Durrow shawl

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It’s been a while in the making, but I’m pleased to announce the third design in the Illuminated Knits collection is finally here – the Durrow shawl!

This design took several months to conceptualise and bring into reality. I think it might be fair to say that it’s the most complex design I’ve ever created – both in terms of the cable pattern itself, and the knitting required to achieve it. I’m very happy with the end result though, and glad that I persevered even when it was completely refusing to make sense!

In keeping with the other designs in the Illuminated Knits collection, Durrow uses a technique of cables mixed with slip stitches to create a contrast colour design – I love this technique, because it gives you the chance to play around with different colours without actually having to use stranded knitting or intarsia. The colour-work is as simple as striping the colours on each round, and remembering to slip stitches when necessary (like mosaic knitting). This is the technique that I also used in the Iona blanket and Lindisfarne shawl.

One slightly finicky thing about this technique is that it does draw the fabric in a little bit (vertically, because of the slipped stitches), and so the fabric becomes much denser as a result. Because cable knitting also a tendency to do this (particularly the type of complex cables I use, where the rate of horizontal travel can be quite extreme), I decided to only use this technique when working in the round. Why? Because when you work in the round, you can change colours on every round, so the contrasting stitches only need to be slipped over one round. When you use this technique whilst knitting flat, you can only really change colours every 2 rows (so that your yarn ends up in the right place to strand up the side), so the contrasting stitches have to be slipped over 2 rows instead – creating even more pull-in and a denser fabric (there are ways of getting around this, so that you can knit flat whilst changing colours on every row, instead of every other row – however this is a bit complicated to describe and not something I wanted to do throughout an entire design; I have used it a little bit in this pattern though… more on that in a bit!).

So, with these constraints in mind, I began to think about how I could use this slipped stitch colour technique in a triangular shawl. It is possible to knit a triangle shape entirely in the round (if from the centre out, for example. by concentrating increases at three evenly spaced points on each round); however, this will produce something more like an equilateral triangle, not the right-angled shape more commonly made (and worn!) by knitters. After a lot of head-scratching, I realised that this problem could be solved by making a border out of modular squares (which can be knitted in the round), with picked up stitches for the body (which can be knitted flat, and shaped like a traditional right-angled triangular shawl).

Here are some of my notebook sketches that show my efforts to work out a suitable square knot for the border (I wanted to use two different coloured cable strands, so I was trying to figure out one knot that could flow across the entire border, and then another self-contained background knot that only occurs once in each square):

I realised that I could make the cable pattern flow all the way across the border if I alternated centre-out and centre-in squares. This helps to avoid the half-stitch jog (illustrated by Joni Coniglio) that will occur if you try to graft/pick up and knit stitches from pieces of knitting where the direction of knitting is opposite. Alternating centre-out and centre-in means that the direction of knitting across the squares, at the edges, is always maintained and so the cable flow perfectly. This picture probably shows it more clearly than I can describe:

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The squares on the far left and far right are both knitted centre-out; then the live stitches at the edges have been used, along with 2 provisional cast-ons, to start the middle square which is knitted from the outside to the centre. If you look closely at the edges of the middle square, you should be able to see how the main cable (in turquoise) flows seamlessly across all of the squares.

Also, you can see in the above photo how I’ve used slightly different colours for the background yarn of each square; this creates a nice gradient-type effect, and is one of the fun possibilities that arises from working the border in a series of modular squares. However, I think the border would also look lovely with only one background colour (the main reason I used three was simply because I couldn’t choose between them!).

This construction schematic shows the order of centre-out and centre-in squares, with the arrows showing the direction of knitting:

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You may remember earlier, when I was describing the problem with using this slipped stitch technique whilst knitting flat… well, I ran into this problem when trying to design knots for the corners (the corners are the bits at either end of the border, shown in both the above and the following schematics):

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I decided to only continue the main cable pattern to the corners, and drop the self-contained background cable (a sacrifice to try to keep the level of complexity down! It would have been possible to include the background cable too, but I tried knitting it myself and nearly tore my hair out, so I figured other knitters might also find it a bit frustrating). The difficulty arises because these corners need to be knitted flat (you start from the outside and work decreases inwards to make the right-angle triangle shape, rather like the body of the shawl but in miniature). So, to get the working yarn to end up in the right place so that you can change colour every row (instead of every 2 rows), you need to work 2 RS rows followed by 2 WS rows. This makes some WS cables necessary, but I was able to write the pattern in such a way that these are kept to a minimum.

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After the border has been knitted, and the body picked up along the edges and worked upwards with decreases towards the neck edge, the top edge is finished with an i-cord cast-off and the outer border edge is finished with a lace edging (both visible in the above photo).

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After spending so long on perfecting the design of this shawl, I felt a sense of melancholy (mixed with a bit of relief!) when I cast off the last stitch. It always feels a bit strange to finish such a large and complex project, but I’m looking forward to diving into my next (and final) Illuminated Knits design.

