Hiya! It is I, Bruce. Today I am here to tell you about the place called New Lanark.
As well as being an important World Heritage Site, New Lanark is a place where you can enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Falls of Clyde.
This was definitely the bit that interested me.
Up along the river banks and woods, there is much fun walking to be had. I smelt many interesting smells and went for a swim . . .
. . .I looked after the humans, hurrying them along the paths, and posing obligingly for photographs.
. . . I also heard some sounds that were new to me. For example, these icicles on the opposite bank made an interesting crrrrrrack and crrrrrash sound as they broke and fell into the river.
Then we came to a place called The Hide.
There was much excitement around The Hide because The Egg had just appeared in the nest of a Peregrine. The humans at The Hide had equipment through which Tom and Kate could look and see the Peregrine sitting on The Egg. Kate seemed quite interested in The Egg, but was perhaps even more animated by the colour of the Peregrine’s eyelids, which were apparently a very very very bright yellow. I was not allowed to look through the equipment, but I was very good on my lead and did not snaffle any of the Hide humans’ tasty meat-filled sandwiches while they were being distracted by the excitement of The Egg.
Now, I know and understand many human words — egg and chicken, for example, are two words that make a lot of sense to me. But two words that do not make sense are the words called Monkey Walking, which is what the humans shout at me with glee when I do this on a path with gaps in it:
The naming of things is perhaps the deepest of all human mysteries. For example, why is this crunchy, tasteless, pointless thing called Lichen when there is nothing to like about it at all?
Why is this piece of Scottish hydroelectrical equipment called YORKSHIRE?
Who named this bench BROWN LONG EARED BAT?
And which daft human decided that this fence should be called DONKEY?
Answers on a postcard, please . . .
See you soon, Love Bruce
Kate adds: A shout-out to Laura, the New Lanark ranger, who reads this blog and who we met on our walk today. Thanks so much to Laura and all her colleagues for their hard work maintaining this wonderful landscape for everyone to walk in and enjoy! xx
I always find it exciting when different iterations of my patterns are posted on Ravelry. This is particularly the case when knitters’ colour choices and personal modifications really transform the look of a design. Some amazing Ursulas have begun to appear which, because they have a completely different feel to my original, and also because they just look bloody lovely, I wanted to share with you.
Ursula was inspired by the shades of Shetland’s summer wildflowers, and the original had a pale, botanical palette.
But Sarah knitted her Ursula with natural and sky-blue shades set against a background of midnight blue — creating a garment with a totally different feel.
Sarah says: “I am completely in love with my Ursula. This was an awesome project from the very beginning, using one of my favourite yarns from JC Rennie and my own handspun. . .
“Apart from completely changing the colours, I didn’t make any changes to the pattern, but accidentally knit the body at the narrowest point of my waist a little tighter, which gave me perfect and unintentional subtle waist shaping. It was the first time I’d tried a crochet steek (using the directions in Colours of Shetland) and it was joyous! I haven’t done a steek any other way since. I knit Ursula mostly on holiday, so its a lovely reminder of my trip too. I’m sure I’ll make it again in similar colours to Kate’s original, as the fit is absolutely perfect and it was so fun to make.”
I particularly love the fact that three different breeds of British sheep are represented in this garment (Sarah spun the fawn shade from Masham fibre, the brown from Manx Loaghtan and the vivid blue from Jamieson and Smith Shetland tops). Her Ursula is ravelled here.
Next up is Georgie, who chose to knit her Ursula with a single contrast shade, rather than three.
Georgie says: “My modifications were mainly due to yarn constraints, as I’ve been having to be thrifty, unravelling cardigans I no longer wear. I had already knit a cardigan in the three shades I used for Ursula (Marie Wallin’s Mika) a lovely cardigan I never really wore, mainly due to the style, I prefer a more classic shape for cardigans. Anyway, Mika was first in line when I was scouting around the house for suitable yarn for Ursula. . .
. . . It’s knit in a combination of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift (the green), then Blacker Yarns Alpaca/Shetland in cream for the body and grey for the sleeves. I could see while knitting that I wouldn’t have enough of the main colour to finish the cardigan as written, so I shortened the body so the ribbing started on my waist. The sleeves were also shortened due to my yarn levels, plus, I thought they would work best with the length of cardigan.”
