Ravelry Design Spotlight – Baa-ble Hat

Ravelry Design Spotlight

With the season that’s in it, we really wanted to focus on a design that is popular, different, fairly quick and easy to make and inspiring.  Donna Smith’s Baa-ble Hat design ticked all of the boxes and we’re thrilled that Donna was happy to talk knitting and designing with us.

In 2015 Donna Smith was asked to be the patron for Shetland Wool Week and her design, the The Baa-ble Hat became the official pattern for the festival.  Knitted in aran weight yarn at a fairly tight gauge and finished off with a pom-pom, it’s the perfect pattern for practicing your stranded colourwork knitting.

Knowing just how busy things can be at this time of year, we’re incredibly grateful to Donna for agreeing to talk to us about knitting, designing, Shetland and all things Baa-ble Hat.

When did you learn to knit and who taught you?

I can’t actually remember learning to knit, but my paternal grandmother (who lived next door)probably taught me as well as my mum. We got knitting lessons at school when we were 8 until we were 12.

Do you remember your first project and if so what was it?

The first project I remember completing was a garter stitch teddy bear I made at school, I remember we were told to bring in yarn, my Mum went to Lerwick to buy some and I was so worried she would come home with brown but thankfully it was blue!

Do you have any knitting memories you’d like to share with us?

Knitting always featured quite strongly in our household so I have many memories, many women knitted for money in Shetland in the past and nearly all the women in my family used it to supplement their living. When I was about 12 I knitted a couple of cockleshell scarves to sell, but I got bored before I finished them so they weren’t very long! My Grandmother went to one of the local knitwear shops and sold them so they couldn’t have been too bad! I remember knitting my first Lopi sweater when I was about ten on circular needles, which was a fairly new concept in Shetland at the time. One of the shops in Lerwick sold clothing and yarn and kept the wool I needed behind the counter. When I needed more yarn I would go and buy a few more balls. I wish I still had the sweater- it was grey with a pink yoke.

You designed the Baa-ble Hat for Shetland Wool Week in 2015, for which you were the Patron, what inspired your design?

It started out as a Christmas decoration; Shetland Wool Week were looking for giant textile Christmas baubles to go on the Christmas tree in the centre of Lerwick. I wanted to make a bauble that wasn’t the traditional Nordic star, red and white etc. but was something that represented Shetland.  There are lots and lots of sheep in Shetland so it didn’t take long to come up with the idea! I can see sheep out of my windows, and the colours I chose for the bauble were the wintry colours of the sky and the land at the time. I used Aran Shetland yarn so it would knit up quickly as the deadline was only a week or two! The ladies at Shetland Wool Week loved the bauble and asked me if I could make it into a hat pattern – as the bauble was head sized it didn’t take much to adapt it!

The design is hugely popular, how many have you made yourself?

I think I have only made four hats altogether, in varying sizes. I’m afraid I get bored easily!

You live in Shetland, with its wealth of knitting traditions, if you were to take us on a fibre related tour, which of your favourite places would we stop at?

There are many places to go in Shetland that are fibre related. I would take you to the Textile Museum, the Shetland Museum and Jamiesons’ Spinning mill and shop in Sandness.  We would also need to visit Wilma Malcolmson at Shetland Designer, Neila Nell’s studio and Ninian in Lerwick. We could then finish off at Fjara in Lerwick – nothing to do with fibre but great views and great coffee!

Where does your inspiration come from and who do you admire within the industry?

My inspiration comes from many places, from the landscape, from seeing patterns on objects, fabrics etc. and a lot comes from traditional patterns and garments.

Do you have any exciting plans for the future that you’d like to share with us?

I have just launched my own yarn, Langsoond, which is a DK weight yarn spun from the fleeces of our own sheep and some from neighbouring crofts. The first batch has been really popular and I am now getting the next lot of fleeces ready to be sent off to the mill, so the next batch should be available in the spring.

I also have quite a large number of designs in my head and in my sketch book I need to get onto the needles and into pattern form!

Do you have any exciting plans for the future that you’d like to share with us?

Future plans right now focus on the 5th Volume of Interpretations series! It’s collaboration with Joji Locatelli and we are so proud of each and every volume. The book is being published by Pom Pom Press and this year we are also collaborating with dyers: each of the 12 designs have their own special colourway. The collection will come out early 2018 and the colourways will be available at the same time. We are so excited!

A little Baa-ble Hat trivia for you.

  • The original Baa-ble Hat design is available in one size only, to fit an average sized adult’s head.
  • There are over 7,700 Baa-ble Hat projects uploaded on to Ravelry.
  • The traditional colours of cream and black for the sheep, on a green field with a blue sky are the most popular, but if you search through the projects on Ravelry, you’ll discover Baa-ble Hats in every colour of the rainbow, including a few with glow-in-the-dark sheep.
  • Donna knitted her original hat using Jamieson’s of Shetland Aran weight yarn.
  • The most popular yarn for knitting a Baa-ble Hat in is currently Cascade 220, with Jamieson’s of Shetland Shetland Heather in second place.
  • If you’re mad for the Baa-ble Hat then you might be interested to know that Donna has developed lots of other Baa-ble designs including a mug cosy, cowl, mittens, children’s hats and of course, the original Christmas Baa-ble ornament is also available.
  • Other clever knitters have created additional charts to use with Donna’s design.  (please note these are only charts and do not include how to make the hat).  Toe has created the most lovely little Santa Hat Chart, so her Baa-ble Sheep could join in with the Christmas fun.  Meg Warren’s Border Collie & Sheep Hat Chart, inspired by her own dogs, includes two dogs in the field of sheep.
  • There are 75 Baa-ble projects on Ravelry made using handspun yarn.
  • Leggings, cardigans, gloves and scarves are just some of the items knitters have made using part of the Baa-ble Hat design.

We had great fun looking through all of the Baa-ble Hat project pages on Ravelry and got in touch with some of the makers to see if we could feature their projects here.

Space in our gallery is limited, so we would urge you to pop over to the project pages  to check out lots more fantastic photos.