fourth edition

Knitting Journeys

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I love travelling on ferries. I suppose I could blame my Viking blood, but I have always found sailing immensely enjoyable and relaxing. Last week I visited Northern Ireland for the first time which meant a long ferry ride across the Irish Sea as well as a long bus journey through the Scottish Lowlands. The journey home was especially lovely as the sun was out and I found myself a window seat where I could knit away and watch the waves without getting disturbed. Utter bliss.

I’ll write more about this towards the end of the year, but I have realised that knitting is both a journey for me as well as something that makes me travel to all corners of the British Isles.

At the heart of it, every knitting project is a journey. You begin travelling as soon as you cast on and the process of your project is the road you are travelling. The language of geography is intertwined with the language of knitting: the yarn travels through our fingers, we have travelling stitches and we consult charts to help us navigate a challenging pattern. Then, as we near the end of our project, we have the diary of our trip in our lap. Do you remember the day that you worked the rib section? How happy you were to cross that river or climb that mountain? Or the evening you sat knitting dreaming of future adventures as you traversed across an endless desert of stocking stitch?

And it also means something else for me personally.

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Currently I am knitting socks. They are the perfect travel project and they kept me entertained during my stay in Northern Ireland (no internet connection! it was lovely!). I have designed three sock patterns for the Old Maiden Aunt Sock Club 2015 (also three exclusive never-to-be-repeated OMA colourways) and I really, really enjoyed the experience. A sock is a very different canvas to, say, a shawl and I relished playing with this new-to-me canvas.

I am currently on my second almost-vanilla sock. This pair is just for me and my journeys around these isles. Who knows what will happen next.

Shouting Loudly About Wool – An Interview with Louise Scollay

SCOLLAY528x352As I mentioned the other day, I named my first cardigan design after one of the most inspirational people I know in the knitting world: Louise Scollay.

Louise lives in Shetland where she writes and blogs fuelled by her passion for wool – and especially good quality, local British yarns. She champions small local producers, encourages big companies to support the British wool industry and she is especially keen on making knitters aware that knitting British (or local) does not mean you have to spend a fortune. We have some incredible local yarns in Britain and we should be shouting to the heavens about them.

Needless to say, Louise and I get on very well! We share that passion for honest, authentic yarns that have a strong grounding in a particular landscape. Some people think I am mad for loving “rustic” yarns so much, but Louise understands. This shared understanding led to a good friendship and now .. an interview.

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What makes you so passionate about championing wool – and particularly local, British wool?

When I started KnitBritish I just wanted to shout loudly about the wool I was using and really hoped that someone might find it interesting, learn something along with me and try British wool for themselves. Until a few years ago it never occurred to me to look at where the wool came from. I was just drawn to texture and colours. When I realised that there were over 60 breeds of sheep breeds in the UK - not to forget alpaca, angora, mohair and cashmere –  I just knew that I had to try them all (spoiler: I haven’t managed yet).

What I am passionate about now is trying to move us away from the idea that British wool is not suitable for next to skin wear, or it is not suitable for hand-knitting. There are plenty of UK sheep whose fleece is more suited to carpets and upholstery, but we have an amazing resource of wool – varied in handle, texture, colour, and characteristics – which are not enjoying their place in the country’s stash next to the merino that many knitters are drawn towards. British breed wool is astonishing! Each is unique and different, e.g. Bluefaced Leicester and Wensleydale are both longwool breeds, but they do not provide the same kind of fleece. I urge more people to just jump over to Blacker, select a ball of yarn that they have never tried before and just give it a go.

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Blacker Yarns, ah yes. Their selection is amazing. I got a sampler back recently and it’s mind-blowing just how different the various breeds knit up. I can see why it’s an absorbing project to try out all the various breeds. Along the same lines, I have to ask: What are some of your favourite British yarns?

Going into Jamieson and Smith is like entering the best sweetie shop ever! In addition to the vast range of dyed colours, you can’t beat those natural colours. The fact that the wool just gets softer and warmer the more you wash and dress it means your knitted item has longevity. I am also a big fan of West Yorkshire Spinners. Recently more commercial yarn companies are starting to think British and that is really heartening.
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This is true. when I began getting into local yarns, there were very few available from commercial companies. However, in the last couple of years, even the commercial selection has become huge. You mentioned going into J&S – you obviously live in Shetland. Do you think the complex knitting heritage of Shetland plays a part in your desire to champion local producers?

