Goldilocks and the Three* Vests

Today I'm handing over the reins of the blog to Alix Pearson. Alix is one of the moderators in our Ravelry group, and is a fount of knowledge on both stranded knitting and adjusting patterns for fit. I have long admired her beautiful stranded vests, so today she is going to share some helpful tips on making your own. Over to you, Alix!

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Joy from the Everyday – The Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork System

There is a great temptation sometimes to doubt one's own ability and for many, me included, this is often around design and use of colour. But fear not! Help is at hand.

You may have been lucky enough to have taken one of Felicity (Felix) Ford's classes, and if you have, you will undoubtedly have been filled with her boundless enthusiasm for the potential of just about anything as a source of inspiration for design. We love spending time with Felix (above) because she sees the world differently from us and can communicate how she sees things so clearly that we cannot help but have our eyes opened to the possibilities.

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Book and DVD Review: Fair Isle Designs from Shetland Knitters and 50 Tips from Shetland Knitters

It's a Shetland fiesta here this morning at A-C Knitwear Towers! My love of Shetland and its incredible knitting heritage, along with the wonderful wildlife, has been mentioned a few times here over the years. Today's post covers the new book from the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers, Fair Isle Designs from Shetland Knitters Volume 1, and the fantastic DVD, 50 Tips from Shetland Knitters, produced by Hazel Tindall and Elizabeth Johnston

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January: Shaila Mittens

January is the AYoT month for mastering the colour dominance in your Fair Isle projects. The video tutorial for the month has been released on Mason-Dixon Knitting (and will shortly be added to our Year of Techniques video tutorial page). The tutorial walks you through three different ways of holding your yarn for Fair Isle projects, all of which will ensure that you keep your yarn dominance consistent. This helps your projects to look neater, and makes sure that your yarns don't tangle as you work.

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Some knitting time...

While we were away in Shetland I had some stretches of time entirely devoted to knitting. I can't tell you what a treat that was!

Before we left I was able to get the Hyacinthus armwarmers finished off, and into the grabby hands of their new owner. :D I literally wove in the ends just before we got in the car to drive to the airport!

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Meet Alex the Mouse

This is Alex the Mouse, the marvellous creation of Ella Austin for this month's A Year of Techniques project. Thank you Ella! I can't stop cuddling him! I've had to physically fight off family members who have tried to kidnap Alex as their own. In fact over the last few months that he's been staying here, Alex has had a constant stream of admirers!

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The Techniques

Heartfelt thanks for all the kind words you've said about A Year of Techniques. We've been overwhelmed by the messages in our Ravelry group, on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and via email. It's so great to hear that you're sharing our excitement!

I've always been a bit of an enthusiast for learning something new. In fact, that might be the understatement of the century. Whether it's in my knitting, or the garden, or helping the kids with their homework, I absolutely adore that satisfied feeling you get when you've mastered something you couldn't do before. I want to spread that feeling far and wide! You don't have to love every new thing you try, but there's always something to learn from the process of having a go. At least that's what I tell the kids when I've cooked some experimental dinner and they are all turning up their noses. Sometimes it even works!

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A Shetlander's Fair Isle Graph Book

A few weeks ago, the postman delivered a book from Shetland. Jen remarked, "The Wool Week Annual is bigger this year - that's a bit of a surprise," then opened the package. It wasn't the Shetland Wool Week Annual, but something a little different (the Wool Week Annual arrived a couple of days later and more on that another time!).

Knitting pics - 1

A Shetlander's Fair Isle Graph Book in Colour consists of reproductions of two notebooks from the second quarter of the 20th Century. These originally belonged to Bill Henry who was in charge of the Hosiery (Knitwear) Department at Anderson & Co. of Lerwick through the middle of the last century. 

Carole Christiansen's introduction gives a great insight into the knitting industry in Shetland and really sets the scene for why what follows is a little special. Usually, if charts were drawn, their purpose was to give the knitter an idea of how the colours should change, rather than which colours to use. What sets these notebooks apart is that they have been fully coloured in, that is directing the knitter to colour choice as well as pattern.

