Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Book of Haps - Kate Davies Designs

Like so many others I'm still struggling to come to terms with the result of the EU referendum and the stunning lack of a plan, or even any sign of leadership, from either the government or the Labour Party. Everything seems so uncertain at the moment which is not a state that brings out the best in me but it's the steadily increasing reports of racist incidents I find most disturbing as a sign of things to come.

Perhaps it's as well I have a stack of new textile books to bury myself in as a distraction, and particularly apt that the first off the pile is 'The Book of Haps'. For those who haven't been eagerly anticipating this book for months, didn't follow each design as it was revealed through late May, and might never have heard the word before a hap (and I need to be careful here because this is contentious) is something most people might recognise as a shawl. The difference is hard to pin down but in Shetland terms a shawl suggests something done in the very finest lace, a hap is a practical, everyday, working, garment.

They're apt because the original meaning of the word is 'to enfold, to cover, and to warm' - which certainly speaks to my personal desire to hibernate right now.

I did follow the previews of each pattern from 'The Book of Haps' Here by all 13 designers, and very interesting they were but most of them look well beyond my current knitting abilities so the patterns are only part of the reason I was interested in this book. (There are some stunning patterns though, so they're something to aim for.) The other reason was to read the essays about the origins and construction of something which is a particularly Shetland art form.

Davies has a nice anecdote about the difference between a hap and a shawl being about £1000 (the work in a really fine shawl is phenomenal). I have a hap that was knitted for me by a woman I think of as family, my mother has a fancier one that she was given when I was born and that my sister and I were christened in, the traditional ones are still likely christening gifts and as such for all their relative simplicity they acquire special meaning. This is something explored in a chapter that looks at one specific pattern that became ubiquitous across the world, knitted time and again for births, or handed down through generations as an heirloom these are special things that celebrate creativity and family (it was an unexpectedly moving chapter).

Altogether it's a fascinating book, as valuable for its academic contribution to how you might understand textile history as it is for the patterns and inspiration it provides. For anyone with even a passing interest in knitting it's well worth a look.


  1. I just got that book on Thursday! (I preordered it but it took a while to get to Oz). I cannot wait to really get into it. Now it's just a matter of deciding which one I want to make first...

  2. I know which one I want to make first, just wondering how long before I have the skill to make it (it's the gothic window inspired one). The Haps are gorgeous but the essays are fascinating too. I love books like this.