The Tale of Taliesin

After a good few months of knitting, charting, testing, tech-editing... Taliesin is finally available! taliesin-2

This shawl has quite a long back story, and I thought I would tell some of it here... the design is named after the Welsh poet Taliesin, but I will stick to prose!

It's probably apparent from even a quick glance at some of my past designs that I'm completely obsessed with Celtic knotwork. I learnt how to draw it from the marvellous writings of George Bain (a truly wonderful artist, who inspired so many people with his books) and Aidan Meehan, and I love how the form is underpinnned with mathematical, grid-like structures, yet also allows for a lot of creativity. I don't consider myself an artist and I'm not very good at drawing, but I can invent my own Celtic knots with relative ease, and I find it very relaxing.

Here are some early sketches of knotwork that I made back in April, with a view to turning them into a cabled shawl... originally my design was a little different.


This was what my original swatch looked like:

Spot the mis-crossed cable!

I decided the different cables were just a bit too fussy, so I went back to the drawing board and simplified things a bit.



I eventually ended up with the final design, and set about knitting it up with a beautiful skein of Old Maiden Aunt yarn that I got at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March. However, disaster struck when I ran out of yarn halfway through the cast-off!

Every knitter's nightmare...

Perhaps it was a blessing in disguise though, because the shawl was a little bit on the small side for my tastes, and I wanted to enlarge it, so I got another skein. Even though it was from the same dye lot, the colours seemed a little different, and I was worried it would be obvious, so I striped the skeins a bit and in the end it looked fine.

Here it is blocking:


This is where things get decidedly bizarre. Somewhat foolishly, given my track record of losing handknitted objects, I decided to wear this shawl to the Beltane Fire Festival on April 30. At some point during all the revelry, I must have dropped my shawl, and didn't notice until after the event had finished and the security guards were shepherding everyone down from Calton Hill, where the event takes place. I tried my best to get back onto the hill, so that I could look for the shawl, but security said no. They said my best bet was to check with the council next day, as they'd be sending in cleaners to clear up the hill.

Now, I had a sinking feeling in my heart that I would never see my shawl again. It was about 3 am by this point, pitch dark, and I was making my way home. The route back to my flat goes past one of the small roads that leads to the top of the hill. All the roads were blocked off with large metal gates, but I happened to notice that there was no guard on this particular road. So, I might have found myself squeezing past that gate and clambering up a pitch dark hill at 3 am in search of a hand-knitted shawl. Yes, perhaps not the most sensible or safe thing to do. But I was desperate to find it, and also reasonably sure that the only people still left up there would be security guards, and not anyone who would try to murder/rob/violently assault me. So, up I went.

I got up to the top of the hill and was completely disoriented. I couldn't even remember where I might have been standing when I dropped the shawl. So I picked a spot, figuring I had to start somewhere, got out my phone, switched on the torch function and began sweeping it along the ground. Within approximately 10 seconds, I spotted something like knitted fabric. I think I may have actually shouted, "NO WAY!" in my disbelief, but yes, it was my shawl!

It still boggles my mind how it was that, by complete fluke, I happened to pick pretty much exactly the correct spot where I had dropped my shawl. A bit of Beltane magic, maybe, or just sheer luck. Either way, I don't think I've ever been so happy to find something that I thought was lost for good!

Scribblebook Wednesday #2 - Pi!

P1010779 Another Wednesday, another wanton baring of my messy, messy notebooks... In this particular installment, I am dredging up some equations involving Pi from the murky depths of memory, in order to calculate measurements for a circular shawl knitted from the outside in. Also, some Celtic knotwork doodles (showing a little of the underlying grids used in construction) and some completely unrelated writing in Greek (I'm trying to learn Greek at the moment... as much as I try to keep my notebooks solely design-focused, sometimes other bits and pieces creep in inevitably!)

Scribblebook Wednesday #1 - Nennir knotwork

Due to my apparent complete lack of ability to keep this blog updated regularly, I've decided to take some inspiration from the wonderful world of Havi Brooks, of The Fluent Self. She has a couple of weekly blog rituals, and I thought it might be fun to do something similar here. When I'm designing, I tend to work stuff out visually, pencil and paper and graphs, and as a result, I have lots and lots of design notebooks filled with drawings, charts, calculations, etc. I am by no means any kind of artist, I like to draw out my ideas, but they are definitely scribbles rather than sketches. I always find it fascinating to see other designers' notebooks, so henceforth, every Wednesday I shall show you a page or two of my own. It may not always be pretty but I hope it may at least be an entertaining little peek into my designing process. :)P1010775

This page shows me working out the Celtic knotwork panel for Nennir (which was published in Knitty Winter 2012 - probably the most exciting thing to happen to me in quite some time!). You can see that I played with a few different variations of the shape of the knot before deciding on one that I liked best. The pencil sketch in the top left corner shows how I've constructed the knotwork - this is a technique I learnt from the writings of George Bain and Aidan Meehan. This is how I usually work when designing Celtic cables - I play around until I've drawn a cable I like, then I look long and hard at it and figure how to translate it into knitted cables. Usually I pick a spot in the centre of the knot and work outwards symmetrically. Maybe one day I'll do a series of posts on my techniques of translating drawn Celtic knots to knitted Celtic knots, but it's a complex process, so I shall stop there for now!

If any other designers would like to share some pages from their notebooks, I'd love to see them! :)



I'm sorry, blog. I seem to be pretty bad at updating you, and I'm not sure why it is. Perhaps just a question of habit? And also I guess the feeling that no one's out there reading this (which I know isn't true, but anyway even it was - that's actually a rather liberating thought!). So, a random assortment of photographs is called for, I think.

First: new shawl pin! I got this from Nicholas and Felice on Etsy and I'm in love with it. It's aluminium, so a lot lighter than it looks, which is great for lace shawls! I now want to go and re-photograph all my shawls styled with this pin. Hope to acquire more loveliness from them in the future!

Nichols and Felice shawl pin

New shawl design, which I have so far utterly failed to announce on this blog! Hildina is a simple top-down shawl inspired by Estonian lace and designed to work with a variety of different yarn weights.

Hildina shawl

And here's a photo of the beach near Dornoch (north Scotland, near Inverness!) where I was recently on holiday with my parents...

Despite my lack of updates on this blog, my design work has been going really well. I had a design accepted for publication in a UK magazine next spring (found out a few weeks ago, and I've only just got to the point of NOT HAVING TO SHOUT IN EXCITED CAPS!!!), so I've been working away on that, and also have a few other things in the works which I think I'm meant to keep secret (but wish I didn't have to!).

And that's enough exposure for one post, I think I will go and hide now... but hopefully not leave it quite so long til my next update. :)