Haps Again – Montbretia Hap

I knitted Montbretia at top speed, so that’s why I am blogging about it about as slowly as I possibly can (any excuse). This was the first Hap I made from the Book of Haps. I was drawn to Montbretia mainly because of the unusual construction and shape; lots of short rows and bobbles, interchanging garter and stocking stitch, more than one colour – these are all things I like quite a lot. Also welts, an entirely new thing to me which I now want to incorporate into all the knitted things.  I realised I had stash yarn that would do the job perfectly for this – I love my stash, but it is there to be knit with, after all…so in I dived.

I came out with some white 4 ply, some MadeleineTosh Tosh Merino Light in Cousteau – a dark sea green, just beautiful, and two packs of mini skeins of Knitting Goddess sock yarn; one in oranges and one in dark green/blues (rather like the Tosh, a happy accident).

I cast on for a ‘Medium’ of this hap knowing my gauge was a little tighter than the pattern (I got 24st&36r/10cm) and I would get a slightly smaller hap because of this. It’s width is about 140 cm rather than 144. It sits nicely over the shoulders for when it’s just a bit chilly, or I can wrap it and knot loosely at the back of the neck if I’m cycling (because, by the time you’ve got to the top of Divinity Road in Oxford you don’t need a big scarf on, even in the depths of winter).

It began – appropriately – looking slightly foetal, and carried on like that for a while:


The first welt (in the picture above on the right) was a bit messy, I hadn’t knit it tight enough at all, but I managed to fix that with a bit of sewing in on the back when I finished, and blocking helped hugely.

The most fun part was the bobbles! I loved doing these, once I’d got the hang of them (it’s been at least 12 years since I did a bobble) they flew by:

It was finished in eleven days. Eleven! This is a record for me for a thing that’s not supposed to be tiny to start with. I got it on the bed for a good blocking:


And think it’s splendid. I really do like this unusual shape. I’d like make a really huge one of these which I think would look brilliant draped longways along the back of a sofa. But for now, here I am wearing it in baking hot July:





It Doesn’t Always Work First Time

I’ve been watching The Silk Road on BBC4. The fascinating story – squashed into three hours of television – of this ancient trade route from China to the West  was told by Dr Sam Willis who, as well as being an engaging presenter,  has the most beautiful handwriting.

I was left with several things buzzing about my head after seeing these programmes, among them:

  1. I really must take a long holiday to all the places mentioned (better start saving up! Better get the child used to camels!)
  2. I have coloured pencils, squared paper and, really, SO MUCH yarn…I could create a knitted textile with a paisley motif. Yes.
  3. Add some books to the book pile on this subject, and also read them.
  4. Don’t let’s lose the BBC shall we?

I’m tackling  number 2. first.

As the journey reached  Yazd in Iran we learned about the Zoroastrians and their eternal flame, which some say the flame shaped Boteh/Paisley motif represents (or it represents a pear, or other fruit). I have always loved paisley, so off I went.

I did some colouring in. Colouring in tiny squares is becoming a favourite thing of mine, especially since I found my ‘antique’ Caran D’ache pencils!:


[the other day I was in WH Smith where I found almost an ENTIRE WALL of grown-ups’ colouring books – who’d have thought it five years ago! – trying to distract me from the tiny squares. However I remain faithful to the tiny squares. Though I did buy more coloured pencils, because the antique ones are not all there, and mainly very little] I digress…


I cast on some lovely red and blue yarn, and lined up some golden yellow for the middles of the boteh motifs. I knew this would involve intarsia, I didn’t know how much  gin and swearing it would also involve.

As you can see, I also tend to change things as I go along…

It started well enough, I did two repeats with steeks between each, as knitting on a circumference this small I find a challenge (unless it’s vanilla socks). I could have sworn I had a picture of that first few rounds but it has disappeared into the internet or something. Here’s the top corner once blocked. The colourwork is fine..


But then the intarsia sections are just awful. I had forgotten until I was a little bit into it that, when you do this in the round, you need to shift the stitches about and knit the intarsia sections back and forth (or, that’s how I’ve always done it).

