Fair Flooer sock pattern

I have just published a new sock pattern – Fair Flooer

Fair Flooer sock


The pattern is designed especially to be knitted using Ginger’s Hand Dyed Sheepish Sock yarn, which Jess handdyes and sells in her lovely wee shop, Ginger Twist Studio in Edinburgh. She chooses great names for her colourways, this one is My Little Pony, there is a red one called Girl on Fire, and a deep rich purple variegated one called Father of Funk.


I specifically chose this colourway because, like my sock design, it makes me think of spring flowers. It is great to knit with and is really soft; I think it has the perfect amount of variegation in the yarn, it creates soft striations across the sock, without looking too busy or bitty, so you can see the lace flower pattern clearly; it didn’t give me any problems with colour pooling either.


My design started with me thinking up a sock pattern for my first and only (so far) skein of yarn I spun on a drop spindle. The lace design evolved from playing around with the arrowhead lace stitch pattern; I saw simple flowers could be made by slightly adjusting the existing stitch pattern, and I liked and retained the linear effect of the arrowhead lace.


This was the first iteration of the design in my handspun yarn:

Fair Flooer prototype


Quite honestly, the design is better than the yarn, which was unflattering to the design, as it was quite uneven and veered wildly from 4 ply to DK weight, it knitted up quite tight and because it had a high silk and bamboo content, after a few washes the sole became quite cardboardy!


The new iteration on the pattern in Ginger’s lovely yarn is a huge improvement. I created a twisted rib cuff, which reflected the placing of the lace flowers.


Fair Flooer sock


And the twisted rib in the lace flower pattern extends into the heel flap, a feature which was suggested to me by my friend, Cathy Scott from Stitchmastery, (the program I create my charts on). The socks are knitted top down, and there are both written and charted instructions.


Fair Flooer Heel


This pattern has interchangeable leg/foot width, leg length and foot length.
Choice of Adult S (M, L)
Foot Circumference: 16.5(19, 21.5) cm / 6.5(7.5, 8.5) ins,

Choice of Leg Length: 1(2, 3) – 15.5(18.5, 21.5) cm /
6(7.25, 8.5) ins

Choice of Foot Length: A (B, C ) – 21(24, 27.5) cm / 8.25+(9.5+, 10.75+) ins – each option can be lengthened.


As I live in Scotland, I gave the pattern a Scots inspired name: Flooer is Scots for flower. The design made me think of the first flowers of Spring, which are so welcoming to see after a long Scottish Winter, so I was keen to take photos of the socks with Spring flowers, particularly snowdrops. However it proved a real struggle to get a combination of sunshine and snowdrops, and make the socks look good, and stop me freezing to death with bare legs in Scotland in the middle of February. This was the first attempt in Kelso after about an hour of searching for non-muddy snowdrops and sunshine:


Fair Flooer 3


The second attempt was more successful and my friend Morven Donald, who works with me at the National Museum of Scotland, and I dived out to the Meadows in Edinburgh to take some photos on a sunny lunchtime. We couldn’t find any in the Meadows, the flowers were all still in bud, so we headed to George Square at the University of Edinburgh Campus, and luckily found some snowdrop clumps in the middle of the square under some trees.

These were the results:


Fair Flooer sock design


Fair Flooer sock


Fair Flooer socks


It must have been quite entertaining for the people having their sandwiches on benches around the square to see us prancing around like mad pixies in the snowdrops:


Ruth in Snowdrops




Learning about Shetland Lace knitting

I was at the Border Union Show this Summer with the Tweed Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, and picked up a leaflet about Shetland Lace knitting workshops.  They were being run by Mavis Clark, who regularly exhibits at the the Border Union Show, with stunning Shetland Lace shawls on display. My friend Ruby and I decided to go along to a November workshop, held in Wooler, Northumberland.

Ruby and I are quite experienced lace knitters, but felt we could learn more about Shetland Lace. We were given a circular knitting needle and a ball of cobweb 1 ply Shetland wool, which were included in the extremely reasonable price of the workshop. Mavis started knitting Shetland lace about 20 years ago, as it was suggested to her to try it by someone at the Royal Edinburgh Repository, a place where women can earn money through selling their handicrafts. Mavis also visited the Shetland Museum at Lerwick, and has been fascinated by Shetland Lace ever since. I didn’t realise Shetland Lace patterns use different abbreviations for the stitches, e.g.

c (cast up) = yf – yarn forward, this becomes a yarn over as you knit the next stitch

s2kp = Sl2, k1, p2sso – slip 2, knit 1, pass two slip stitches over

T (take in) = k2tog – knit two together

PT = p2tog – purl two together

T3 = k3tog – knit three together

It was a bit tricky to start, but I soon got used to it.

