One of the many things that makes me very happy as a designer is seeing different interpretations of a sweater I’ve created. I often learn a lot from the modifications knitters make to my patterns, and sometimes a simple change of shade can make a design look like a completely different garment. The Puffin sweater is one of my favourite patterns in Colours of Shetland, and it was designed with a very specific palette in mind: the puffin-y palette, which you can see above in Rebecca’s lovely sweater. But many knitters, through subtle or dramatic alterations in the design’s original shades, have created some wonderfully different Puffins. Here, with their permission, are a few examples I’d like to show you.


Here’s Barbara in her Puffin, together with Bramble (who, like Barbara, enjoys visiting Shetland). At a first glance, Barbara’s sweater looks pretty much like my original, but she has actually swapped the garment’s main colour – Jamieson & Smith Jumper Weight shade 77 – for shade 81, which is a much quieter, softer black. I confess that shade 77 can be a real bear to knit with, as well as to photograph, and I love the slightly muted effect that shade 81 has lent to Barbara’s Puffin.

When designing the Puffin sweater, I spent an awful lot of time swatching to create the correct colour sequence for my chevrons, and was interested to hear that Rhiannon and Valerie did the same when making theirs . . .

Rhiannon . .

Valerie (and Hockley, who Bruce would like to meet)

Rhiannon began by swatching a dark-to-light gradient across the yoke, but when that didn’t work out, came up with a chevron sequence of several graded and contrasting monochrome shades, using Jumper Weight shade 27 for the main colour. Valerie is very fond of the undyed, sheepy shades of Jamieson and Smith Shetland Supreme. She settled on Shetland Black (shade 2005) for her main colour, with 7 different shades worked through the yoke. The way these these natural shades effortlessly speak to each other means that the effect is both simple and striking. I think Valerie’s and Rhiannon’s natural Shetland sweaters are absolutely stunning.

Erin has actually knit the puffin Sweater twice: first for her sister, and then for herself. Erin used a combination of Brown Sheep Nature Spun fingering and Knit Picks Palette to make her sweater (both of which have a large colour range) and like Valerie and Rhiannon she swatched several times before settling on this particular sequence for her chevrons. “I tested a few combinations,” says Erin, “mostly involving some orange and gold colors I had in the Nature Spun fingering . . . but everything looked a little too 70s shag carpet.”


After rejecting the 1970s palette, Erin settled on this lovely combination of tan and teal in the yoke, both of which really pop out against the subtle stone shade she used to knit the body.

Deb’s “parrotty puffin” is one of my favourite iterations of this sweater – it is just so striking!


“The yarn was given to me by my sister,” says Deb. “She’d had it since the late 1980s, still in its original bag with the pattern she was planning to make – a typically 80s, oversized and brightly-coloured jumper. I’m not a big fan of fluffy yarns but accepted it because I really liked the highly saturated colours. It then sat in my stash for some time while I tried to work out what to do with it. When the Puffin Sweater was released, I knew straight away that it was the one! While I was working on it, it occurred to me that the colour scheme was very reminiscent of Rainbow Lorikeets – the friendly little parrots that visit the balcony of my flat every day. So, I’m very glad to have kept the birdie theme going.”


As well as the bright lorikeet palette, I really like the way that Deb’s more closely-placed colour changes through the yoke lend the garter-stitch chevrons an incredibly graphic, luminous effect.

Both Kate and Maureen chose a paler palette for their Puffins:



Kate found the chevron yoke to be reminiscent of waves, and chose the graduated blues of the yoke “to evoke the Shetland and Suffolk coastlines,” and to contrast with her favourite winter white (Kate has blogged about her sweater here). Maureen, meanwhile, loves to fill her wardrobe with colour, and was keen to knit herself a sweater to match the wonderful kilt she’d recently treated herself to from Scottesque. She devised a pretty pastel palette, which is perfectly complemented by the corrugated rib at the hem and cuffs. Both Maureen and Kate used slightly thinner Shetland yarns when knitting, and their sweaters have a lovely light and feminine feel.

Zaz’s hand-spun puffin sweater is truly a labour of love, and is the garment that prompted me to write this post.
Zaz won a prize in the 2012 Tour de Fleece, and requested this beautiful custom-dyed BFL and silk fibre from Mandacrafts.


The fibre waited for the right project to come along, and when Zaz saw the puffin sweater she felt she had to make it, since the puffin (or Macareux moine) is the symbol of Bretagne where, says Zaz “everything I love is.”

(puffins – macareux moines – perch atop the distinctive granite rocks of the Sept Isles)

Zaz – a beginner spinner – mixed and spun the custom-dyed fibres with natural shades of BFL to give several distinct shades. She wanted to create a light fingering 1-ply yarn with a slightly variegated effect, which to her recalled the granite landscape of the Sept-Isles in Bretagne. “All the yarns are ‘spotted’ because the pink granite is, and the light among the forests in Bretagne is too.” says Zaz, “I did not blend the colours at all, I just put them close together and spun.” Zaz spun with friends in her Ravelry group: “I was encouraged by showing off my progress,” she says, “I did not feel the different steps as being long but just all luminous and exciting.”

This is the yarn that she created. . .


. . . which she then knit up into this beautiful sweater


“Although this is a process project,” says Zaz, “I love it with a passion…I believe the best creations come when there is a basis for things (like a passion for a landscape, its history or a funny story).”


I entirely agree with Zaz, and love the way that she has spun and knitted her own story and distinctive sense of place into her sweater.

But I have to conclude this puffin post with a photograph of Mary’s “puffling”, which she knitted for her grandaughter, Robyn, who loves all things red and Robin coloured.