Knitting pics - 2

What fascinates me about this book is the air of mystery over who actually drew the charts and what the purpose of the charts was. Is this a record of Fair Isle motifs that Bill had seen coming in from the local knitters, or were they produced by him, or someone for him, to direct knitters to a particular pattern, or a combination of both? Whatever the truth this is an important record of how external influences affected design through the period of the books, from the inclusion in the earliest pages, and thereafter absence, of swastikas to the appearance of Norwegian styles through the 1940s.

The big draw of this book is obviously the huge number of Shetland colourwork patterns to use within your own knitwear, but I think it is more than just that, so if you have an interest in the development of knitting, or are looking for a reference for colourwork, then this is a must-have book.

A Shetland's Fair Isle Graph Book was produced by the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers and is published by The Shetland times. It is available from The Shetland Times bookshop and is priced at £20. 

Disclaimer: We received a review copy of the Shetlander's Fair Isle Graph Book free of charge from The Shetland Times. We have not received any other payment for this review, and are sharing it because we think it's a great book!

Shetland Heritage Pattern Release

Well it's all go around here at the moment! Kate's book (Colours of Shetland) is now on sale (scroll to the bottom of this post to purchase a copy), and at some point next week, I shall tell you all about how much I enjoyed working on it! But today I'm delighted to share with you some work that I did over the summer...

Jamieson & Smith approached me earlier in the year to work with them on some patterns for their new Shetland Heritage yarn. I blogged about how much I liked the new yarn when it first went on sale, but now I'm delighted to be able to show you one of the patterns I've written for it.

© Jamieson & Smith

This is the Fair Isle V-Necked Jumper (it is not my own design!). I was asked to study some garments held in the collection of the Shetland Museum and Archives, and to create knitting patterns for them. So the design is the work of the unnamed knitter who created the original pieces. I've not changed the colourway, or the construction; I've just tried to recreate the design as closely as possible. This is thought to be a fashionable men's jumper from the early 1920s (rather than a fisherman's jumper).

While we were in Lerwick in July, I spent a day happily transcribing the patterns, and Jim even joined me to help out in the afternoon! There was such detail in the original pieces!

Shetland Museum & Archives1

The V-Necked Fair Isle jumper from which this pattern comes wasn't in the best condition. It had been worn and loved to pieces! Above you can see what remained of the sleeves.

Shetland Museum & Archives11

Even the body had been cut into pieces! In fact, when it was first laid out in front of me, it had appeared to be a cardigan...

Shetland Museum & Archives4

It wasn't until we laid the piece flat that it was clear that actually it was a jumper that had been cut open up the side seam.

Then began the meticulous task of transcribing the stitch patterns. The motifs appear in a fairly random arrangement, with many of them being knitted "incorrectly" in the lower portions of the body, and later repeated with the mistakes ironed out. Jim noticed that in the band of patterns where the neck split occurs, new motifs are introduced, and the gauge changed somewhat. So we speculated that perhaps more than one person was involved in making this sweater? Or perhaps it was put to one side for a while, and the knitter returned to it having improved their skills on other projects. It was fascinating how much you could guess from just looking at the remains of a jumper!

It was quite a task to decide how best to recreate the design - I took the rib pattern from the cuff fragment and used it at the welt, neck and sleeve cuffs, since the original garment had just a few rows of two-colour stocking stitch and it was curling badly.

In the interests of keeping the pattern to a manageable number of pages I felt it was best to repeat the design on front and back, so the arrangement of OXO motifs that you see on the front in the picture above is repeated on the back. I have tried to keep the feel of a sampler piece however, and resisted the temptation to cut down the number of different O designs. If you wanted to, you could easily adjust the pattern to use just one or two designs, or go the whole way and mix them up with your own patterns, making each one different!

The jumper has been sized to fit chests from 32 to 48 inches (81-122cm), and is only available as a kit directly from Jamieson & Smith: V-Necked Fair Isle Jumper

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© Jamieson & Smith

I'm immensely grateful to Dr Carol Christiansen at the Shetland Museum & Archives for her assistance, as well as to Grace Williamson who did an amazing job of knitting up this jumper. Thank you both!