Knitting here has had its big peaks and bigger troughs. When I think of Shetland’s knitting heritage I think about subsistence knitting, the exploitation and poor wages of many knitters. I think of Shetland knitting being the forefront of fashion trends through the beginning of the 20th century and declining again, until the oil industry into the 80s helped boost the industry and economy. Knitting has never gone away here – granted much of the industry knitting in the past was done with little pleasure for the craft – but you can’t really chuck a ball of wool here without hitting someone who can knit. Knitting was even a part of the curriculum in Shetland schools for many years (until recently). I feel very rooted to that heritage, coming from knitting and crofting stock, and maybe that is why I feel strongly about supporting our home-grown wool resources. ​ KnitBritish started because I bought a yarn that came from a farm just a short trip from my back door, so it definitely started here.

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Where can people learn more about local British yarns?

If anyone is interested in finding British breed wool there are three main havens for me; Blacker Yarns are a fantastic resource for British, organic, rare and specialist breeds. They source all fleece – and fibre for their alpaca and mohair yarns – from Britain and also from the Falkland Islands while all of the processing and spinning takes place in the UK. There is plenty of information on the characteristics of the wool, handle and information on the breed. Blacker is truly an invaluable resource and they are really committed to providing the best of British available. Garthernor is another excellent resource, particularly if you are looking for organic yarn. The website can be a little clunky to navigate, but it is jam-packed with information on sheep breeds and there is a shop. They do blends of British breeds as well, which adds new textural and colour interest. I always recommend that anyone interested in knitting with rare breed yarn, or in British sheep breeds in general, should look at the Rare Breeds Survival Trust website. There is a watch list of the critical, endangered, vulnerable and at risk breeds  – if you are interested in doing some small part in helping these breeds, knitting with their wool is a good place to start.

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Finally, how has Knit British changed your knitting life?

…I think the most awesome thing is that I have been able meet such amazing people through what I do. I truly love the communities I find myself in through wool and knitting – particularly through social media. I count myself very lucky that someone I hadn’t met till this year (though I already called my friend) decided to name a cardigan pattern after me. That’s pretty awesome.

Well, you are pretty awesome, Louise.

Louise is part of the Wovember team and will also be cheerleading at the podcast lounge of the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. Go say hi to her!

 

Say Hello to the Scollay Cardigan

July 2014 1058 2014 turns out to be the year where I break free from all the ..but surely I can’t .. whispers at the back of my head. I am fully self-employed, I have been part of all sorts of incredible craft events with properly big knitting names, and now I’ve released my first garment pattern. Designing garments always felt daunting because they have to fit across sizes, there are all sorts of things to keep track off, and (crucially) they have to fit people other than me.

So, say hello to Scollay.

Scollay is published in the latest Knit Now magazine (issue 41, in shops this week). I have a long-standing working relationship with the editor, so I knew I could trust the editorial team to be on-board with my first garment and lend me moral support. And I really think we got it right.

The inspiration behind the cardigan is two-fold.

Firstly, I knew I wanted an everyday cardigan which would work as a layering piece. I am mildly obsessed with “the everyday wardrobe” where you have some some amazing essential pieces you go back to again and again. I wanted to design a cardigan I knew I could just put on – I think we all have those garments that only work with a certain shirt and I wanted to avoid that.

Secondly, I was hugely inspired by the work of Louise Scollay who runs the Knit British website and podcast. Louise champions the idea of using local yarns and is very vocal about how supporting local yarns is both affordable and sustainable.  I knew I wanted to use  a local yarn for my cardigan – and then the name of the pattern became obvious: Scollay. I have an interview with her coming up on this blog where I’ll be asking her just how it feels to have a pattern named after you!

