Wednesday, September 28, 2016

ancient history....

I am decompressing from the pressures of getting that book ready and out - I feel like I don't even want to see a knitting machine for a while. Thanks to everyone for your support!
I'm doing a bit of sewing and my latest binge-watch is the BBC production of Shetland. It is a detective/murder mystery (my favourite), set in Scotland. It takes a bit of listening to, for that Scottish dialect, but I'm enjoying it. The most recent episode that I've watched takes place on Fair Isle which is a tiny island off Northern Scotland, between Shetland and the Orkney Islands. And I keep saying to myself (there's nobody else here to tell) 'I've been there!'. The scenery is spectacular - it is known as a bird sanctuary and as the home of fairisle knitting.
Way back, in 1991, I went on a tour called 'The Wool and Wonders of Scotland', sponsored by the Rowan Yarn company. It was a fabulous 2-week trip-of-a-lifetime where we toured by bus, boat and helicopter from Aberdeen to Stornaway and Lerwick, ending in Edinburgh. There was a ton of history, everything was defined by how long ago Bonnie Prince Charlie did whatever. We had a day with local spinners and weavers; a fashion show by a designer who produced cable knits for the Japanese market; a trip to the tartan-maker to the Queen; visited crofts/homes where Harris Tweed was made; had several trips to wool brokers where we saw wool being processed from the sheep's back to the finished skein and every step along the way; the Callanish Stones (so much better than Stonehenge!), a half day at the Glenfiddich Distillery and a lot more. There was something for everyone and the highlight for me was a helicopter ride to Fair Isle for a couple of hours.
In the community centre I found a group of machine knitters using Studio/Sliver Reed punch card machines  to knit fairisle sweaters for sale. I was the only machine knitter on the tour ( all the rest were hand knitters with a couple of husbands thrown in for good measure) so I hung out there for most of the afternoon, talking with them and figuring out what they were doing. They had a machine with a ribber attached that one lady was making the 'welts' (what they called the ribs for waistbands and cuffs) and removing them on waste yarn and then they had about 4 other punch card machines set up to do the fairisle blanks of body and sleeves. I was amazed at the huge, long punchcard they had - I didn't know then that it was available on a roll so you could have a 200 row fairisle design without having to reset the punchcard every so often. Someone had to hand graft the welt to the blanks and do the seaming. I showed them how to rehang the welts directly to the punchcard machine to knit the fairisle right off that and eliminate the grafting step - they were absolutely amazed! I was a hero for a few minutes and the hand knitters looked at me with new respect after hearing that I was able to help out the Fair Isle knitters!

1 comment:

Mary Lowe said...

Oh wow Mary Anne what a treat and such wonderful memories you have shared with us all. xx