Something to Knit With Aran

Do you ever get so excited about yarn that you want to pile it up and roll around in it? Or is that just me? Ever since Something to Knit With Aran arrived in the office back in May (yes, we really do work a long way in advance to get things ready for you!), I’ve been resisting the temptation to tip it all out and make myself a yarn nest. This new yarn is just so delightfully and irresistibly squishy and I love it to bits.

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How I got hooked on dip stitches

I'm entirely blaming Hunter Hammersen. It's completely her fault!

We have been chatting by email for a few months – comparing notes on getting carried away with techniques and the demands of running a knitting publishing business. She's been sharing photos of her experiments with what she has called "dip stitches" over on her Instagram account (HunterHammersen) for a few months now, and earlier in the summer she sent me a preview copy of her new book, Firmament, which explores these fun stitches in detail.

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New Pattern: Lullington Hat

Do you remember that ball of Toft Ulysses that I bought at Unravel the other week

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Well it had some pretty clear ideas about how it wanted to be knitted up...

I cast on this hat at the start of last week, and it had the ends woven in on Thursday morning. Not a single rip back. Not a tinked stitch. Designing never happens like that for me. This is a yarn with a personality and opinion!

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I've been wanting to get my hands on a ball of Toft Ulysses for a while. My lovely knitting friends Kate Davies and Rachel Coopey have both been singing its praises to me, and I find myself in total agreement with them. I can't speak highly enough of the  yarn. It is sturdy and firm, but OH so soft! The stitch definition is outstanding, and it really does make a fantastic squishy hat. I think it would look brilliant with the addition of one of Toft's fabulous alpaca pompoms as well...

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It wouldn't be a post-shoot blog entry if I didn't include an amusing shot of me pulling a face for the camera! Thank you Jesse for always making me giggle in front of the camera. You really are a brilliant photographer.

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I love the spirals of decreases on a hat crown.

My heartfelt thanks go to Rachel Atkinson (technical editing) and Jesse Wild (photography - all shots of me are © Jesse Wild), both of whom fitted me in to their busy schedules, and were happy to work around the school run!

It has been a week full of knitting-related activity, so keep your eyes peeled for more patterns in the next few days! Along with an EXTREMELY exciting collaboration, which has been a long time in the works. Happy knitting all!

Shetland Heritage Patterns - more news!

When I posted about the Shetland Heritage Fair Isle Jumper last week, eagle-eyed Felix spotted that the design was familiar to her. She pointed me towards Mary Jane Mucklestone's excellent 200 Fair Isle motifs, and sure enough, on page 35 there was a photo of a jumper that appeared to come from the same design!

How I wished I had seen that photo before I wrote the pattern for Jamieson & Smith... But all was not as simple as it at first seemed.

I was lucky enough to have worked with Mary Jane last year, when I edited her lovely hat and gloves for the Knit Real Shetland book, so I dropped her an email to ask her if she knew any more about this lovely Fair Isle jumper in the photo in her book. Despite being in the middle of deadlines and travelling, she was kind enough to email me straight back, to let me know that the photo was from the Shetland Museum Photo Archive. You can see the picture in question over on their website here: Fair Isle Allover Jumper in photo archive.

I was fascinated! On looking closely at the photo, it seemed clear that the design was the same. There are so many different Fair Isle motifs, all in exactly the same positions, that there was no chance that this was a coincidence. However, it was also clearly not a photo of the same jumper before it was worn and cut into pieces... If you look closely at the motifs on the bottom band, you can see that in the cut up jumper I worked on in the archives, the motifs are unsymmetrical and "incorrect", whereas those in the jumper in the photo are correct. I speculated all sorts of explanations for the design similarities!

I fired off an email to Carol Christiansen at the Shetland Museum and Archives, to ask her if she knew anything about the Fair Isle jumper in their photo archive. I received this information in response:

The jumper in the photo of SM01003 is a replica of the one in pieces that you looked at (TEX 8943).  We went through a period in the 1990s of having replicas made of some items in the collection, so they could be used for handling, etc. but they were never exact replicas, using modern yarns in colours that were available at the time.  The replica was hand-knit in 1993 of machine-made yarn and the knitter ‘corrected mistakes’ she felt had been made in the original.  

So the photo is of a new garment knitted from the cut-up jumper in pieces that I worked from in the summer. It is interesting to see where the new photo-archive garment, and the new pattern I've written differ - I think that most of the differences come from the fact that I was writing instructions that had to work as a printed pattern for other knitters, whereas the knitter in the 90s was just making a one-off piece. The charts would have been even more enormous if I had kept to the arrangement of different motifs on front and back!