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The Scollay cardigan is knitted in New Lanark DK which is spun just down the road from me. New Lanark is a UNESCO Heritage site which spins its own yarn using the Falls of Clyde to power its mill. It is not a coincidence that I chose to work with this yarn – I have visited New Lanark many times and the site holds special significance to me. Scollay’s seamless construction cuts down on the amount of yarn you need and New Lanark is astonishing affordable at just £3.50 per ball. £3.50 for a piece of British industrial heritage, Scottish progressive social  history and a yarn imbued with landscape, history, meaning, locality, and soul?

Oh come on.

A few suggestions for modifications. The cardigan is knitted bottom-up with the sleeves and body joined before you work the yoke. This sort of construction allows for relatively easy mods:

  • the cardigan hits me well below the hips (as you can tell) but I am really short-waisted. If you want a slightly shorter cardigan, take out an inch before and after the waist shaping.
  • you can adjust the length of the sleeves by taking out a couple of inches before you join the sleeves to the body.
  • it is designed to have a smidgen of positive ease because I wanted a cardigan that would work for layering. The model in the magazine looks super-cool in her relaxed fit cardi. However, I am wearing the cardigan with an inch of negative ease.
  • I do love the New Lanark yarn with a fiery passion, but it has a lot of character which I understand is not for all people (though it works perfectly for me). If you are looking for a substitute, you need to look for a double-knitting yarn with good stitch definition and memory. The construction means the yoke bears the weight of the garment, so make sure you find a substitute with sturdiness – cottons and silk-blends won’t work in the long run.

It is such a thrill to finally be able to blog about the cardigan. I designed it in the spring and knitted it during the hottest Scottish summer in memory (I am modelling it on a hot July day in these photos ) – so it’s been a hard secret to keep. But it is released this week and I finally feel like I am a proper grown-up designer. Heh.

Now We’re Getting Somewhere

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I was looking through an old photo folder when I came across this swatch I did for what would eventually become the Proserpine shawl. The swatch was knitted in an unreleased Old Maiden Aunt shade and I love how the camera picks up unexpected shades in the soft khaki green. Patterns have an interesting path they take from initial swatch to finished object. Proserpine was always going to be knitted in a rich, jewel-like shade, but for a short period of time it only existed partially in my head and partially in this soft green shade. Colours play such a part in how we see designs – once I knitted Proserpine in Caerthan‘s rich teal, it became a different, separate thing to what it was at this early stage. Part of me still wonders what it would look like in the OMA colourway. If I had but world enough and time..

.. if I had but world enough and time, I would knit many things.

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(Loch Fyne earlier this year; so many ideas)

Maybe this is a good time to tell you that I have tentatively begun doing research into Something New. It is much too early to say more about it as I want to run this very differently than Doggerland. In fact, the research is at such an early stage that I’m yet to pull together a colour palette or formulate a design vocabulary (and all those other things that make my partner laugh when I start talking about them – “are you sure you didn’t go to art school?”). But the idea is there, it has been there for some time and it keeps nudging me. All this is good.

However, first I will be focusing on other things. It is Wovember, after all, and I have a lot of travel time over the next few weeks. I am hoping to get a few knitted gifts done (strong emphasis on hope) and I have some delicious Blacker Yarn earmarked for that. I’m finishing up a few articles too and there is something very special in a knitting magazine later this month.

Just a brief, final note. I have been out for the count with a dreadful migraine for the first five days or so of this month. I took three days off (as I couldn’t see out of my left eye!) and I’m now trying to get through all messages, mails, edits, revisions, and so forth as quickly as I possibly can – please be patient with me!

That Was The October That Was

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Lately I have had my head buried in spreadsheets, charts, style sheets and gauge swatches. All work and no play makes for a dull Karie. Sure, there were some bright spots (like my surprise trip to Arran) but I’ve mainly focused on ticking off items on my to-do list.

I celebrated Socktober by getting stuck into sock design for the first time. I have always had a mild phobia of feet (don’t ask) but several people challenged me to conquer my phobia. I am glad I did because I really enjoyed playing around with a new canvas and checking out new techniques. I’m joining forces with Ms Old Maiden Aunt for her 2015 club – three exclusive colourways and three sock patterns by yours truly. I am truly excited to hear what people think of my sock patterns as it’s a new area for me. I am not ruling out designing more socks, incidentally, as my friend Paula gave me a pair of luxurious hand-knitted socks as a belated birthday present and I love them to bits.

