hello everyone, now the Shetland Wool Week 2021 Annual is available and making its way to people I thought I’d do a post about my Roosty Tank Top design.

photographed by Susan Molloy and Modelled by Roseanne (who was in my class at school.. #shetland)

I always struggle with trying to explain my design process, mainly because it’s not as airy-fairy as you would think. I kind of make a decision colour and motif wise, then take it from there.

I was asked firstly to design a garment – usually, I design accessories or yokes, all-over Fair Isle is not my customary design style mainly because of how hard it is to do a pattern in multiple sizes. But I decided after knitting a few tank tops last year that I was willing to give it ago, I also was asked to use these kinds of colours.. ie blues and rusts. I almost always instantly regret agreeing to certain colours because one of my unfortunate personality traits is hating doing what I’m told.. but anyway I persevered.

Luckily because I work at J&S I have access to every colour of jumper weight – this is handy because sometimes in Fair Isle knitting it’s not always necessarily the colours you like that you might need to use. initially, I was going to use navy, here is an early swatch:

first swatch, i felt there just wasn’t enough interest using one background colour

The colours are pretty much the same except I changed the main colour and added an extra background colour behind the peeriest patterns. Yes for these kinds of designs I always swatch – I did a video for J&S at Wool Week about how I swatch which you can see here (as an aside I don’t claim this is the ONLY way you should swatch etc, I do wonder about some of the people who leave comments..) Now I didn’t mind this but.. I wasn’t blown away, so I decided to move away from Navy and more towards tealy blue, and added another background colour:

final swatch using FC41, FC39, FC38, 1281 and 1280.

Which left me with my final swatch, this made me excited and I felt I couldn’t better it. so I dived in. I only had to make one size as the pattern was to be professionally graded – something which is both good and scary as a designer. Good because they are doing the hard work to make a pattern in multiple sizes but scary because you are relinquishing control over some aspects.

I made sure my motifs were centred (something Shetlanders are very picky about) and fully charted out how I was going to knit it once I got to the oxters (armpits). I use Adobe Illustrator to make my charts, its quite manual and can be tough going but it’s how I learnt so I just stick with it.

Motif wise I knew I wanted the top to be quite cropped so I stuck with smaller traditional Shetland motifs, editing them to fit and balance each other, this is just a process thing that takes time and usually, I know when I’ve cracked it.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to do plain rib, corrugated or even what shade to use so I cast on with waste yarn, I then got knitting, I really hate the beginning of a project when it feels you are not getting anywhere – so I always take pictures, just to show my progress even to myself.

This sample was knit in January/February 2021, which seems so long ago now.. hence the dark and gloomy pics, soon I was adding my steeks for the arm and neck holes, once I get to this stage I usually start knitting really fast… wanting to get to the next stage and feeling the end in sight!

Above you can see the steeks and here it is just before being cut open, I also decided to go for plain twisted rib in my main colour FC41 so before I did the arms and neck I did that on the basque:

This point is always scary, you can’t really make any changes once you cut the steeks so basically you hope for the best. You prepare the steeks (i like to crochet either side of the middle stitch) cut it open then work the edgings:

Thats it with just one more armhole to go, you can see my tubular bind off too, this is my favourite way now to finish off edgings, its stretchy and looks really professional.

Then you wash and board it and look at it a lot to decide whether you love it or hate it..! I think it’s just when you look at something so much when you are knitting it by the end you don’t know what to think, and when it’s your pattern there’s only yourself to blame for any issues. but luckily there were none and I did love it, even more so after seeing the professional photos for the annual taken by Susan Molloy:

So, that’s the story of the Roosty Tank top, knit during some of the worst part of 2021 in many ways. I’m proud of it, my first all-over Fair Isle design. You can find the pattern in the Shetland Wool Week 2021 Annual, always an excellent purchase if you are interested in Shetland and Shetland Knitting.

I hope this has been interesting in some way, thanks for all the kind comments as always – I appreciate it so much. Speak soon. x

13 thoughts on “roosty

  1. An enjoyable insight into the design process, thank you! I ordered the annual pretty much as soon as I saw this design when it first went up for preorder. This couldn’t be a more perfect pattern for me. I love the colours (I actually came home from my LYS with most of them before seeing the design! ) and hate knitting sleeves! I’ve been waiting patiently for my copy of the annual to arrive at my LYS and then I’ll be buying the yarn before sending the lot off to Santa as a Christmas gift from my family. I’ll be the one sat knitting in the corner on Christmas Day 😂

  2. Thank you so much! This was a fascinating read!
    Cheers, Joan

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  3. Hi Ella The description of your design process was fascinating, and the result is gorgeous: subtle colour scheme, uncluttered shape, and that terrific cropped look. I’ve now got an insight into a designer’s practice that makes me admire your work all the more. Best wishes Jennifer O’Brien

  4. Bravo! Your design process has resonance with mine: colour choices, getting the motifs centred and aligned and not always doing as the commissioning editor asked (luckily Kirstie is very tolerant) and as luck would have it my stash has the colours but I might need more fc41 and a corrugated rib…V-neck? It will be my Christmas knitting (my present to myself is knitting time for me) Thank you for a beautiful pattern that I am looking forward to knitting xxxx

  5. I think I fell in love with this design as soon as I started seeing pictures in Shetland Wool Weeks instagram and had ordered the wool for it as soon as they sent out the email with pattern yarn notes. Your combination and balance of colours is always so gorgeous and your designs are definitely all the chefs kisses.

  6. Like you I’m not a great user of blues but this is fabulous and added to my t.b.k list. Your background to the process is fascinating and really highlights just how much effort goes into any design so thank you for sharing. My “Annual” arrived yesterday – such rich and interesting reading & brilliant photography. Well done All at SWW.

    1. I love this top so much! I just started knotting and wondering if you have a recommendation on how much positive ease should be allowed?

  7. This is absolutely my favorite design in the Annual – which came to my doorstep in Colorado yesterday! These happen to be my favorite colors, so will cast on as soon as I can and wear with great happiness!

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