The instant I saw Kate’s amazing hatTantallon (Rav pattern link) – I knew I had to make it! When I read the  A.D.D. knitter’s post on the subject I am ashamed to admit that I immediately began to badger Kate about when the pattern would be available, when I could begin knitting it, etc., etc.

The thing is, I’ve been in an odd state of mind since handing in my PhD and Tantallon presented itself as the ultimate remedy for my vague malaise: a fast, instantly gratifying, colourful knitting project which would never get boring and which would immediately inject some knitterly brightness into the currently drab days. I perceived Tantallon as the kind of project that distracts one from the stress of moving house, which brings colour when the days are of misty, grey dinge, which takes one’s mind away from the limbo-land of waiting for one’s Viva, and which results in one having a warm head and a lighter heart when completed. I also enjoyed all the playfulness of Kate’s FO shots and intuited that donning a completed Tantallon would induce celebratory shape-throwing, wild, castle-inspired romanticism; the urge to seek out ruins, statues and tapestries in order to properly photograph aforementioned headwear.

my Tantallon hat atop a statue in the civic gardens of Reading

A dour "robed figure" wearing a delightful "happy hat"

Now I have knit colourwork berets before, (see Selbu Massive) and one other colourwork project made in Alice Starmore Yarns and designed by Kate, so I had some prior gauge knowledge for this project which gave me false confidence from the outset. I had actually adjusted the numbers for Kate’s  wwww#1 headband (Ravelry pattern link) after knitting it some months ago, and in order to accommodate my cowgirl’s-lassoo-practice style of stranded knitting, had even gotten as far as knitting an angora headband-lining with an appropriately-adjusted number of sts on it. So – with almost criminal smugness – I picked up what I thought to be an already cast-on and knitted headband lining and commenced to knit Tantallon at demonic speed.

It knit up expediently because the design is easily memorised, and the delights of watching the pattern develop are a great incentive to keep going and to knit just one more round before bed/dinner/etc. I wove in all the ends as I was going along by carrying them along in my left hand and tucking them around the live stitches in my right hand as I went. This was a top-tip from Brenda and I have found it invaluable for colourwork projects like this which require a lot of colour-changes. The colours in my Tantallon differ slightly from Kate’s; my yellow and red are darker more muted shades than the brilliant Whin and Poppy that she has used. I opted for Red Deer in place of Poppy, and some very much treasured hand-dyed, handspun shetland 2-ply which I purchased at UK Knit Camp earlier this year in place of Whin. I also used the slightly paler Storm Petrel blue in place of Selkie. The natural-dyed yarn is a delicate greenish/grey yellow, and it somehow brings an aged quality to my colourwork evoking the natural dyes which were used in the tapestries which one sees in castles, and giving my Tantallon a carpety, medieval-textiles atmosphere which I very much like. This carpety quality is also enhanced by the post-production felting which I was obliged to execute on the knitting, and which I shall shortly tell you about.

hat photographed on location near ruined castle

Near the ruins of Reading Abbey... not quite so grand as the ruins of Tantallon!

Liz once wrote about the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where the Father/Son duo attempt to gain entrance to the Nazi stronghold by pretending to take an interest in the tapestries inside the castle. And castles and tapestries do go together in my mind, so that when Kate posted about the ruins of Tantallon I found myself trying to think of suitably castley places around Reading where I could get my poor long-suffering man to oblige me with some FO castle/tapestry style shots. We decided to try and visit Reading Abbey to pose amidst the ruins in lieu of there being no ruined Reading Castle that I can think of, but the Abbey was sadly locked.

We also got distracted by the creative possibilities for FO shots en route to Reading Abbey. These included a lamp-post which I could not resist hanging from like a fool in a musical; a balcony upon which I felt a mysterious urge to lean upon, gazing wistfully off to the mid-distance; some stairs which suggested descent into some dark castle-cellars to me; and a statue amidst the civic gardens which looked rather cold and wet and in need of knitterly cheering.

posing on balcony in knitted hat

looking across wistfully to the gated carparks of civic Reading

posing on the descent of some stairs in newly knitted hat

down the stairs in my new hat...

Apologies for the eleventy-billion photos, but I really wanted to convey the fun spirit in which we set out into town this morning to play with my new hat, because I feel that Tantallon does – as hoped – put one in delightfully playful spirits. And it does fill me with the urge to view some tapestries, or climb some ruins.


pattern: Tantallon by Kate Davies
needles: 3.25mm
yarns: Alice Starmore 2-ply
ravelled: here


extremely fun
beautiful colours
good antidote to miserable weather
wondrous distraction from house-moving stress
hypnotic and expedient knit
a poem of colours to play with


my initial version – in spite of having apparently correct gauge of 7 sts, 7 rows per inch, and in spite of my beginning with fewer stitches than the pattern called for (110) and increasing to 180 instead of 200 stitches – could have fitted A GIANT!

Giant-sized hat!

I have no real explanation as to why this happened. I think the fact that I didn’t use a smaller needle size for the band can’t have helped, (my bad…) my very short hair means there isn’t much stuffing upon my head for a giant slouchy beret.  However, no matter, because a little judicious felting pulled the whole thing into a size and shape that I am DELIGHTED with.

I felted my Tantallon using fairy liquid so as to get maximum slipperiness going on. I massaged the hat in circles to coax the fibres to mesh together. Then I shocked them using hot and cold water in turns. The result is surprisingly light and flexible for felt, and the colourwork has maintained much of its definition.

I am very happy with my Tantallon and would like to thank the incredibly talented Kate for letting me knit it and the lovely  Mark for taking all these FO photos and for being such a good sport about the fact that I have been emotionally unavailable this week, owing to extreme KNITTING PROJECT INFATUATION. If anyone else has had enough of the wet, cold weather, I would urge you to make yourself a Tantallon so that you will be inspired to go and play in the rain, hang off the lamp-posts, bedeck The Art and shake off any vague malaise which circumstances may have induced in your being.

leaning on the balcony in my Tantallon

Romeo Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?

And now back to the moving house business…

6 Responses to Tantallon

  1. Pingback: The Domestic Soundscape » Archive » Brenda’s Mitts

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