Finished Flying Objects

Although I really like making vintage patterns, sometimes I get the urge to making something a bit more futuristic.  Also, I know not everyone appreciates the joys of vintage knits and when I have to give knitted presents, I worry that brilliantly hideous Edwardian baby clothes are not quite what people imagine for their little darlings.

look how happy he is

So, I spent last week making a space mobile for a friend with this pattern and, because I wanted something with a touch old-fashioned charm, this little jacket too.

I’ve been having a hard time choosing my next archive project…there’s so many to choose from that it’s hard to know what to make first.  While I’m waiting for inspiration to strike, I’m working on a pair of socks.  Yay for socks.

On the needles now...

On the needles now…

The Owl Service Hat

It is impossible to have too many hats.  I won’t leave the house without one.  I have hats for fancy occasions, hats for everyday, hats for messing around in boats, hats for sitting in the garden, hats I wear when I’m grumpy, and hats I wear when I’m happy. Very often, people assume that this means I will wear any kind of hat.  I will not.  I am rather fussy about my hats.  I take my hats very seriously.  The Owl Service Hat was something I’ve been thinking about and planning for quite a while.

Last summer I went to see an exhibition of magical books in the Bodleian and saw many wondercrump things.  A facsimile of the Aleitheometer from His Dark Materials.  The Six Signs of power made for Susan Cooper by her husband.  Some old manuscripts about demonology and spells.  And, tucked into a dark corner, one of the dinner plates that inspired Alan Garner’s The Owl Service.

The Owl Service Plate

The Owl Service Plate

I don’t know if you’ve read the book.  You should.  It’s brilliant and bloody scary.  The book reprises the story of Lleu Llaw Gyfees, Gronw, and Blodeuwedd from the Mabinogion. As well as being full of difficult names, the story is complicated.  Lleu is unable to marry a human wife and so has a magician make him a wife out of flowers.  She is beautiful but, like many beautiful things in legends, not very sensible.  She has an affair with Lleu’s best friend, Gronw.  The two men, jealous and enraged, kill one another and Blodeuwedd is cursed for her infidelity and turned into an owl.  In Alan Garner’s book, the valley is haunted by the legend, a story that is ‘still happening’ in each generation.  The story, like the pattern on the plates that inspired it, is complicated, shifting, hard to pin down.  And even Alison, the character who is possessed by Blodeuwedd has to be reminded which she really is:

‘“You’ve got it back to front, you silly gubbins.  She’s not owls.  She’s flowers.  Flowers.  Flowers, Ali.” He stroked her forehead. “You’re not birds.  You’re flowers.  You’ve never been anything else.  Not owls.  Flowers…”‘ (Alan Garner, The Owl Service, (1967), p.155)

It’s plain that only a great effort of concentration can help distinguish the harmless flowers from the demonic owls.

So when I saw the plate I was mesmerised. The design was so obviously flowers and then at the next moment could never have been anything but flowers….like one of those magic eye puzzles where you can see the old lady or the young lady but not both at the same time.  Because the old lady IS the young lady and the flowers ARE owls.  And I knew I wanted to make it – to make a pattern that was owls and flowers and both at once.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to make with the pattern…it had to be something round for the pattern to work.  Maybe the yoke of a jumper or a semi-circular shawl?  On the end I decided to make something that was the same size as the original dinner plates. Because that’s the sort of logic that appeals to me.

And I wanted to make it out of yarn the same colours as the book cover.  Because that’s another sort of logic that appeals to me. I used Malabrigo Worsted Chapel Stone for the Main Colour and Malabrigo Rios Teal Feathers for the contrast colour.  I think they are a pretty good match.

So the plan for The Owl Service Hat was born.  I printed out a photograph of the Owl Service plates and traced over them (I simplified the pattern a lot because I am not mad enough to make something with a 120 stitch pattern repeat).  And I made a chart based on the pattern with this fabulous and handy website.


The chart looks like an owl by itself (and looks even more like an owl if you stand on your head) but once the patterns are joined up in the round the wings touch and make the outline of a flower with soft, rounded petals.

I used the chart for a hat but I think it’s pretty adaptable – you could omit the decreases and use the chart for a cowl or a pair of socks or something completely different if that takes your fancy.  I might try some owl socks in an idle week.

