All about Escher – Metamorphose Cowl

 

When I was approached by Miss Babs to contribute a design to her 2016 Knitting Tour, and given the Netherlands as my country of inspiration, I knew instantly where to look for ideas: the work of the Dutch graphic artist Maurits Cornelis Escher.

I’ve loved M. C. Escher’s work for as long as I can remember; possibly for longer than I was aware of his name, as he is one of those artists whose work is so distinctly unique (so much so that Escheresque exists as an adjective to describe artistic works derivative of his own) that its presence is still felt in popular culture (see, for example, the end scene of the 1986 film Labyrinth, inspired by Escher’s Relativity); to the extent that, even if you’ve never heard of Escher, you would likely recognise one of his prints.

Escher is known for his artistic explorations of mathematical concepts such as impossible objects, infinity, perspective, and hyperbolic geometry, which he executed in finely detailed wood-cuts, lithographs and mezzotints.

I find Escher fascinating as an artist, and as a person, mainly because of his astonishing mathematical intuition (and his humble attitude towards it). He always played down his mathematical abilities, pointing out that he had never excelled in it as a subject at school, and had no love of algebra, yet somehow he frequently gravitated towards exploring mathematical subjects through visual means.(see this lecture from Oxford University for a fascinating look at Escher’s intuitive grasp of these subjects).

Escher became obsessed with tessellations (which he referred to as ‘regular divisions of the plane’) after visiting the Alhambra and sketching the decorations there. When asked in 1951 about the symbolism in his print Day and Night, Escher replied:

“I think I have never yet done any work with the aim of symbolising a particular idea, but the fact that a symbol is sometimes discovered or remarked upon is valuable for me, because it makes it easier to accept the inexplicable nature of my hobbies, which constantly preoccupy me.

The regular division of the plane into congruent figures evoking an association in the observer with a familiar natural object is one of these hobbies or problems. This is really all there is to say about Day and Night. I have embarked on this geometric problem again and again over the years, trying to throw light on different aspects each time. I cannot imagine what my life would be like if this problem had never occurred to me; one might say that I am head over heels in love with it, and I still don’t know why.”

It’s worth noting that Escher specifies here ‘the regular division of the plane into congruent figures evoking an association in the observer with a familiar natural object‘, i.e. his obsession was not merely regular tessellation but involved finding tessellating shapes (‘jigsaw pieces’, as he referred to them sometimes) that evoked the shapes of familiar creatures or objects. Most often he played around with the shapes of birds, fish and reptiles, morphing in and out of negative space in increasingly complex ways, sometimes approaching infinity.

The sort of repeating patterns that are used to decorate fabric are, by their very nature, tessellations; indeed, all knitting stitch patterns are tessellations! When I began designing Metamorphose, I knew that I wanted to evoke that gradual morphing of shapes, emerging from negative space and almost becoming recognisable objects. I stopped short of trying to evoke an actual recognisable object, due to the complexity of knitting that this would involve! As always, when designing I’m trying to strike a balance between something that matches the idea in my mind, and is yet still enjoyable to knit without being too complicated. In this case, I sketched a basic morphing tessellation based on a triangle shape; reverse stocking stitch and seed stitch provide an alternating pattern (like the black and whites in Escher’s prints).

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The cowl/infinity scarf is worked as a seamless tube, with the ends grafted together with a twist, to form a Mobius-like loop. I feel like Escher would have been quite intrigued by the potential of knitted fabric to explore concepts like Mobius loops, tessellation and infinity. The way that the tessellating shapes repeat around the tube is very satisfying (albeit, a little tricky – some beginning-of-round marker shifts are necessary at points where the cables cross from one round to the next).

Delving into the world of Escher for inspiration for this design was great fun, and something I hope to return to in the future. I feel like there are a lot of possibilities for complex tessellating cable knitting, and I’d like to explore them.

Thanks to Miss Babs for inviting me on her Knitting Tour (and for the beautiful Killington yarn that she dyed in a special colourway for this design – fittingly named ‘Escher’).

Edited to add: if you’re interested in learning more about M. C. Escher, this documentary is a great starting point.

 

 

 

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Travels!