I had some gin. I carried on, the intarsia didn’t improve.  What happens is you  get a ‘back and forth knitted panel sitting on top of the colourwork’ sort of thing, it’s very hard to do this well, I fear:


The small boteh motif I kind of got away with [no you didn’t, says a small voice], the large one is dreadful! Puckered and loose simultaneously, the motif is much too wide to cope with the colourwork floats in any sensible way:


It actually looks much better on the back, so this suggests I’m pretty good at stranded work, but  – as I realise now – I need to work on intarsia. Quite a lot.


Here is the whole swatch, The colours I love, and I’m pleased with the design too. The execution makes me unhappy. I’ll start again. That’s the whole point in swatching though isn’t it.


We all learn by our mistakes eh?  Now I’m back to colouring the little squares, drafting a new, more stranded colourwork-friendly design. And also practicing my intarsia.


As I write the whole series of The Silk Road is still on the BBC iPlayer – along with some half hour programmes called ‘Handmade on the Silk Road’ covering the work of 21st Century craftspeople along the route. Brilliant programmes all. Here’s the link:


Sam Willis kept a journal as he went, you can see it – with the beautiful handwriting – here.

More on Boteh /Paisley:




Stonehenge Lap Blanket – Part III

The swatch is finished. But first a bit of background to the parts of the design not yet seen (until now…fanfare?).

Stonehenge stands in a landscape – often referred to as a sacred landscape –  of monuments. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering Avebury, the Stonehenge Cursus, Silbury Hill and barrows such as West Kennet Longbarrow and Bush Barrow. I have spent quite a lot of time in the area – Avebury is a favourite day out; where else can you buy a pint in the middle of a stone circle, or spook yourself with memories of scary 1970s childrens programmes?

In my student days we had a trip out to Salisbury Plain, taking in Stonehenge very early one summer morning. We were able to walk ‘inside’ the monument. Walking between the stones themselves is an entirely different experience to the one you have as a general visitor (though the experience is vastly improved by the new visiting arrangements you are still kept outside the stones, unless you visit at Midsummer for the festivities).

The monument suddenly seems less huge, but at the same time more imposing. The stones tower above you and you feel small, you begin to understand how a hierarchy of ‘priests’ and ‘congregation’ might work around a space like this. The monument is not a thing to look at, it is a thing you experience, and you would probably experience it differently according to your place in society.


A Modern Midsummer at Stonehenge

Despite all the reading, essay writing and exam sitting it wasn’t until I stood among the stones that I fully realised all these monuments meant nothing without the people; the generations who built them, who maintained them, who forgot them and then came back to them. People have written this place into novels, films, and into their own lives. To the modern day druids, new agers, travellers, archaeologists and historians, tourists, writers, this ancient monument is still hugely significant.

That’s why I’ve put people – druids (of course)  and a circle dance of visitors – into the middle of this piece of work.

White robed druids with an antler topped staff, on midsummer morning:

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A Circle Dance of revellers/visitors/whatever you wish them to be:

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In knitting this second swatch I’ve changed the order in which the elements of my design appear in the blanket, and smartened up the Trilithon section:

Here is the entire swatch:

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The design will be mirrored on the other half of the blanket, and then I’ll add a trim of some kind.

I’m really excited about getting going on the actual piece itself.


Previous posts about this project:

Part I

Part II

Where all this came from…:

During my degree I became quite fascinated by the different understandings and experiences of ‘significant’ places by people through the ages.  I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on that very subject – I did love a bit of archaeological theory, I wasn’t just in it for the digging (though that is obviously Great Fun).

I was influenced by the work of Barbara Bender and Richard Bradley on this subject. Bender’s book ‘Stonehenge – Making Space’  I remember really annoying some people (often the sign of a good read!) and I devoured Bradley’s  The Significance of Monuments  – I’m looking at that  well thumbed and margin-noted copy just now – as well as his  The Past in Prehistoric Societies.

