Filmy Fern shawl: a gift for a Royal baby

July 23, 2013

This morning I had a bit of a surprise - tweets from friends exclaiming over the news that Margaret Stove had designed the shawl that was presented as New Zealand's official gift to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for the birth of their first baby.


Having absolutely no idea what was going on, and assuming the Prime Minister had maybe got a bit confused between shawls from the Prince William's birth, I rang Grandma. 

One bemused conversation with her later, I have the story. The most hilarious (because all I can do is laugh about it) is that she specifically asked if she could tell me, so I could be sure to have copies of her book in stock, and she was flatly told that she couldn't. 

Anyway, here's the info:

Margaret was commissioned to design, spin and knit a shawl for the event of Prince William's birth in 1982. A special request from the High Country Breeders of Merino sheep, the shawl took nearly 400 hours of work and was a purely original design, inspired by traditional Maori design and native New Zealand flora.

Image courtesy of the Christchurch Star

There is an excellent article, written by Margaret, in the Summer 2013 issue of Spin Off magazine. It details the fascinating process of creating the shawl. 


Anyway, the official gift given by the New Zealand government to the new parents today was hand spun and knit by Cynthia Read of Cambridge. I was lucky enough to meet Cynthia at the Creative Fibre Festival in April but had no idea why it was she wanted to have a nosey at our shawl samples. The design is Filmy Fern from Margaret's most recent book, Wrapped in Lace (Interweave Press 2010). It is an incredible shawl with amazing drape and from tomorrow we'll have the book sample in the shop for anyone who would like to drool over (just not on it, please, that would be gross). It is knit using Artisan Lace Gossamer, which produces wedding ring shawls - that is, a shawl that will fit through a wedding ring.


Image courtesy of Interweave


And here I was thinking i'd be able to avoid all the royal baby mayhem. Hooray babies, but let's value the people nearest and dearest to us first, yeah? We've had a very shaky few days here in Wellington and it means nerves are frayed and knitting really is the ticket for keeping worries at bay. I have even more respect for what the people of Christchuch (including Margaret) have lived through the past few years, what with sleepless nights thanks to aftershocks and the constant worry that we're yet to see our big earthquake. Thanks goodness yarn is soft and squishy and bouncy! 

I'll update this post as I get more information about the gift (and hopefully some pics!). Take care of yourselves xx


Edited to add: A great radio interview with Margaret on Newstalk ZB this morning - the link takes you directly to the clip. 



Rachel said:

That is a wonderful design. Just love it.
Can you tell me what was the design that William had for his?


Tash said:

Hi Rachel! The finished shawl was named ‘Bush Bouquet’ and the pattern isn’t available in any form as it was a private commission. In fact, Margaret has told me before that a comprehensive pattern doesn’t exist as there are sections that she designed as she knit. Some of the same motifs are used in her other shawl patterns, though.

Kathy Gill

Kathy Gill said:

What a beautiful shawl!

Pam Jowett

Pam Jowett said:

What a beautiful gift & beautifully knitted. Is the yarn handspun? If so, from what type of sheep? congratulations to the maker which I understand is Margaret Stove – her work is xquisit.


Caren said:

1. Amazing shawl.

2. You guys are amazing too – the wool dynasty of New Zealand!

3. Shaky few bloody days all right – phewwwwww. Poor old Wellington, yet again. Yay for the mental health benefits of knitting. Can’t go in to work for a second day (oh dear, how sad, never mind), so I had better finish off that sock I’m making.

4. I did think of you and your shop in the quakes, but, as you say, yarn is soft and bouncy! Hope none of the milk bottles broke though, they are treasures.

5. I’m with you on avoiding royal baby mayhem!

6. You take care too. xx

Melanie bielawski

Melanie bielawski said:

Hoorah for babies – like mine finally here! Not quite a heirloom shawl but my baby currently had a hand dyed hand knit singlet on, booties made from knitsch leftovers and a hand dyed, hand knit blankie wrapping him up.

Just over 24 hours old.

Can’t wait to see what the call the royal babe, and hoping wellingtonians feeling bit better today


Tash said:

Hi Pam, the yarn for the gifted shawl is hand spun merino. Cynthia Read knit the official New Zealand gift which is being presented to the Duke & Duchess from Margaret’s pattern. The shawl gifted to Princess Diana on the occasion of Prince William’s birth was designed, spun and knit by Margaret.


Jo said:

Hi Tash – excellent story. Your Grandma is so talented. I just saw it on TV3 news. Perfect timing too – I am in need of some good news stories after the last few days!


Emma said:

My granma knitted a shawl for my son based on a design for a shawl knitted for Prince William by a knitting guild in England. It is utterly incredible. But that Kiwi shawl is even more amazing. And that filmy fern shawl sure beats the stuffed toy bilby we Aussies are gifting the new prince. Well done. Hope things get less shaky.

Megan Cleland

Megan Cleland said:

I was fortunate to have participated in a 4 day spinning workshop with Margaret in Canberra many years ago. That time will hold special memories for me as my father passed away in Canada during the second day. My spinning improved and what I learned about preparing the merino was invaluable. Please pass on a big hello to Margaret the next time you talk to her. Megan

Hilary Langley

Hilary Langley said:

What a work of art. I would love to see it around that royal prince.


Karen said:

Wonderful stories. I too was lucky enough to be part of Margaret’s Sydney workshop some twenty years ago and still remember it with much affection. Caught up at Creative Fibre this year. Just admire the expertise to knit these beautiful lace shawls.


scarlett said:

This is a beautiful shawl im not one for this kind of things but the pattern just captured my eye, will there or is there a pattern for this please thanks

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.