Thank you all for your excitement over The Book of Haps
- we've been working hard on it for a year, so it's fantastic to finally be able to share it with the world!
Today, I'm delighted to introduce you to Kate's stunning hap - Moder Dy
The Moder Dy (mother wave) is is the name associated with an ancient form of Shetland navigation. By reading the movement of the water that produced the Moder Dy, experienced fishermen were reputed to be able to find their way safely to land, without additional aid of light or compass.
Jen: You talk about how your design was inspired by this idea of the Moder Dy (mother wave), can you tell us a bit more about how you developed this into an actual knitted thing, and put the colours together?
Sometimes, when I’m working on a design, everything comes together all at once in a bit of a spooky way - and this was the case with this one. I always tend to begin by thinking about colours. In this case, I knew I wanted a nautical theme, with wave lace edge and familiar auld shell pattern, and had beaches and shorelines on my mind. My starting point was to picture a palette that recalled painted beach huts... so I began swatching [in Buachaille
- Kate's own yarn] various stripe sequences, and soon came up with a beach-hutty combination that I liked. I knew that the hap would follow the construction which I’d been learning about from the Shetland knitters I’d been interviewing - so at that point the hap began to almost design itself. At the same time, I was reading a lot about Shetland author, Jessie M.E. Saxby, and I had just acquired a new CD - a wonderful album by Shetland fiddler Chris Stout, and Scottish harpist Catriona McKay, called Seavaigers
. Weirdly, I had just read Saxby’s poem Moder Dy
when I put on the CD - and discovered a marvellous track on the album of exactly the same name. The Moder Dy
is a familiar idea in Shetland culture, so in some ways this coincidence was perhaps not particularly unusual - but I did feel that the idea of the Moder Dy
spoke quite powerfully to me. It seemed an entirely appropriate name for my design - which speaks to the hap’s historic Shetland roots - and it also reminds me of the happy creative time I was having, designing my hap, working on the book, reading Saxby’s poem, and listening to Seavaigers
(which I urge everyone to hear if they can).
Jen: The photographs of your Moder Dy design show your hap being blocked on a Hap blocking frame. Could you tell me a bit more about how these frames work, and what the benefits are to blocking haps in this way?
Hap boards or stretchers were (and are) used in Shetland for blocking haps and shawls. They stretch the knitted fabric of the hap to shape in an even way, and provide a simple way to shape and block lace peaks / points. Blocking a hap in this way gives the fabric a beautifully professional and even finish, and is the way that thousands of haps would have been blocked, before being sold and exported from Shetland. You can see them in use in countless photographs from the early 1900s, as well as in Jenny Gilbertson's films about Shetland
, and they are still in frequent use today. When we vistited Shetland for our photoshoot, I really wanted to be able to block my hap on a good local board... but there was a problem. My Moder Dy
turned out to be a rather large hap - just under 6ft square - and we had trouble finding a board that was big enough to block it! Several friends searched through their attics and under beds, and eventually wonderful Anne Eunson
came to my rescue. Anne had acquired a large hap stretcher at an auction some years previously - it was not only big enough for my hap, but a really beautiful example of a vintage board. So I have Anne to thank for the photographs we took of Moder Dy! When we came home, Tom (who by this point had examined many Shetland hap boards) suggested he make one for me. He’s promised to write a blog post about the process for those who would like to make their own hap board.
Jen: When I was writing my part of the introduction to The Book of Haps, I noticed that there are many threads running through your books - their Shetland roots, Yokes and Haps as knitted jewellery, the way that these were knitted for sale… Could you tell us a bit more about how your research has moved from Shetland to Yokes and on to Haps?
Kate: I’ve been interested in haps for a long time. About a decade ago, I read Sharon Miller’s Shetland Hap Shawls Then and Now and was completely intrigued. What really fascinated me was that these were knitted textiles whose beauty was imbricated in their usefullness - and I do like a simple aesthetic which combines form with function! The first time I visited Shetland was to research a piece on lace, so in one way, I think that haps got me hooked on Shetland... or perhaps Shetland got me hooked on haps. In broader terms, I suppose haps interest me, just as many aspects of Shetland knitting do, as a feminist with a deep admiration for the resourceful and creative women of those islands, as well as someone who enjoys researching and writing about cultural and textile history more generally. The more I researched, the more I realised that Shetland haps have a really important and very specific story to tell about the history of women’s working and domestic lives, as well as the history of dress. I hoped I might be able to find out more about "famous" hap knitters, like the legendary Mrs Hunter (which I did) but there were other paths I didn’t expect to take. The most moving thing I discovered in the process of my research was just how important haps had been to so many women in their family lives, when they knitted them for babies. I suspect haps haven’t done with me yet...
Jen: That's great news! I won't be alone in keeping my fingers crossed for more beautiful hap patterns from you. Thank you again, for asking me to co-edit this book with you. It's been so much fun!
Moder Dy uses 19 skeins of Kate's Buachaille yarn (for full technical details see the Ravelry page for the design), and Buachaille yarn kits will be available to purchase from Kate's shop in June.
The next design will be revealed tomorrow on Kate's blog, so don't forget to stop by. You can see all of the patterns as they are released on Ravelry: The Book of Haps
Keep up to date with all we're doing:
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All images are © Kate Davies Designs.