Stonehenge Lap Blanket – Part 1

I’ve been thinking about designing a lap blanket for ages, ever since I finished Kate Davies’ ‘Rams and Yowes’ which I made in a multi-coloured stash busting mood back in 2012 . I had an idea that I’d like to do some thing based on a landscape I know well, I also had a vague idea about how I would do it. This is part one because it turned out, as I started the actual knitting, a load of ideas flooded into my head about what I would create in the middle part of this blanket. Anyway, here we go.

I did an archaeology degree as a mature student and became fascinated by later prehistory in the British isles.  That stage in human history when people stopped hunter-gathering, and began to settle down in farming communities. People began to have a much greater impact on their environment – much of which we can still see today in the remains of their settlements, field systems and material culture. They began to develop belief systems that resulted in the building of monuments to the ancestors (Neolithic long barrows like West and East Kennet and Waylands Smithy) and, in the Bronze Age, mounds containing  elaborate burials (Bush Barrow, Upton Lovell ‘Golden’ Barrow).

People also erected standing stones and stone circles from the far north to the south of the British Isles. These circles have been interpreted ceremonial centres and meeting places for as long as archaeology has existed as a discipline, and before.  Among the well known monuments; Callanish, the Ring of Brodgar, Arbor Low, Stanton Drew and Avebury perhaps the most famous of all is Stonehenge.


However, I am not here to write an archaeology essay (you can find millions elsewhere, or I can lend you one of my old ones) I’m here to write about this colourwork design which has been festering in my head for three years.

Stonehenge is just off the A303 near Amesbury – it’s a road we use often, a slower and (traffic jams permitting) more pleasant route to the South West than the M5. I always feel a  little thrill of excitement as we get to the turn after which the monument ‘pops up’ as if from nowhere. There’s the Henge, on the plain, in splendid isolation – more so since the relocation of the Visitors’ Centre and car park from directly over the road to its new home near Winterbourne Stoke.

After knitting a few colourwork patterns, and in many of them substituting my own colour scheme, I’d bought Felicity Ford’s (@knitsonik) book on making your own stranded colourwork patterns. I dabbled about with some designs and put them away for a year.  Then a couple of weeks ago I heard her interview with Kate on the ‘A Playful Day’ podcast. That inspiring  interview was the thing that finally kicked me off, and I started colouring in an excel spreadsheet.

Though I started with coloured pencils and paper,  I found doing the final parts of this easier on a spreadsheet – I can move things around and paste pattern repeats in – and find out really how bad my counting is. I can also zoom all the way out to get an idea of what the design will look like overall.

The design I’ve come up with, after staring at that spreadsheet for A Very long Time, contains all the elements I wanted it to (apart from the singing of a downland skylark).

I’ve included:

A Trilithon: Probably the most recognisable part of the henge, from the Bronze Age phase:


The A303: The road, the course it takes and the affect it – and the resulting traffic – has on the stones is an ongoing debate.


Barrows: Specifically Bush Barrow, pictured below, which was excavated in 1808…


…n which the following remarkable objects were found:

Function: Of course we will never really know the function of the place, but there are many theories, the most popular being that Stonehenge is a temple to the sun – hence the gatherings at midsummer. Though recent work suggests it may have had a function at midwinter. So, I though I would include the sun and the moon:

I now have a chart (part 1) and some knitting – Jamieson & Smith Jumper Weight from Shetland, though it would be lovely to do this in a more local yarn, I don’t think there is any with such a vast range of colours:



Some links:

Stonehenge: there is vast literature (of all ilks) about this place you can Google, or similar. But here is the English Heritage website as it has a rather fab timeline:


More on Bush Barrow and Wiltshire History: http://www.wiltshiremuseum.org.uk/

A Playful Day: http://www.aplayfulday.com

Podcast Episode 95 is the one mentioned here, they are all marvellous.

Felicity Ford’s Book: http://knitsonik.bigcartel.com/product/knitsonik-stranded-colourwork-sourcebook

Kate Davies Website: https://katedaviesdesigns.com/