Just don’t make me look at other people’s toes, aghr.

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Another highlight was teaching workshops. I really love teaching – that moment a tricky technique is mastered by someone or I can see someone getting it .. well, you cannot beat that feeling. One of my workshops took place at Dundee’s Fluph yarn shop. We had six native languages between us and experience ranging from “designing my own jumpers” to “I learned to knit three months ago and have never worked in the round”. Just such a great time and I love the six finished mini jumpers. All speak of the knitters’ personalities and how much they were up for a challenge. The red jumper on the left? The lady had never attempted colourwork before and was excited to put small borders on her jumper. Ace stuff.

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New designs? Yes. I finished nine new designs this months – including the three sock patterns that pushed me out of my comfort zone. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend anyone doing that many designs in a month, but I found being busy silenced that annoying voice going “it’s not good enough, Karie”. I have struggled with perfectionism and impossibly high standards before – and it was interesting to see how being busy felt liberating.

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I was excited to meet and chat with Susan McComb, the Knitter-In-Residence at Glasgow University for Wool Week. The residency was an extension of the ongoing Knitting in the Round project and since I have been part of the project in a number of ways, I was looking forward to seeing Susan’s work. She had translated architectural details found around campus into knitting patterns, had taught knitting workshops throughout the university and spoken with Material Culture students about textiles. Susan spoke with passion about keeping your eyes open and knit what you see in every day life (this reminded me of Felicity Ford’s recent work). We had a great conversation about inner/outer landscapes and the relationship between landscapes and textiles. Incidentally, if you can make it, the Knitting in the Round project has a workshop on Sanquhar knitting in Sanquhar tomorrow, November 1.

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And I finished the Doggerland collection, my word. Part of me thought I would never get to the finishing line as the aforementioned perfectionism reared its ugly head again and again. But I did finish and I cannot quite believe that something that was inside my head for so long is now out in the world. The finished collection is almost 50 pages long (only because I used a relatively small sized font, ha ha) and has 8 patterns with essays and hand-drawn schematics.

I love collaborations and working closely with others on a design brief – but I take great pleasure to looking at Doggerland knowing it would not exist if it weren’t for my stubbornness and my odd ideas.

It has also been quite overwhelming listening to people’s responses – and i mean that in a positive way! I have been corresponding with few knitters (and non-knitters) over the past year or so, and I have heard so many incredible stories about how Doggerland has affected them or made them think. I’ll be sharing some of those stories in a separate post, but it is truly one of the joys of my life that my work can affect people. It feels quite humbling.

So. November. What will November bring? Some time to breathe?

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Storegga Shawl – Leaving Doggerland

October 2014 325sm Storegga is the very last pattern in my Doggerland collection. It is always odd when a journey comes to an end. I wrote about this yesterday, but today it feels even stranger.

When I started working on Doggerland, there were two stories I wanted to include:  the story of the Vedbaek excavations and the story of the Storegga Slide – the story of how Doggerland ended. During my research I found other stories I loved (as well as some unlikely sources of inspiration) but I knew the final pattern of the collection would have to be inspired by the Storegga Slide.

The Storegga Slide was a massive landslide off the coast of Norway around 6200 BCE. The landslide prompted a tsunami which rippled southwards. At this point in time, Doggerland was already drowning due to rising sea levels and had been reduced to a marshy island in the middle of the North Sea – but the tsunami marked the end of it. You can still see soil deposits around the east coast of Scotland: the tsunami came with devastating force.

This proved a really difficult source of inspiration for me: how could I base a knitting pattern on a natural disaster? I began thinking about the need to capture beauty wherever we see it and how some things only exist in a brief pocket of time.

And so the shawl began to take shape. It is a crescent-shaped shawl with an easy stocking stitch body and a delicate lace border. The lace border is where I decided to incorporate my inspiration: the opening-up of the lace is countered by sharp decreases. It is a push/pull movement that works to create an abrupt, yet beautiful motif. Just as you can begin to glimpse the formation of the motif, it is gone.

