Friday, 20 March 2015

Introducing...The Baa-ble Hat

Do you remember this?

You might have seen it if you are on Facebook or Instagram.  I made this Baa-ble for the Shetland Wool Week team as part of a project to adorn the Christmas tree in the centre of Lerwick with woolly baubles, there was a very good response to the Baa-ble so the good people at Shetland Wool Week asked me if I could design a hat based on it - and here it is!

I have made two versions - this one in Jamiesons of Shetland Heather Aran....

It was a bit windy (and freezing cold) on the day we took the photos:
The pattern will be available to download as a free pdf document on the Home Page of the Shetland Wool Week website, they are working very hard to get it online as soon as possible.  To make sure you don't miss the pattern release, you could subscribe to the Shetland Wool Week newsletter by signing up to their mailing list, and/or you could sign up to this blog (in the box at the top right hand side of this page) and you will receive new posts straight into your inbox (I promise I won't inundate you with emails!).

Colours used:
Jamieson's of Shetland: Aran (50g balls): 1 x Autumn, 1 x  Highland Mist, 1 x  Natural White & 1 x Natural Black
Jamieson and Smith (Shetland Wool Brokers) Worsted Aran (50g balls); 2 x Peat, 1 x Snaa White, 1 x Coll Black, 1 x Silver Grey

I will be Baa-ck soon!

P.S. Many thanks to Felicity Ford of Knitsonik for the name Baa-ble!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Thinking About.....Haps

I have been thinking quite a lot lately about Shetland haps.  A hap is a hand knitted lace shawl, usually square but sometimes circular or triangular in shape.  The photographs below shows the hap my Great Aunt Emma knitted when my son was born three years ago.
Haps traditionally were worn as everyday garments, many photographs can be seen on the Shetland Museum website of women wearing these warm wraps around their shoulders when out walking,
Girl with foal
working on the croft or carrying the peats home in kishies. 
In recent years they have become more decorative and intricate and are generally made up of three sections, the centre, the border and the edging.

Last week I visited Aunty Emma, as I have asked her to show me her method of hap making.  She is now 93 and is still an amazing knitter churning out beautiful lace and Fair Isle items at high speed.  She began to knit at the age of five and remembers knitting spencers (plain knitted wool vests) and gloves and selling them to the grocery van that came around once a week.  They would get sugar, flour, tea and hens meal, in exchange, things that would supplement the items they grew on the croft.
Astonishingly she works from no patterns and has no notes written down at all, everything she makes is from memory and from a deep rooted understanding of the craft. 
She made her first hap in 1944 in anticipation of the birth of her first daughter and has probably made hundreds since!  Haps were used (and still are) for swaddling babies so makes an ideal gift for a new baby. 
Aunty Emma knits her haps using the old traditional method of knitting the edging first in a long strip, then knitting the border (the stitches of the straight edge of the edging are picked up and make the first row of the border) and then finally knitting the centre.  This method is referred to as the borders inwards method by Sharon Miller in her inspiring books on Shetland lace knitting.  More modern patterns are written starting at the centre first and working outwards.
 Here she is knitting a piece of the edging at lightning speed.  I tried to write down what she was doing but she was knitting far faster than I could write! 

And in a few minutes here are my instructions for the edging! 

 I could refer to a pattern but I would rather find out what she does.  It made me think about knitting being a language, it is like a code with series of stitches and rows on repeats.
I love the border in my hap, it is a croft house with waves below and flowers in the gaps between the roofs.

