It was marvellous to meet so many of you and I had a lovely time admiring all your beautiful knits. It was equally wonderful to be only an hour away from home and to be able to travel back to the comfort of my own bed each night. After years of having to travel to get to all these places, it is great to find yourself closer to all things woolly related.
There were several new designs on the stand at Yarndale, but I want to draw your attention to the next instalment in the "Knits for a Cold Climate" collection. The Asthall cardigan is an elegant cross-front cardigan knitted using Excelana 4ply in Saharan Sand.
I was inspired by the long, graceful lines of the late 1920s and the feminine styling of the early 1930s. It is a relatively straight-forward knit, worked predominantly in stocking stitch but with a fascinating 'Japanese Feather' lace stitch worked across the lowest part of the cardigan and on the cuffs of the three quarter length sleeves. The raglan shaping creates a neat finish to the cardigan reducing bulk and drawing the eye inwards. The asymmetric fronts are fastened using a brooch or decorative pin. The brooch in these images is a modern resin pansy purchased at the V&A a couple of years ago with that Arts and Crafts feel to it I was trying to emulate here.
Like Nancy, Asthall is again modelled by Theo. We styled the cardigan together choosing a simple denim pinafore dress underneath to show that it can be dressed down as well as up! I think Saharan Sand really comes alive when teamed with all shades of blue, but particularly denim blue as in the photos.
Its the perfect cardigan to wear over bias-cut tea dresses for day or evening wear. I can also see Asthall being worn with wide leg 1930s style trousers with a silk blouse peeping out underneath. I have most definitely read too many early 20th century ladies' journals but I have the following running through my head: "For casual walks in the countryside or cosy nights at home - it has to be Asthall!"
So why Asthall? An Oxfordshire manor house built of Cotswold stone, it was the Mitford family home from 1919, when Nancy’s father, David moved the family there after the death of his father. It was a house kept full of society folk, with regular weekend parties being held. Alconleigh from Nancy’s novel, The Pursuit of Love, is largely based on Asthall, although the family moved to Swinbrook House only seven years later in 1926.
Whilst working on "Knits for a Cold Climate" over the last few weeks I have been heavily immersed in all things relating to Nancy Mitford and the Mitford family. So, it came as a bit of a shock when I learned that the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, Deborah Devonshire had died (I urge you to click on the link to see the extraordinary hand knitted cardigan she is wearing in the photo.) The Dowager Duchess was the last surviving Mitford sister and was quite the character. She was one of the last Great English Eccentrics: famous for all the things she disliked (magpies, women who want to join men’s clubs, hotel coat-hangers; and drivers who slow down to go over cattle grids) but who suspected that she was a devoted Elvis Presley fan? She had an extraordinary life - I will be writing more about her later as a pattern inspired by her is revealed. But what sad, unexpected news. Debo as Deborah was affectionately known, was born at Asthall in 1920, so it seems particularly fitting that I should be releasing this pattern. I love this photograph of the entire family taken there when Debo looks around 2 years of age. You can see Nancy, the eldest sibling, sitting at the back of the group.
So, for the details -
You can buy the pattern from Ravelry here. The PDF pattern costs £4 (You do not need to be a member of ravelry to make a purchase from the site.)
The pattern is available in a wide range of sizes to fit from 76 to 127 cm (30 to 50 inch) bust and both written and charted instructions are included.
The pattern will also be available from my online shop very soon.
Other Materials Required are:
8 to 15 balls of Excelana 4 ply depending on size required
1 3.25mm circular needle, 100cm long
or 1 pair of straight 3.25mm needles
1 3.25mm circular needle, 40cm long
1 set of 3.25mm double pointed needles
6 large safety pins
You can also see the full range of Excelana 4 ply colours here and here.
So just what exactly is "Knits for a Cold Climate"? The title obviously inspired by probably Nancy Mitford's most famous novel, "Love in a Cold Climate", it is a collection of single patterns all inspired by Nancy, her novels, her life and her family. Here's a glimpse of the work in progress 'cover' image for the collection.
The patterns will be released every week or two, all using either Excelana or Fenella yarns. I am keeping the publishing dates very flexible so that they can fit in with everything else that is going on over the next few months and just want to enjoy the design process without imposing rigid deadlines in an already heavily congested schedule. The patterns will therefore only be available to purchase individually for the time being, and very excitingly, for the first time, the patterns are being designed not just by me, but also by Tess Young and Karie Westermann, for the Susan Crawford Vintage label.
This is a really, really thrilling new step where I get to work with like-minded designers - all of us creating new designs with a very particular design brief and aesthetic. There will be guest posts from both Tess and Karie when they each publish their designs, giving you an insight into the inspirations behind them. It really is quite amazing how many different directions one design brief can take people. I think we've hit on a seam of inspiration that could actually keep us going for years! Do sign up for my newsletter to be kept informed of new releases as they appear. There will be around 10 patterns in all, with a real mix of projects. Look out next week for the release of Clemmie, a stunning Drape knitted in Fenella and designed by Tess Young.
but for now,