Glasgow School of Yarn

I’ve had such a busy week it has delayed my blog post. This was mainly due to my usual M.E. post-activity crash, but I’m feeling a bit better now, and thought I’d tell you what I’ve been up to.

Back in August, the lovely yarn shop, The Yarn Cake, announced an yarn-based event with a market-place, workshops and a design competition to be held in the Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed church at Queens Cross, Glasgow. I was excited about the event, and even more excited about the competition which was to design and knit or crochet something inspired by the life or work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. I’m quite a fan of the “Mackintosh style” and immediately had a couple of ideas. I thought of a chunky kimono style jacket in black with coloured square inserts; this was inspired by the hall doors I have seen in The Hill House, Helensburgh. The other idea I had, which I settled on in the end, was to re-work a design I had created for a garden sculpture I carved in stone, based on a Mackintosh textile design, called Stylised Tulips:

Stylised Tulips

I had adapted this design to fit a column shape for the carving, and thought the shape I created would work well as long wristwarmers. This was my design for the stone carving:

My Tulip design

and this was the completed carving in situ:

Mackintosh stone

I realised it would be impossible to recreate the various layers in the carving in knitting, but I could still use different stitches patterns to create a textural effect and delineate the shapes.

I wanted the tulip bud shape to sit on the knuckles towards the thumb, and realised that the design would not stretch around to the palm and underarm, and decided to extend the design so the sinuous asymmetric shapes wrapped all the way around the wristwarmers. I did a basic outline drawing of the design, scanned it, and made it a layer under a grid I created to the size I required in Adobe Illustrator. I coloured in the grid, using the drawing as a guide, to help me see the different shapes clearly, and how they worked reduced down to grid squares, and to help differentiate the stitch patterns. I then worked from the coloured grid to create the knitting charts in Microsoft Excel using a knitting symbol font, as I test knitted sections of the wristwarmers. It took a good few test swatches to get the tulip bud section to work, and the rest of the wristwarmers developed from there; I also wrote out the pattern instructions as I knitted. I finally had one wristwarmer completed, and as it was getting close to the competition deadline, I took photos of it (thanks to my model Amanda):

Tulips for Margaret wristwarmers

Tulips for Margaret wristwarmers

I had to create separate charts for the left and right hand, as they were mirror images of each other. I managed to flip the charts over in Photoshop, but some of the knitting symbols had to be changed to make the pattern work, which was a bit fiddly. Knitting the left wristwarmer gave me the opportunity to test knit the pattern, but also meant I noticed any mistakes in the charts, and had to tweak the charts as I went along. This was a pain, but I wanted other people to be able to recreate the knitting as I had intended, so it was essential to get it right. It all got very stressful when I found a major discrepancy in the final chart on the day before the deadline; and I decided to cut the top off the right hand I had already knitted and photographed, so I could reknit it.  I then knitted both sides in tandem to ensure the pattern and resulting garment matched.

Tulips for Margaret wristwarmers

I got them all finished in time, with a big sigh of relief. I’ve attempted to write patterns before, but due to my brain fogging moments of M.E. they have not been completed. Actually getting to the end of a pattern design feels like a major achievement. It also gives me a greater appreciation of the level of skills, focus, determination, and time it takes to write a knitting pattern.

The yarn I chose was Crannog from local dyer Natalie – The Yarn Yard, I had used this for a shawl before, and knew it would be very soft and stretchy and ideal for this pattern. She had created a beautiful colourway called Adore, which reminded me of the hand made stained glass I had seen in Mackintosh’s Hill House. I called the design Tulips for Margaret, as if the wristwarmers were to be worn by Mackintosh’s wife and fellow designer, Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh. The Tulips for Margaret  pattern is now for sale via Ravelry.

I visited Glasgow School of Yarn on the first day, and was delighted to see my wristwarmers displayed on a Mackintosh style chair and in the surroundings of the Mackintosh church:

Glasgow School of Yarn competition entries - Tulips for Margaret

Along with the other entries in the competition:

Glasgow School of Yarn competition entries

It was exciting, but a little daunting. My favorite was the black handbag with the stained glass effect rose design.

I was pleased to find a knitting friend from Edinburgh had arrived, so I had good company to stroll around the marketplace and ooh and aah over the fabulous hand dyed yarns from local independent dyers:

Abstract Cat Crafts (

Colorimetry (

Old Maiden Aunt (

Ripples Crafts (

Skein Queen (

The Yarn Yard (

I needed a rest after the retail therapy, and it was lovely to sit in the pews of the church with a cuppa and some homemade cake, taking in the Mackintosh features:

Mackintosh window

Mackintosh door light

In the afternoon, I had a workshop with Amy Singer, editor of the online knitting magazine –, about getting patterns published in her magazine. It was full of useful tips and common-sense, and we also had the opportunity for Amy to peruse and critique our knitting designs. She was very gentle and encouraging, and I came away feeling positive about successfully completing  the knitting designs I had on the back burner, and submitting some to her magazine.

Two more friends had arrived in the afternoon, and some of them stayed on for the evening party when they were announcing the competition winners. They moved the competition entries to the main stage of the church:

Glasgow School of Yarn competition announcement of winners

This is the prizes table along with some of the entries, mine there too – exciting!

Glasgow School of Yarn competition prizes

However, so near and so far, my design was specially commended, along with a sock design, and I was delighted with that, but no prizes for me.

3rd prize was a “The Mack” a felted knitting needle case with a striking graphic Mackintosh design on the back by JustKnit Designs. Here is the prize presented by Antje from The Yarn Cake:

Glasgow School of Yarn competition 3rd prizewinner

It was very dark and I did not get photos of the other winners.

2nd prize was the Glasgow Rose shawl by Lucy.

and 1st prize was two entries by the same designer, the Beloved Rose beret and matching felted Beloved Rose bag by Amanda.

It was a really fun day, and thanks to The Yarn Cake for putting on a stimulating competition and inspiring workshops, and giving us the opportunity to get together in praise of yarn.

Here are some more pictures of the event on Spritlyknitter’s blog, and Amanda’s blog.



  1. Wow, that’s beautiful! I have just finished charting a cable for a design and boy it was a lot of hard work! Yours looks even more complicated! I’m glad you were commended for the gloves. I look forward to seeing the pattern.

  2. Thanks. Glad you liked the gloves. Yes it was hard work, but I learned a lot from doing it, and I’ve just found out I have won a prize! I’ve won some lovely hand dyed yarn from Colorimetry in their prize draw.

  3. Oh wow, I am even more intrigued by your design now that I know the story behind it! You really did capture that pattern well in stitches. I will be watching for its release.

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