fourth edition Karie Westermann knits (and crochets too)

Authors & Artists: the Byatt Shawl

January 2015 112After a few teasing posts, I am happy to say that the Byatt shawl is now available from Ravelry (and will soon be available from LoveKnitting too).

The shawl is named after one of my favourite novelists, A.S. Byatt.  I first encountered her books when I was a young woman on the cusp of starting university. I read her Booker Prize-winning novel Possession in translation by Claus Bech. I later learned Bech had been awarded the Prix Baudelaire for his work, but that was no help to me as I diligently worked my way through dense poetry sections.

A few years later I read Possession in its original English and Byatt’s book was transformed. While Bech’s work was lauded, I could not connect with it in the same way I could connect with Byatt’s own language. It was rich, layered, warm, gently witty, and wonderful. The book became a touchstone and I have read it eight or nine times now.

And so Byatt’s novels became part of my life.

The Frederica Potter novels – The Virgin in the Garden, Still Life, Babel Tower, and A Whistling Woman – kept me company as I grew from a young woman to whoever it is I am now. I read The Biographer’s Tale whilst travelling around New Zealand (it remains my least favourite Byatt novel to date). And I curled up with her short stories – Angels and Insects and the Matisse Stories, among others, when I lived in a suitcase trying to figure out who I was going to be. Reading Byatt quietens that voice inside my head that urges me to be less bookish, less arty, and more .. normal. I owe her much for writing about quiet, creative people with complex inner lives who muddle through life trying to remain intact. We exist too.

The Byatt shawl takes its main design cues from the cover design of  The Children’s Book. The rich teal and the golden brown are obvious nods towards the teal and gold found on the cover. Insects recur often as motifs in Byatt’s books – the slip stitch pattern forms braids on top of the garter stitch, but the individual stitches can also resemble tiny wings or delicate leaves.

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The horseshoe edging was my toughest design decision. I wanted the shawl to have an Art Nouveau feel, so I first added leaves to the edging. Interestingly, I found that very open lace patterns clashed with the remainder of the shawl and I experimented with bold chevrons until my eye was caught by the classic horseshoe pattern. Its light chevron feel and close/open movement worked both within the context of the fabric and also with the design inspiration. The edge is finished off with a picot edging which just adds a touch of polish.

I’ve had a few questions about the shape of the shawl. Funnily enough, neither my photographer, my tech editor nor myself even considered that issue, so I have uploaded the schematic to my Rav project page to tide things over until I can get my photographer (also known as David, the boyfriend) to shoot some photos. Many apologies for the oversight. On the other hand, it is the sort of feedback that improves my patterns, so thank you for getting in touch!

The only other issue is that I am currently waiting for my lovely friends at LoveKnitting to publish the pattern, so it becomes available in all EU countries. I am keeping tabs on the situation and am exceedingly frustrated that not all you lovely people can buy the pattern straight away. Maybe an excuse to go stash-diving or plan colour combinations?

Stay tuned for colour combination suggestions from Old Maiden Aunt Yarns. If you are planning on going to the Edinburgh Festival, you will want to stay tuned to learn why knitting a Byatt shawl might be a good idea. I did say plans were afoot, non?

Introducing Byatt

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The first pattern in my Authors and Artists series is called Byatt. It is an asymmetrical shawl that starts with just one stitch. Most of the shawl is knitted in garter stitch and it uses two colours of hand-dyed 4ply sock yarn. You never work more than one colour at any time, as the braided effect is obtained using a slip-stitch pattern. Byatt is finished off with a lacy edge in the contrast colour and a picot cast-off.

Hand on heart, I knitted most of Byatt during pub quizzes and knit nights. I found it a very soothing, relaxing knit – yet it looks quite complex when it is done. I chose to work with Old Maiden Aunt merino 4ply as I was after depth of colour and excellent drape. Several people had asked me to design a shawl that used more than one skein of hand-dyed sock yarn, and I was happy to comply.

The combination of a deep blue-grey main colour and a coppery brown contrast is not an accident. This shawl takes its name from the British novelist A.S. Byatt whose books are not just full of beautiful, rich details but are also beautifully designed. I shall write more about Byatt (the novelist) when Byatt (the shawl pattern) is released tomorrow.

I have had a very rough week, but I am very happy to say that working with some most excellent collaborators on this project has really made a difference. It is so incredibly nice when people come together in an organic way and all get aboard my rather vague concept of “contemporary pomo Victoriana but in a minimalist way”. (Sometimes I wish I was more of a cupcake hat designer, but you cannot change who you are.)

