Introducing Kingston Lacy with a Massive ‘Thank You’!

Wow, thank you for the amazing reception for Kingston Lacy, for your blogiversary well wishes, and for the feedback on the pattern writing discussion in the previous post. It was fabulous to connect over these things, and so widely. I’ll take your thoughts and feedback with me as I work on new pattern releases in the coming months. Having thoroughly appreciated my sabbatical from designing, I’m excited that there are so many ideas and projects now heading towards fruition.

Today, however I want to a little step back and spend a some time talking more directly about the Kingston Lacy pattern. I was a little wary of launching this pattern as my first independent return to publishing. Partly because it has been in the background for so long.

As I think I mentioned previously, it was inspired by the lace insert the from Badbury Shawl Pattern that I published back in February 2016. In fact the lace sample of Kingston Lacy was worked on during our summer holiday that year (remember when that was a thing?).

Kingston Lacy Lace sample WIP and Wilbur during a lunch stop and swim north of Sibenik, Croatia

The longer the pattern sat, the more my doubts multiplied. I think it was partly the simplicity of an all over lace repeat that made me wonder whether there would be in any interest in the pattern. I thought there was added value in the multiple gauges, but that wasn’t enough to entirely convince me.

As I reviewed all my patterns in progress with a view to moving some of them through to publication, I realised that Kingston Lacy was actually ready to go. As I reconsidered it, I realised that:

  • I loved the reversibility of the lace.
  • I liked that it started from the bottom up and could be worked until there was a certain percentage of yarn remaining and then the finishing worked.
  • I thought it was pretty cool just how different a vibe the lace version had, classic, large airy, compared to the single skein 4 ply, perfect worn bandana style version, or the great alternative to a scarf DK version.
  • I realised the simple repetition of an all over, easily memorised lace pattern was exactly the kind of project I’d found refuge in during lockdown.
Campsite knitting with beer

Then when I applied the same process of review to the website & blog and realised it was 10 years old, the plan was hatched to mark the re-launch the website and resumption active designing by releasing Kingston Lacy as a free pattern for the month.

The response has been a little overwhelming and way beyond anything I could have imagined. It has been a huge boost in terms of not only volume, but also generous and constructive feedback and shared memories of the place after which the shawl was named, so again, Thank you.

Kingston Lacy is a large country house and estate in Dorset. Now a National Trust Property, my grandmother and aunt both worked ‘in-service’ at the house in the 1930s and 1940s when it was still in the ownership of the Banks Family. I visited the house for the first time a couple of years ago, with my Mum who was able to tell stories told to her by my gran and aunt, her older sister. I must admit, I wasn’t really prepared for just how grand the interior was, or the extent of the art and antiquities collections*. It made me stop and think what my grandmother thought of it all, working such in such a house, with such evident wealth, and then returning to her small tied cottage**, which even as I remember it in the 1980s still had a flagstone on mud floor, no electricity and an outside toilet.

At the time, as a child, I remember the Kingston Lacy estate mainly for Badbury Rings, the Iron Age Hill fort, where I, like other readers of the blog played as a child (yes, I remember the cow pats too, and may have stepped in one or two, and got tangled in the brambles). Looking back, this is also the time of year when stunning carpets of snowdrops in the woods around the house could be seen from the road. The reverse side of the lace motif is reminiscent of these snowdrops while the right side evokes the imposing facade of the house itself.

It is for these memories and, this connection to place and family that I named the Kingston Lacy shawl. Ours is not the dominant history of this place but it is, I believe important to bring together all the strands of history that make place and privilege. Please, do follow the links below to see how the National Trust is approaching recognition of the long hidden histories of colonialism and slavery associated with its properties.

I hope you enjoy your Kingston Lacy shawl. I did wonder about changing the name of the pattern when I became aware of the wider history, but simply evading these issues is not, I feel, an adequate answer. Instead I hope that as we sit with our knitting, we also sit with some of these historic processes in mind, considering how they impact our collective present and how we can address them in our everyday practice. I have been doing so and have a plan for proceeds from the shawl once the free period expires, which I’ll share with you nearer the time.

You can download the Kingston Lacy pattern for free for the month of February from the download link in the previous post, “10 years of blogging…

Until next time, Take care and contemplative knitting,

Tess xxx

Kingston Lacy Shawl

*The National Trust website, also now acknowledges the colonial sources of some of the wealth, including that generated through slavery, that supported the the homes and estates of the British aristocracy, including those who voted for abolition.

** Tied cottages were traditionally provided for agricultural workers and were ‘tied’ to employment on a farm or estate. Such accommodation was one way of keeping wages low and there was little incentive for owners to maintain or modernise such accommodation.

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