In related-news, Jamieson & Smith have released the kit for the Fair Isle Cap that I worked on at the same time. This is also a pattern written from an item in the archives.

That's a slightly bonkers-looking picture of me modelling it, when we were at J&S in October! It's knitted with a full lining, so there are 4 layers of fabric keeping your ears warm! Perfect for the icy cold weather we've had this week.

Here's a more sensible flat photo of it, so that you can see the lovely motifs incorporated:

Fair Isle Cap
© Jamieson & Smith

This hat also has a bit of story behind it, as it was purchased on eBay and donated to the Museum by Masami Yokoyama (designer of the delightful tea-themed tea cosy in Knit Real Shetland). It's a 19th Century hat, that was most-likely a fisherman's hat, designed and worn for work (unlike the jumper which was more of a fashion item). You can read more about how it was discovered and donated over on the Visit Shetland website here: Fair Isle Cap donated by Wool Week eBayer

As with the jumper, I've had to make some adjustments from the original artefact. The motifs were incomplete and confused up the back of the hat, as you can see below:

Fair Isle Cap2

And the folded-up brim was just left curling over. In fact, the brim appears to have been knitted at a different time to the rest of the cap, as the colours are not quite the same, and the yarns slightly different. Carol advised me that this was likely to have originally had a knitted lining, so that was the construction that I used in the new pattern.

Fair Isle Cap1
You can see the Fair Isle stranding poking over the top of the curled brim. There are pattern pages on Ravelry for both the jumper and hat: Shetland Museum and Archive designs

And both can be purchased as kits from Jamieson & Smith.

Happy knitting!

New pattern: Batcombe Hat

Thank you all for the kind, kind comments on yesterday's post. I wasn't really expecting that, so it made me smile all day long. Thank you! Onwards...

I'm continuing in the theme of Somerset villages for the names of my updated patterns. Today's offering is called Batcombe, which I chose, because a hat with two balls, clearly needs to be BATcombe... Well it made me giggle anyway! :)

This is another hat which would be perfect for a Christmas gift (although you'd have to prise this one out of my cold dead hands, I love it so much!).

Jim and I had great fun on Saturday morning, taking photos out in the fields behind our house. Well I had fun anyway - I was thoroughly silly! And Jim... well, he blogged about being a photographer over on his pages: Snapper for Hire.

Pompoms seem to be undergoing something of a renaissance, and have been the subject of a great deal of twittering of late, so it seemed only right that this should be the next pattern to get the once over and release!

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(This is a slightly more sensible pose...) The Batcombe Hat is knitted in a long rectangle, and then seamed up each side. This makes it a brilliant new-knitter project, or just a fun pattern to make at knitting night, or in front of a good film. Wearing it just makes me smile! How can you not smile when you have a pair of pompoms on your head?!

There are just two cables to master, and the pdf pattern includes a link to a good cable tutorial if you've not tried cables before. There's also a link to a pompom tutorial, on the off-chance that you've forgotten how to make them the old-fashioned way. You could of course equally use a spangly new pompom maker.

I've done both a chart and written pattern for the cable, so both sides of that debate are fully catered for. It's not a complex cable, but I really liked the effect on the finished fabric.

My sample was made using Laughing Yaffle's Fledgling Sock yarn, which is a lovely 4ply yarn made from a blend of alpaca, merino and nylon. Alison hand-dyes the yarn in small batches, so availability is variable. It's worth looking out for an update, but if you want to get going straight away, you could easily use an alternative 4ply yarn - just pick one with reasonably good stitch definition, so not too much fluff! You want to be able to see the cables once you've worked them.

New pattern: Penselwood Hat

If you're short of ideas for a quick gift knit then this hat could be just what you're after! I've got the rights back to many of the designs I originally did for Simply Knitting and The Knitter, so I'm working through and getting them ready for release as single pattern downloads.

I've renamed this beanie Penselwood, after a pretty village not far from here. This hat is knitted back and forth, with an interesting lace pattern at the start, ending with a plain stocking stitch top. The decreases form a satisfying spiral and before you know it, you'll be sewing up the seam and wrapping up the finished hat for a friend.

Penselwood Hat

I chose Louisa Harding's Ianthe yarn for this design, although any smooth DK yarn would work brilliantly I'm sure. Ianthe is a lovely blend of 50% merino and 50% cotton, and I really enjoyed knitting with it.

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The lace pattern features a clever wrap stitch pattern that's really simple to work, but looks lovely. Full instructions are included in the pattern download, and the lace pattern is given in both written and charted formats.