Cowl – sampling – colour and looking up North to Shetland.


It’s Wednesday afternoon.  It’s sunny and a time for sitting, reflecting, rebooting and rebuilding. 

I finished the little knitted cowl this week, just in time for the freezing morning weather to have passed.  I made it for a number of reasons:-

1, my face is freezing in the wind when I bike at 6:30am to the gym in all weathers (it was), it has warmed up this week.

2, to see if I could plan a knitted piece that fits my around my chin and face comfortably

3, to incorporate 8 different Fair Isle patterns in one round, using 4 repeated blocks of colour with 4 colours in each block – equalling 16 colours with a couple of extra colours for the softer rounds in between the fair Isle OXO patterns.

4, i was using this piece as a sampler for both colour and to see if I liked the outcome of the pattern to see if I would use it in a vest – to look like a persian carpet.

I have already written a blog on how I started this project, which is here, so I will finish off with how it was knitted, what I found out along the way and the outcome.

I cast on 200 stitches and worked a corrugated rib in Peony and Maroon. Then knitted 3 plain rounds, then 5 rounds of the little blocks pattern edged in 2 rounds of a stone colour, then 3 more rounds of colour before starting the Fair Isle motifs.  The first rounds were simple – even though the division of the amount of the 200 stitches by the amount of stitches to each repeat didn’t always work, therefore, needed adjusting.  

The first 18 rounds utilised the same colours for each round and just flew on the circular needle but when I got to the Fair Isle patterns, the first round was knit easily and as I am using 8 different blocks of colour, I joined the blocks by twisting the colours together at the joins, in an intarsia fashion.  But,  the second round had to be knitted in purl because the yarn tails were at the end of the knitted blocks, and not left at the beginning (this turnaround to purl going back is ok for me as before knitting everything in the round, I knitted in the flat for many years but it is not the Shetland way.)

To also join each Fair Isle block at the change of a new set of colours on the return, I twisted the yarns of each block going back on the purl round with the yarns in the previous block, in an intarsia fashion for each of the blocks to successfully join them together.

I suppose this is a bit of a bodge job.  If I had knitted it in the flat, it might have been neater at the join and easier to knit. But I learned this as I went along. 

Finally, it was finished, after a few nights in front of the tele, making sure my yarns were ready if any changes of colours were needed as it isn’t possible to get the correct colours at night time.  

The motifs were chosen from the below book and I carefully calculated them many times with many alternative X sections to fit within the stitch count.

I don’t normally choose motifs in this unemotional way. I design in a more connected, authentic way, either from a museum piece or photograph, concept or vintage piece but I was just making a sampler so it is ok to pick and choose patterns. I played around with the X part of the Fair Isle patterns a lot and the amount of stitches in each block.

So, I started with 200 stitches, decreased to 198 for the little blocks pattern then decreased again to 192 for the Fair Isle rounds – this is because I was trialling  the Fair Isle patterns on paper and starting the project at the same time. A start of 200 stitches, makes the rib wider than the 192 for the pattern by 8.  It makes the rib roll.

If you want a go at this, start the rib at 192 stitches.  Work 2 x 2 corrugated rib  – the 6 stitches of the block pattern also work with 192 stitches, as does 8 blocs of 24 stitches for the Fair Isle patterns.

In the end, I enjoyed knitting it but don’t really like the outcome of the trial of different colours.  I thought that it would be interesting for a vest but I don’t like it.  Some colours work for me, – the pinks, the brown and ochre and the blues. But not all in those colours either.

I am still sitting here, in this city, on my tiny patch of ground looking out to a wall situated over the road, when once I looked out from a croft house towards the sea. In Shetland, I often used to let my mind wander southwards, down roads, over walls, into the gentle gardens of flowers growing by trees.    But today, my entire thoughts are drifting up North to the islands of Shetland, particularly to the Island of Bressay and to the Gilbert Bain in Lerwick. 

I am thinking of a wonderful woman with blue eyes who is kind and thoughtful and creative and who made me feel welcome. I am sending her all the love from this city world. 

If I were to make a pattern for a vest, using this sampler, it would be called Fiona.

Author: traceydoxeydesigns

Site specific Artist using own created textiles, laser cuts and hand block printed wallpaper to engage with narratives of landscapes, social history and place.

2 thoughts on “Cowl – sampling – colour and looking up North to Shetland.”

  1. Fantastic piece and hoe you did the steps. This is very inspirational, I will print it out and add it to my basket of things to knit.
    Happy Knitting!


    1. Fantastic and thank you for sharing the process. I would love this design in a tank top. Please make it into a pattern. Thanks again xxxxx


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