Brilliant women

Hello! I’m back again after a fantastic (and productive) couple of weeks research. I’ve had an amazing time in Sweden and Shetland, but what has really stood out to me about this past fortnight is the number of brilliant women whose company and conversation I’ve enjoyed. It has been a very long time since I’ve been this sociable, and I’ve returned home feeling really inspired and energised by all of the brilliant women with whom I’ve been able to spend time. So a big thanks to:

kirstensstudio
Kerstin Olsson.

It was an incredible privilege to meet Kerstin, who is a truly lovely and incredibly talented individual. I was barely able to contain my excitement during a visit to her studio, in which I got to see her original swatches, personal collection of Bohus material, and the superb works of watercolour and textile art she’s produced over the past decades. In all respects, Kerstin and her work are massively inspiring. The following day Kerstin took me to the Röhsska Museum, where we had tremendous fun exploring their important collection of Bohus knitting. I learnt so much from Kerstin that day, and together we also discovered a swatch, which meant that we were able to identify a “mystery” design, that’s remained previously unidentified among the Bohus garments in Meg Swansen‘s collection.

graranden

(Meg’s mystery Bohus sweater is Grå Randen, a pre-1947 design by Anna-Lisa Mannheimer Lunn)

In my former academic life, as well as my present independent one, I’ve spent many happy days in many different archives. But I count this day with Kerstin in the Röhsska Museum as the highlight of my research career. For when does one have an opportunity to explore an archive with the very person whose work one is researching? And the fact that person is someone whose warmth and generosity means I feel I can count her as a friend makes it even more special. It was a once-in-a-lifetime day. Thankyou so much, Kerstin.

vinterfiske
(Carl Gustaf Bernahardson, Vinterfiske, Bohusläns Museum)

At the Bohusläns Museum I was made to feel immediately at home by Anna-Lena Segestam Macfie and Ann-Marie Brockman. Before I arrived in Sweden, Anna-Lena’s help was invaluable in making connections and tracking things down. While I was in Bohuslän she kindly took time to introduce me to the Museum’s wonderful collections – among which I discovered not only incredible textiles but the work of my new favourite folk artist, Carl Gustaf Bernhardson. With Anna-Lena and Ann-Marie I also visited nearby Gustafsberg, where I was in eighteenth-century heaven, and “took” the water from an historic well.

gustafsberg
(Gustafsberg)

It was the first time I’d visited this part of Sweden, and I found Bohuslän to be an exceptionally beautiful and interesting place – reminscent in some respects of Shetland. I am already making plans for a longer visit.

jennysyokes
(Jenny’s yokes)

In Shetland I spent a lovely few days working in the very convivial atmosphere of the Museum store. Jenny Murray not only helped me with my work, hunting down a very elusive jumper that I was interested in seeing, but kindly brought in her personal collection of yokes to show me. And thanks too to Laurie Goodlad, who lent me a costume, so I could join her and Jenny at their lunchtime swim at Clickimin.

ellainarchives
(Ella in the archives)

Ella Gordon came along to the museum store to join me in my labours as a yoke detective. Ella is a skilled machine knitter as well as a hand-knitter, and not only does her matchless knowledge of Jamieson & Smith shade cards mean that she can usefully identify particular yarn colours in their many different incarnations over the past few decades, but she is able to “read” the garment construction of machined / hand-knitted Shetland yokes in a way that I cannot. I am so grateful for her help.

crofthooseswatch
(a crofthoose swatch from Ella’s machine)

Ella also introduced me to machine knitting, which for me was very exciting and very interesting, and perhaps more like hand-knitting than I’d imagined. Together, we are producing a hybrid Shetland yoke (with Ella machining the body and me hand-knitting the yoke) and you’ll be able to read more about this process and its history in my book.

sandraandella

Sandra Manson (pictured here with Ella in my all-time favourite yarn shop and general wool haven) is someone whose wit and warmth I often miss when I’ve not seen her for a while. Do keep your eye out for the genius designs that Sandra’s recently produced for the Campaign For Wool’s Wool Ride this October.

