Old Maiden Aunt Yarns

Studio 30. Ritchie Street. West Kilbride. KA23 9AL. Scotland. info@oldmaidenaunt.com

coming home – inchgarvie

the last knitting pattern (there’s still one more surprise to come!) from Coming Home is the stunning Inchgarvie shawl by Ysolda Teague. i’ve been a longtime fan and friend of Ysolda – in fact, it’s surprising to think about how long we’ve known each other! – and was thrilled when she agreed to design for the book. the resulting shawl pattern is simple, elegant, and traditional with a modern twist, and beautifully light knitted up in the shetland 2ply.

© Jeni Reid

Once upon a time Lilith and I both worked for different branches of the same yarn store, but since we were in different cities I knew her only as a voice on the phone who I’d call to check stock levels. The branch I worked in was a popular destination for tourists, who were always looking for a Scottish souvenir to take home. I rarely had to point out that Old Maiden Aunt was a local dyer before they were drawn to her moody, complicated colourways that perfectly capture the local landscape and quality of light.

One of those colourways, Moody, was so inspiring that I couldn’t sell it to other people without making something myself. It reminded me of the sea on a stormy day and sent me looking for lace patterns reminiscent of waves and seaweed. The resulting shawlette, Ishbel, is still my most-knit design with a project count that blows my mind as much as anyone elses. Over the years the pattern has been mind-blowingly popular, but I love being able to trace the growth of both my own and Lilith’s careers back to that early collaboration.

When Lilith asked me to be part of this project I instantly felt like the theme was perfect for her, but I didn’t feel inspired by it. It’s difficult to think of home as a concept without leaving, and I found myself thinking back to the first time in my life that I really felt like I was coming home. I lived in the same city, Edinburgh, for my whole childhood, and by the time I left high school I was desperate to leave. Perhaps things would have been different if I’d chosen a different destination, but every time that year that I found myself on a train back into the city I felt my heart lift as we travelled across the Forth Rail Bridge. It’s an iconic feat of engineering, but for me the bridge and the Firth of Forth became a very visceral crossing home. I’d been looking for inspiration in the concept, but then I looked at the pinks and orange shades of the yarn Lilith had sent me and smiled – it was perfectly reminiscent of the bridge on a rainy day.

© Jeni Reid

I don’t visit the beach very often, but I’m nevertheless constantly aware of the close presence of the sea no matter where you go in Scotland. It’s not surprising at all that water imagery can be found in so many of our traditional stitch patterns, especially Shetland lace. I grew up in a family of knitters, with more than one traditional Shetland baby blanket being passed from baby to baby. No stitch pattern feels more familiar and comforting to me than feather and fan, and it was that emotional connection, as much as the appropriate imagery that made me want to incorporate it into the design. That decision led me to a contemporary re-interpretation of those baby blankets, with a construction inspired more by designers from elsewhere in Europe.

© Jeni Reid

© Jeni Reid

The result has ended up representing my thoughts on the concept of Coming Home in a much fuller way than I ever intended. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned that one of my favourite words, a word I learned as a fancy, proper word, was Scots. “Outwith” has no direct synonym, but it’s usually translated as”outside” which is wholly inadequate and misses the emphasis on the existence of a physical or metaphorical boundary. In a city that still contains the frayed remnants of the wall which once ringed it, that’s edged by water and entered from one direction by bridges, that’s both insular and outward looking, it’s hard not to have a sense of home that’s defined by what’s outwith the boundaries, by moving between outwith and within. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that my design is inspired less by my literal home and more by those rippling boundaries and connections.

© Jeni Reid

© Jeni Reid

the Inchgarvie shawl is started at one point by casting on just four stitches, then worked along its length in garter stitch with the edging knitted on as you go; the increases that shape the shawl are incorporated into the edging stitch. after all the increases are complete, a section of feather and fan is worked, and the final edging is worked back & forth along the bottom edge of the shawl. this creates an elongated triangle that can be blocked to amazing dimensions (the sample was 2m long!!) as the lack of bound-off edges means your stitches aren’t constricted. i’m working on a extra sample of this at the moment for EYF and it’s a real pleasure to knit – simple enough for knit night, but with enough detail to keep you interested.

the colourway in the photographs is one dyed especially for the book, which will be available online and at EYF in march. “Ruanaidh”, meaning “reddish”, is also the Gaelic name for sheep’s sorrel, which grows wild throughout Scotland and lends the hills a reddish, almost unearthly haze when it’s in bloom. this shifting, eerie colour is something that i love about the scottish landscape, so obviously i had to try and capture it in a yarn colourway.

the book should be physically arriving at the studio in a week or so, which means pre-orders are getting closer!! keep and eye out here, on my Ravelry group, and on twitter/instagram, for more details soon….

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