Hello all! This is just a quick notice to let you all know that I will be travelling from June 14th to June 25th and, as such, may not be able to respond quickly to any queries (although I will be checking my e-mails as often as possible!). I’m going to France, to check out some Neolithic sites in Brittany and to play some gigs in my alternate-disguise as a folk musician! 🙂

I will also be closing my web-shop for this period, so you won’t be able to buy the print version of Celtic Cable Shawls directly from me during this time (although you can still buy it via Ravelry, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, etc. or by ordering directly from any major bookstore such as Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, etc.).

Also, a big thank-you to Kate Davies for mentioning my book on her blog, as part of series of posts about designing and self-publishing!

EYF and…. Celtic Cable Shawls book launch!

With me, it seems like exciting announcements are a bit like buses…. you wait ages and nothing shows, and then two turn up at once!

Celtic Cable Shawls Book Launch

It’s FINALLY HERE! (and I know it’s taken so long… and I have to thank all of you for your patience in waiting for me to get this project to completion). Celtic Cable Shawls now exists in print form (if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you probably saw the recent photos of me getting ridiculously excited after receiving the first print proof!).

Here’s what you need to know if you want to get a copy:

  • I will be having the official launch at Kathy’s Knits on Broughton Street tomorrow (Fri 13th) from 5pm to 7pm. It’s open to all, so please do come along if you’re in the area!
  • I will also be selling copies at Edinburgh Yarn Festival (this weekend, 14th to 15th March) – I’ll be in stall A3, and I’m very, very excited to be a part of EYF!
  • If you would like to order online, and buy directly from me, you can do so here! I’m opening it for pre-orders now and will start processing the orders on Monday 16th March (after I’ve recovered from EYF!). Please note all the orders via my site will take at least 5 business days to process and ship (each book is printed-on-demand, so it’s a bit of a slow process). If you want the book more quickly, you might have more luck ordering from your local Amazon (the listings are being updated gradually, so if you don’t see it as available right now, try checking back in a few days).
  • If you order it directly from me, you’ll receive an e-mail with a link for downloading the e-book version too (note that if you buy the book anywhere else, you won’t get the free e-book version unfortunately. I would love to be able to provide it everywhere but it’s a bit of a logistical nightmare!).
  • It’s also worth noting that you may be able to order it in direct from major bookstores worldwide (I’m told by my distributor that this is possible but it all seems like witchcraft to me!). If you try this, it might be useful to give them the ISBN (978-0-9927690-0-0), And if it works, please let me know! 😀

Some photos of the first print run!

Important announcement for EU customers!

UPDATE (5th Jan 2015): Celtic Cable Shawls is now available for EU customers to buy from LoveKnitting here – all of my individual patterns are available to EU customers via the integrated Ravelry/LoveKnitting checkout.

There is one drawback, which is that LoveKnitting does not currently support Ravelry-based promotions. I have an on-going promotion where anyone who has bought the pattern Taliesin can get Celtic Cable Shawls with the price of the pattern deducted – this currently won’t work for EU customers unfortunately. If you’d like to take advantage of this offer and you’re based in the EU, please e-mail me/Rav PM me with your Rav username and Paypal e-mail address, and I can arrange a way to send the e-book to you at the discounted price!


This is an announcement for anyone in the EU (not the UK) who wants to buy my patterns in the future (if you’re in the UK, or outside of the EU, this doesn’t apply to you so you can cheerfully ignore it!).

From 1st January 2015, EU VAT laws are changing – sellers of digital products to customers in the EU now have to charge tax based on the customer’s location. Without wanting to get too ranty, this legislation has been very poorly written and badly communicated to the businesses that it affects – it took a lot of us by surprise and for the past couple of months, Ravelry has been working to find a solution. They have teamed up with LoveKnitting to provide a checkout service that will automatically add the required VAT to Ravelry pattern prices for EU customers.

Not every designer on Ravelry will be using this service (for a variety of reasons), but after a lot of thought I’ve decided it’s the best solution for me for now (hopefully this will be a temporary solution and I’ll let you know once things change!). What this means for you, as a customer living in the EU (non-UK), is that from Jan 1st, when you buy one of my patterns on Ravelry, you will check-out through LoveKnitting. This process is entirely automatic, but you will be required to make an account with LoveKnitting (you only need to do this once). The pattern will still be saved in your Ravelry library as normal, the only difference is the check-out process.

