WARNING: LOADS OF PICTURES! Please blame the talented Mark Stanley for taking too many good ones!
A couple of winters ago I knitted myself a jacket. This jacket was inspired by going to WOOLFEST for the first time, meeting shepherds and sheep, and discovering all the different textures of the different sheep breeds on the Blacker Yarns stall. I made a nuisance of myself to Blacker Yarns as I was there for ages rummaging through the buckets of yarn, selecting all the shades I wanted to try out, and then made such a sad face at the thought of not being able to take the wool away with me immediately that the poor lady handling the sales was obliged to dig everything out of boxes for me. I even ended up with 2 display balls that had been mauled by everyone passing the stall, because I just couldn’t wait to have my mitts on all that sheepy wool. We camped in Buttermere for WOOLFEST and I slept in my tent with the precious balls of Blacker Yarn neatly stacked where I could admire them! I cast on very soon afterwards, and made this.
I used Border Leicester, Coloured Ryeland, Manx Loaghtan, Manx with 50% Mohair, North Ronaldsay, Teeswater, Shetland and Jacob in that design, meaning that there were a total of 7 different sheep breeds represented in it. An old Cumbrian counting word for seven sheep is “Layter” – and so that is what I called my jacket. Almost three years on, and the Layter is still going strong. It has pilled in a couple of places, and stretched a bit in time, but I get a lot of compliments on it wherever I go, and people always love learning about the different fibres that I used in the project!
It is still a great thing for keeping warm if you want to go stomping around an old flour mill, on a miserable grey October day, for instance, or to climb around on old bits of machinery…
…however I blamed my loose gauge for the light pilling, (I learnt in Estonia that knitting to a tighter gauge makes a longer-lasting fabric) felt the billowy sleeves were not quite right, and wished it nipped in more at my *actual waist* rather than a few inches below it. I also wanted to show off more varieties of sheep in the design, and to make the garment even more minimalist in its construction. I still loved the garter stitch, the simple CO and BO, the sneaky grafting which makes it appear seamless, and the way it looks to be made all apiece, as this is how wool was taken off sheep by the skilled shearers I’d watched at WOOLFEST.
I decided to knit another jacket, addressing all my issues with Layter 2009. The gauge is much tighter, the garment is more close-fitting, the sleeves are gently flared to match the flared shape of the body, and there are several more sheep breeds represented! It is quite a bit smarter than Layter 2009 in my opinion, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play aeroplanes in it.
I was determined to write up the pattern, and Kate wisely explained to me that I just needed a deadline. What better deadline for producing a pattern celebrating many different sheep breeds than the 1st WOVEMBER? The pattern *is* written, and is currently being tech-edited by Liz. I am working on a couple of illustrations to show the construction, but very soon the pattern will be available to buy through Ravelry. Additionally, a copy of the pattern + the yarn to make a version are the first prize in the now open WOVEMBER PHOTO COMPETITION!
On Tuesday the Sticks’n'String knitting group in Reading were treated to a very rigorous conversation re: charts, yardage, the best ways to set out information and some of my more, urm “creative” terminology for different bits of the pattern. Liz is a superb tech-editor and between her tidy note-making and clear thinking and Mark’s assistance with Excel spreadsheet formulas, I feel I have overcome the barriers that lay between me and getting this thing done. In fact, I am really enjoying the process of writing up the pattern, and I love my new Layter.
I did use a greater variety of yarns in this latest edition of “Layter”; 9 different breeds in total and 13 different colours. I did think of changing the pattern name to “Covera” which is the Cumbrian counting word for 9 – and in fact that’s what I’ve called my new Layter on Ravelry – but I think everyone knows the pattern now as “Layter” and given how long it’s taken me to get around to writing it up, it seems appropriate. I do wonder if folks will adopt the counting-words system for naming theirs accordingly. I am really up for finding 15 different sheep breeds to knit a version of this, especially so I can do a new one called “Bumfit”. Given the nice new curvy shape, it wouldn’t be totally inappropriate!