shettimes
(from the Shetland Times)

Finally, I got to talk yokes with Shetland friends old and new: Misa Hay, Donna Smith, Louise Scollay, and Hazel Tindall. Thanks to Donna, Louise and Hazel for sharing thoughts, photographs and objects which have really helped to shape up my ideas, and to Misa for enthusiastic discussion of the pleasures of growing ones own tatties. As many of you may know, Hazel is about to release a wonderful and much-anticipated film to which I’m sure lots of you are looking forward. I am lucky enough to have a review copy in my hot little hands, and will tell you more about it another time!

hazel

Thanks so much to all of these brilliant women, in Sweden and in Shetland, for sharing their company, conversation, inspiration and expertise. Now I’m ready to sit down and write the final part of my book.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing (Toby’s coat)

toby3

I’m really pleased to be able to release another sheepy pattern! This design is a collaboration between myself and the wonderful Sandra Manson of Jamieson and Smith. As you can see, this cute canine coat features the same charts as my Sheepheid and Rams and Yowes designs, but the pattern is all Sandra’s. It was designed for her characterful Yorkshire Terrier, Toby, who is a true Woolbroker’s icon. Here they are together at Jamieson and Smith HQ.

sandraandtoby

Toby is such a lovely old boy — he will be 17 next month — and is often to be seen around Lerwick and Bressay sporting a very impressive range of Fairisle knitwear, all of which is designed and made for him by Sandra. Without doubt, Toby is Shetland’s best-dressed canine, and it is about time that he had a pattern of his very own!

toby6

Toby’s coat is made from the tail upwards and, in the same way as you’d create a mitten thumb, uses contrast yarn to create ‘afterthought’ front leg openings which are picked up later.

toby1

The neck of the coat is shaped with decreases and a ribbed edging is added all around the sides, creating a button-and-buttonhole band for the coat to fasten securely around the chest. Stitches are then picked up for the front ‘sleeves’, and a pair of neat straps are knitted to fasten the back of the coat underneath the hind legs.

toby4

Toby’s coat should fit any small-breed dog, such as a Westie or Jack Russell. The pattern includes detailed schematics, enabling you to adjust the dimensions if necessary to best fit those of your dog by adjusting gauge, or the length of the fastening straps.

toby5

Charts by: me!
Pattern by: Sandra Manson
Tech-editing by: Jen Arnall-Culliford

You can now buy a kit for Toby’s coat directly from Jamieson and Smith, and the pattern is also available to download individually from Ravelry.

WOOF WOOF!

ready for autumn

The leaves are turning.

In the hedgerow, just a few berries remain . . .

. . . and there is a decided nip in the air.

But I am ready for Autumn. I have a new hat . . .

. . .and mittens.

These lovely things were not knitted by me, but by my friend, Sandra Manson. I know Sandra from Jamieson & Smith, and she is a legendary knitter and designer. Sandra has an amazing feel for pattern, and a superlative eye for colour. Over the past year or so, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, and swatching with, the rich and varied palette of Jamieson & Smith Jumper weight, testing out interesting combinations, permutations, and encountering its many intriguing, mercurial or troublesome shades. Sandra has been knitting with Jamieson & Smith jumper weight for many years, and she knows its palette forwards and backwards. I feel we speak the same knitterly language. On my last visit to Shetland, I had the pleasure of seeing several of Sandra’s swatches and finished garments — some of which really blew my mind. I find something almost thrilling in seeing one shade working alongside another in unexpected combination, and Sandra clearly feels the same. I could rattle on about the potential of this shade and that with her for many hours — I suppose, put simply, we are both colour nerds.

I love the swirling raised crown decreases and the pleasing solidity of that mid-green (which is shade 118, for those who are interested). Sandra said that, when she’d finished knitting, the patterns and colours reminded her of Easter eggs and picket fences. I can see exactly what she means.

One of the (very minor) frustrations of designing is that I am often unable to wear my samples (if I want them to stay looking their best). But this Autumn, I shall wear Sandra’s hat and mittens with pride!

Thankyou, Sandra x

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