She started us off knitting an edging, we then cast off and picked up stitches down the side, which looked like this:

Picked up stitches from lace edging

It is the finest weight of wool I’ve ever knitted with, but my experience with lace weight stood me in good stead. I then tried out Roundel Stitch (similar to Cat’s Paw Stitch), and then had a go at a more complicated stitch, Madeira Stitch, which had lace stitches on every row, as opposed to just on the right side rows. This is the result:

My lace sample

Close up - My lace sample

Indian Diamonds

I have just published a new lace shawl design – Gujarati Diamond shawl:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

It was designed in collaboration with Lindsay Roberts – The Border Tart (not a real Border Tart, we both live in the Scottish Borders, where the tart originates). Lindsay developed her range of natural hand-dyed indigo yarns, Blue Moon, after participating in a textile residency/exchange in India. The shawl was designed specifically for Lindsay’s indigo dyed lace weight yarn, and it seemed only right that the design should be inspired by India.

These are Lindsay’s Blue Moon yarns:

Blue Moon Sock Yarn

The different shades of blue are created as the indigo becomes weaker during the dying process. Unlike acid dyes where the yarn sucks all the dye out of the water; indigo slowly fades, so the strongest, deepest blues emerge first, and subsequent dye batches gradually end up pale blue. Indigo has to be oxidised to bring out the blue, a process I explained in my blog post – Natural Dye workshop.

A semi-solid colour is achieved by immersing the yarn in the dye and not stirring, so the dye is  absorbed unevenly, which creates a lovely soft ripple effect when knitted:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

These are her lace weight yarns:

Blue Moon Lace Yarn    Blue Moon Lace Yarn

She uses dip-dyeing and tie-dyeing techniques on her 4ply sock yarns to create different kinds of variegated effects:

Blue Moon Sock Yarn   Blue Moon Sock YarnBlue Moon Sock Yarn

Lindsay also dyes heavier weights of yarns with indigo. The most time-consuming part of the process is rinsing, it takes many rinses to get all that loose blue out.

Lindsay showed me the beautiful textiles she brought back from India, some stunning embroidery:

Indian Textiles

Indian Textiles

This is a purse:

Indian Textiles

The free-form shapes and the added buttons are fun on this one, a bodice of a child’s dress:

Indian Textiles

I love how unplanned the designs are – the embroiderer clearly ran out of space at the end of the central panel and had to squish down the size of the squares to fit the space:

Indian Textiles 3

This is a block print sampler piece:

Indian Textiles

Here is some exquisite finely tie-dyed fabric:

Indian Textiles

I love the run-off at the end, which almost looks like bobbing shore lights reflected in water.

Here come the diamonds – a woven geometric design:

Indian Textiles

This was a piece given to Lindsay as a leaving present, and is a good example of typical motifs used in Kutch, Gujarat:

Indian Textiles

These are also Kutch motifs:

Indian Textiles

You can tell which motifs inspired my shawl design:

Gujarati Diamond textiles

Even the triangles from the textile border appear on my edging:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

Lindsay and I had a fun time on the photoshoot for the shawl; I chose to go the Monteath Mausoleum, in the Borders, as it has quite an Indian feel to it:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

As it turns out, it is deliberately Indian style, as General Sir Thomas Monteath, who lies here, was an army officer in the Bengal Infantry.

It was quite an endeavor getting up the hill in a long white dress, and lovely to see the stone lions when we got there. Awake lion:

Awake lion

Sleeping lion:

Sleeping lion

We particularly liked sleepy lion, so we had to include him in the photos:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

There is a spectacular view over the Borders countryside:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

The shawl is a shallow semi-circle, correctly a semi-oval, nearly a crescent, and it’s very wide:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

Perfect to cover your head:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

Or for elegantly draping around your neck to dress up a pair of jeans:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

Or for talking to lions:

Gujarati Diamond shawl

Knitting in Wartime

Well, I’ve had another break from blogging. I’m OK; but overdoing it, stress at work and not sticking to my strict diet resulted in a bit of an energy drop. Fear not though, I’m nearly back to fighting fit, and haven’t been languishing on the sofa too long; in fact there is a new knitting pattern on the way, but more of that later.