Here are some of Emma's photographs showing some examples of her haps:
Coincidentally, over on Twitter and Ravelry I spotted two KALs (Knit Alongs) for haps or Hap-Alongs, one is being run by Louise from Knit-British and the other is being run by Gudrun Johnston.
  Gudrun says a hap is a good thing to have on the go at the same time as other things which is good as I have so many things on the go!  The Knit-British KAL will begin on 10th April which gives people plenty of time to find a pattern or plan a design and finish what is currently on the wires! 
Louise has also been writing about Haps, you can read her blog posts here.
I will keep you updated on the progress! 
Useful resources:
Miller, Sharon (2002) Heirloom Knitting, The Shetland Times Ltd
Miller, Sharon (2008) Heirloom Knitting's Shetland Hap Shawls
Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers (2012) A Legacy of Shetland Lace, The Shetland Times Ltd


Friday, 13 February 2015

A Beret to Dress

I am often asked how I dress (block) the hats I make. I made this Polar Star Tam by Outi Kater sometime last year to match the Polar Star mittens and have taken some pictures to show how I dressed it.
 After all the ends were sewn in I ran a thread of green yarn through the ribbing at the edge of the hat. I am not sure what type of yarn it is (probably acrylic), it is from a cone I inherited and I use if for holding stitches and for pulling in edges when dressing garments such as this. 
 It is strong, doesn't stick to the Shetland yarn and it is colour fast - all important points to consider when choosing a yarn for this job.  
I soaked the hat in warm water with some wool wash for half an hour or so, gently wrung it out and then pulled the hat over a plate.  The plate is I use slightly smaller than a standard dinner plate, which allows the crown to be stretched without making the finished size too big.  I then drew in the green yarn to pull in the ribbing and tied it.  Once the hat was dry I removed it from the plate.  Many people would leave it like this but I feel it makes me look like I am wearing a flying saucer on my head.  I removed the green thread and dampened the sharp folds created by the edge of the plate, and then stuffed it with a few muslin cloths (you could use a towel or any fabric).   The hat was then left to dry again to give a nice rounded shape. Some might say I could have just done this stage, and you could, but placing it on the plate first means you can really flatten out the crown and even out the stitches.

Then it was ready to wear.  You can see more photos and read the pattern notes on Ravelry here.
I was really pleased to have the hat and mittens earlier today -

 its freezing out there!

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Mittens to Dress

I recently finished a new pair of mittens, just in time for the wintery weather.  We haven't had much snow here in Shetland but we have had a lot of gales and it has generally been colder.  These mittens are Polar Star mittens designed by Outi Kater.
Outi lives in Shetland but is originally from Finland and she draws on inspiration from both places to create her designs.  I love the way she uses Shetland yarns and Fair Isle knitting techniques to create something contemporary, often geometric in style.  The motif on these mittens is a traditional Finnish pattern as is the knitting style of using only two colours, unlike Fair Isle knitting which traditionally uses several colours blended together.
The pattern was very easy to follow, and I would have had a pair of mittens in no time but this was my travelling project for a few months and I took it to work and away for a weekend, so I only knitted a few rows now and again.  The final result is very pleasing, the mittens are large and cosy as the pattern creates a thick fabric ideal for keeping out the cold.  For more details on needle size and yarn you the project is on here.
I could have just worn them as they were when I cast them off, but Shetland yarn (as does most wool projects) really does benefit from washing and blocking, or dressing as we say in Shetland.

I received these glove boards from a friend recently as she wanted them to go to someone who would use them, and luckily they were the perfect size for the mittens.  They are probably for men's mittens but as the Polar Star mittens are generously sized these were just right.  These boards would have been homemade, most houses in Shetland would probably have had several pairs in different sizes at one time when knitting provided people with an income.  These boards have thumbs, but I have heard of people using blunt kitchen knives. 

I soaked the mittens in water with a mild detergent for woollens for about twenty minutes then put the boards inside, flattening out any stitches that were uneven.  Shetland wool almost fluffs up and becomes more fuzzy when it's washed, helping patterns to blend together.  To keep the cuffs tight around the mitten I used two elastic bands, I could have sewn a thread into the cuff and pulled it tight but the bands were much quicker and easier.