More pictures and details and general Byatt enthusiasm tomorrow. Tomorrow!

Sneak Peek

January 2015 107Yesterday we went to Glasgow’s Pollok Park to take in some much needed daylight. We also had a photo shoot of the first design in the Authors & Artist series. The pattern is off to its technical editor this week and I hope to release it this week (fingers crossed). I love how the photo shoot turned out and I cannot wait to share more photos with you.

The new design is inspired by one of my favourite authors – someone whose work has kept me company for twenty years (or thereabouts). It is all about layers, depth, and richness of thoughts and emotions.

If you are heading to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, you’ll be able to see the shawl on the Old Maiden Aunt stall as it is knitted in two skeins of OMA merino 4ply. Lilith and I are also putting some suggested colour combinations together as we know many of you can feel rather overwhelmed when faced with all of Lilith’s colours.

But more on all this when my excellent tech editor gives me the thumbs up!

Looking Forward to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival – pt 1

March 2013 EYF

Outside is dreary: slushy snow, temperatures hovering around zero, the sky is dull, and we have precious little natural light. I am wearing enough layers to make me feel like the Michelin Man. Of course thoughts turn towards The Good Things Ahead. While I love February (it is my birthday month – more on that later!), I am really, really looking forward to March and the Edinburgh Yarn Festival.

Last time EYF happened, it was really quite special. The warm reception from the knitting community took everybody by surprise: the venue was packed, the vendors were shell-shocked, the on-site cafe couldn’t cope, and the teachers (of which I was one) were taken aback by the interest. The organisers took time off to reassess and then came up with EYF 2015 which is bigger in every way imaginable. The venue has changed to the Corn Exchange, the vendors list has more than doubled, the teaching line-up is astounding (and I am there too), there is the innovative  Podcast Lounge  and there are other things happening which I cannot tell you about just yet. So, basically, it is bigger and bolder than before.

But the yarny events calendar is so full, I hear you cry.

Here’s what makes EYF different: it is rooted in a very specific community and despite all the changes/growth, it keeps that community spirit. Central Scotland is a hotspot if you like your 21st century knitting. So many innovative designers and dyers live here - people who inspire and energise the online community every single day. I am big believer in creative clusters and we definitely have one right here. At the same time we are also fortunate to live with a strong Scottish textile heritage and knitting tradition(s). The first EYF fed off the marvellous synergy and I know this has continued with the 2015 event. It is more than just a place where we can buy gorgeous yarn – it is going to be inspiring, empowering, thought-provoking and damn fun.

Quite apart from my own plans, I am really looking forward to catching up with exciting vendors. I met The Border Mill at the last EYF and they have such a great story to tell. I cannot wait to see how they’ve expanded and what products they are bringing to the festival. Midwinter Yarns is a company close to my heart. Estelle is a fellow Scandinavian whose focus is to bring fabulous Scandinavian yarns to Britain. The Gotland DK is especially beautiful. A long-time favourite of mine, Eden Cottage Yarns will be bringing their new Bletchley-inspired collection with them. I hope to catch up with its designer Joanne Scrace during the festival. Weftblown is an innovative weaving company from the Scottish West Coast whose work is rooted in weather systems and landscapes. I have seen a tiny bit of Ange’s work and am looking forward to learning more. And, as always, I am looking forward to catching up with dear friends (many of which are vendors, so I’ll be waving in passing).

And now for the big question: what shall I knit? You may be interested to know that I have some design plans up my sleeve. That’s for the next post..

2015: The Unread Books Project

Just before Christmas I read a delightful book by Andy Miller called The Year of Reading Dangerously. On the surface of it, it is about reading all the books you’ve always promised yourself you’d read, but the book doubles as a witty semi-autobiographical look at how reading shapes who we are and how we ended up being whoever we are. I liked it a lot, in other words.

After my career path changed and I ended up doing, well, knitterly things, I have found myself an increasingly out-of-shape reader. I used to tackle tomes with confidence and read 100+ books a year (granted, I was single, unemployed and just out of university). These days I am lucky if I manage 40 books. My Kindle is partly to blame: I do read more but I tend towards reading easily digestible trash where I don’t need to flip back and forth between pages. Far too many of my books err towards the The Dastardly Duke’s Devillish Duel side of things when I really yearn  to sink into a rich, gorgeous book with layers. And I don’t know why I don’t do that more often.

Inspired by a Twitter conversation I had with Andy Miller, I decided to look at my book shelves. I have so many that I already own and that I really want to read – but for some reason they just sit there. Here’s a list of books I really want to read and hopefully by listing them, I will actually start to become a fit reader again (post-modern push-ups, fictional flexibility, muscular metafiction .. the bad puns write themselves).