Mary knitted the puffling from assorted stash yarn, working a basic yoked cardigan, and adapting the puffin chevron yoke to be worked back and forth in a smaller size. Mary’s photograph of her lovely wee girl, in her puffling cardigan, in this gorgeous landscape, just makes my heart sing.

Thankyou, Puffin knitters, for all this inspiration!

52 thoughts on “Puffin Post

  1. I am a HUGE fan of yours, (I stalk you on line, but in a good way…)I just finished knitting your Scatness tam, and I loved knitting it so much I am going to knit 2 more, I knit a cashmere and silk lining, on mine very cush! Keep up the wonderful designs. So your designs are being seen around Ottawa Canada eh!


  2. I love puffins, possibly originally because I was a big reader as a child and wanted books above all, but later for the birds themselves. I love your sweater (though I have not – yet – knit it) and have had it noted for a while, now.
    I also love our cottage in Brittany which looks onto the Sept-Îles of which Zaz speaks and which are home to a rare colony of puffins – I am delighted and amazed to see them mentioned!! :)
    Her interpretation is spot on. If I knew how to put a photo into comments, I would happily include a picture to prove how those colours are true… (let me know if you want one/several! we never tire of looking out over the islands from morning till night in all weathers…)


  3. Such loveliness in all these knitted interpretations.

    Where, oh where, is that little puffling going? I must know so I can walk that path one day!


  4. rainbow lorikeets visit my balcony too – I live near the Dandenong Ranges National Park. Lorikeets are the bully boys of the bird world – tiny, they are so overmuscled that their wings stick out a bit. They march up to the other birds – rosellas, king parrots, and even sometimes sulphur-crested cockatoos – and inform them that they are eating now, thankyouverymuch!


  5. Your Puffin was an insight into the ways of creativity. Although the colors are not in my palette, understanding your use of them along with the wavy design to represent a creature I admire was an eye opener. It made me more patient with patterns/ideas because they might turn out to be something very special indeed. Thank for this post and for so generously sharing your thoughts and delights. Katya in Vermont


  6. Hi Kate, your Puffin post reminded me that I meant to let you see my hand-spun and hand-dyed Scatness tunic, which has hardly been off my back since I finished it late last year!
    it is here:


  7. I love your work, Kate, and these fabulous examples show it off to wonderful effect. I have also really enjoyed seeing insights into different peoples’ stories, one of the very best aspects of blogland, for me, along with the incredible creative inspiration, of course! Jen


  8. I have to say Zaz was my absolute favourite!!
    I’ve just started spinning and suddenly realise how long it takes to spin enough yarn for a jumper!
    And the shiny colours are beautiful!
    Love this post and puffins very much.


  9. Fantastic to see the Puffin sweater in all the different colour combinations – I particularly like Maureen’s. I’ve got the yarn to knit my own and it’s in my ‘to do’ knitting pile. I’ve chosen blue instead of black and slightly brighter colours for the yoke. I hope it turns out as great as the other knitters!


  10. I love these sort of posts – absolutely fascinating to read about how the creative process continues once the pattern’s in the hands of the knitters.

    Oh, and thanks for the link to Scottesque – beautiful and now bookmarked!


  11. What a lovely post. I’ve been looking at the various incarnations of ‘Puffin’ since the book was released and once I’ve finished my current pair of socks I’ll be doing a tension swatch (ok, maybe a bit before I finish the socks!!).


  12. Beautiful sweaters and images. Thanks for bringing them to our attention, and thanks for designing The Puffin that started them all.


  13. Oooo they are all so lovely, I am sorely tempted. Do I spot Duart castle with that wonderful Puffling? Can’t wait to be back on Mull in April!


  14. this has rekindled my desire to knit a puffin for myself. it is my favorite from Colours of Shetland.
    (Scatness Tunic is a close second.)
    this is looking to be a year of sweater knitting for me.


    1. :::it’s snowing here.
      I’m cozy with cuppa
      and your puffin post:::
      time for me to pull your pattern book out
      and my yarn, too!

      Today is the day—x


  15. How pretty all the color combinations are. I’m glad to hear, Kate, that you don’t mind when we change the original colors of your designs. I wonder sometimes if designers might not be insulted if people don’t follow the design to the letter.


  16. It must be so lovely to see your designs come to life in so many different ways. I’ve seen it myself as my sister knit 5 versions of your owl sweater; 1 for each of 3 daughters and 2 for herself (first was felted by the husband and made into a handbag)!


  17. I finished my puffin last spring, days before I was leaving the USA for 2 months in Australia. My daughter said I should take the Puffin since it would be winter there, but I just held it up and said “But what if they loose our luggage?” And they did. But then we came fall back home and here is this horrid and endless winter , and I wear that sweater constantly. The fit is glorious, the colors amazing, and like other who have been to Shetland and seen the puffins flying, it also has meaning. I love the variations here, but for me, the original is the best.


  18. Wow! Such lovely interpretations. Nice hear of the work and thought put into all the versions. Thank you for sharing and congratulations on inspiring them all…


  19. Now that cheered me up this AM……-21C this AM!! I am terrible figuring out colour combinations on my own and these women rocked it! Thanks.


  20. I’ve been checking Ravelry regularly for other variations, it’s a beautiful sweater but the colours – although they are beautiful – are so unlike me. Thank you Kate for sharing this inspiration.


  21. I’m knitting my own puffin sweater at the moment. I’ve chosen to go with Kate’s original colours, but I love seeing what people have done and am already thinking about a cream and brown version.
    Thank you for the inspiration.


  22. What an unexpected (well, okay, rather expected I guess) surprise that the Puffins would be one of the highlights of Colours Of Shetland. I do love the affect of interprations in a flock of Kate Davies Designs knitting fans ! :)


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