I was blown away when I saw Georgie’s Ursula how her use of a single contrast shade totally transformed the feel and look of the stitch pattern: in her cardigan, the zigzagging tri-coloured stripes of my original have become an allover with its own integral structure and continuity. I also really like how the cropped body and three quarter sleeves lend the garment an incredibly neat, vintage look. Georgie’s Ursula is ravelled here.
Finally, here is Rebecca’s Ursula, knit in four lovely shades of Jamieson and Smith jumper weight: 203, 118, fc14 and fc41.
Of her modifications, Rebecca says: “I lengthened the body by simply adding an extra peerie repeat in green before beginning the armhole steeks. I also made the sleeves snugger by decreasing very quickly and then lengthened them a bit to come further over the hands.”
Rebecca’s contrast shades really pop out against the grey background, and this garment feels to me like a refreshing change of key. I love the way that the colours she chose speak to one another, and find the juxtaposition of the complex plum tones of fc14 against the solid Spring green of 118 particularly pleasing. Rebecca’s Ursula is ravelled here.
Ursula is one of my favourite designs in Colours of Shetland, and it makes me so happy to see knitters making it, transforming it, and enjoying wearing their own beautiful hand-knitted cardigans!
I’ve had a lot of queries about Peerie Flooers over the past few days, so here are a couple more photos of the particular hat in question. After being approached by the wardrobe folk involved with Shetland, I knitted up this new sample especially for the production. I remember knitting it over the May bank holiday, while Tom was running the Jura Fell Race, and then posting it off the following week.
Mel also knitted up an o w l sweater sample, which sadly wasn’t used in the production in the end. But you may have spotted other Shetland knitwear on screen: Hazel Tindall’s beautiful Eid Top was unmistakable, even at a distance, and I was very excited to spot a Sheep Heid in the Up Helly Aa crowd. During filming in Shetland, my friend Sarah worked in wardrobe, and they did a great job.
Thanks for all your well-wishes. I am still not at my best healthwise, unfortunately, but with careful pacing hope to be back up to speed very soon. xx
Recognise the hat?
Yes! Its my Peerie Flooers!
This hat, along with a couple of my other designs, will be making their first TV appearance tomorrow in Shetland, a two-part BBC crime drama based on Ann Cleeves’ novel Red Bones. Exciting!
You can see some more stills and the trailer here, and, if you are in the UK, you can watch the first part of Shetland tomorrow night at 9pm on BBC1.
I’m not very well at the moment, so am unfortunately very behind with many things, including my email. If you have been waiting to hear from me, I’ll endeavour to get back to you this coming week. Apologies xx
While we were in the Highlands, we took the opportunity to photograph a design I’ve had ready for a while: the Sixareen Cape.
I started knitting this Fair Isle wrap last October. You may remember that at that time I’d just designed a hat especially for Shetland wool week (The Sixareen Kep) using Jamieson and Smith’s wonderful Shetland Heritage Yarn.
(Sixareen Kep at my Shetland Wool Week Workshop, modelled by Tania Ashton-Jones. Photo courtesy Charlotte Monckton)
Around that time, I was getting a lot of wear out of a circular wrap I’d purchased from Toast (which I am wearing in the photograph above). This wrap was a sort of deep tube with raglan shaping, and I was surprised at how versatile a thing it was. It was a scarf, a cowl, a snood, and very nearly a sweater. I wore it scrunched up inside a coat when I was outside walking Bruce, I wore it wrapped about me inside the house when I needed another layer, and I wore it thrown on over a suit jacket when a little extra warmth was required outside. I liked it so much that I decided to design my own version featuring a deep Fair Isle border of the same chart design I’d used for the Kep, which I’d been very pleased with. This was the result.
The border of the circularly-knit ‘cape’ features three repeats of the ‘kep’ chart. Its a design I’ve come across in several Shetland sources, and, if you look at it, you’ll see that it is an interestingly stretched-out and squashed incarnation of a traditional OXO motif. There are several things I find really pleasing about this chart. The background is unusually spacious for a Fair Isle motif (there are stretches of 7 stitches in some places), and there’s something about this space that allows the different shades to sing. Because of this, when repeated, the motif develops a shimmering near-kaleidoscopic quality, which I really love.
