Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cromarty Throw

Last Sunday, I  summoned the resolve to finish the final inches of my Celtic Throw.  This has been on the needles since July 2008, before we went to Sweden on holiday.  I had been much taken by Elsebeth Lavold's "Viking Knits", where she translates the interlaced patterns from the borders of Viking picture stones into knitting.  How hard could this be? I thought.  What's more, I had some Viking inspiration in mind, thinking of the cross at Gosforth, and the gravestones in the church at Dearham, in West Cumbria.

The answer turned out to be, more challenging than you would think, even when some of the interlacing is identical to very simple cabling.  But, of course, Alice Starmore's St Enda provided most of the solution.

Then there are the animal heads.  When not just used as a border, the cabling is often the body of a grotesque serpent or dragon.  But even Lavold hesitates to offer a pattern for the animal head on her design, Bryha. 

Then I realised that I had committed myself to knitting two of each panel, as the eye seems to seek rhythm and symmetry.  So then, would the unique central panel look out of place?

The yarn was the least of my concerns.  The cream is knit double from a charity shop cone marked 100% wool.  The duck -egg blue was bought as a batch from Kerrie's yarn mountain at £1.00 a ball.  Probably the whole thing cost no more than £20.00, a fact which will always enhance its value in my eyes.

Both the repeated cable patterns come from Alice Starmore's "Celtic Knitting".    The bodies of the snakes are from her book "Fishermen's Sweaters," where they appear as elements in other designs. 

The cables on the cream panels are from Barbara Walker's "Treasury": a partial cable and a Jacob's ladder.  I included these to give a vertical continuity to the design, and to contrast with the elaboration of the blue panels.

Only the animal heads are my own design.  I just opened out a cable, made it up as I went along and then embroidered on some extra details.  I was rather proud of the conceit of making the second serpent face the other way.  It took me a longish while to figure out how to do this, but I am pleased with the result.  As you may imagine, I had plenty of time to think about each of these design issues as I knit these panels.
Celtic dragons