In no particular order:

Eleven books. Six female writers. Three books I’ve begun but abandoned for various reasons (I forgot my Tristram Shandy Everyman edition in a Swedish forest one midsummer. Long story). A mix between current fiction and a few pre-1930 ones. Some I can read straight off the bat, others I’ll need to approach after my reading fitness improves. Some authors I have read before with much pleasure (Atwood, Robertson and Mitchell in particular) and others new to me (James, Barnes, and Plascencia). It’s a good mix.

I am not one for book groups or read-alongs, though a few of you have suggested such on Twitter. I’d love to see others look at their book shelves and rediscover their own unread books, though. Maybe a casual Twitter hangout ever so often to check in? (Many of you are much better at this than me.)

I’m about 120 pages short of finishing Andrew Drummond’s A Hand-Book of Volapuk (it’s a novel, I swear) and then I’m going to start my little reading project.

Spoilers, Darling: the OMA/Karie Sock Club 2015, pt 1

And so the madness begins with the first pattern launch of 2015.


Hello Demimonde socks.

I am so very glad that Lilith and I decided to do a sock club, because it has really opened my eyes to sock design. Socks come with their own design challenges and I really relished working with a differently shaped canvas. It’s hard to describe it, but with socks, the canvas is obviously 3D-shaped with things happening around the heel/gusset area and the toes. As a designer I had to think about stitch patterns in several new ways – which direction I wanted them to go, how I wanted to deal with the transition into the heel area or the transition between leg and foot. I found it hugely satisfying to work with all this – and I do hope it resulted in a great knit for sock club members. I designed three socks in total and they are all just a wee bit different from one another.

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The colour and pattern inspiration came from a TV show that Lilith raved about. I do not watch much TV, but I fell in love with the dark, decadent feel of Penny Dreadful. I know a fair bit about mid-to-late 19th century pop culture, but I enjoyed looking through archives of Eva Green looking resplendent in corsets and bustles. It was hard work, but someone had to do it!

Demimonde is directly inspired by late Victorian lace. I want the socks to provide a glimpse of ankles but also have an air of ever-so-slightly seedy respectability. Lilith’s colourway – “rarest orchid” – was perfect. The purple hints of opium dens and smoky parlours.

(However, I was slightly thwarted when it came to photography! Here in Scotland we have very little natural light at the moment and my planned photoshoot on a dark velvet sofa with brocade scatter cushions turned out to be .. rather unworkable. We eventually shot these photos on a crisp, frosty morning – maybe not quite Eva Green frolicking on a plush velvet sofa, but you can actually see the socks.)

I should also mention my amazing sample knitter, Sue. Sue managed to knit the sample for me on a very tight deadline and did a fantastic job. I prefer to knit my samples myself, but deadlines collided for me last year and Sue really came through for me. Thank you!

So. the first pattern of 2015! At the moment Demimonde is an exclusive club pattern but will be released for general purchase in August. Stay tuned for another new pattern this month – it is an accessory and it’s an stunning one (so say other people too).

What’s Next, Dear Karie?


(crochet motif by my mother. she makes very beautiful things)

If you listened to my interview on the Knit British podcast, you will already have heard about my future .. er, non-collection plans. Unlike Doggerland, the Authors & Artists series isn’t going to be collected in one place and it won’t have a coherent colour scheme or design vocabulary. I reserve all that for things to come (and things are in the pipeline). No, the  Authors & Artists series going to be slightly more playful and anarchic. I’ll be playing with beautiful yarns, having fun with small, quirky ideas, and the patterns will be released when they happen. No sign-ups, no massive thing to pre-order. We are going to play this by ear as I spend some time getting the Next Big Endeavour ready.

Authors and Artists is what it says on the tin. I love books and I love art. Every day I am inspired by something I see in a gallery or read in a book. The patterns are going to be inspired by people who make the world seem a much richer place just through sharing their own creative impulses. I’ll be designing accessories of various kinds and probably also dip into some garments. It’s going to be an adventure fuelled by tea, books, and art. If you feel like it, feel free to read some books or look at some artwork – but it is not a requirement.

I hope you’ll join me one way or another. The first pattern will be released this month!

