Hey everyone, look at my Sheep Heid! Ooh, yes, I’m happy with this one. It’s no surprise really that Kate Davies comes up with the goods yet again with this design- it’s not as if I’m the only one who loves Owls and Manu after all. However, it still deserves to be said that she writes a damn good pattern- not just a pleasing design, but she manages to make the prospect of quite a large chunk of fairisle in 9 (!) shades of yarn not nearly so daunting with her mix of clear, well written instructions alongside touches of her own personality and humour.
The nine ‘sheepy’ shades of Jamieson & Smith yarn used were definitely part of the joy of this project. It seemed so right to be using the yarn that’s produced in the same place that the knitting style sprang from and developed. Everything from the names of the colours- gaulmogot, katmollet, mooskit, shaela, sholmit, moorit, moglet- to the springy, textured feel of the yarn made me feel connected to Shetland and its generations of craftspeople somehow, even though I’ve not been there- yet!
This wasn’t the first time I’d tackled fairisle- witness my Fyne Vest from a few years back. However, this was my first time doing it in the round- arguably the way you’re ‘meant’ to do fairisle. I did find that knitting stranded colourwork in this way felt a lot easier. For a start you can see what you’re doing all the time, rather than having the back of the work facing you on wrong side rows. It’s also easier to keep tension even- the challenge in all such colourwork projects. The other factor that improved my tensioning was using the ‘two handed’ method, where you hold one colour in the right hand and ‘throwing’ it when you knit that colour, while holding the other colour in the left hand and ‘picking’ it when you knit that colour. It didn’t feel in any way natural at first, but I found I built up speed quite quickly, and as you can see from this view of the wrong side of the work, it produces a pretty neat result.
I may have successfully got to grips with two-handed colour, but it wasn’t all plain sailing. Work went on while two small children swarmed around me, while I was a passenger in a car negotiating snowy motorways and while I was recovering from a 24 hour bug, amongst other things. However, none of those were necessarily the reason why I seemed to have to go back and frog an inordinate amount of times. Sometimes it was because I started in a wrong but very similar colour- even though I carefully made a reference sheet with scraps of each yarn matched to the colour key beforehand. Sometimes it was down to good old-fashioned miscounting the stitches, other times, who knows? On all but one occasion I went back and sorted it – the ‘stickiness’ of Shetland yarn and the use of nine different colours of yarn loses its appeal somewhat when attempting this- but when I finished the band of ewes for (I think) the third time and realised that one sheep had only half a face (see pic above, it’s the one in the middle) I decided to just leave it. I could have Swiss-darned it afterwards but in the end I’ve decided it’s my own unique little stamp on it, so it stays.
There’s a lot to love about this hat design, but one of my favourite things is the colour gradations at the crown. They really show off the beautiful colours of the yarn and the beautiful rhythm of the pattern, as this shot (right) shows.
With all the colour changes and a slight problem I had keeping the beginning of rounds even, this was a project where washing and blocking performed a particular magic. Kate Davies recommends soaking the finished tam in warm soapy water for 20 minutes before shaping, to allow the fibres to plump up and even out. It made a big difference- it was on my head more or less as soon as it dried and has been helping keep me cosy on every cold day since. Those shetland sheep know a thing or two about keeping warm!