woensdag 22 december 2010

Shetland....Fleece..Fair Isle..Lace...and a special lunch

As promised I should write a post about my knitting adventures which I had the last summer-holiday in Shetland. On one of the first days (maybe it was the first day)I walked into Tesco and suddenly out of the blue I got a Big Hug and a Hey Jan...and there was Connie promoting salmon at the entrance of the supermarket. Connie used to work at Jamieson & Smith (The wool-brokers) but changed job. She is a half-Kiwi and half-Shetland girl and is now living in Lerwick for the time being before going back to New Zealand with her husband (who comes from Shetland ofcourse!!) She immediately told me that Jared Flood (yes: THE Brooklyntweed!)was coming to Shetland with another bunch of knitters and the Parents of Ravelry: Jess and Casey. And the next question was: please do come on Thursday for lunch in the Shetland museum and you can meet up with them.
So I went there with my dear friend Birgit (who was my girlfriend long, long ago, but we are still very good friends) and we had lunch with Jared, Gudrun Johnston, Mary Jane Mucklestone (from whom I had bought a pattern and yarn at J&S the summer before to knit her Luke's Diced Vest: still not on the needles...), Ysolda Teague, a model who's name I forgot and Jess and Casey from Ravelry. Than there was Connie of-course and Auntie Grace who taught some knitting during lunch. All very pleasant, good food (Mike the chef in the restaurant is GREAT!!) and later we took pictures as a group. I had taken some pictures but none of them were so good as this one from Jess, so I hope she doesn't mind that I am using this one. They all had came up to Shetland for holiday, but also for photo-shoots by Jared for books from Ysolda and Gudrun. It was really nice to have met them and they all signed my diary.So a delightful lunch worth to remember.
Whenever you are on Shetland in the summer you can visit Country shows where a lot of items are displayed. We went to the one in Voe on a rainy day in a very muddy field and it was kind of scary to drive the car down the hill on the slippery ground. Guess they must have thaught: how can we tease that Dutchman! Let's see if he can drive and after a close look before going down which track too choose it all went fine..There are competitions for cake-making, knitwear, the best sheep etcetera... and of course : the best fleece from Shetland sheep can be found there. This one is the winner: a beautiful grey. They told me that this colour is hard to get in this quality. Most of the fleece (as been told)is bought by Jamieson & Smith in Lerwick and in summer all fleeces are coming in their shed. The amount of different natural shades is enormous.Browns, greys, whites and everything in between. Dark, almost black fleece is peeping out from the packaging.Baskets full of creamy fleece.. After selecting and taking out the best fleeces everything is send to Yorkshire to be spun in the gorgeous yarns J&S sells in their shop.
In the past, long before artificial dying was invented people used to knit with only the natural colours as can be seen in those socks and gloves which are on display in the Shetland museum. They were knitted by Shetland women and sold to the fisherman from Holland who came to fish on herring. There always has been a big connection between the Dutch and the inhabitants from Shetland.
Also knit in natural colours is the Shetland Hap: a scarf with a knitted square in the middle and a lace border round it. Usually knitted in the Old Shell pattern and an example can be seen here (nr 38) The Shetland Museum has an open digital archive (really wort to have a look around there) and if you look at the pile of Hap's behind these women you can see that is was really a big trade at that time.
On one of the last days I bought some beautiful and really soft hand-spun at the Textile museum in the Böd of Gremista. Probably not enough for a Hap, but maybe I try to mix it with some Icelandic natural dyed yarn I have in my stash. But is is really soft as butter...
The natural yarns are still used in knitted articles often seen nowadays. I noticed this beautiful cap worn at the Voe show. And later Tiny took a picture of me wearing a cap Simon King did wear in his Shetland Diaries serie and this one was waiting for him. Mind you: I did sleep in his bed cause we rented the cottage he also stayed in while filming and now I did wear the hat he would get..)
And so we come to Fair Isle knitting. The knitwear in the most amazing colour-combinations and only used 2 colours in 1 row. My dream is to go one day to Fair Isle and knit Fair Isle there outside with a view on Shetland (if it is a clear day you can see it) but nothing came of that this time. In the Museum there a lots of examples of beautiful coloured Fair Isle knitwear. Beautifully displayed in a context as can be seen with this sweater in traditional Fair Isle colours with a beautiful painting next to it.
I was lucky that I could join an International Knitters-group for a special lecture about Shetland knitting and I did see some items (hand knit ofcourse!!) who are not on display in the museum. There was this nice coloured scarf (you definitely could wear it now: so fashionable) These sweaters in unusual colour combinations but in the traditional patterns as the OXO and the Norwegian Star. Also on the table was this one: a Fair Isle knitted cardigan but not in traditional patterns and colours and it looks so modern to me. But there were also socks knitted in such a small gauge in the most stunning colours. How I would love to wear those.
But for me the most beautiful item was this view from a knitter on Fair isle. Knitted in a soft white yarn and shiny blue glass beads in traditional patterns. Probably from the 30's or 40's but I guess when I would see a woman wearing this now I would ask her if I could take a picture of her. This really looks so Now and Modern to me.
Fair Isle items can still be bought on Shetland. Usually knitted on a machine but often in special colour combinations. Jamiesons sells them but unfortunately my size wasn't there.Last year I got a beautiful one from Bram for my birthday and my colleague Tjabele (a really good photographer!!) in school once made this stunning photo. I picked it from my page on FB, so guess it is not a problem for him.. Otherwise I would have loved to have a slipover in this colour combinations. We were having lunch in the museum and friend Lorna is on the right.
But there was much more worth to see at that lecture: LACE in the most high quality I have ever seen. How about this one: A finely handspun woollen yarn and such a tiny stitches and stitch patterns. How many hours did it take to complete this one? Another lace border can be seen in the museum and there is a magnifying glass above it to see the stitches.I am not a lace knitter myself, no not really, but this Print and the Waves pattern is one I really would like to knit in the future. The origin of the Shetland lace can be found in the Unst heritage centre on the most northerly island named Unst. There, a lot of examples can be found and in all different stitch-variations as can be seen on this picture. I have many more pictures of traditional examples but I don't want this post to be a photo-album.
I am going to end this post with a rather different approach to lace knitting. On the first sunday of our stay we visited the Bonhoga Gallery to see the exhibition MirrieLace. Lace was knitted by experienced lace knitters and these tiny fragments were projected on the walls of the museum. Beautiful to see and to be in.

