When we heard some time ago that Kate Davies was writing a book, we knew we could expect a rare treat. We are, after all, some of her biggest fans. We’ve been reading her blog for years. We’ve loved her talks and classes here (and we’re very much hoping she’ll be back soon). We’ve knitted her designs with gusto. Even so, we weren’t entirely prepared for what she has delivered.
Called Colours of Shetland, it’s simply beautiful. It’s a very handsome book, amply illustrated with stunning photography by Tom Barr and John Moncrieff. It contains ten patterns for lovely garments and accessories, all using Jamieson and Smith 2-ply Jumperweight. (As soon as we heard that the book was coming out, we just ordered all the colours Kate uses in it, so they’re here and oh my! they’re lovely.)
There’s stripes and stranded colourwork here, and there’s clever techniques like top-down construction and steeking, and there’s cunning ruses such as the Stevenson Gauntlets, which are lovely in their own right (they’re in progress in the picture above) but also function as the tension swatch for the Stevenson Sweater. There’s hats and mittens and cardigans, with full colour charts and generous size ranges. You can see the full range over on Ravelry at this link.
The layout of the patterns is perhaps the clearest we’ve ever seen. The stages of the work are laid out under numbered headings (“1: cast on, work turned hem; 2: divide for pockets, and waist shaping to fronts and back” and so on), each introducing clear, unhurried instructions. If only all patterns were set out thus. And for once, the techniques section isn’t a catch-all “how to knit” chapter, but tells you how to work specific techniques such as steeking, corrugated rib and short rows. There’s even a couple of pages on how to make your own buttons from yarn.
So far, it’s a knitting pattern book, with charming patterns and lovely colour. It’s so much more than that. This is a knitting book in the sense that Elizabeth David’s or Claudia Roden’s works are recipe books. Colours of Shetland is a hymn to the Shetland Islands, divided thematically into five sections, each examining a different aspect of the islands. There’s history, there’s geology, there’s archaeology, there’s dialect geography, there’s botany. And there’s puffins.
Kate’s written a book which is deeply suffused with love and respect for a culture that reaches back four thousand years, at the crossroads of Northern European trade and travel. Buy this book, and you may find yourself planning a trip. You could even stay in a lighthouse.
Colours of Shetland is now available to buy from our online shop here.