radiant star cowl

Hello everyone, today I thought I’d go a bit into my new design that’s featured (on the cover no less) in the 2020 Wool Week Annual, the Radiant Star Cowl:

Now we all know I am a knitwear collector – I mean you could call it a hoarder but no judgment here.. and one of my favourite types of shetland knitwear is something you don’t see many of in a charity shop, mainly because they are working jumpers but that’s a good, old everyday allover gansey.

of course, I also collect photos of shetland knitwear!

These are those jumpers – quite often machine-made, also often two colours but also the perfect vessel for shading that I grew up seeing (mainly) men wearing in the way that people nowadays wear hoodies and sweatshirts, they can be quite subtle or striking but the way an allover pattern fits together will never not please my eyeballs.

an allover from my collection
a selection of jumpers in the whalsay exhibition from a few years ago (whalsay knitters are pretty top tier when it comes to this style of jumpers)

Now I love these types of patterns and love the ganseys but at the moment I just wouldn’t knit one, I have quite a few in my collection and also don’t have the mental space/patience either. But when I was thinking about this design (pre coronavirus..!) I knew I wanted to combine my love for these everyday jumpers and use bright colours on a dark background which is my favourite vibe for this style into a design which gave space for the motif and colours to shine and a cowl was what I came up with:

I used 2ply Jumper Weight (shock horror.. not) in shades 81 (charcoal) for the background, 91 and 66 (yellows), 125 (orange), 71 and 75 (blues) in a shaded pattern onto my own allover motif, it took me a while to put this motif together and it takes a lot of fiddling to balance this kind of motif well within itself and then as an allover pattern. Quite often I do a swatch, take a photo of it then repeat it on an app to ensure I dig it. I wanted to do a double cowl for maximum warmth so you provisionally start it, knit so many repeats then switch to a peerier needle for the inside then graft the beginning and end together giving you a seamless funnel tube!

the radiant star fishing boat

This is the second design I’ve named after a Shetland fishing boat (the first being my Adenia yoke) what can I say – something about the star motifs and the overall fisherman vibe of the design it just seemed to fit – also I find the colours quite.. radiant.

It’s easy to romanticise Shetland, Shetland knitting and in turn Shetlanders but to me, these types of patterns represent and remind me of hard-working people and the love language of making jumpers for husbands and boyfriends. Life here is different now, I’m not saying for better or worse but the way that knitting is now a very expensive hobby (elitist even at times) is not the way it was, it’s one of our core industries along with crofting and fishing. You see a lot of people using Shetland and its people and knitting culture, I’m really trying to not let it annoy me but it can be hard. I’ll end by saying be careful to not take things at face value and if it matters to you try to support the right people doing the right things.

If it’s hard to tell.. they probably aren’t. (just saying) 

happy knitting xx

14 thoughts on “radiant star cowl

  1. The star motif is special. I am knitting a pair of Selbu mittens with that star. Nice work. glad you are keeping tthe fishing fleet in mind :)

  2. I love this Ella. I’ll buy the annual for this pattern, even though I’m on an ‘anti-stuff’ vibe right now. I can’t allow myself to think about where I’d like to be, or what I’d like to be doing. I can only get up every day and do the same things all over again. I miss everything I used to do. Take care. xx

  3. I do love Shetland designs with a dark background and am pleased that I have all the colors mentioned in my stash. My copy of the 2020 Shetland Wool Week magazine should be on its way soon from Shetland.

  4. 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Purchased! Can’t wait to knit your cowl.

    I understand why you wouldn’t publicly name those using Shetland to push their agenda, but if you don’t mind privately sharing I would like to be better informed. Goodness knows what evils I unknowingly support. Apologies for my ignorance as I am not exposed to much of Shetland culture outside your work. Feel free to ignore this request for more info…

    I mainly wanted to pop into your inbox to say I always read your newsletters and enjoy your approach in communications. Should we both make it out of this pandemic alive, it would be a pleasure to meet you one day. Until then, I hope you’ll come back to your YouTube channel!

    Much love,

    Taylor Owen @tayloreowen

    Sent from my iPhone


  5. Hi Ella, I really like the colors you chose for your cowl. They remind me of the all over pattern of a sweater you have in your collection that if I remember correctly was one your Gramma made? It had a black background which made the brightly colored flowers almost glow. I always thought someday I would like to make something like it. It might be time for me to make myself a cowl. At this time I would have the skill and patience for making something small. Looking forward to receiving my copy of the Shetland book and seeing your pattern. Thankyou.

  6. Thank you for giving the story behind the cowl. It is nice to read about the care that goes into the design of pieces.
    Also nice to read your perceptive thoughts on matters.
    Really missing being with you all this year, but enjoying the online snippets.

  7. Nice work and colour choice .I was also shocked at the copied pattern from the museum being used by the fashion industry and made in Eastern Europe! They could have had the decency to make it in Shetland. They have the power of an international company to sell a product which is mis-represented as Shetland and sold for a profit at a higher price than the genuine article. I am permitting myself to say this publically .as I have already complained to the company themselves. Using the people and place to sell the article makes me sick.

    1. That’s interesting – I presume you are talking about Toast? I actually don’t feel that way about it, they used Shetland Wool for one which is unusual when it comes to those kind of companies and at least visited Shetland and did research and made their use and connection a part of the project. There isn’t a company in Shetland that would have been able to make it in the quantities they produced it in. They are ‘semi’ fast fashion, production outside the U.K. is normal and at least it was in Europe, not in China like the majority of the knitwear they produce.

  8. This was my favourite of the preview pattern pictures, not least because it did so strongly remind me of the working jumpers which you still see men wearing around Shetland, and which I love for their flamboyance. It’s not a style that I’m convinced I could carry off on a whole jumper, but it’s perfect for a cowl and something that I’m really looking forward to knitting. Having just bought enough yarn to knit a big fair isle jumper and had it push what I could afford the elitist comment is interesting. I think the price of wool from Jamieson’s, and Jamieson and Smiths is fair – it’s certainly not expensive, but when you need a quantity of it it’s a serious enough purchase.

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