My name is Kate Davies. I live in a small steading on the edge of the Scottish Highlands where I love writing, designing, and walking in the wonderful landscapes that surround me. I find that each of these activities has a creative and a critical dimension and the best of possible worlds is one in which I productively combine them all. I have a doctorate in eighteenth-century history, and have written books, essays and feature articles on a wide range of topics from the American Revolution to the history of lace. I have particular expertise in textile history, women’s history, and design, and these interests are combined in my popular books Colours of Shetland (2012), Yokes (2014), The Book of Haps (2016) and Inspired by Islay (2017)(which are available in my shop)
In 2015 I began manufacturing my own brand of 100% Scottish wool yarn for hand knitting.
I’ve worked with museums and heritage organisations, sharing my expertise (e.g. Tate Modern, Shetland Amenity Trust, and Gawthorpe Textiles) and have also contributed to BBC radio programmes on diverse topics such as the landscape of British knitting and the history of socks (e.g. BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour; BBC Radio 2 Simon Mayo show). I’ve been an ambassador of Shetland Wool Week, my designs have featured on BBC tv , and my website is archived by the British Library as part of its project to preserve national documentary heritage.
In 2010 (at the age of 36) I suffered a major ischemic stroke, which ended my academic career, but in the wake of which I built a new life for myself in the world of hand-knitting and design. I’m currently writing a book of personal essays, exploring my experiences of disability, creativity, and practices of making. Handywoman will be published in the Spring of 2018.
My husband, Tom Barr, shares my love of the great Scottish outdoors, and is responsible for the beautiful photography you’ll find here. As well as taking pictures of my designs, Tom loves photographing the Scottish landscape and its people at work and recently produced the acclaimed book Shetland Oo which documents the work of wool in Shetland. You can browse Tom’s photography, and purchase prints of his work in his online gallery.
Our good friend, Melanie Patton, expertly test knits my designs, manages our customer service, and generally keeps everything shipshape here at KDD HQ. If you need to contact us about anything, it is likely you’ll speak to Mel.
Bruce is the final, indispensable member of the KDD team. He’s our fun-loving labrador and enjoys running with Tom, walking with me, and swimming in Loch Lomond whenever he gets the opportunity.
Scottish design, Scottish manufacturing
Everything we design and make is inspired by, and rooted in, the landscape that surrounds us. We are a small yarn producer, using wool from Scottish sheep, and a small publisher, producing books under our own imprint. Our books are beautifully made for us just down the road by Bell & Bain, and our photographic prints produced by Loxley Colour — both great local companies. From the wool we produce to the books we create, we are proud to support and promote regional manufacturing, creativity and design in many different contexts, and are proud members of Textiles Scotland.
An award-winning small business
In 2016, Kate Davies Designs was honoured to be awarded the accolade of UK Microbusiness of the Year by the Federation of Small Business & Worldpay. Kate also won the 2016 award for Best Use of Social Media from Business Women Scotland and was recently shortlisted for the national award of Creative Entrepreneur of the Year.
The best way to see what we are up to is by following this blog! You can read pieces exploring a wide range of topics in textile history and design from Kate, and enjoy recipes photography and tutorials from Tom. Occasionally, you may also hear from Bruce as well. If you’d like to receive special offers and promotions, and be the first to know about our new projects, sign up for our newsletter. You can also find Kate on Instagram, Twitter and Ravelry
If you need help with a pattern, please join our Ravelry group, check the relevant discussion thread, and post a query (if you’ve not found an answer!).
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Commissions / business enquiries
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And if you’d like to purchase books, yarn or kits, just head on over to the shop.