Once they were dry I removed the mittens from the boards. Where the elastic bands had been had left some marks, a quick steam over the spout of the kettle sorted that out.  This is an ideal way of pulling in Shetland wool ribs that have been stretched during the dressing process. By holding the cuff over the steam for a few seconds, I could almost see the stitches flatten and shrink and then the cuff could be pulled into shape.  Garments often benefit from this if they have been work a lot and have started to stretch out of shape. 


These are some of my collection of wooden mitten and glove boards, it is lovely to think they have been used to dress many many things in the past, and they are beautiful objects in their own right.

I will speak about dressing the Polar tam next time. 
But for now have a good weekend!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Shetland Knitting, A Way Of Life - 60 North Magazine

I received the latest copy of 60 North magazine yesterday afternoon and I must say I feel very proud -  my photo is featured on the front cover. 

In an article in the magazine I speak about how important knitting is for my personal and Shetland's heritage.  Knitting has been a huge part of my life, as I grew up I was constantly surrounded by women knitting and finishing garments to sell and for clothing for the family.  However, it is only now that most of them are no longer with us, I realise that the skill and knowledge they had was truly invaluable.  I regret not paying more attention to what they are doing.  We are at a crucial stage in Shetland where the number of hand knitters is in decline, particularly those that knit for money.  Unfortunately knitting is no longer taught here in schools so it is up to us as individuals to pass on these hugely valuable skills before it is lost.
There are several other textile related articles in the magazine, Rosalyn Chapman looks at the Truck and Barter system, where knitters exchanged their work at the local shop for goods rather than cash.  Interestingly, I mention in my article that I remember my Grandmother telling us how she used to go to the "street" on Saturday with gloves and come back with the Sunday roast.  I assume she got cash which she then spent at the butchers but you never know, she was the kind of person who could and would barter for anything!
There are two very interesting personal accounts of last years wool week by visitors to the islands Diana Lukas-Nulle from Hamburg and Anna Bednarikova from Czechoslovakia :

Alistair Hamilton looks at "Everest" Jumpers as worn by Sir Edmund Hillary:
Elizabeth from Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary Diary gives us a taste of the Shetland food trail:
This is just a small sample of what the magazine has to offer, there are many more articles including a lovely looking recipe for pan-fried hake on spiced coconut and chilli puy lentils with pickled carrots, mussel pakora, raita and coriander oil by Akshay Borges from the Scalloway Hotel.  That one is definitely on my "to do list".
If you are in Shetland you can purchase the magazine from The Shetland Museum shop, the Tourist Office at the Market Cross, and Scoop.  You can order a copy online from the Promote Shetland website, or even better why not buy a year's subscription.  At only £15 for four copies a year it really is a bargain.
I personally think it is a very good magazine (think the Shetland version of the Simple Things), there are always lots of interesting articles, and it is beautifully laid out.  It is an ideal read for both tourists and locals alike. 
In fact - I took a copy on holiday to Tenerife last year and reading it made me a bit home sick!!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Aestlight Shawls

Before going away for a holiday in October I was looking for a knitting project I could take with me that would be transportable, and wouldn't need a large amount of yarn. I chose Gudrun Johnston's Aestlight shawl, and I am glad I did, I only knitted for a short while each day but it knitted up very quick and the pattern was very easy to follow and there were no difficult techniques.

 As I didn't leave myself much time to plan this project before I went away I grabbed a purple heather coloured yarn from my stash (Shetland jumper weight but as it is old I don't you where it came from or what colour it is.)  
I also didn't have 4.0 mm needles so took 3.75 needles. I was very happy with the result, it made a very warm and cosy scarf.
I made a second one just before Christmas, as a gift again in Shetland jumper yarn from my stash but in a darker shade of blue.  Since I had left it to the last minute I wasn't sure if I would finish it on time, but it is a quick knit, I managed to cast it off a couple of days before Christmas. Because of the construction there is minimal finishing (that always takes me a bit of time and the bit I like the least). The central part is knitted first in garter stitch, with a YO at the beginning of each row creating a triangle that seems to appear before your eyes.

