The Kelpie's Tears hand knitwear design by Alice Starmore

The Kelpie's Tears

It amuses me to write stories sometimes, and on these occasions I don the persona of my alter-ego, Celia Matheson. Celia is an obvious anagram; Matheson is my maiden name. This psychological ploy allows me to keep fact and fancy under two separate hats, and literally keeps the kelpies from the k2togs.

I wrote this story twenty years ago as an accompanying tale for my Hebridean Kelpie yarn colour. Rather than recount a traditional tale, I decided to place the legendary kelpie in a contemporary setting and let the story flow from that point. This approach was often employed at cèilidhs in Lewis where a storyteller would take the grain of a legend and then spin the yarn in new directions, often including playful allusions to real people and places that the audience might guess at. If the story was deemed a success then it would travel around and sometimes gather legs and feet in subsequent retelling.

I thought it would be fun to narrate this tale, as it encapsulates the spirit of dùthchas. This revisitation immediately inspired a design, and since I don’t possess the spellbinding musical charms of Roddy Ceos, I imagined what protection I could produce to save myself from certain doom. I decided that a quickly knitted little shawl would shield my eyes from the kelpie’s glare and yet allow me to see my way to safety; it would be a practical item to wear as I passed the loch. I would decorate it with a trio of kelpie’s tears, which would hopefully serve as potent amulets.

In pre-viral times I would have taken the shawl to Loch a’ Mhorgainn to photograph it and I hope that soon I may be able to do exactly that. Later perhaps, we will also be able to photograph it on a model. But for now we are confined to places in the immediate vicinity and so my garden burn has served as one setting, and the moorland immediately behind my house shows some of the landscape around where the kelpies dwell.

The shawl is very quick to knit and you can easily make it larger or smaller by simply working more or less rows. You can listen to my Kelpie tale in the Storytelling section.

Click here to download the Kelpie's Tears pattern.

The Kelpie's Tears hand knitwear design by Alice Starmore
The Kelpie's Tears hand knitwear design by Alice Starmore
The Kelpie's Tears hand knitwear design by Alice Starmore
The Kelpie's Tears hand knitwear design by Alice Starmore
The Kelpie's Tears hand knitwear design by Alice Starmore