Kate here! I’ve just about recovered from all our Xpo north fun, and am now back at my desk, finishing work on our latest book project Bold Beginner Knits – a collection of 6 intriguing, wearable, and simply knit-able designs in our beautiful aran-weight yarn Àrd-Thìr – which I created for my friend, and KDD colleague, Jane Hunter.
Jane joined our team just over a year ago, managing our online inventory, and dispatching orders from the KDD warehouse in Clydebank. Many of you will know that Jane is also a talented artist who possesses a whole gamut of interrelated textile skills. Perhaps inevitably, surrounded by yarn, and working with myself and Mel, Jane caught the knitting bug earlier this year.
Equipped with Pompom’s excellent Knit: How book, Jane quickly whipped up an impressive range of accessories – mitts, cowls and hats – which she followed up just a couple of months ago with a successful attempt at my owls sweater.
Jane now had a great set of basic skills under her knitterly belt, and I felt it might be nice to create a collection just for her that would expand her repertoire of skills with a range of designs that she’d really want to make and wear. So I began thinking about the collection with some ideas for really simple throw-on-able designs like Midstream – a shrug-style cardigan formed from an elaborated rectangle that’s easily knitted by any beginner.
Top-down garments are great beginner patterns, I think: surprisingly straightforward to make and really good at building knitterly confidence about things like sizing, fit, and adaptation.
The ability to try-on-as-you-go is, to my mind, particularly enabling and reassuring. Is the yoke not quite deep enough? Add another couple of rows. Is the garment not quite long enough? Then why not just make it longer.
Downstream is a classic, simple and infinitely adaptable garment. You might, for example, make a colour-block or single-colour version; create a couple of inset pockets; or add buttonholes and buttons to the rib and i-cord edging. I happily admit that, while developing this design, I actually whipped up three different samples of this cardigan, each of which incorporates some of the variants mentioned here. These garments are now on hot rotation in my wardrobe, and are honestly among some of the most wearable knits I’ve ever made (perhaps I’ll show you my, ahem, three Downstreams another time). Jane knit the lovely sample she’s modelling here herself, and did a superb job with her first cardigan!
While Downstream is a really classic, straightforward design, I wanted some of the other patterns in the collection to have an appearance of complexity that belied their actual simplicity.
The undulating motif that weaves its way around the Corryvreckan and Upstream patterns is achieved by knitting stripes and slipping stitches: a simple technique that adds some visually appealing texture, while also breaking up blocks of colour. Initially bamboozled by the freaky look of the pattern, Jane found that she quickly and easily mastered the slipped-stitch technique by knitting the Corryvreckan hat that also doubled as a workable swatch for later attempts at the Upstream pullover.
As you know, I dearly love a yoke, and I have to say I love the Upstream yoke quite inordinately!
I also aimed for strong visual appeal when designing the Skep pattern for Jane. In this modular blanket, an appearance of complexity is simply achieved through repetition – knitting a series of hexagonal motifs in Àrd-Thìr’s interesting combination of muted and jewel-like shades.
Though the size of the finished blanket probably appears daunting to a beginner, each hexagon is a mini-project in itself that can be completed in just a couple of hours. Making each motif is both relaxing and absorbing, and working on the blanket gives a beginner the opportunity to improve their range of knitterly skills through repetition.
In knitting her hexagons, Jane quickly familiarised herself with working from a (very) simple chart, knitting garter stitch in the round, working centred double decreases, small circumference knitting, and seaming with the three-needle bind off.
For the collection’s final, and most difficult design, I wanted to include something might enable a beginner knitter to tackle something that ostensibly seems quite tricky – a triangular lace shawl.
Shawl construction can be notoriously difficult to visualise and many beginner knitters find charts off-putting, so I spent a lot of time thinking about these two issues when creating this design. First, I used a stitch pattern that, with only one “different” row, is really simple both to follow and to memorise.
Next, I devised a method of charting in which everything is clearly spelt out in the layout.
And finally, I included a detailed “special techniques” section in the pattern to help with unfamiliar things, as well as creating a couple of detailed tutorials about triangular shawl construction and how to read a chart. And in this pattern, as well as throughout the collection as a whole, I’ve also linked to useful video tutorials that have been developed by our friends at Arnall-Culliford knitwear (whose youtube channel I heartily recommend if you’ve not already discovered it).
I have really enjoyed developing this collection, putting it together, and seeing Jane’s positive response to the designs. Throughout the process, I have been thinking and talking a lot about the kinds of things that it’s useful for beginner knitters to hear, things that might encourage them to be bold. Our tech editor, Frauke Urban, recently said something that really chimed with me: “make what you’d really like to knit, not what anyone else thinks you should knit for the level you are at.” Perhaps another way of saying that is “imagine you could knit anything you wanted to, find a pattern, and go for it.” This is certainly how I approached my knitting as a beginner and I found that simply really wanting to make something (ostensibly beyond my skill set) gave me additional motivation that meant I picked a wide range of techniques up very rapidly.
All patterns are not created equal, though, and some kinds of pattern writing can seem worryingly opaque and deeply off-putting to beginner knitters. With that in mind, I have carefully aimed throughout this collection to make the instructions as clear as I can for someone who is starting out on their knitting journey (having Jane on hand to test all the patterns has proved very helpful with this!) and Tom has aimed similarly in the book’s visual style and layout, which is very accessible and clean. All the designs in the collection are expertly modelled by the Bold Beginner herself!
If you are interested in a copy of Bold Beginner Knits, our special pre-order offer is only available for a couple more weeks. For just £15.00 you’ll receive immediate complimentary downloads of all the patterns, and a beautiful copy of the book (produced right here in Glasgow by our printers, Bell & Bain) with free shipping to any address worldwide as soon as it is published in August. (After the book is published, shipping will be charged at our usual national and international rates). I hope you enjoy knitting the patterns from Bold Beginner Knits as much as we’ve enjoyed making them! Like everything we do here the project has been a real team effort, with important input from everyone at KDD, plus our two editors, Frauke (tech) and Ivor (copy).
Happy knitting, everyone – and BE BOLD.