Once I’d settled on the design it didn’t take very long to make, about half a week’s worth of commutes.  The finished hat is something between a tam and a beret with a sort of lazy-fair isle vibe.  I used one of the dinner plates from my Dragon Aunt’s dinner service as a blocking template and, once I’d managed to stuff the hat in there it worked beautifully.  I’d totally recommend it.  Though if you have a small head or less hair than I do, maybe a soup plate would make more sense…


You can download the pattern here: The Owl Service Hat

The Ragnar Blanket

We love Vikings.  We love their literature, their art, their stories and legends.  We love that they came and settled in our part of Ireland (Fingal means ‘blond strangers’ and lots of the town names have echoes of Old Norse and Icelandic in them).  So when Vikings became a TV thing, we loved that too.  Naturally, my heart went out to Floki, the poetic and demented ship-builder.  But Karl was all for Ragnar.  Because Ragnar kicks ass.  And, before he kicks ass, he wraps himself up in a snuggly blanket and thinks about just how much he wants to kick ass.


Once Karl saw the blanket, he knew he had to have one.  And I knew I had to knit it.

Sadly, we never get another good look at Ragnar’s blanket.  By squinting at my screen I deduced that it had textured bits and cabled bits.  I drew up a sort of pattern that included a couple of small cables and a big central cable.

The finished product looks like this:

Then I went searching for some authenticish Viking-type yarn.  I wasn’t about to fork out for Lopi for something as big as the blanket (4 foot by 6 foot if you please) so I went looking for undyed yarns.  I found this undyed Jacob’s yarn.  It’s scratchy and full of VM and weird bits that I’m pretty sure came from other sheep that the Jacob attacked and murdered.  It stinks of sheep.  But it’s a great colour. And there’s half a kilometer of yarn in each cone.  My blanket used nearly two kilometers of yarn.


Charts One and Three are worked over 8 rows and so will be repeated twice for every one repeat of the central cable pattern.

The central cable pattern I used is modified from the wonderful Viking Bag pattern on Ravelry.  There are many examples of this woven cable but this is by far the best example. The designer, Karen, kindly put the pattern up online for free here.  I used the big cable from the bag (28 stitches) and then added a purl stitch either side to make an even 30 to allow for a little more space between the cable and the slip-stitch pattern panels.  You could use any large cable pattern that you fancy though – just remember to adjust the total number of stitches if you do!

Slipped Stitch pattern:

  • Right side: Slip 1, K1, YO, PSSO
  • Wrong side: Purl all stitches


Cast on 196 stitches and work one row as follows – knit 2, purl 11, place marker, knit 70, place marker, purl 30, place marker, Knit 70, place marker, purl 11, knit 2

This establishes the blocks for your cables and for slip-stitch sections

Work one row, knitting the knits and purling the purls and turn work ready to begin charts.

Work Chart One over first 13 stitches

chart one

Work Slip-Stitch Block one:  *Slip one, Knit One, YO, PSSO* repeat to next marker

Slip marker, Work Central Cable pattern over next 30 Stitches, Slip marker,

Work Slip-Stitch Block Two: *Slip one, Knit One, YO, PSSO* repeat to next marker

Work Chart Three over remaining 13 stitches

chart Three

Now, it’s a matter of working these 16 rows until you run out of yarn or patience or both.

Finally, work your rune-chart.   Runes are important.  The Old Norse speakers of Medieval Iceland and Scandinavia loved marking things with runes.    Including insult-poles or níðstöng.   Obviously, when Winters last for months and months, tensions can build up. Rather than go and murder your neighbour straight away, it’s best to egg him into attacking you by making a níðstöng and setting it up in his front garden. I think of this as medieval equivalent of ringing someone’s bell and then hiding in the bushes giggling when the answer the door.[1]  Other uses of runes include graffiticommemorative stones and generally telling people who owns what.[2]

For me, it’s not enough to write something in modern English using runes – that’s just silly – so I called in the troops (Thanks, Kyle) and got this: Jóna gerði þessa fyrir Karli inni Kráku or“Jane made this for Karl the Crow”.

Each of my runes was 10 stitches high and between 1 and 8 stitches wide.  I made a pattern on some graph paper. I just managed to squeeze all the characters I wanted into the 196 stitches on a row.  I’m not mad on the result as it is a little…subtle.  I will stitch over the runes in red.

Here are the rune-staves from the Furthark – my attempts at charting them are below!


Edit: here are the Futhark Charts as promised!

[1] I know that I shouldn’t think of Vikings as a bunch of bold children but I can’t help it. I found out they wore mittens.  I can’t shake the image of then dangling on strings out the bottom of their sleeves.  I bet their mothers made them bring hankies when they went raiding and everything.

[2] I bet their mammies wrote their names on the inside of their jackets too.