Behind the Design – Oculus

Following a very nice comment on Ravelry on the Oculus Hat, I was asked if I would elaborate on the background of this design. On the pattern page I mention the following information…

In the ruins of the Baths of Emperor Diocletian in Rome, now stands the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs). In 2000, a glass skylight was added to the dome. The skylight, designed by the artist Narcissus Quagliata, casts wonderful colours around the building.

As many of you may realise I am a classical archaeologist and ancient historian by training (and occupation for several years), so inevitably I pick up elements of this in my knitting and other pursuits.

This includes a not insignificant amount of travel in the Mediterranean – and for the previous few years, this has taken me across the continent to Rome.

I first visited the city very briefly back in 1999, with a longer trip as part of an undergraduate trip in 2002. When I revisited the city in 2011 and 2012 I did not get the opportunity to go back to one of the sites I remembered from that University trip. However, in 2013 I did.

There is something fascinating about the scale of the Imperial bath complexes in Rome, although the Baths of Caracalla are unsurpassed in my opinion, they are ruins and can leave something to the imagination. The Baths of Diocletian (built from 306 AD onwards) however, survived partially intact due to their reuse for other purposes following their end in the 6th Century AD. The complex is enormous, and consists of a vast number of rooms besides the baths themselves. This is not unusual, a significant number of baths include libraries, theatres, even a planetarium.

Groundplan of the Baths of Diocletian – the blue areas represent the pools where people could bath or swim, as you can see there is a vast number of rooms – these would include changing rooms, gymnasia, gardens, libraries and other entertainment areas. It also does not show any of the supporting infrastructure – the aqueducts, the tunnels beneath the complex for supply/work purposes or the heating systems amongst others. (Public Domain Image from Wikipedia).

In the modern city, the complex incorporates one of the wings of the National Roman Museum (Nazionale Museo Romano), the Church of San Bernardo alle Terme (St Bernard’s of the Baths) and the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (St Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs). And it is in the latter church that the inspiration for the hat appears.


The interior of the church retains some of the original groundplan and structure of the baths. This image gives you an idea of the areas used by the church (line up the round towers and the curved wall (7 on the plan above). The rotunda (2 on the plan above) is now the dome of the church.



Originally this would have had an open space at the top (like the Pantheon in Rome), to allow light and rain to fall into the building. However, in 2000 a glass skylight was added. This was designed by the artist Narcissus Quagliata. Narcissus works primarily glass and light, and the new skylight casts coloured-light into the church.

When I first saw the skylight, I was immediately drawn to the clean lines and the colours of the piece. I can remember thinking it would be an interesting piece to translate into knitwear. Obviously there are restrictions on what can be accomplished in knitted fabric. I had to omit the clear vertical lines in the hat, but inco rporated a number in black instead to give a similar illusion. The small spots of orange and gold similarly had to be eliminated. The colours, on the other hand, I tried to follow as closely as possible in the Jamieson & Smith version I knitted up. I had to simplify, but chose a sequence of deep blue, blue-green, red-pink, soft gray, white/cream and a gold-yellow. The hat is much richer and deeper in overall tone, and lacks the soft variation seen in the window, with the colours shifting effortlessly from blue to purple to pink, but the final effect is still pleasing to the eye.


Interested in more by the artist? An e-book/PDF of Quagliata’s work is available online here.

(Another) Test Knit!

For the non-socky amongst you…

I present Sānu!

A shallow but slouchy hat pattern with Latvian Braids and Cables providing visual interest. The pattern has both charts and full written instructions. A deeper, even slouchier version can be also knitted.

Sample shown is the shallower version, knitted in Malabrigo Silky Merino (150 yds / 137m, 50g, Shade 425 Madre Perla).

To fit sizes: 16, [18, 20, 22, 24]” / 40, [46, 51, 56, 61]cm

Photo tutorial on Latvian braids can be found here.

Testers will be required for both versions – shallow and deep, both written/charted instructions and for each of the sizes.

Like the socks – I’m running the test through Free Pattern Testers on Ravelry. You’ll need to sign in (or join) to Ravelry and join the FPT group, then sign up in the forum thread – which is here.

The test will end on November 22, 2013.

FO: Snawheid

The last finished object from 2012 – finally!

Kate Davie’s wonderful Snawheid hat pattern (sans pom-pom – I’m just not a pom-pom kind of person). Quite a quick knit (despite putting it down for a few days in the middle of knitting it) in the lovely Jamieson & Smith’s Shetland Supreme. I used Shaela and White for a lovely subtle contrast.

No snow though to wear it in though… so better (and more appropriate pictures will have to wait)!

FO: Woolly Wormhead’s 2012 Mystery Hat

I got this finished a couple of days ago, but really only got around to photographing it (and sorting the pictures) yesterday. I’m really pleased with it.

My version is the largest size – knitted on the specified needle sizes and uses under three balls of the Drops Merino Extra Fine (which is incredibly smooshy and has great stitch definition).

It’s a great hat, and it did suit me. But it suited Mum too, and given the circumstances which have challenged this month, it seemed right that it went home with her.

I’ll knit another at some point in the future for me.


Free Pattern: Fieldwork

In order to work out the system for uploading and formatting patterns onto Ravelry I decided to start with launching a free pattern.

Fieldwork is a very simple, one-skein hat that I drew up when the BF asked for a new winter hat. Since he spends some of his time tramping about in fields – it seemed best to create a hard-wearing, smart (in case he has to talk to people) and – most importantly – cosy hat.

It uses the wonderfully sheepy Rowan Purelife British Breeds Chunky which knits up incredibly quickly.

For the Ravelry pattern page click here and for the pattern itself click here.


And You can tell the Weather has Changed…

… As I (and many of my friends) have suddenly gone mad knitting and crocheting scarves, gloves, hats and other cosy accessories. My obsession at the moment seems to be hats. I knitted two over the last weekend and have plans for three more. I also seem to have fixated on two pattern books, Whimsical Little Knits 1 and 2. Both of which have a number of hat patterns – Cairn, Icing Swirl Hat and Ishbel Beret in WLK1, and Ripley and Snapdragon Tam in WLK2.

Hat #1 Snapdragon Tam, WLK2

Many, many cables but intuitive and fun to knit. I used some leftover Debbie Bliss Donegal Tweed in a lovely rich purple shade. I also added a crochet reinforcement to the brim to help it keep its shape. This is a great idea which I picked up from the Yarn Harlot’s blog a few years ago and much easier that finding elastic!

Hat #2 Ripley, WLK2

A super slouchy hat in Rowan Cocoon. Loved knitting this, only took about 4 hours. Quite a clever design too, integrated pleats mean that it really does slouch in an attractive manner.

On the Needles just now is:

Hat #3 Woolly Wormhead’s Mystery KAL Hat in Drops Merino Extra Fine (Nordsjøen).

And currently planned are:

Hat #4 Icing Swirl Hat, WLK1 in New Lanark Aran (Pebble).

Hat #5 Ishbel Beret, WLK1 in Malabrigo Sock (Playa).