Featherheid!

Thank you so much for your support and kind words about Polkamania! following last week’s launch; I’ve been so lifted by the collective joy for polkadots and am really excited to see what you make with my pattern. Today I want to tell you about another new design: Featherheid.

This pattern is one of fifteen included in the exciting forthcoming Kate Davies Designs publication, Milarrochy Heids. This fantastic collection of hats features heids by thirteen designers, all worked in Kate’s glorious Milarrochy Tweed. There are some amazing heids in the collection and it’s really exciting to see all the different creative approaches to designing with this yarn. Looking through the whole collection not only gives one a serious case of startitis (who else wants to knit ALL THE HEIDS???) but also reveals the fabulous creative potentials of Milarrochy Tweed.

I am particularly fond of the elegant striping sequence in Nur Gutes’ Let’s Stripe. How pleasing is it to see the yarn palette in this way, with the shades all interacting like this, as little strips and bands of slubby tweedy joy?

I think it’s just lovely and shows all the colours off to great effect.

I also love the glorious Breiwick beret by Ella Gordon which appears on the cover of Milarrochy Heids.

It combines Ella’s knowledge of vintage Fair Isle knitwear with her fresh, contemporary style, and it also expresses a strong sense of place which you can read about (in this inspiring blog post). Ella’s photos of Breiwick Road are full of the same soft sunsets and blue, watery colours as her beret design. Reading her post I kept thinking of the Shetland word lichtsome which means cheerful and can be used to describe people and places.

There are so many other lovely ideas in the whole gallery of HEIDS and I feel really honoured to be included.

Now Featherheid has been revealed on Ravelry and on Kate’s instagram, I thought I’d share a bit of the design process behind my hat which celebrates the ducks Mark and I kept for several years: Honey, Bonbon and Pretzel. These much-missed comrades can be seen here lurking underneath our outside table on some straw the winter before last.

They were a quacking posse of suspicious birds who managed to produce staggering amounts of mud and poo considering their modest size. They never liked us; hid their eggs in weird places; ran away when we tried to befriend them and then ran towards us in a cowardly way whenever our backs were turned. Their presence in our garden decimated the slug and snail population completely (nice) but attracted rats (not nice). Their wonderful sound ranging from companionable little grunts and low-level quacks through to collective, bellowing outrage was my favourite thing and, in spite of the mud, the smell, the wet, and the resentment they seemed to harbour for human beings in general, we loved them very much. They died, one by one, of mysterious, egg-related complications. Their ailments proved impossible to treat even with expensive vet visits and valiant antibiotic-administering regimes (at which Mark was much better than me, it must be said). With my health being what it was this year it did not feel wise to stock up on more labour-intensive livestock. We still dream of figuring out a filtration/pond system and once again having a garden full of ducks, but for now I’m glad for the experience and the memories of keeping our spirited gang of duckpals. Whenever I think about them, I recall the gleam in their beady eyes whenever they saw me with a fresh paddling pool full of sparkling clean water. At such times they would determinedly thrust their faces into the mud, fill their bills with muck, then run towards the water and despoil it. This was their favourite game. I also think about their feathers, which ranged from being very tiny and delicate around their necks, to being thick and bold and shapely at the end of their glorious wings. I wondered if I could chart a series of shapes to suggest this progression in stranded colourwork motifs; this was the starting point for my design.

I found it a delightful challenge to work with the palette of Milarrochy Tweed, and to explore how the nubby, flecked shades interact when knit together. As with all KNITSONIK design processes, I began by casting on a large swatch to help me find my way with this new yarn.

You can see my palette and my ideas for feathery shapes evolving side by side through the swatch. Reading the swatch from left to right, you can see I began with greys and greens on my way to finding the palette and shapes you see in the final design. I tried using Stockiemuir to begin with – the vibrant light green in the Milarrochy Tweed palette, but it was too green and cold for describing Khaki Campbell plumage, so I abandoned that and rigidly stuck with brown and cream shades for the next part of the swatch. As I knit on, I began to feel that the muted tones of Hare, Bruce and Horseback Brown shaded over a background of Hirst did not quite capture the same rich warmth that ran through the feathers of our ducks.

Since the Milarrochy Tweed palette doesn’t feature the precise shade of brown I was after, I decided to introduce those warm tones in another way: by adding Buckthorn to my shading sequence. I also decided to vary the background between Birkin (a sort of pale, silver grey) and Hirst (a warmer, creamier colour). The Buckthorn warms up the browns that are around it, while the contrast of Birkin brings out the creaminess in Hirst and prevents the browns from appearing flat.

I wanted to write about this here because, when working from an inspiration source we’ve found in the world, there very often *isn’t* an exact match in the available yarns. Rather than being a frustrating problem, this can be a wonderful opportunity to revisit your inspiration source and to think about other inventive ways in which to speak to its colours with what you have to hand. I’m really pleased with how Featherheid pays homage to my ducks without being too literal an interpretation. I love how Buckthorn brightens the whole palette and is bold in a way that suits the personalities of Honey, Bonbon and Pretzel.

I got Mark to take a couple of photos of me with my phone once my HEID was finished before posting the sample off to Kate Davies Designs and it was fun to wear it in the same garden where the ducks once quacked, made mud pies, and snacked on slugs.

However, I really like seeing how the design looks in Tom’s official photos for the book and it’s great to see it styled with that vibrant, rust red jacket. I think Featherheid really suits Jane!

This project has been a delight to work on from start to finish, and I’m so excited to see the book. If you’d like to knit Featherheid or any of the other luscious designs featured in this wonderful forthcoming tome, you can pre-order a copy here for £18.00.

Thanks so much to Honey, Bonbon and Pretzel for many mucky adventures, and to my friend Kate for inviting me to be part of this fantastic project,
YOURS IN HEIDS,
XF

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2 Responses to Featherheid!

  1. Terry Hickman says:

    What a lovely tribute to your little feathered friends. I’m so sorry you lost them, it really hurts to lose a pet. But I see that not only have you honored them with your gorgeous pattern, I also detect just a *hint* of their mischievous natures in the last picture of you wearing your adorable heit! Well done!

  2. Pamela Butler says:

    I loved reading that post. You have captured all of the creative joy and hard work of developing the design. I must say Heids is driving me a bit mad (I follow Kate’s blog too). I am in the throes of an insane sock deadline ending, probably, at 8am on Christmas morning. I must not look at hats, I must not look at hats, I must not . . .

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