“In the autumn 2008, the Icelandic banks collapsed. The Icelandic currency, the crown, took a deep fall. That is when I got the idea of handknitting an Icelandic crown, as a manner of questioning the society values. I thought the use of knit and purl stitches could replicate fairly enough the embossed fish and details on the Icelandic penny crown.
But I had to find the right yarn. I felt I couldn´t go for the local Icelandic yarn, too fuzzy, so I chose a superfine merino pure wool that enhanced the knit and purl motif. I knitted a sample and measured the gauge.
a superfine merino pure wool that enhanced the knit and purl motif
I drew a grind in Photoshop matching the proportions of the gauge. I took a picture of a crown, uploaded it to my computer and using layer transparency feature, I started to fill up the grind with color to draw the crown. I found it was easier to draw the fish as a negative form. Of course translating a fine drawing in little squares request quite a lot of simplification and I had to make choices. Finally the fish had to be changed to a positive form, again using layers.
Drawing a circle happened to be more difficult than I expected and it took some time. I had to keep in mind that, for the edge to look nice, increases and decreases shaping the circle had to be made every two rows. Once finished, I printed my chart out and I cast on the first crown. Pattern was not easy to follow, especially on the wrong side.
Simplicity often requires time.
This is exactly the type of pattern that is much easier to knit in the round or to knit without turning the work, from left to right. As I don´t master that last technique well enough, I eventually reworked my chart and highlighted every other row, thus distinguishing the knit rows on right side of work and the purl rows on wrong side of work, making it easier to follow.
While knitting, I soon realised that increases and decreases had to be worked in a way that wouldn´t show inside of the edge. I made a few samples, before I found a way -quite simple – that I was satisfied with. Simplicity often requires time.
Blocking the piece was also a bit time-consuming because, for the circle to be perfectly round, the crown had to be pinned in every single stitch.
I still had to take pictures, write a text and edit them to my website. In what followed, the Crown was taken for sale at the National Museum of Iceland. I decided to knit no more than 5 coins, numbered 1 til 5, all in different colors. I found a way so that they could be hanged on the wall nicely.
More than two years later, I decided it was time to publish the pattern and offer it for sale. But now I have to ask you the question: how much is it worth?”
Hélène Magnússon likes to put a new spin on old Icelandic knitting traditions. She enjoys designs with strong ties to Iceland and that tell a story. She is best known for her research into the traditional Icelandic intarsia that was mostly seen in knitted insoles in the past centuries. Her book, Icelandic knitting: using Rose Patterns is available in three languages. She is a French native but a true Icelandic knitter and has an Icelandic family. Hélène abandoned a law career in Paris for the love of Icelandic nature. She worked as a mountain guide for many years in Iceland and studied textile and fashion design at the Iceland Academy of the Arts. She is the head and designer behind The Icelandic Knitter.