I really wanted to tell you about The Kitchener Stitch: Knitting in Wartime event I attended at the end of March; this was organised by the excellent Knitting in the Round project people in Glasgow.

I was pleased to find my friend Catriona in the audience, who also attended the Sanquhar Workshop last year, and also vintage designer, Susan Crawford, and Glasgow based designer, Karie Westermann.


Jane Tynan (Central St Martins) kicked off the proceedings in her talk ‘Comforting Body and Soul: Knitting in First World War Britain’. She felt there was an unorthodox anti-mass production feel to the unsolicited knitting for the troops, from about 1941. This may have been a response to a perceived lack of uniform supplies. The government benevolently “allowed” this spontaneous knitting to continue until colours and styles of the knitting were undermining the uniform, and it was felt the knitting needed to be controlled. Standard patterns and wools were then produced to contain this “subversive” knitting.


Wendy Turner, (an ex-museum colleague of mine, and a knitter herself) told us about the vast collection of unsorted knitting patterns she discovered when she started working at the Glasgow Women’s Library. These can be viewed by visiting the library. She brought a selection of the wartime patterns to show us:

Service Necessities

Service Woolies


Joyce Meader (‘The Historic Knit’): practically showed us ‘Knitted Comforts from Crimea to the Modern Day’. She knits for battle re-enactors, film and TV; and a procession of long johns, balaclavas, WAF knickers, combinations, and even medical dressings were passed through the audience:


These socks were made for the American Civil War, so the soldiers walked on their opponents’ flag:

American socks

This hat is from the medieval period and is knitted and fulled (felted) to be worn under a helmet. The bobble bit at the top provides more of a buffer between the head and the helmet, and has a useful loop for hanging it up.

Early hat

Joyce is an enthusiast and entertainer, and regaled us with great stories about the items she knitted and their use.

Joyce Meander

She also brought along a vast collection of wartime pattern books and equipment:

Knitting pattern display

Knitting patterns and equipment

Old knitting books

Boer War knitting advert

Wartime Knitting patterns

I never knew there were music hall style wartime knitting songs!

Knitting songs

This one was popularised by the entertainer, Arthur Askey:

Knitting song

We had plenty of time to look at it all over lunch:

People looking at display


In the afternoon, Maggie Andrews (University of Worcester) talked on ‘”Men went to war and women knitted”: domesticity and crafts on the Home Front in Britain’. She focused on how women’s skills were commandeered for the war effort. The Women’s Institute was founded in 1915, with a focus on crafting; making items to sell, which brought needed money into rural areas. Toys were particularly popular, as it was no longer possible to get toys from Germany. There was a sewing pattern for Cuthbert Rabbit, an anti-hero based on a cartoon strip; and many versions of Cuthbert were made and spread all over the country. London exhibitions were held in 1917, selling items made by Women’s Institute members, which raised the value of women’s skills.

In World War II the idea of modernising craft pervaded: make do and mend was touted – no woollen garment was thrown out, clothes were re-fashioned. Knitting also enabled women to care for their family; having to knit was often resented as it was time consuming by the time-poor working classes. There was a class division, as people with money could buy refurbished clothing from department stores rather than having to make it themselves.


Barbara Smith (Knitting and Crochet Guild) highlighted the appeals and campaigns, often figureheaded by upper class women in ‘Useful Work for Anxious Fingers – Knitting & Crochet in the First World War’.

Barbara Smith

The Queen’s Appeal in 1914 was instigated by Lord Kitchener, and requested women of the Empire to supply 300,000 knitted belts and pairs of socks (see original newspaper request at the top of page 8: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ww1-archive/11109716/Daily-Telegraph-September-23-1914.html) Lady French (wife of Sir John French, Commander of the British Home Forces) was asked by the War Office to instigate a similar appeal. In the end they got more knitted items than they needed. Lady Tullibardine enabled the Herring Girls, who followed the fishing fleet along the East coast, to earn money from their knitting during the war.


Aside from being an interesting event I really learned something about the lives of women in wartime and how women’s skills were commandeered or volunteered during the world wars.


Karie Westermann also wrote a blog post about this event.


If you are interested in the knitting songs, singer, Melanie Gall, is performing, long forgotten knitting songs from WWI and II at the Edinburgh Fringe through August – A Stitch in Time: a knitting cabaret.

I will be going along with some of my knitting friends.


Very, very soon, I will be publishing a new shawl pattern, here’s a taster:

Gujarati Diamond detail