Port and Starboard

Out of my window looking in the night,
I can see the barges’ flickering light.
Starboard shines green and port is showing red,
I can see them flickering from my bed.

Port and Starboard

I grew up in a small town on the Thames. Not the bucolic, pretty, pre-London Thames where willows trail in the water and stockbrokers potter about in boats on their weekends, but the mud-flat skirted, widest part of the river before it becomes estuary. Messing about in boats in these tidal, polluted waters was not recommended. Instead there were the container ships, commuter ferries, occasional naval vessels. River traffic was all about getting somewhere– the possibilities of the big city in one direction or the sea and the whole, wide world in the other. That part of the river couldn’t be described as beautiful, but part of me caught the romance of it- here was where Joseph Conrad moored the boat on which the story of  Heart of Darkness was told, here was as far as Pocahontas reached on her journey back from London before she sadly died and there, across the river where now there’s a power station and a shopping centre, Elizabeth I delivered her ‘Heart of a King’ speech to land troops gathered to repel a Spanish attack.

All of which probably goes some way to explain my fondness for chandlery and the campfire song quoted above, and why, when I was asked to design something using rich red and green yarn for Knit Now magazine, it was the red and green of port and starboard signal lights that came to mind for inspiration.

The Port hat and Starboard cowl both use knit and purl stitches to create textured patterns based on triangles, evocative of sails and signal flags. The texture also creates a slight concertinaing effect, particularly on the hat, which not only makes for a nice shape, but also boosts the insulating properties. The stitch pattern can be read from charted or written instructions given in the pattern.

The Port hat is knitted flat- the main body of the hat first, then stitches are picked up along one edge for the ribbed brim and along the other for the crown shaping. It’s the same construction I used for another chandlery-themed hat, Mooring, and both are hats I wear a lot in real life, as I love their shape. The original pattern in the magazine was only one size, but this independent pattern release now covers three sizes to fit most adult heads and is a little more generously slouched in the depth.

The Starboard cowl can either be knitted flat or in the round and is a satisfyingly quick knit. I’ve found myself wearing mine to add a flash of colour above plain t-shirts or the striped jersey Coco dress I made recently. Made in the circumference stated Starboard can also be worn as a wide head band, but by increasing the number of stitches cast on you could also make this as a longer loop scarf.

To make the samples photographed here, I used Olwen DK, in colourways Boötes and Nemeton, from Triskelion Yarn. If you are a fan of rich, saturated hand-dyed colour and haven’t yet discovered Caerthan’s work yet, then you’re in for a treat. A lot of care is taken at Triskelion over sourcing and selecting different yarn bases, so the rainbow of stock in the online shop and on the pure eye-candy stands at yarn shows (including Wonderwool Wales this weekend) is ever changing. Currently, the best choices for this project would be Geraint Sport (a ‘fat’ DK that could meet the tension requirements) or Heulwen DK.

Port hat and Starboard cowl are available in the same pattern download in my Ravelry shop Ravelry shop now, where you can also find more of my designs.



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