A Shetland hap

A person standing behind a stretched Shetland Hap

As I have written in an earlier post, one of my favourite knitting designers is Kate Davies. In her book The book of Haps she has a pattern of a beautiful square Shetland hap, called Moder Dy. When I saw it, I immediately felt that it needed me. After months of knitting and spinning, it is finally finished!

Josefin Waltin standing at the end of a stretched Shetland hap.
Beautiful natural colours on a Shetland hap. I love the variegated Mooskit garter center square. Photo by Dan Waltin.

A hap stretcher to match

Knitting a big shawl like a Shetland hap and making it justice requires proper blocking. And the Shetland way fo doing that is with a hap stretcher. These are very hard to come by and difficult to ship since they are quite large. As it turned out, the hap stretcher needed me too. Fortunately, Kate Davies has an excellent hap stretcher tutorial on her blog.

So, this fall I put on my best carpenter’s suit and started drilling.

Lots of holes.

176 holes.

Eventually I was done drilling, did a little sanding and varnishing and became the proud mother of a brand new hap stretcher.

A person drilling holes on a piece of timber.
Drilling away on my hap stretcher. Photo by Dan Waltin

Shetland all the way

Since the Moder Dy is a typical Shetland hap, I wanted to use Shetland wool for the yarn. After getting tired of spinning up my earlier Shetland fleeces as 2-ply fingering weight yarn, I had spun a few skeins as 3-ply sport weight yarn. I had white, Shaela (light gray), Yuglet and Eskit (dark grays), all from the treasure room for hand spinners at Jamieson & Smith Shetland woolbrokers. I have combed the fiber and spun with short draw to define the lace pattern. I planned this quality for the lace edge and shell border.

A skein of white yarn
Shetland white, hand combed and spun with short draw and 3-plied. Strong and defined for lace knitting.

For the garter middle I used a Mooskit (light fawn) fleece that I carded and spun with long draw to make it soft and warm. One of the wonderful benefits of handspinning is that I can customize the yarn for my knitting needs.

A ball of light fawn yarn
A ball of Shetland Mooskit yarn. Hand carded and spun with long draw and 3-plied. Soft and fuzzy for a warm garter center square.

Using what I have

I spun some more 3-ply and started knitting the lace edge in light gray. When I had finished half of the lace edging, I realized that I didn’t have enough light gray yarn. I also didn’t have any more light gray fluff. So I simply changed to a dark gray Shetland yarn. I mean, I can’t be the first one to have run out of fluff  and I’m sure there are other creative solutions for this problem that have resulted in stunning designs. I read once that having limitations actually forces you to be more creative since you need to find a solution within certain boundaries.

Josefin Waltin standing by a stretched Shetland hap.
It’s a really big hap. Here you can see the two different colours of the lace edging. Can you see the trees through the garter stitch middle?  Photo by Dan Waltin.

Spinning as I run out of yarn

This Shetland hap is really huge and It ‘s amazing how much yarn is required. I have spun up more as I have run out of yarn. Since the rows of the shell border are about 500 stitches long in the beginning, one 50 g skein may last only for about 5 rows. Every time I have thought I didn’t need any more yarn, I have realized I was wrong. Way wrong.

Big and heavy knitting

Knitting this hap has been an adventure and it’s wonderful to be in the best seat to see the development. Naturally, the project has grown bigger and bigger and when I knit the last part (the garter middle) I was totally covered under a heavy hap monster.

Total weight: 1055 g

Total meterage: 1909 m

Close-up of a hand knit shawl.
Close-up of the garter stitch center and the auld shell border.  Photo by Dan Waltin.

The pattern called for a sport weight yarn, but the my yarn is for the most part a bit thicker than that. Which also meant that the hap stretcher was a bit too small – had it been bigger I would have been able to stretch the fabric and define the pattern even more in the blocking.

Close-up of a lace shawl
Close-up of the lace edging.  Photo by Dan Waltin.

As always, I have learned a lot from this project. All in all, I’m hap happy!

Oh, Kate

One of my all-time favourite knitting designers is Kate Davies. She is from Scotland and many of her designs are influenced by the landscape and history of Scotland and Shetland. She has written several books, where she often combines and integrates stories of the area, history, tradition and beautiful photography with the patterns. Like the Moder Dy hap, where she tells the story of how these giant shawls were constructed and why, the origin and purpose of the different parts of the shawl and how she has adapted it to modern techniques and yarns. You can read more about the Moder Dy pattern in Kate’s blog. This hap is on my waiting list. I just have to spin a little more yarn before I can begin.

In the textile department of my book shelf I have three of her books, Colours of Shetland, The book of haps and Inspired by Islay, and I can recommend them all.

I don’t know what it is about her patterns that is so appealing. Perhaps it it the foundation in traditional techniques that she has adapted to a contemporary context. One example is the Paper dolls sweater pattern, a traditional sweater with a Fair Isle construction but with a more contemporary motif. I knit it a couple of years ago for my daughter. She complained that she always got hand-me-downs. But this one was only for her. Knit in my handspun, of course. Another such example is the Oa sweater. Also a Fair isle pattern, but knit as a modern hoody. It is also on my list and also in need of yarn being spun.

Connecting a pattern to a story is also something that gives a design an extra meaning. Like the Stevenson sweater and Stevenson gauntlets that origin from the story of a famous light house engineer. I knit it in my handspun yarn, but obviously I didn’t check the gauge properly and I had to make lots of adjustments to get a good fit.

Josefin Waltin standing by a tree, wearing knitted gauntlets and a short sleeve sweater
Stevenson sweater and Stevenson gauntlets, by Kate Davies. Yarn is my handspun. White and blue is Jämtland wool, fawn is Shetland wool. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Or perhaps it is just because her designs look so darn good and are so ingeniously smart constructed. The Northmavine hoody is one such design. The clever striping that looks just like blue stripes, but actually contains four different shades of blue and turquoise (you find the same stripes in the Northmavine hap as well). The clever hood construction that is so obvious when you think about it. And the super smart edgings  and finishings that don’t have one single seam. That is an ingenious pattern.

Josefin Waltin wearing a knitted hoody, scarf and hat
Northmavine Hoody, by Kate Davies. Yarn from Jamieson & Smith Shetland woolbrokers. Photo by Dan Waltin.

And as you may have seen on several of my videos I wear my Northmavine hoody a lot. I bought the pattern and the yarn in Shetland at Shetland wool week 2015 and I’m longing to go back. Perhaps the hoody takes me a little closer.