Poets have written of carpe diem and gather ye rosebuds while ye may. In a strange way, I think that is also what I wanted to say with Storegga. The ground can shift beneath your feet at any given time, so treasure those fleeting moments of absolute beauty and joy. For that reason I would recommend working the Storegga shawl in the most beautiful yarn you own. I used the glorious Snaeldan 1ply in “Turf” for my Storegga. It is quite a heavy laceweight (almost 3ply, I reckon) and I used around 380 yds. As with most of my shawl patterns, I have included tips on different yarn weights and modifications in the pattern. You can do a lot with Storegga – just make sure you keep the lace motif open.

And so I leave Doggerland – both the collection and the lost landscape. It started with Ronaes and a beach. Hoxne had you knit your own flint scraper. The Gillean hat & gloves looked at traces left in the landscape. Ythan examined material remains dredged up from the sea bed as well as the ephemeral art of tidelines. Vedbaek was a meditative knit designed to comfort and cradle you. Ertebolle was a deliberate nod towards the shifts in technology and used Mesolithic motifs we still recognise today. Storegga is the final chapter with its drowning landscape and fleeting moments of joy.

People have asked if I plan on turning Doggerland into a physical book. You will be able to buy some of the patterns as single paper patterns in selected yarn stores soon, but there will not be a full book to put on your shelves. I have made this decision partly for practical reasons and partly because  I do not want to expand it: it is a complete work on its own.

People have also asked me what is next. Well, you will have to wait and see. Come travel with me through Doggerland for the time being. Come catch your own moments of joy.

On the Threshold: Doggerland

October 2014 326Tomorrow I am releasing the last Doggerland pattern (more on the actual pattern when it’s released!) and it is a bit emotional.

I first started working on Doggerland in 2011. The first few sketches were rough outlines of motifs, but soon I began sketching all sorts of things: shells, driftwood, coastal outlines.. then I started reading about Mesolithic archaeology, I met with archaeologists, I delved into Land Art & psychogeography, and then set myself some parameters:

+ The Doggerland moodboard

+ A limited palette of colours:  I ended up using mainly undyed yarns and the only dyed hue is the vibrant green you see in the last shawl (and in the Gillean hat & wristwarmer set). I chose the green because it reminded me of seaweed – it’d be a colour that Mesolithic people would have seen. I did wonder about using wool rather than flax, as domesticated sheep for wool-production would still be a few millennia out.

+ A limited palette of stitches: I wanted to strip back what I understood about lace knitting, colourwork, and textures. I looked to Mesolithic artefacts like worked flint, carved bone, and late-Mesolithic pottery shards for inspiration. I was really interested in how Mesolithic people used geometric shapes and lines in their work. Garter stitch ended up forming the backbone in the collection and i also strove to use a pared-down lace vocabulary (which was one of the hardest challenges I set myself).

I ended up designing and writing nearly 25 patterns for the collection – most of which I also knitted. Obviously most of these designs never made it into the collection for one reason or another – and it meant an enormous amount of work on my part. Still, I wanted a coherent collection with a very distinct formsprog (mode of expression – though I like the Danish phrase better: “shape language” which contain the making and moulding aspect of creating your own creative idiom).

I got there in the end.

It was not all plain sailing. I became increasingly critical of the work I was producing. I also found myself being dragged in various directions because Doggerland was all me – and I still had other work commitments. I was working on some very non-Doggerland commissions as the same time and it was very, very hard to keep the various design vocabularies apart. I think I succeeded, but only through gritted teeth and a lot of determination.

Throughout my life I have continued ploughed  my own paths and Doggerland was yet another one of those endeavours. I could have made things easier for myself by hiring people or doing it through a publisher, but I wanted total creative control. So, from 2011 to 2014 and we are on the threshold. I am nearly there. I feel very, very odd about this.

Stay tuned tomorrow x

Caritas: On the Thorny Issue of Charity Knitting

may-133I have been involved with various charity knitting projects in my time. Quite apart from knitting for various projects, I helped out with the Garterstitch100 project which made blankets for women’s shelters and I have also been a coordinator for a premature baby knitting project. I have seen both sides of charity knitting and it’s been interesting. Recently I came across some thoughtful – and thought-provoking – blog posts on charity knitting.

