Celtic Knits Club – Introducing Taisce by Eimear Earley

Are you ready to meet our second Celtic Knits Club pattern?

By now all of your club packages should be close to arriving in their new homes around the world safely. This time we are knitting a pattern that is inspired by some of Ireland’s most famous archaeological finds.

Here to introduce Taisce and tell us more about its conception and development is Irish designer Eimear Early.

Oh and if after reading this post you want to join us, the digital Celtic Knits Bundle is available here.

Carol wearing the Taisce Cowl by Eimear Earley.

Hello! My name is Eimear, and you may remember me from such publications as Cosy Knits and Knitty. I enjoy working with wool and tend to work with cables and textured stitches. I live in Dublin, and when I’m not knitting I also enjoy tea, old things, and loud music.


I was honoured to be asked to design for the Celtic Knits Club. I’m always happy for an excuse to delve into my books about old things. I am especially grateful for the opportunity to work with Blasta yarn.

Why?

Because it’s Spun in Donegal, using Irish grown fleece, and available in
beautifully rich heathered colours, this yarn really makes cables pop. I hope club members can enjoy working with Blasta as much as I do!

But you’re all here for the inspiration behind my design, right?

Taisce Cowl by Eimear Earley in Blasta yarn ‘Óir’

Behind the Taisce cowl.

Taisce pronounced tash-keh is Irish for store, treasure or hoard.
Taisce was inspired by spectacular treasures from buried hoards found here in Ireland.


This is a cowl featuring a cabled panel with garter stitch. Taisce’s shape is designed to imitate the coverage of a triangular shawl, without the need
to tuck or tie in place.


To understand Taisce you need to know that I am fascinated by very old things.

As a maker, I am interested in the materials, skills and tools used to make items. As a person, I am interested in their significance to the people who made and used them. I find that I am drawn in particular to items made 1000 years ago, or older, before there were consistent written records.

Quite a bit of our information about the making and use of these items is based on speculation and likelihoods, and I enjoy the mystery. I also enjoy the notion of translating old ceremonial items – made in precious, rigid materials – into everyday items made of humble, comforting wool.


Unsurprisingly, I am rather fond of the National Museum of Ireland’s Archaeology location, here in Dublin. Quite a large number of the antiquities on display in the National Museum of Ireland are ceremonial items, made of precious metals. These ceremonial items would
have been used occasionally and carefully, therefore enduring relatively little physical wear and tear.

The examples on display in our museum have been rediscovered in recent years because they were hidden, in bogs, lakes, or underground, as ceremonial offerings or for security. We have been able to find these items because they were never retrieved by those who hid them.


There are relatively few everyday items on display: they would have been used, repaired or refashioned for continued use until worn beyond recognition. Buried or discarded remnants of softer materials like textiles & wood, for example, would degrade much faster than metal or stone items. And while remnants of these everyday items can be found and identified by, and provide information to experienced archaeologists & historians, they just don’t look so impressive in a display case to the average person.

Ahenny High Cross via Wikipedia & Creatvie Commons Licence


When we use the term ‘Celtic design’, we tend to think of the interlacing strapwork motifs that feature on artifacts from the Golden Age of Irish art. These interlacing motifs appear on different materials, including illuminated manuscripts (The Book of Kells), stone carving (Ahenny High Cross), and metalwork (Tara Brooch), all showing exquisite mastery of
technique and skills.

These interlacing motifs also bear a remarkable similarity to panels of
twisting, interlacing cables associated with Aran knitting.

Designing Taisce

Eimear’s Workspace for Taisce

When designing Taisce, I took inspiration from specific examples from this era: the Ardagh Chalice (made in the 8th Century), and Derrynaflan paten (made in 8th or 9th Century).

The Ardagh Chalice & Derrynaflan Paten were each found as part of a hoard of buried treasures. The hoards were found in neighbouring counties – one by boys digging for potatoes, one by people exploring a monastic site using a metal detector – and we assume they were buried for safekeeping.


These examples show a variety of metalwork techniques executed to the highest standards of craftsmanship. Both items were made roughly within the same period of time, and show similarities in design and the techniques employed.

The Derrynaflan paten consists of large areas of beaten silver, decorated with filigree panels, knitted wire, and glass and enamel studs. The Ardagh Chalice is made of spun silver, with similarly applied decorations in gold, glass and amber. Due to similarities in appearance and techniques it
is reasonable to speculate that these items may have made at the same workshop.


The contrast between highly decorated panels against smooth polished areas of silver used in these artifacts inspired the combination of garter stitch with a defined cabled panel used in the Taisce cowl.

The combination of garter stitch with a defined cabled panel used in the Taisce cowl.


Working the Taisce Cowl

Taisce is worked flat, beginning by casting on just a few stitches, and increasing as you work. A cable panel is worked along the side of the piece, bordered by integrated i-cords.


The bulk of the cowl is worked in biased garter stitch which allows the cable panel to drape diagonally across the body. Short rows are worked in the garter stitch section to compensate for the difference in row gauge in cable and garter stitch.

The cowl is finished with an i-cord bind off, before closing with a seam. The sample is worked in Blasta colour ‘Óir’ – a stunning shade of golden yellow, particularly suited to the inspiration of precious metals.


Carol wearing the Taisce Cowl in Blasta Óir.

The finished Taisce cowl is shaped to imitate the coverage of a triangular shawl worn with the point to the front. Slightly funnel-shaped, the wider circumference along the bottom allows the cowl to sit slightly over the shoulders.

The triangular point to the front gives extra coverage for the chest area. I’ve found a cowl of this shape invaluable since returning to cycling in the last year.

I find that I need extra warmth around my neck, shoulders and chest, as I face into the wind while whizzing downhill on the bike. I also need this extra warmth to stay firmly in place, allowing me to pay attention to potholes and other obstacles on the busy road.

Taisce gives me secure warmth, while also allowing me to display my love of wool and my Irish Heritage on my chest.

I hope you enjoy making Tasice as much as I did.

Eimear Earley © Playingwithfibre

Eimear Earley lives in Dublin, Ireland, with two small humans and a supportive spouse. Eimear originally learned to knit as a schoolchild, dabbling with leftovers of yarn and absolutely no concept of gauge or ease during her teenage years. After spending her student years playing with molten glass, she now gets her creative kicks from knitting and spinning wool – much more practical pursuits. Eimear loves to reinterpret old Irish things into modern knitwear, from ancient gold artefacts to less ancient cable knitting.

She also likes to drink an awful lot of tea.

Eimear can be found on Instagram, TwitterRavelry, and her website.

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