Each installment of the shawl club will have a different designer. Today I’ve passed the blog over to Catherine Holmes who is the designer for March.
Sources of creative inspiration always fascinate me. Whether it be a special place that is brought to life through the words of an author, a moment or a season that inspires the colours created by a yarn dyer, or to take the example of Karie Westermann’s recent collection, A Thing of Paper, a fascination with the history of book-making leading to a superb set of knitting patterns and essays, the starting points are wonderfully varied and personal. My own starting points for this design were three-fold: a shape, a season and a person I will never meet.
Choosing a shape to work with was an easy decision. I find long crescent shapes one of the easiest to wear- not so deep as to be overwhelming, but long enough to wrap round easily and to either tie the ends together on a breezy day or leave dangling as the mood takes. This shape and the particular method of construction I opted for also takes into account the joys and challenges of working with mini-skeins.
With the greatest respect to my many summer-, autumn- and winter-loving friends, I’ve always been convinced that spring is the best time of year. It’s the hopefulness of it all that delights me. The spring flowers daring to peep up through the ground (and sometimes regretting it when the weather turns again); the growing light and the dawn chorus that occasionally persuades this bird-watcher out of bed unusually early. I don’t even mind the erratic progression of our spring weather- the days of blustery winds and showers that inevitably follow the first coat-free days. But if the unpredictability bothers you then this shawl has been designed with you in mind. Light lace panels give permission for the sun to shine, while protective swathes of stockinette will ward off the famous March winds. And with colour to welcome the changing season!
Much of my knitting and designing over the past year has been inspired by the idea of knitting my family tree. Specifically, using wool and words to tell the stories of the women of my family. Entitled Formidable Women, the idea grew out of researching my suffragette ancestors (and subsequently giving my first radio interview and talk for the Women’s Institute) and deciding to work on a suffragette colours design. But the more I discovered the more I understood that every person has a story worth telling. Whether it be the story of militant political action, a child refugee fleeing religious persecution, a hard-working Victorian laundress, or an apprentice milliner at the time when hat-making threatened the very survival of a number of bird species- each story speaks about the social history and issues of the time.
This particular design was inspired by my great-great-grandmother Frances. Born over two centuries ago in a small village set upon a hill in North Yorkshire, as far as I know she lived out her whole life in the same place. Census records show her as the wife of a shoe-maker and the mother of one child, and that’s about all I know about her. When I came to live in Yorkshire as an adult after a long period of travelling and living overseas I was delighted to find myself in a place full of family landmarks and memories. I spent time visiting many of those landmarks, including Frances’ village. And I fell in love with the place. Not just for its lonely hill in a flat landscape and the daffodils that cloak it in spring, or the wonderfully local food served at the pub. But mostly for the roots and sense of belonging to a place that I particularly needed at that time. I’ve heard it said that roots and wings are two of the most valuable things we can give children. Frances and her village helped grow my roots, and this shawl is for her.
If you’d like to sign up for the shawl, sock or self striping clubs for March you’ll find all of the details here.