I will be exhibiting the sample of Durrow (along with most of my other knitted samples!) at the upcoming Edinburgh Yarn Festival (March 10th and 11th). I’ll be at stand J1 in the marketplace, so please come and say hi if you see me!

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Lindisfarne shawl

Yesterday I was really pleased to finally be able to launch Lindisfarne, the second pattern in Illuminated Knits

Lindisfarne is a large rectangular shawl, with an interesting construction. It’s worked in the round, with a steek, then cut open at the end to produce fringed edges.

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The shawl is worked from one side to the other, starting with a provisional cast-on and the edges are finished with an i-cord cast-off.

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Like the first pattern in Illuminated Knits (the Iona blanket), this pattern makes extensive use of slipped-stitch cable colourwork. I’ve really fallen in love with this technique, because it makes it so easy to get the effects of colourwork without having to resort to stranded knitting or intarsia (having devoted so much time to working with cables and lace, I’m a woefully underdeveloped colourwork knitter, all fingers and thumbs!). I took the technique a bit further with this design, by incorporating cable patterns in both of the shades used to stripe the background. The heavier weight cables are in Malabrigo Sock Marte and the delicate twisted stitch cables are in Malabrigo Sock Persia.

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In the central braid that runs down the length of the shawl, the twisted stitch cables wind in and out of the heavier cables. This is one of those marvellous knitting tricks that looks like it would involve fiddling around in a hopeless tangle with lots of balls of yarn at once – but magically, there is still only one strand of yarn being used on each round. I also managed to write the pattern in such a way that there are quite a few rest rounds – most of the cabling takes place on rounds where Marte is the main yarn, and the cables are worked for the twisted stitch cables by simply slipping them into position. On the next round, all that’s required is to k tbl.

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Above is a close-up of the fringe, after the steek has been cut and unravelled, blocked and then neatly knotted at regular intervals. I really love the effect of the two shades of yarn mingled together; it really gives the effect of a piece that has been woven, rather than knitted.

Another benefit of using slipped-stitch colourwork is that the back of the shawl looks really neat – just like striped garter stitch. There’s something very satisfying about looking on the reverse side of a complex multi-coloured piece, and being surprised by the complete lack of floats!

As with the Iona blanket, this design was an absolute monster to design, plan, knit and write up – it was several months in the making and went through a lot of permutations before settling into its final form. Originally I had envisaged the shawl being covered in a repeating pattern of triangular knots, inspired by a knot from the Lindisfarne manuscript. It was quite late in the design process when I suddenly had the vision of the central braid, with the twisted stitch cables lacing in and out. I had to rewrite the design to fit it in, but I think it was worth it in the end!

Here’s a few pics of the design in progress (note my utter inability to settle on a colour scheme!):

 

Iona blanket + Illuminated Knits

I’m delighted to announce the release of a new blanket pattern – Iona!

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This blanket was inspired by the richly decorated carpet pages of illuminated manuscripts; it’s assembled from individual squares, worked separately in the round from the centre out, and then attached with a three-needle cast-off or seamed together.

The contrasting colourwork effect is achieved by striping yarns of two different colours, and slipping the cabled stitches on every other round.

Whilst the cable pattern that forms the Celtic knot was certainly a challenge to design, I think it was actually more difficult to decide on the colours to use in the blanket! The pattern uses Malabrigo Sock, which comes in a gorgeous array of variegated and semi-solid shades. I love how the subtle changes in colour evoke a faded wash of ink – perfect for a design inspired by illuminated manuscripts.

Here are some of my original colour choices (along with some early sketches of the knot that I scribbled in my faithful Moleskine notebook!)

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Archangel (pink-orange) cable with Tiziano Red (background) – I like the combination but thought Archangel was slightly too variegated for the cable to show

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Lots of different colour squares! Think these are, clockwise from top: Lotus (cable) with Aguas (background); Lotus (cable) with Impressionist Sky (background); Lotus and Aguas again; and Impressionist Sky (cable) with Aguas (background).

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Impressionist Sky (cable) with Aguas (background) – really liked this combination but felt the blue was ever-so-slightly too dark to show the cable

After a lot of swatching, sketching and playing around with coloured pencils, I finally settled on a colour scheme that uses 5 colours for 4 differently arranged squares: Turner (green); Ochre (golden-yellow); Archangel (pink-purple-orange); Aguas (blue-green) and Rayon Vert (purple-green).

Once I’d decided on the colours, it was a lot of fun to work on the individual squares and watch the blanket slowly growing. I particularly love how the shade ‘Ochre’ really pops in contrast to the other colours – I used this shade  for the i-cord edging that completes the blanket.

e-book-coverIona is the first pattern in Illuminated Knits a mini-collection of designs inspired by the rich colours and decorations of Celtic illuminated manuscripts and using beautiful shades of Malabrigo yarn.

The collection will feature three accessory patterns (including the Iona blanket) and one garment pattern. It’s available to pre-order now as an e-book for £8.50 and you will receive the patterns as they are released over the coming months.

If you’d prefer to wait until all the patterns are released before buying the e-book, you can sign up to my newsletter to be notified when the collection is complete!

