Friday, 18 July 2008

Island knitting

Since visiting Shetland last month and buying some lace weight wool I have been looking at how knitting has developed as part of island culture. There are many traditional knitting patterns from various islands available on-line and while distinctive they also have much in common. Knitting seems to be an island hobby related to the availability of wool, the need for warm clothing and as a local source of income. So far I've found traditional knitting patterns from Shetland, Iceland, Fair Isle, Guernsey, Jersey and Ireland. I've put some links on my list for anyone who's interested. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this information but it's fascinating to see how knitting has developed in these relatively isolated communities. Although garments were first knitted for utilitarian purposes the knitters developed intricate patterns and colours which required intense work. Most of this work would have been done in winter, in relative darkness, by candle or firelight. And of course you had to spin your wool first. I watched someone spinning when I was up in Shetland. It looked very calming and restful but I was soon put off when the spinner told me how long it would take her to spin the small quantity of fleece she had with her - just a handful would keep her going for weeks. No wonder the invention of the spinning jenny was so welcome! My resolution (again!) for the rest of this year is not to buy any more wool but to get through at least some of the stash I've got. The problem is of course that I keep going to places where wool is for sale and falling in love with it. Buying wool is highly addictive but I must go back and have a look at what I've already got - I think I will be pleasantly surprised and hopefully will fall in love with some of it again and get on with knitting it. I've got four items on the go at the moment and must finish at least one of them before I start any more. A friend has asked me to knit her daughter a Christmas stocking to match the one she has. We've found a pattern on-line dated 1925 which looks exactly like the one she wants. So I need to go to a wool store and match up the yarn. There --- I've almost broken my resolution immediately, but in a good cause of course.

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