The heritage yarn is amazingly soft, and wonderful to work with. It is the perfect yarn for traditional Fair Isle, but it also has a marvelous drapey quality which makes it absolutely ideal for this kind of garment. The plain stockinette portion is knitted at a slightly looser gauge to enhance the drape, allowing the garment to be worn in several different ways.
It can be worn scrunched up, cowl-like around the neck . . .
Pulled forward, collar-like, around the shoulders . . .
Or pulled down, cape-like, around the torso . . .
Decreases are worked through the plain stockinette part of the garment in exactly the same way as the shaping of a raglan sweater.
. . . and the end result is a striking and versatile wrap that is also great at warding off chilly highland breezes.
These photographs were taken above Rannoch Moor on a truly beautiful evening.
The cape comes in seven sizes, with a circumference of 45″ to 59″. It is fitted by measuring the wearer’s total shoulder circumference, and it should be worn with at least 2 inches of positive ease, to allow the wearing of layers underneath. If you would prefer a deeper or shallower wrap, the length is easily adjusted following the instructions in the pattern.
The Sixareen Cape is now available to purchase digitally through Ravelry and you can also purchase the pattern in print, to be shipped directly to you, (wherever in the world you are) via my Mag Cloud store.
Hiya! It is I, Bruce. Today I am pleased, because, after a long break for the Winter, the walking and camping times have begun again! This particular walking and camping time was a surprise, because the weather is good, and Tom has not yet begun New Job. We packed up the van, and set off for West Highlands, a place in which Tom and Kate always seem very happy.
In West Highlands there is excellent walking to be had, and many interesting smells that I do not smell in other places. These smells are because of the big deer buddies, with whom I am not allowed to play. Indeed, an interesting feature of West Highlands is the prevalence of fences and gates, which are there to keep the buddies IN and me OUT. As you can see, however, the buddies sometimes get OUT . . .
. . . and (with human assistance) I can get IN.
These gates are mystifying machines. Try as I might, I cannot operate them.
The best thing about West Highlands is that we go for lovely long walks. This time we walked up hills and through woods. . .
and then we walked along the side of the water. All of this was fun.
Afterwards, we went to camp in the place that is called Bridge of Orchy.
The place is called Bridge of Orchy because of this:
The Bridge. Of Orchy.
At Bridge of Orchy it became very cold. I am often told that I have a nice thick coat, but although this is true, I do not have extra woolly clothes and fluffy bags to keep me warm in Extreme Highland Conditions. The humans have these things, and though they were cold, they were not as cold as I. Then a very exciting thing happened. Because I was cold, I was allowed to get on the hunky bunk with the humans for the first time ever! It was cold on the floor, but it was warm on the hunky bunk with three of us, and so we all slept there together! This was very good. All I can say is, now I know just how good it is on the hunky bunk, I shall definitely expect to sleep there at all times. I shall ignore all human mutterings of “this is not a precedent” and suchlike — YES! ITS THE HUNKY BUNK FOR ME!!
In the morning, there was ice all over the van, and the water had frozen in the pipes. And then we discovered that the van had run out of cooking gas. Kate was extremely worried that she would not be able to have her requisite Giant Cup of Tea, but disaster was averted by Tom, who is the keeper of all equipment, and who had the forethought to bring the spare camping stove.
Giant cups of tea were drunk, I snaffled half a hot cross bun, and everyone was happy.
See you soon, love Bruce xxx
Well, I had a fantastic time in Shetland. As I was on my own, I stayed in Lerwick. I really enjoyed meeting up with Shetland friends old and new, and pottering about toon.
But I was there to work — I have a couple of writing commissions in the pipeline, one of which involves producing a short history of Fair Isle knitting for a new (and very exciting) book about Shetland textiles. So I examined a lot of Fair Isle pieces, and I thought a lot about them.
I saw some truly incredible textiles . . .
. . . so many of which defied any idea of the ‘traditional’ in Fair Isle knitting.
(This striking allover features 4 shades of Shetland wool and 3 shades of artificial silk)
So much to think about.
I’m packing my bags for a trip to Shetland! Its been a while, and I’m itching to be back. I’m particularly excited this time, as I’m about to begin a new research project. Here’s a hint of the kinds of things I’ll be exploring. . . .
These are details from a recent vintage find on Ebay with which I’m very pleased, (particularly as it fits me!) Like all vintage hand-knits, the construction of this garment has a story to tell . . . I’ll perhaps say more about it when I return.