And on the Second Day of 2015 She Did A Podcast & Stuff

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The last FO of 2014 showcased on the second day of 2015. I knitted the Coffee Bean cardigan for my youngest nephew as an Christmas present. I’ve used the pattern before and it’s a great little project that looks contemporary, knits up a treat, and has a lot of scope for customisation. I used two balls of (the now sadly discontinued) Rowan Pure Wool Aran and used a remnant of a third colour in PWA to knit the buttonband trim. I just wanted to add a little pop of colour to a neutral-looking cardigan. I rather like the end result. Buttons are coconut shell buttons from an old, old eBay haul – this is the third project that uses these buttons and I still have many left!

But this is 2015, so let’s not talk anymore of Christmas. Happy new year, everyone!In Scotland, we celebrate Hogmanay which makes the advent of a new year seem extra special. This time my partner and I actually went to a small party where we danced the night away and tried our hand at karaoke (good grief). I even wore a new frock which helped chase away all the clouds left behind by 2014. The bells were celebrated with a wee dram and we enjoyed a healthy serving of Stovies too. Dear reader, I appear to have gone native.

However, to kick off the new year in a suitably knitterly fashion, I sat down for a chat with the lovely Louise Scollay. You can hear a full hour of Louise & I chatting about our year in knitting, what plans we have for 2015 and how much we are looking forward to the Edinburgh Yarn Fest. When we did the interview, my head was full of the cold. Apologies for that! Our chat also include what my post-Doggerland plans are .. the first pattern from the new venture will be released later this month, actually. I really, really enjoy chatting with Louise – I think the podcast clocks in at 70 minutes ..  but actually we talked for like 2.5 hours. See if you can spot when I started coughing my lungs out so Louise had to do some super-clever editing!

One of the things Louise & I spend some time discussing is the idea of choosing a word that will keep you company throughout the coming year. It is a concept I have shamelessly stolen from Joanne Scrace – we discussed our mutual loathing of New Year’s resolutions one evening and Joanne mentioned the ONE WORD thing. I like words, so obviously I love this idea. Surprisingly, I found it difficult to come up with a word that worked for me but I settled on this:


What would your word be?

So. It is the second day of 2015 and I am cautiously optimistic. Not bad for this glass half-empty girl.

Changes to Pattern-Selling & Ebooks

Due to law changes, 2015 sees a few changes to how customers within the EU can buy my patterns. Please understand that a) these changes are not my decision and b) some of these changes may be temporary as various platforms work out how best to respond to the new laws.

Are you in the UK or live outside the EU?

Move on. Nothing will change for you.

Are you in an EU member state other than the UK?

Read on.

Single patterns:

Whether you buy my patterns through my website or via Ravelry, you will now be redirected to LoveKnitting to complete your purchase. Ravelry and LoveKnitting have entered into a partnership to make the law changes easy and transparent for you as a consumer. LoveKnitting will handle the financial transaction while Ravelry will add your new pattern to your library. Important: when you buy a pattern now, you will see the pattern price plus your local VAT rate displayed. LoveKnitting will collect the VAT and hand it over to your local government. If you do not already have a LoveKnitting account, you will need to register with them.

Please note that my previously announced price changes will go into effect in 2015, but I am trying very hard to keep prices as low as I possibly can. Depending upon where you live, the added VAT on top may make it look like a very dramatic price hike but the VAT rate is decided by your local government (who also collects it).


There is currently no way of offering special discounts or promotions via the LoveKnitting/Ravelry integration, so unfortunately any future promotions will not be available to EU citizens outside the UK. I am very sorry.

E-books/pattern collections:

There is currently no way of selling e-books or pattern collections via the LoveKnitting/Ravelry integration. This means you won’t be able to buy At Midnight or Doggerland via the LoveKnitting checkout. However, if you want to buy either collection, please get in touch with me using the contact form on this page. There may be a few ways we can work around this issue but I want to discuss them with you on an individual basis.

E-book pricing will be reviewed mid-summer 2015 and currently remains unchanged.

Please note: I view all this as temporary measures as marketplaces adjust to the new laws. I am looking into other distribution options as well, so do keep an eye on this website.

Phew. What a way to end 2014. Thank you so, so much for all your support in 2014. Despite all the upheaval, I hope we’ll continue to have all sorts of fun in 2015.


‘Tis the Season

Happy Holidays to you all.
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 For the past week or so I have been cooped up in bed with a terrible cold that turned into a head-cold that turned into a chesty cough that just won’t leave. We’ll be taking it easy this holiday season, so I get a chance to recover before 2015 kicks in. I will get to see some of my favourite people over the holiday season, but it is also the time of year when I’m very much aware that I live overseas. This is the season of missing people so very, very much.

Wherever you are and however you celebrate the forthcoming holidays, I wish you peace and joy.

Glædelig jul og godt nytår.