Ben wrote about wanting to know the facts behind the stories in the media. He found out that a popular crafting-for-charity story had a religious agenda. He concluded:

Crafters need to interrogate the traditional “charity” narratives their disciplines are attached to. They need to be honest about the motivations behind their charity-craft, and make sure that the charities they support really align with their values. They also need to accept that charity-craft, as a model, is usually more about the desires of the giver than it is about the needs of the receiver.

Rachel wondered why the knitters keep getting asked:

When was the last time you saw a charity campaign asking people with hobbies such as carpentry, embroidery, sculpting or painting, to create a throwaway object in order to ‘raise awareness’? I doubt that you have and I doubt that you will. So why do knitters get targeted? Do the marketing and PR departments of charities think that knitters have nothing better to do with their skills, time and resources than make small hats for drinks bottles? Why do these campaigns always fall to the knitters and why do we keep entertaining them?

I urge you to read both these blog posts. Not only are they interesting, but they also deal with a complex topic in ways that deserve your attention.

I support charity knitting because I recognise that a) people feel the need to give back and show care for their fellow human beings. b) knitting (and other types of crafting) is a way of showing this care and love, and c) it can genuinely transform some people’s lives and show compassion and hope where often there is nothing to be found. Yet – I have mixed emotions about charity knitting and I’ll be trying to unpack them below.

Sometimes charity knitting projects live up to their name – caritas means “the love for all” or “to care for your neighbour” – and I have personally heard moving stories of a woman escaping domestic abuse snuggling up with a handmade blanket in a shelter, a guy who taught himself to knit preemie hats because his little daughter was fighting for her life in hospital, and knitters getting together across continents to make a blanket for cancer survivors. Powerful stories where knitting becomes synonymous with care, love, hope and friendship. Powerful stories where a knitter’s simple act of caring transformed lives.

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Other times I look at a campaign like Innocent Drinks’ The Big Knit which has knitters make tiny hats for smoothie bottles. Did you know that each smoothie sold equates to just 25p donated to Age UK? Did you know that Innocent Drinks is 90% owned by Coca-Cola? If you work out the maths of cost of yarn + time spent on knitting = each hat actually generates less money than if you had donated the cost of yarn to the charity – and if you figure the ownership by Coca-Cola into the equation, it becomes clear that this is more a branding exercise than an act of charity. Your time, your money, and your wonderful kindness can be better spent elsewhere – a direct donation to Age UK would be better and you can source a charity local to you who will appreciate your knitting efforts.

When I was co-ordinating and collecting premature baby knitting projects, I was struck by the beautiful things that people made and donated, but we also saw people handing in downright filthy knitted items for the premature baby unit: things that reeked of cigarette smoke or were covered with unexplained stains. We had to throw these items away because we did not have the facilities (or money!) to wash all these clothes before we brought them to the unit. I actually spoke to one “repeat offender” who got very angry when I explained why I could not accept filthy items. “Well, you should be happy for just getting something,” she replied when I explained that dirty clothes would make very tiny, very ill human beings even more sick. I think back to what Ben was pointing out: sometimes charity knitting is more about the maker than the receiver. It saddened  and shocked me – but I have since come across that attitude in other charity contexts. “Poor or ill people should be grateful for whatever they get” (not much caritas in that!).

I wish people wanting to knit for charity would spend time researching before making decisions about what to support. Does a heart-warming campaign actually support a charity whose aims are less than heart-warming? Will your time & effort result in changing people’s lives or just boost the bottom-line of one of the world’s largest companies (and would you be better off  just donating money to the cause)? Is what you are making appropriate for the charity? Does the charity you support actually want hand-knitted items? Are you using appropriate materials or are you “just using up stash”? Do your research and do it carefully and with thought.

I’d love to read your thoughts and comments – I’m particularly interested in hearing about lesser-known charity projects that you are able to recommend to people wanting to make a difference.

Adventures on Arran

To my great delight and surprise, my partner whisked me away on a trip to the Isle of Arran this weekend. The Isle of Arran is about two hours away from Glasgow by train and ferry, but I had never been.

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I twigged I had arrived among kindred spirits when we noticed small sheep statues along the coast.

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The easiest way to get around Arran is by bus – we asked to get dropped off at Sannox about 8 miles north of the ferry terminal. Sannox stems from the Viking place name “Sand Vik” (Sandy Bay) – always a pleasure to see places my Viking ancestors have been!

