am so excited about this!! I took Gudrun Johnston’s Craftsy class on haps and I’m in the (slow for me) process of spinning up my own Shetland yarn in natural colors to knit my first one.

    I love love love that you include so much research and writing in your books of patterns. I can’t wait for this one.

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  35. One of my most favorite things I have ever knitted was a Hap/hansel for my dear friend when she had a baby. We picked out the colors together. The Grey J&S body with ripples of cream and pink. The photo of a 3 day old Colette swaddled in this, remains on of the best picture I have taken.

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  36. I always enjoy the historical perspective in your books. A book on haps will be great because surely there will be some new hap patterns, too. Have a great time in Shetland.

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  37. Your Northmavine hap is my favourite “go-to” shawl – amazingly cosy and warm. And I loved your pattern for it. I’m looking forward to reading about haps and knitting a few too. I’ve never been to Shetland, but my DH and I are hoping to take the caravan up there this June, in time for mid-summer. Have a lovely busy but restful research time there.

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  38. Very timely for a group of knitters at our LYS. We are making haps at the moment as a knit-along. Ours are made with a natural DK weight yarn in lovely shades of off white to deep rich brown. There were so many lovely patterns to choose from, but we settled on Jared Flood’s Quill.

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  39. I knit your Northmavine Hap for my mother. She wears it every day, both around the house and outside. Then I knit Gudrun Johnstons Full Hansel Hap Shawl. I am thoroughly addicted and can’t wait for the book!

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  40. I am so excited for this collection! What a great topic to explore. I have been admiring hap designs for years, but haven’t made one yet. I’m sure this will inspire me to change that immediately. :) Have a wonderful trip!

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