You may have caught glimpses of my latest collaboration with Aoibhe Ni on Instagram but I thought you would like to learn more about that beautiful Nuada shawl and how it came to life. I asked Aoibhe if she had some time to write a guest blog post on her design process and she kindly agreed. When I get a chance to work with a designer like Aoibhe I always love hearing what inspires them and the story behind their creation because there is ALWAYS a story. Each handmade garment carries parts of its creator within its carefully constructed stitches. Every time I have asked Aoibhe this question she has always shared a wonderful story that brought a smile to my face so read on and enjoy the tale of Nuada:
If I’ve learnt anything at all during my thirty-odd years on this planet, it’s that tea fixes everything, umbrellas are useless in Ireland, and that love, at first sight, does, indeed, exist.
The fact that the object of my affection in this short tale was a skein of yarn shouldn’t trivialise my belief in true love or the strength of my feelings. Nor should the fact that I met this particularly cheeky little Gotland/Exmoor/Silk blend hottie while sitting in an old-fashioned deckchair in the middle of a field in Buckinghamshire last summer preparing to teach a class at Hillview Fest.
It was a 400m hank of fingering weight yarn, plyed loosely. A little rough around the edges, maybe, but in retrospect, I think that’s what drew me to it. It was different, and I found myself hovering by its side thoroughly preoccupied with my efforts to justify buying all 6 skeins on display. “Baskerville Dark” proclaimed the label, and immediately, I was sold. There was an air of irresistible mystery about that name, and coupled with the tones of silver, ash, soot and coal that seemed to change subtly with every sun-covering cloud overhead, it felt like it belonged in a Victorian horror novella.
Linda, the owner of Kettle Yarn Company spoke with knowledge and joy about sourcing the fibres in this yarn, about getting them spun, about her love and appreciation for the quality and characteristics of native British Gotland fleece, and about her intentions in setting up the Kettle Yarn Company.
It’s not often I get so mesmerised by a yarn, I’ll admit. Often, the pattern inspiration will come first, completely independent of my yarn choice. But in this case, all I knew for sure was that I needed to play with this unique, textured yarn. I’ll even admit, dear reader, I dropped the project I was working on and immediately started balling up one of the two skeins I had procured with the earnest promise of designing something worthy of it.
Once that first skein had been reduced to a hand-wound ball, thanks to two deck chairs and a solid upper-body workout, I returned to my own chair and began experimenting.
Now, this yarn is textured, and speckled and interesting all on its own. It needed no help from me to be impressive, so I decided – contrary to my usual game plan – to let the lace take a back seat.
This, I figured was a good strategy all round, especially since my previous pattern, Selkie, was a complex smorgasbord of laceweight yarn, interlocking spirals and a multitude of techniques. Despite Selkie being a fairly easy thing to design, and having provided a 22 page, photo-filled pattern to guide people along, I had a feeling it still appeared to be complicated at first glance and may have put some people off attempting it. So… with Kettle Yarn Co.’s fingering-weight yarn in my keen hands, and my trusty 5 mm Knitpro Symphonie hook ready to rock, I just started making a repeating, diagonal lace pattern.
Believe it or not, there’s even footage of this.
I just kept going; yarn over, decrease, simple stitch, yarn over, decrease, simple stitch, yarn over, decrease, simple stitch… lather, rinse, repeat, Larry, Curly, Moe… By the close of the weekend, I had a good meter or so complete. That was fast! Some enchanted combination of the lofty fibres, the well-polished wooden hook, and the inspiring environment meant it grew at record speed in my hands.
The pattern, I believe, lets that gorgeous yarn shine and shimmer in all its rustic, old-worldly glory. And Nadia’s photographs serve to enhance it even further.
In a lot of ways, Nadia’s eye for detail, and her blessed position as both a photographer and a fibre artist meant that when she invited my shawls and I to spend a day on the beach with her, it was an offer too good to pass up.
I have been an admirer for Nadia’s developing style for some time, and, as our first collaboration, I think Nuada is a perfect maiden voyage.
We do small beauty so well in Ireland, you see, but it often gets overlooked; overshadowed as it is by our treasure trove of crinkling cliffs and somnolent mountains, waterfalls and glacier lakes, historic drystone walls and prehistoric Neolithic tombs. But in Nadia’s work, I see far more appreciation for the small beauties that surround us completely instead. She has a wonderful instinct for when to stop and pay attention to that tiny, glowing beachstone, that gossamer-lace leaf, or the morning light dancing over a rockpool.
The rustic, raw nature of the yarn, coupled with the simplicity of the design meshed perfectly with Nadia’s style and I knew as soon as we got to the beach and she began snapping that I was in good hands, indeed.
I’m glad to say, I’ve been invited back when I have more shawls to shoot, so you can confidently expect to see more photos of my crochet on her beach very soon.
Thank you so much for sharing this tale with us Aoibhe!
I really hope you enjoyed Aoibhe’s blog post and if you want to hear more from Aoibhe you can check out her designer interview here. You can find her on her on Twitter, Facebook, Ravelry and she has a wonderful Patreon account here that you need to delve into with a cuppa.
I will be back a little later in the week with a look at creative inspiration and why it has been so tricky to find in the new year.
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