I’ll be away for a week, so won’t be able to process any trade orders, or answer any email queries until after the 19th.
See you very soon!
I encountered many knitting books in 2012, but this was my favourite by far. Unlike so many books that have recently been written about Shetland, and Shetland knitting (my own included) this one has been produced by Shetlanders themselves. And not just by any Shetlanders. I don’t think it is going too far to say that the group of women behind this book are among the best knitters in the world. Their work is certainly the very finest that Britain has to offer. In this wonderful tome, key members of The Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers share their knowledge of the old traditions and contemporary practice of Shetland fine lace knitting. It is a timely publication. I have had cause to complain here several times about the misleading rubbish that is often peddled under the name of knitting ‘history’ and, unfortunately, Shetland textile traditions have suffered more than most in this regard — partly due to bias and poor scholarship, and partly too because Shetland’s knitter-designers tend to focus their talents on their needles rather than on the printed page. But here, we see the beautiful work, hear the articulate voices, and are able to work from the stunning patterns of Shetland’s wonderful knitter-designers. In so many ways, this book is their gift to the rest of us, and a very welcome gift it is too.
The book includes a balanced collection of 21 designs. These range from familiar and simple Shetland openwork patterns (such as those that appear on Zena Thomson’s borders-in Traditional Hap, or Lauretta Robertson’s Shelley Scarf) to dazzling showcases of the finest of fine Shetland lace (such as Susan Johnson’s breathtaking Chapelside Stole, or Mary Kay’s St Ringan’s Scarf). There are also a couple of lovely lace garments to knit. No-one designs a yoked sweater better than Hazel Tindall, and her Gairdins Top is a very fine example. I also found myself drawn to Lauretta Robertson’s Laureya Cardigan , with its neat and pleasingly structural allover stitch pattern.
Photographing fine lace can be very tricky, and Dave Donaldson has done a great job here. Most of the designs have been carefully pictured on blank, dark backgrounds. Close-ups help the reader / knitter to understand the rhythm of the designs, and provide useful visual cues to the accompanying charts.
The charts are large and well laid out, and the patterns clearly written and explained.
One aspect of Shetland knitting that non-Shetlanders are often bamboozled by is its basic equipment. How are long wires and a makkin belt really used? What exactly is a woolly board? One of the many lovely things about this book is that the women involved in it have taken time to illustrate and explain these mystifying objects . . .
Included here are also instructions for different methods of blocking and stretching (careful finishing really is crucial in all kinds of Shetland knitting), and there’s also a useful glossary of Shetland knitting terms unfamiliar to most of us. If you don’t know what “wrang loops” are or what it means to “spret” your knitting, here is the place to find out.
In amongst the designs and patterns, you’ll also find informative and witty anecdotes, together with interesting explanations of other knitting-associated dialect terms, all of which lends the book a distinctive Shetland flavour.
There are many things to love and admire about this book, but one of its most enjoyable aspects for me was reading the brief biographies of each designer. All of these women are truly amazing award-winning knitters, but I know from having met several of them that they can also be modest to the point of total silence about their considerable talents. Through their short biographies, we learn about what knitting has meant to them, about their own aesthetic tastes and predilections, and much more generally about a community in which lace knitting developed its own particular practices and economy, and played (and indeed continues to play) a crucial role in the lives of many women. Shetland knitters should be proud of their legacy, and it is wonderful to see that pride evidenced — albeit quietly — in the hopes that each designer expresses here for the book to which they have contributed. Winne Balfour hopes “that this book may encourage young knitters to take an interest in and enjoy learning, developing and continuing the skills of the legacy we have been left.” Zena Thomson hopes “that the clear patterns and photographs in this book will help people to try out patterns they might otherwise not have tried.” Pearl Johnson “is very glad that this book has been produced by folk living and knitting in Shetland and hopes that it will raise more awareness of Shetland traditional knitting,” and Susan Johnson “hopes this book reaches everyone interested in Shetland, Shetland lace and knitting, and that they receive and appreciate the spirit of quiet enjoyment that produced it.” That quiet enjoyment is evident on every single page of this great book, which should have pride of place on every knitterly bookshelf.
Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers, A Legacy of Shetland Lace (Lerwick: Shetland Times LTD, 2012). ISBN 978-1-904746-76-8
*And did you know that the Shetland Guild of Spinnners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers have their own Ravelry Group?