New pattern: Folia Crescent

The first pattern in my new La Folia Collection is out! It's a sweet, simple one-skein shawl called Folia Crescent. This one was very quick to knit, straightforward and not requiring much attention after the first repeat or two. Watching the lace emerge kept things interesting, and of course knitting with such beautiful yarn is always a pleasure.


  • a leafy lace panel surrounded by squishy garter stitch
  • easy-to-wear crescent shape
  • a garter-tab cast on and an i-cord bind off
  • suitable for beginner lace knitters
  • stitch markers keep track of the lace section so you don't have to
  • a one skein project in fingering-weight yarn
  • perfect for that precious single skein of sock yarn
  • one size, easily enlarged by working extra repeats
  • pattern includes full written instructions and hybrid charted + written instructions

I used one skein of Merri Creek Sock yarn from local dyer and colour genius Miss Click Clack. The colour is called 'Ambergris', and it's an absolutely stunning glowing gold. The beauty of a small (6 row) lace repeat in this shawl is that you can keep knitting and use up almost all of your yarn. I'd recommend putting a lifeline in first before doing extra repeats, just in case!

The remaining two patterns in the collection, a drapy cowl and a large triangular shawl, will be released in mid-September and late September, respectively. They feature the same leafy lace and garter stitch combo, put together in different ways to suit the different shapes of the cowl and shawl.

You can see all the details and download the pattern via Ravelry or Loveknitting. An ebook with all three La Folia patterns is also available - the cowl and triangular shawl patterns will be added to the ebook as they are released.

I chose the name La Folia for this collection partly because folia means 'leaves' in Latin (just right for a botanical lace design), and because it's the name of a famous musical form based on a standard bass line. You can read about the history of the Folia bass line here, and find the sheet music for various versions here.

More than 150 composers have used variations on the La Folia theme in their music, including Corelli, Vivaldi, Marais, J.S. Bach, Handel, Liszt, and  Rachmaninoff. There are all kinds of riches to be found by searching for 'La Folia' on Youtube! Here are a few that stood out to me.

A performance of Vivaldi's variations on "La Follia" (RV 63) with Baroque dancers:

A Folia in the Spanish style performed by the viola da gamba player Jordi Savall:

And the Australian group Latitude 37 recording their own set of variations on La Folia:

New pattern: Fretboard

This one's been a while in the making! Fretboard is a cabled and textured scarf which I designed last winter, as a present for Willie's brother Julian. He's an amazing bass guitar player, so I decided to knit him a scarf which looks like the fretboard of a bass. It has cabled 'strings', garter stitch 'frets', and a simple ribbed background. The frets start out widely spaced, and shift closer together as the scarf grows.

  • simple cables and a knit-and-purl texture 
  • fully reversible - identical on both sides
  • two versions: for DK-weight and fingering-weight yarn
  • adjustable length, to suit the wearer's height
  • optional tubular cast-on and bind-off for beautifully-finished ends
  • both charted and written instructions, so you can follow your preferred type.

The pattern includes two versions of the scarf: one in DK-weight yarn with four cables/strings (for bass guitar and ukulele lovers), and one in fingering-weight yarn with six cables/strings (for guitar and viola da gamba lovers).

Julian's scarf is the DK-weight version, knit in WOOLganic 8ply, a certified organic Australian merino (6 balls of the colour 'Charbon'). My scarf is the fingering-weight version, in Malabrigo Sock (2 skeins of 'Botticelli Red'):

A line-up of fretted string instruments (no prizes for guessing my favourite!)

Julian and Chloe's band Booty Pageant released an EP (mini album) last week. If you're interested in checking them out, you can listen and download here.

Consorting with viols

I had a rare treat last night - I got to sing with a consort of viols! A bit like this one, except wearing jeans and woolly jumpers:

Willie and I are staying with the Olivers, who are old-school early music enthusiasts. They play various string and wind instruments including viols, renaissance flutes, a shawm, a rebec, a psaltery, and virginals. They host a viol consort on Monday nights, and Robert invited me to sing some consort songs with them.

Elizabethan consort songs involve a singer plus a viol consort (hence the name), and they're quite challenging because the musical style is dense and complex - each player's musical phrases often overlap with the other players', which can make it tricky to find your place again if you get lost. The secret is to just keep counting!

William Byrd (c.1540-1623)

The songs we had a go at are all by William Byrd, and they are absolutely beautiful. I love that the voice part is really just another instrument - many of these works can be performed just as easily by all singers, or all instruments, or a mixture. The texts are melancholy (and in some cases moralistic), and I enjoyed making the most of the words once I'd got the hang of the notes. I'd like to learn Elizabethan pronunciation at some stage, to make the rhymes and word-play work as they should.

Here are recordings of three of the songs (I couldn't find any online for 'Blame I confess' or 'O that we woeful wretches could')...

'Ye sacred Muses' (1585) - a lament on the death of Thomas Tallis

'O Lord, how vain are all our frail delights' - with text by Philip Sidney

'Weeping full sore' - a 5-part madrigal from Songs of Sundrie Natures

A musical treat

Yesterday afternoon Willie and I went to a concert of 17thC viol music. Getting more than a couple of viol players together is rare in Wellington, so this was definitely a special treat! The performers were Loren Ludwig and Polly Sussex on both treble and bass viols, Robert Oliver on bass viol, and Douglas Mews on organ. For the five-part viol pieces, they were joined by Kevin Wilkinson and Susan Alexander on tenor viols. Last year, Olivia and I performed some consort songs with Robert, Loren, and Kevin. It was great to be able to relax and enjoy the music this time without being nervous about my own pieces. :)

My favourite items in the concert were the Christopher Simpson Fantasias 'Winter', 'May', and 'June'; the five-part Fantasia by John Jenkins; and the Suite by Anthony Holborne. Lively and well-played, and the sound of the viols together was just luxurious.

Seeing the treble viols in action made me want to take up playing again. During my past flirtation with viol playing, I went for the bass instrument, but I think part of my difficulty with it is that my arms and legs are really too short for it. I think a treble is more my size...