Glory be to God for knitted things; or, Knitting with Gerard Manley Hopkins

I blame Lady Penelope for my latest oddball knitting obsession. Had she not dropped the word "inscape" into this recent post about stranded knitting, I might not have gone off on the train of thought that began with "Oh, Hopkins! I should reread those poems again" and quickly led into "Wouldn't 'Goldengrove Unleaving' be a terrific name for some knitted thing?" and then "If I design a Goldengrove Unleaving pattern, I should do something similar for 'Pied Beauty' and 'The Windhover' and 'Inversnaid' and…"

(Then again, the idea had probably been in the back of my mind since a friend for whom I made a pair of multicolored wristwarmers thanked me with a line from Hopkins: "Glory be to God for dappled things!" And I'd also been thinking about Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poems and how one might design a shawl to be called "Willowwood." If this becomes a project, I might work my way through any number of poets. An Easter Wings wrap for George Herbert? A fisherman sweater that riffs on Elizabeth Bishop's "At the Fishhouses"?)

I'm still at the stage where I fantasize a lot about designing knitting patterns but haven't yet actually tried to do it. But this might be the project that propels me into action. I have a fairly clear idea of what I'd like Goldengrove Unleaving to look like: a long rectangular stole, deep yellow with tinges of orange, more or less like the "Golden Glow" colorway in this yarn. I'm envisioning a leafy lace pattern, like Double Vine or Vine Lace or Bleeding Hearts, at one end, and a few trails of eyelet holes going up to the other end, to suggest leaves falling.

"Pied Beauty," I think, should be a circular shawl. (Circular to make a pun on pi, of course.) And because the poem praises "dappled things," one would have to select the yarn with care: variegated enough to form patches of color instead of long streaks, and in colors that suggest the things in the poem. The only disadvantage is that I'm not sure what color Hopkins' finches' wings and trout scales would have been. But these things can be found out (and, in the process, I've noticed something I hadn't before about the way Hopkins evokes color without naming any actual colors except "rose" in line 3).

And "The Windhover": I was thinking of a Fair Isle hat with a kestrel motif, but I see someone's already designed something like that. I may have to master stranded knitting, my as-yet-unconquered frontier, before I start in on my own version. As Hopkins would say: the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

I have a feeling that if I really wanted to get obsessive about Project Knitting With Hopkins, I'd read up on sprung rhythm and try to translate that into stitch patterns. But I suspect that that way lies madness. So I'll start with Goldengrove Unleaving instead.


[Edited to add: I think I've found the yarn for Pied Beauty. I mean, look at this gorgeous yarn!]

Madelinetosh Tosh Sock yarn in Amber Trinket colorway

7 Responses to “Glory be to God for knitted things; or, Knitting with Gerard Manley Hopkins”

  1. Songbird says:

    That all sounds beautiful, both literarily and literally.

  2. Jill Smith says:

    Damn you – now I want to design something for the Goblin Market (IMO, Dante’s sister was the better poet).

  3. “Goldengrove unleaving” is one of my favorite phrases in the English language (I like the poem a lot, too). What a beautiful way to embody it!
    (And I LOVE Goblin Market.)

  4. Knitting in sprung rhythm… oooooh yeah 🙂 But you’re right, that way lies the straight jacket (I saw a pattern for one recently but can’t find it again).
    The question of the colours is very interesting. There are many common finches with flashes of many different colours across the spectrum except blue (see but of course all of a piece with camouflage in the countryside. And trout too (both rainbow and brown) have a surprising range of tints. You might have to think of a glossy yarn to get that glistening quality too.
    Oooooooh yes. May I volunteer as a test knitter?

  5. I’ve been thinking about this one ever since you mentioned it on Twitter months ago, primarily about how to manage the color gradations I’ve been envisioning. Can’t wait to see what yours looks like!
    (Don’t know about fisherman’s sweater for At the Fishhouses — do they wear Aran sweaters in Nova Scotia? The good people at The Elizabeth Bishop Centenary would probably know. But whatever it is should be silver, gray, blue-gray — flowing and flown.)

  6. Lady P says:

    Strait. Straitjacket. Spelling. That’s why I couldn’t find the pattern (

  7. Amanda says:

    Knitted straitjacket! I can’t decide if that’s hilarious, terrifying, or both at once. (I lean toward both at once.) And yes, test knitters welcome!
    Oh, Goblin Market. I love that poem too. What would it look like translated into knitting, I wonder? Fruit motifs? Goblin heads? Or something that might indirectly suggest the visual style of the engravings in the early editions?