Ravelry have written an excellent guide for EU customers here: http://www.ravelry.com/content/vat/loveknitting

One small flaw in the system is that at the moment, it can’t handle e-books, so for a short while Celtic Cable Shawls will be unavailable to EU customers. There is a workaround which involves putting all the individual pattern files into one PDF and uploading to LoveKnitting – I will be working on this tomorrow and hope to have it available very soon.

Apologies to all of my EU customers for the shortness of notice in communicating this change to you – and best wishes for 2015!

Ravelry Indie Design Gift-a-long is here!

If (like me) you spend unhealthy amounts of time on Ravelry, you may just have heard some murmurings of a special project organised by a group of indie designers – well, it’s time to go public… the Gift-a-long has begun!

The Gift-a-long is a collaborative event, hosted and organised by over a hundred independent designers on Ravelry. We’ve banded together to offer a huge selection of our patterns at a 25% discount, and the Ravelry group will host KAL/CAL threads in different categories, so that you can chat along with fellow Ravelry members whilst you get your gift-knitting/crocheting underway. Best of all, there’s a massive selection of prizes on offer, which will be awarded randomly to participants in each of the threads – if you take part in the Shawls & Stoles category, you will be in with a chance to win a subscription to my Celtic Cable Shawls e-book – I’ve donated 2 pre-orders to the prize pile.

As we designers banded together to plan the Gift-a-long, we realised that there was no way to tag participating patterns in a way that would show up on the Ravelry search engine. There is a long thread in the Gift-a-long group, with one post from each designer who is taking part, but we were lacking a way to actually browse through every single pattern available. I tentatively suggested the idea of making Pinterest boards for each of the categories. Amazingly, a group of designers jumped in to help, and soon we had a team of pinners, supervised by the amazing Ash Kearns, who did a fantastic job of organising us. Between us, we pinned over 2000 patterns into categorised boards, in just a few days. And here they are!:

Hats and Head Things

Scarves and Cowls

Mitts and Other Arm Things

Shawls and Stoles

Socks

Garments

Baby and Child

Non-Wearables

Other

So, to recap, every single pattern on the boards above is available with a 25% discount, from Nov 1st to Nov 15th, when you add to Ravelry cart and use the code giftalong. And, you can join a KAL/CAL in the Gift-a-long group and be in with a chance to win some prizes. Hope to see you over there!

P.S. Almost forgot to mention… it probably goes without saying, but every individual pattern in my Ravelry store is in the Gift-a-long, and eligible for the discount. If you’ve bought a pattern from me previously and not cast-on yet, you can still take part in the KAL threads!

Scribblebook Wednesday #1 – Nennir knotwork

Due to my apparent complete lack of ability to keep this blog updated regularly, I’ve decided to take some inspiration from the wonderful world of Havi Brooks, of The Fluent Self. She has a couple of weekly blog rituals, and I thought it might be fun to do something similar here. When I’m designing, I tend to work stuff out visually, pencil and paper and graphs, and as a result, I have lots and lots of design notebooks filled with drawings, charts, calculations, etc. I am by no means any kind of artist, I like to draw out my ideas, but they are definitely scribbles rather than sketches. I always find it fascinating to see other designers’ notebooks, so henceforth, every Wednesday I shall show you a page or two of my own. It may not always be pretty but I hope it may at least be an entertaining little peek into my designing process. 🙂
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This page shows me working out the Celtic knotwork panel for Nennir (which was published in Knitty Winter 2012 – probably the most exciting thing to happen to me in quite some time!). You can see that I played with a few different variations of the shape of the knot before deciding on one that I liked best. The pencil sketch in the top left corner shows how I’ve constructed the knotwork – this is a technique I learnt from the writings of George Bain and Aidan Meehan. This is how I usually work when designing Celtic cables – I play around until I’ve drawn a cable I like, then I look long and hard at it and figure how to translate it into knitted cables. Usually I pick a spot in the centre of the knot and work outwards symmetrically. Maybe one day I’ll do a series of posts on my techniques of translating drawn Celtic knots to knitted Celtic knots, but it’s a complex process, so I shall stop there for now!

If any other designers would like to share some pages from their notebooks, I’d love to see them! 🙂