There has been a lot of charting and knitting to do this year for Book No. 2. However, although I have been staunchly committed to using All Available Knitting Time for working my own patterns, I confess that the joyous prospect of working a Bousta Beanie for Shetland Wool Week proved irresistible so I bunked off swatching for a few days and boy am I glad I did.
I’ve been a fan of Gudrun’s lovely work ever since knitting her Simmer Dim restored my mojo in 2011. Like Simmer Dim (and many other designs by Gudrun) Bousta Beanie is effortless and pleasurable to knit; sophisticated without being overly complex; and a refreshing, contemporary update to the knitting heritage of Shetland on which she draws. I love how the zigzagging motif draws its inspiration from Bousta in Sandness, Shetland, yet is abstract enough for knitters to adapt to their own contexts and favourite colours. The pattern is simple and easily memorised for first-time Fair Isle knitters; doesn’t demand ten million yarn shades; and is offered in enough colourways to give knitters many options but also the inspiration to innovate. I saw many, many Bousta Beanies in Shetland during Wool Week and it was really exciting to see how Woolweekers had enthusiastically embraced the official hat pattern on their own terms.
At the eleventh hour, packing my suitcase, I looked at the copy of the pattern I’d picked up from the Shetland Wool Week stand at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival and felt a pang of longing to make my own version. In true KNITSONIK style, my Bousta Beanie is totally informed by an appreciation for the everyday and mundane details of my town here in Reading.
You see, looking for patterns everywhere and in everything has the unexpected side effect of meaning that I end up – in reverse – sometimes finding objects from daily life in knitting patterns. When I returned from Edinburgh Yarn Festival in the spring, I spotted a manhole cover with a repeating surface design most reminiscent of Gudrun’s motif.
It’s pretty hard to capture the saturated metallic tones of a manhole cover… my phone camera can’t really cope and tends to wash out the hues in lovely rusted metal and document a dull impression of flat greyness. However, I know from looking at manhole covers that their weathered surfaces contain petrol shades; warm complex purples; browns; and many other rich hues. I have bumped up the contrast and saturation in my phone photos of manhole covers to try and foreground the shades that I can see.
With rich purples, browns and creams in mind, I organised a palette for my manhole-cover inspired Bousta Beanie. I used five shades in my colour scheme. In the background I used FC44 (a spicy sort of brown with hot yellow heathered through); FC58 (a complex and mercurial heavily heathered blue/brown/purple/gold shade); FC14 (a complex deep tealy-blue purple). For the pattern, I used FC17 (like a pale chicken egg) and a now discontinued J&S shade that is the colour of a strong milky coffee. I shoved part-balls of all these shades into a bag along with needles and the pattern and cast the hat on during the long ferry ride from Aberdeen to Lerwick.
I was a bit sad knowing that my hat would never be ready to wear to the opening ceremony, but working on my Bousta Beanie during Wool Week turned out to be very cheering. Knitting my hat offered a lovely holiday from working on my own designs (a pattern! by someone else! fun and quick! a chance to use a discontinued J&S yarn shade!) and my work-in-progress was a sweet companion throughout my time in Lerwick.
After teaching the last of my classes, I had that slight feeling of the day after Christmas. Feeling a bit flat I walked back to where I was staying. It was a grey day and my suitcase of swatches and class supplies had an annoying broken wheel that slowed my pace. However, the sad slope home was improved immeasurably by pausing to document the manhole covers of Lerwick as I went. I even found one with a sort of Bousta Beanie crown-shaping design.
A much needed early night was comforted by cranking on the hat in my Airbnb in front of 50 Tips from Shetland Knitters by Hazel Tindall and Elizabeth Johnston and I got pretty overexcited about my brown rusty metal shading scheme and raved about it to anyone who would listen. I finished working on it several days ago after which it got a good soak and a turn on my vintage hat blocker. This transformed the hat into a slouchy beanie shape. My wonderful husband Mark (who is my number 1 comrade in photographing mundane details of Reading) then helped me to document the hat together with its urban inspiration source.
Thanks for the lovely photos, Mark! And thank you Gudrun for writing such a wonderful pattern that so many knitters have enjoyed. I hope you don’t mind that I messed with your well thought out colour scheme and options, but know that every time I pass a manhole cover bearing what I now think of as YOUR motif, I shall think of you with a giant smile and not a small dose of mischief.
YOURS IN MANHOLE COVERS AS INSPIRATION AND FINDING STRANDED COLOURWORK IN THE EVERYDAY DETAILS OF LIFE,