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We headed towards Glen Sannox – the walkers’ guide labelled this “an easy ramble with stunning scenery”. The first part of the path was easy (and we stopped to eat brambles – Arran clearly has a micro-climate quite unlike the mainland).

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The path into Glen Sannox became less friendly (and more boggy) after we crossed the stream. October 2014 076We walked towards Coire na Ciche (The Devil’s Punchbowl) with the slopes of Goatfell on our left and the peaks of Cir Mhor and Caisteal Abhail in front of us. I was worried about how my injured left knee would hold up (especially as the path was not as gentle as we had imagined) – but although I was in pain, I did not have to resort to the heavy-duty pain killers and my knee only caused me to stumble occasionally.

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We couldn’t resist a selfie (though I look odd!). I wore my trusty Snorri jumper and i have a bit of a story to tell about the hat I’m wearing – but that’s for another day.

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No filter! When the sun came out, the colours were breathtaking. The clouds rolling over Cir Mhor (the peak in perpetual cloud) kept getting darker, though, and the already brisky wind got stronger. It was a beautiful, rich landscape. Wildlife was all around us too – we saw so many red deer that we got jaded (though I am sure they were not “wild” animals, just “managed”), various birds, the ever-present sheep and I even caught the eye of a little adder. But it was clear that we needed to head back before the clouds caught up with us.

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It was just after midday, but it felt later. We retraced our steps, had the last of our packed lunch and then caught the bus (the bus – there are no other busses on Arran) making an almost full-circle of the island before going home.

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What a lovely, special day. I don’t get to go on adventure with my partner as much as I’d like but our trip to Arran was just perfect: stunning scenery, the best company in the world, apples in the backpack and I even cast on something very special whilst there. Magic.

The Knit Generation

A little something on the dining table today.

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A book from Quail Publishing filled with the most glorious autumnal knits: The Knit Generation – curated by Sarah Hatton.

What’s this?

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Is that my name? I do believe so! I have two patterns in The Knit Generation and I am so awfully proud to be included. It is really the most beautiful book I have ever been involved in. Sarah has an eye for detail and her stylistic instincts are incredible. Everything from colour palette to layout has been carefully considered and I just love leafing through the end result.

The Juniper hat is one of those knits I finished and didn’t want to send away. It is worked holding one strand of Rowan Felted Tweed and one strand of Rowan Kidsilk Haze together – the end fabric is lush: full of drape, full of warmth, and full of colour depth. The sample hat uses FT Clay and KSH Cream together, but I keep toying with the idea of knitting myself one for winter. Maybe holding FT Watery and KSH Trance? FT Seafarer and KSH Turkish Plum? FT Avocado and KSH Jelly? FT Rage & KSH Strawberry? Worryingly, I can do all those from stash (don’t judge!). The nature of the fabric meant I didn’t want a complex stitch pattern – instead I chose a simple knit and purl pattern which showcases the fabric without overshadowing it. And a pompom on top. Of course.

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The other pattern is the Pinecones Shawl. It is a simple triangular shawl with an autumnal border and it is knitted in Rowan Fine Art, their handpainted sock yarn. The fibre content of the yarn is slightly unusual (it includes silk and mohair) and again it was a case of designing a pattern that emphasised the nature of the fabric (and the lovely, lovely drape).

I am teaching a class at McAree Brothers in Stirling in support of The Knit Generation – we will be taking a look at contemporary lace knitting, shawl constructions and students will have a chance to give designing their own lace a go! Something like Pinecones can look overwhelming to the uninitiated – but my aim is to demystify shawl knitting and show people just how satisfying it can be to wrap yourself in something beautiful. And if you are an old hand at lace knitting, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that’ll (proverbially) blow your mind. Promise.

I designed and knitted both Juniper & Pinecones last year – it is so satisfying to finally see them in print. I am particularly pleased to see my name next to people like Andi Satterlund, Anni Howard and Rachels Coopey and Atkinson – all thoroughly good eggs.

I cannot help but laugh, though. Due to the vagaries of publishing, you will see an absolute deluge of patterns over the next few months. I apologise in advance.