It makes me extremely hap-py to introduce the fabulous Lang Ayre hap from Gudrun Johnston! I've enjoyed working with Gudrun for a number of years, and her Hansel and Half-Hansel hap designs were among the most popular designs in the KnitBritish Hapalong last year - she's hap royalty! Having been born in Shetland and growing up in Scotland, Gudrun is steeped in the knitting heritage that The Book of Haps explores. Having lived in the States for much of her adult life, Gudrun is now in the process of moving her family from Edinburgh (Scotland) back to Western Massachusetts (USA), where she will continue her work as a full-time knitwear designer. Before taking up designing around 9 years ago, Gudrun trained as a classical singer and home-schooled her children. When she first moved to Western Massachusetts her daughter Maya had lost a much treasured blanket that someone else had made for her as a baby. As Gudrun walked past a knitting shop in the area, she spotted a cute poncho in the window and decided that she would knit it for her daughter as a replacement. That was it! She was totally addicted straight away and produced copious things, mostly given away as gifts. Fairly quickly Gudrun started to adapt patterns and experiment with her own ideas, which led to her first design being published in Knitty in 2007. The rest has become knitting history...
I caught up with Gudrun to find out more about her influences and knitting inspiration.
Jen: As evidenced by my project pages on Ravelry, I’ve loved making quite a few of your designs, and I greatly enjoy working as your technical editor. Shetland clearly provides a rich source of inspiration for your beautiful designs. Could you explain what you think it is about the islands that are so irresistible?
Gudrun: I would have to say that the fact that you are constantly surrounded by long open views and never far from the ocean are two pretty irresistible aspects of being in Shetland. I find that when I visit the first thing I feel is this incredible sense of space and the calm that it provides. I almost feel that my brain can take a big sign of relief and think clearly!
Depending on the time of year the light and weather also play a huge impact on the vistas and create ever changing colours and hues across the landscape. You can’t help but be inspired by the incredible palette on offer everywhere you look.
I would say that, having been born there, Shetland is just in my blood. But I know from my trips how instantly other people - with no similar connection to Shetland - fall in love with the place for just the same reasons!
Jen: That's exactly how I felt after my visits to Shetland in 2012. I long to return!
Jen: The technique of creating a hap centre starting with a single stitch is one you have used before to great effect (shawls such as Aestlight, Flukra and Havra all use this technique). Could you describe what it is that you love about this method?
Gudrun: I just love how simple yet effective it is. It’s also very meditative to knit! The little yarn overs popping out the side of the garter stitch fabric are pretty darn cute too. I have enjoyed experimenting with it a little, as evidenced by Lang Ayre, where the center diamond is formed in this way but then two further triangles are attached by picking up the yarn over loops as they are worked creating a sort of modular effect, one which could keep on being added too really.
Jen: I may have mentioned a few times that choosing colours (particularly more than two!) is something that I don’t find easy. I’m sure that I am not alone in this. Do you have any words of wisdom, or rules of thumb to help me out with choosing 6 shades for Lang Ayre?
Choosing colours is always a challenging thing, particularly when doing so for Fair Isle knitting. I still need a lot of practice with that! However, for something like Lang Ayre, where the colours are interacting in stripes, it’s a little easier. When I was thinking of colours for this shawl I did have a specific palette in mind and that was of the various shades that granite can be found in the Shetland landscape. That meant all the shades of pinks and greys I could find in J&S jumper weight. I then picked a main colour that they could play off of without being in competition with it. My old favourite shade of 202 was the best option!
My advice would be to either start with a main colour you like and then add in the contrasts based on that or vice versa. Really you can play around with this a huge amount, being quite bold in your colour choices or choosing more soothing shades. Whatever speaks to your personality! Have fun with it.
Jen: You regularly take groups of knitters on tours of Shetland with Mary Jane Mucklestone. Where else, and with whom would you most like to knit?
Gudrun: Gosh, that’s quite a difficult question to answer as there are so many places and people that come to mind! I’d love to travel to Japan. I’m very drawn to the knitting aesthetic coming out of there, and I’m interested in the culture in general. New Zealand is another place I’d love to spend time in and find out more about the wooly side of things happening over there. Finland, Estonia, Russia to name but just a few!
Of course I’d want Mary Jane to come on all of these adventures with me!!
Thank you so much Gudrun for sharing more about your wonderful design and the inspiration behind it!
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