 

The Book of Haps – Uncia

Today I can finally reveal to you my design for Kate Davies’ The Book of Haps

Uncia is an unusually shaped shawl, based on a 1/12th arc shape and inspired by Gothic and Romanesque cathedral architecture.

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Photos by Tom Barr

The pictures for the book were taken on Calton Hill, Edinburgh (not far from where I live, in fact!)

I developed the cable and lace patterns based on cathedrals I visited last summer whilst travelling around France and Germany (in particular: Koln, Mont Saint-Michel and Carcassonne). It was a very fun challenge to try to capture the essence of these buildings in knitted stitches, and it’s probably something I’ll come back to in the future.

Here’s a few pictures of Uncia that I took myself, to show a little of the detail in the lace edging…

 

It was a real honour to be asked to contribute to this book, and to be featured amongst such a wonderfully varied and illustrious group of designers. Thanks to Kate and Jen, and all the team involved in bringing this book to life!

We’ll be having a book launch at Kathy’s Knits, Edinburgh, on Saturday June 11th (which coincides with the Indie Burgh Yarn Crawl!). Kate, Jen and myself will be there, along with some of the hap samples, and we’ll be signing copies of the book, so if you’re in/near Edinburgh, please do come along!

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Nennir written instructions

5th October 2016: A corrected version of the written instructions has now been attached and can be downloaded here – Nennir-written-instructions-v2-0.pdf

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After getting a few requests for the written instructions to my free pattern Nennir (originally published in the Winter 2012 issue of Knitty), I’ve decided to post the file here so that it’s available to all!

Please note that this is a fairly basic text file, generated straight from my charting program, and as such does not include any explanation of the abbreviations, etc. – you need to refer to the page on Knitty for all the info on how to knit the cowl. This is simply a text version of the charts ‘Cable Pattern Part 1’ and ‘Cable Pattern Part 2’ (you will need to work out the edging chart yourself as it isn’t included in the text file!).

Ishneich pattern release + update on Celtic Cable Shawls book

It’s been rather quiet on this blog for a while – but I’m very happy to announce the release of the 7th (and final!) shawl pattern in my Celtic Cable Shawls collection: Ishneich!

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Ishneich is a top down triangular shawl pattern, designed to work well with a variegated yarn and a contrasting semi-solid (or solid) yarn. The variegated yarn is used in the body, and broken up with stripes of the semi-solid, which is also used for a cable border. I used two gorgeous shades of Malabrigo Sock, which I picked up on a lovely trip to The Yarn Cake in Glasgow, the day before my birthday (back in March). When I picked the shades originally, I wasn’t planning on using them together, as I didn’t think they would match, but once I tried some stripes, I was surprised by how well the colours worked together – it’s funny how that can happen sometimes!

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I wanted to take this opportunity to also give an update on the progress of the book. Celtic Cable Shawls is going to be released in print format (together with an update to the e-book version – so if you already have the e-book, you will also receive the PDF version of the print book, once it’s ready).

I have had many queries asking me about a publication date, and I’m really sorry to say that at the moment, I can’t give an exact date. I am self-publishing the book myself, and doing most of the work myself too, including layout and photography. I’m also working with a graphic designer to produce some tutorial diagrams, as well as with a couple of freelance tech and copy editors.

At the moment, all the photography for the book has been completed, and all the pattern are finished too. The diagrams are in the process of being completed. The main work left to do is all of the layout, all of the final editing, and also some introductory text that I need to write. So, it’s close to finished, but I’m reluctant to give an exact date, because co-ordinating a major project lik this is a bit of learning curve for me – I’m working with Lightning Source to print the book, and I’m not exactly sure how long everythinig will take to get ready once I submit the final file to them.

I will update this blog as soon as I’m able to give an exact date of release (you can also sign up to my newsletter, if you would like to be the first to hear about any news!).

I know a lot of you have been waiting patiently for the print book for quite some time, and I’m really sorry to not be able to give you an exact date yet – thank you so much for your patience, and for your interest in the book too. It’s really very much appreciated!

Kyna shawl + Celtic Cable Shawls – a rather exciting announcement!

I’ve just released a new shawl pattern – Kyna, a sideways triangular shawl with a twisted-stitch cable edging.

Now for the exciting announcement bit – this design is actually the second design in a collection of shawl patterns that I will be releasing in e-book format – and print too! Yep, I’m doing a book!



The e-book version is currently available for pre-order on Ravelry – when you pre-order it, you will get all the patterns currently released (at the moment this includes Taliesin and Kyna), and then you will receive the rest of the patterns as they’re released. There’ll be a total of 7 designs in the completed book.

Because Taliesin was released way before I announced the collection, I have set things up so that if you purchased Taliesin on Ravelry, the full cost of this pattern will be deducted from the cost of the e-book (note that you need to be signed in to your Ravelry account, and click ‘add to cart’ on the e-book source page for this to be applied automatically!).

If you’d rather get this book in print, then stay tuned – I will announce details of the print pre-order soon, and a complementary copy of the e-book will be included with every print book pre-order.

Lots more information here on my website!