As far as knitwear designer crushes are concerned, I can’t help but liken Kate Davies to a high school sweetheart that has remained a good friend. She was a part of my knitting journey when my intense appreciation of knitting first took hold, and her Owlet sweater (made for my daughter) was of my first hand knit sweaters. Over the years I’ve done a few other patterns by her, and consulted her tutorials numerous times when it’s time for met to learn a new knitting technique.
She’s been a prominent designer of hand-knitting patterns for years, and I feel like things went gangbusters with her all over again earlier this year with the release of her Carbeth sweater patterns. These projects are incredibly accessible. This particular design is not unique, but Davies’ cropped version appealed to copious knitters, and #bangoutacarbeth became a legitimate knitting and social media sensation.
Besides being a highly productive knitwear designer, she is apparently a very interesting person. I’ll let you head over to her webpage yourself and read more about her. Obviously an incredibly thoughtful knitter with a thorough knowledge of Scottish knitting traditions, her designs reflect this while imbued with a bit of whimsy and modernity. Interestingly, she suffered a stroke at a very young age – something I hope to learn more about in her recently published book, Handywoman. (Brain injuries are incredibly interesting to me – not only did my husband suffer a stroke at 38, but Oliver Sacks’ An Anthropologist On Mars is one of my favorite books ever). As it turns out, this experience has everything to do with her knitwear designs, something to ruminate on a bit as you take a closer look at her designs.
When we look at Kate Davies’ designs, it’s safe to say that her Owls and Owlet patterns are her most popular. Both of these patterns are written as seamless, bottom-up construction with a circular yoke. An owl shaped cable design adorns the yoke of the sweater. There’s also an Owligan (Owls Cardigan…) and a Wowligan (Wee Owls Cardigan), so that anyone at any age can have an Owls sweater, no matter what your sweater preferences may be.
Davies has brought this same accessibility to her incredibly popular Carbeth pattern. Originally written as a pullover (her pattern is written for a cropped sweater, but she makes it easy for knitters to lengthen it), and she went on to modify it as a cardigan (Carbeth Cardigan) and Carbeth Swan Dance (a tunic with simple lace detail adorning the body and sleeves.
I just finished my own Carbeth sweater (the pullover) and it was a fast and joyful knit. I knit up my own in Brooklyn Tweed’s Quarry, which makes for a very light and warm pullover. I knit the second size, giving me a good 7+ inches of ease and lengthened it a few inches so it hits my high hip. Plus, there is something so comfortable about wearing a seamless sweater. While I appreciate the benefits of both types of construction, I’m so inclined to wear a sweater with no rigid seams touching my body or constricting my movement.
Carbeth is written with the same bottom-up, seamless construction as Owls. Decreases happen at two spots (one each on the front and back) every row throughout the yoke shaping, making for a very simple knit when it comes to keeping track of decreases throughout the yoke shaping. It really is that simple, and it’s a classic, clean silhouette that will warm you throughout the cold weather months.
Basically, I think this is a fantastic first-sweater -project for knitters ready to up the ante. Besides making it in Quarry, think about knitting it up in Fourteen or Rowan’s Brushed Fleece – both will yield a totally weightless sweater. Blue Sky’s Extra is another great option, and will make a Carbeth that has a bit more drape to it. Carbeth is originally written for the doubling of a sport-weight yarn – which gives you endless possibility in playing with fibers and colors. How about mixing Shibui’s Birch with Brooklyn Tweed’s new Peerie? Or knit it up in a combo of Shelter and Loft?
When you take a broad look at Davies’ patterns, you’ll see tons of colorwork. Paper Dolls is an old and classic pattern of hers, with a cheeky paper doll motif repeated throughout the yoke of a pullover. One of the most fun things about this project is taking a look at Ravelry users’ own versions of this, and how they modified the yoke pattern with their own color-work motifs! Given the range of colors available, I’d think first about knitting something like this in Brooklyn Tweed’s Loft or Peerie.
Snawheid and Snawpaws are hat and mitten projects (respectively) with a beautiful snowflake motif throughout. I love this classic design and I think it’d be a beautiful hat for someone very special. I made and loved my own Snawheid years ago, and then I discovered that Cricket can’t help but tear apart pompoms. Once again, Loft and Peerie are perfect choices for these projects. Since they require only two colors, you can also consider Shibui’s Birch, or hand-dyed options like Baah’s La Jolla or Tosh Merino Light.
Her Murmuration scarf is incredibly striking. Stranded color-work creates a motif that looks like a flock of birds. Using fingering weight yarn for that scale of scarf requires quite a commitment, though it’d be well worth it. I have to say, I’m completely inspired by the Ravelry user who incorporated that motif to make a pillow! Think about making this beautiful scarf in something like Peerie, Loft or Birch. Or, download the pattern and take a look at the stitch repeat – and figure out a way to incorporate that beautiful motif into another project with a different weight of wool!
Her patterns for Baffies (a Scottish word for house slippers) are adorable and great quick, little projects. Knit in a DK-weight yarn, you can choose from a simple solid to a fun, color-work version. Brooklyn Tweed’s Arbor or HiKoo’s Kenzie are first that come to mind as good options for this little project.
I’m totally in love with some new patterns from Davies, including Balmaha and St. Catherines. Both probably appeal to me in the same way because they are pictured in a striking blue color. Balmaha is a beautiful pullover that looks effortless to wear, with stranded color-work throughout its round yoke. Davies includes a few purls throughout the color-work motif, perhaps a nod to Swedish Bohus knitting? Use Loft, Peerie, Tosh Merino Light, and Birch as some options for this beautiful sweater.
Meanwhile, St. Catherines is a simple, shrug-style cardigan. It almost looks like a piece of origami. It’s construction, while not completely straightforward, doesn’t require any terribly fancy techniques. Lots of garter stitch means that you can pay what little attention is required to the pattern and construction, and enjoy an otherwise leisurely knit. I’m a little obsessed with this pattern, and it has shot to the top of my selfish-knitting queue. I’m dying to knit it up in a rich color of Loft (like Old World) and make it a little more roomy, so I can wear it over a drapey tee and any darn pant I want. Making it in something like Cozette will be a lovely, wool-free option, and will probably have a bit more drape. Also imagine a lovely, hand-dyed version in some ridiculously gorgeous shade of Tosh Merino Light. So many possibilities… so much loveliness.
Since I think you should peruse all of her designs for yourself, I’m including a link to her library on Ravelry right here. After you take a look, I hope you dig a little deeper and read a little more about her. I did a very superficial review of some of her designs, but there’s a way to more deeply appreciate the individual characteristics of her designs when you learn a little more about her. At the very least, spare 15 minutes to check out her Ted Talk. After doing so, you won’t help but think about how miraculous your own knitting happens to be.