The loops at each edge of the triangle are picked up and the birds eye lace section, which is a traditional Shetland lace pattern, is made in one piece.  Then the edging is knitted and joined to the live stitches of the shawl as it is made.  In the case of the blue shawl, by the time I got to the edging I realised that I wasn't going to have enough yarn.  Because I had used the recommended needle size this time (4.0mm) the shawl used more yarn and turned out a bit larger (I forgot to measure it before I gave it away). I decided to do a picot cast off, and I am very pleased with this result.
This is definitely a pattern you should try if you would like to make a triangular scarf especially if you haven't done it before.  I think I might make myself another soon!

The projects can be seen on Ravelry here (purple one) and here (blue one).

Monday, 5 January 2015

Aald Claes and Gruel

A New Year is very often a time for reflection, new beginnings and new ideas.  We have had a lovely festive  period spending time with family and friends and it is alway a bit sad that it's over.  

On the other hand there is something good about getting back into a routine, making new plans and thinking about new projects.  It's time to pack away the decorations, eat normal food and get into a better sleeping pattern.  As someone said this morning it's back to aald claes and gruel (old clothes and porridge)!  I.e. time to get back to normal.

I don't tend to make New Year resolutions but this year I have been planning new things in terms of my work and I was inspired by my friend Emma Varnham to look back at all the things I have made this past year, not including things I have made for sale.  Emma is a crochet and knit designer and made a huge number of things last year: you can see them here.

It was quite interesting making a list of the things I have made, there were several things I had forgotten about and I actually was quite surprised of the number of things I had finished, there were more than I thought.

Top L to R:
Felt knitting needle case - made one for a friend's birthday and one for myself to help solve the problem of an ever increasing needle supply.
Alice Starmore's Fair Isle Beret - blogged about here and ravelled here
Stasis Jumper - started in 2013 but finished in 2014 so I have included it in the list.  Blogged about here and ravelled here
Middle: L to R
Black and White Tunic: Blogged about here
Mouse with Jeans and Fair Isle jumper: Blogged about here
Vintage Denim Coat: Blogged about here
Glove: OK, so there's only one so I need to do the other this year! 
Bottom: L to R
Polar Star Tam, pattern by Outi Kater:  Ravelled here.  I have just finished mittens to match - I will blog about these soon.
Cushions: Blogged about here
Top L to R:
Kid Alpaca Fair Isle Star hat:  Ravelled here
Ursula Cardigan: pattern by Kate Davies: Ravelled here
Knitted vegetables: Ravelled here
Middle L to R:
Freefield Jacket: Blogged about here and ravelled here 
Denim Dress: Pattern by Sonia Phillips but sides taken in and some length added, and Aestlight shawl, pattern by Gudrun Johnson: blog post to follow soon!
A Circle of Lambs Cardigan: Blogged about here and ravelled here
Linen Dress: Dress A from Stylish Dress Book in light grey linen
Bottom L to R:
Aestlight Shawl, pattern by Gudrun Johnson: this is the second of two I made and ran out of yarn for the edging so completed it with a picot bind off.  Blog post to follow soon!
Christmas Baa-bles: Made for Shetland Wool Week Christmas project.  I blogged about the small one here
My Not On The High Street Shop is currently closed, I have scheduled it to open in February, but will review it at the time.  Currently I don't have a dedicated work space, I was working in the kitchen but I packed it all up before Christmas.  I am hoping to have a work room in the house soon, we are waiting on getting stairs installed in our house, then we can use the upstairs of our house - I can't wait to get more room!
Also, I have taken on a few more hours a week working as a science technician supporting the Shetland high schools, which means anytime during the day I could have had to myself I go out to work.
Much of my new work plans and ideas will involve wool, more specifically Shetland yarn and I am not going to make a strict monthly year plan, and basically see what happens.  But that's the beauty of being self employed.
Now, where are those aald claes.......