maandag 20 december 2010

December thoughts...

Yes, December has arrived in full swing. It is really winter with loads of snow: >Love it!! And I am enjoying my 2 weeks holiday. So, the plan was to write a blog-post over things happening over the last weeks. In the beginning of December a new school-project did start and to get inspiration my students and my colleague had to go to Museum Twentse Welle in Enschede to get an insight in the textile collection. They need to design a man or woman winter-coat for a competition. The inspiration needs to come out of traditional textiles. So on a cold and snowy winter-morning we went there. The collection is not that spectacular but worth while to see.One of the reasons is that the region Twente was a very poor region. Originally there was a lot of textile production, but most of that has left and garments are now mostly made in the much cheaper Far East. Most of the garments from the collection are worn by richer women or men and all from the workers has disappeared. So there were beautiful striped handwoven skirts who used to be worn under more skirts. In the green one you can even see a little repair, probably a hole.
From the first time I did see a wool shiny damask I fell in love with it.The colours and the shine and the richness of the fabric. Used for over-skirts in the 18th Century and than only for the very rich. and for man used in waitscoats as can be seen in this example. Look at the handmade blue buttonholes and the shiny buttons. So Macho at that time!!
I have discovered over the years that I am more a textile man than a fashion man. Textiles have always done something to me. The history of it, the the craftsmanship, the secrets who have become into the garments when wearing it, the touch of it. Who made these pair of over-stockings and who did wear them? Which man or woman made these beautiful embroidered buttons? And how many hours took it to make this simple shirt for a worker without a sewingmachine.. Which woman did wear this kind of underwear and did she repair it herself or was someone else doing it for her?How difficult it must have been to make this without good lights? The Human Touch and appeal to textiles is one of the things which can really touch me. Garments are your second skin and tell a lot of stories.
Guess it has to do that my mother has always made garments from as long as I can remember. She used to buy the fabrics on the market and must have made hundreds of items. Always using patterns from Marion or Burda. She has made me shirts,trousers, a brown safari suit and much more from a very young age till round my 16th. This is me with my mother at a wedding and I must have been round 6 or 7 and the striped shirt was made by her. At that age I got my first pair of Lois jeans and a red T-shirt and from than on I preferred the garments bought in a shop. But she kept making things for herself. Evening dresses for her 25th Wedding with my father and for the wedding from my brother, summer dresses and winter outfits with matching hand-knit sweaters. I don't have many pictures of that but will ask my father if he has some.
The older I get the more I am sometimes touched by my own family history. My mother who had to come to work at at home after primary school because my grandmother was ill and needed a hand. Here she is wearing the white dress and the shoes from her brother, which she always hated to wear she often has told me when I asked her about her youth. A young girl who also must have her dreams about her life. She always told me that he dream would have been to be a dietician in a hospital. But the war came and the marriage with my father and at those days it was the woman who had to stay home and take care of the children (We ,the 3 brothers and I came last when my mother was 40). Looking now at the pictures from my parents when they were young I see 2 beautiful young persons with a future in there eyes. I sometimes really miss my mother and those feelings suddenly can turn up. She passed away in 2001. My father is still alive and doing well under the circumstances of his age. He is still very active and the older I get the more we look alike in many ways I see.
At my work I still don't have the feeling that I am connected with everything. I guess all the things happened over the last months have to do with it. Yesterday at my psychotherapist we talked about it and she told me that it will take much more time to get everything back in perspective where it belongs. There are still a lot of tears coming every now and than and sometimes at unexpected moments. To get trust in everything is the main part of it. Trust in him, trust in myself, trust in life and future. Security is something I need now after the insecure years. That is why I am touched my X-mas music, homely scenes in magazines etc.
I did knit my colleagues cowls and mittens for a X-mas gift and they loved it. My colleague Onno made this pictures of them.Not everyone was there because of flue and other illnesses These weeks are full of dinner-parties. We did start of last Friday with a dinner at the studio from the Spacecowboys (the best X-mas dinner I always think: nothing can beat that!!) We know each-other so long and it is always great to meet up with friends there. There is good food and good wine and good company: what else do you want. This year it was a mushroom soup, a chicken curry with salad and coffee with cakes and cookies. Bram also came and stayed more than 2 hours which was so nice for the both of us. Sorry for the bad picture , but it gives an impression.
Next was the dinner from our street (round 20 persons). We all cook something. I am usually making the dessert which was a warm apple crumble with home made vanilla sauce and meringues dripped with dark chocolate.. It was all a bit in a rush because before the dinner I went to a concert from NoBlues and came home too late (but it was such a good concert!!)
And last night opposite of our house there was an opening night from the Centrum voor Menskracht (centre for Human Power) and the whole street was invited. It is a beautiful building with high ceilings and a nice garden. Very atmospheric!! There was gluhwein, lots of food and sweets, workshops to be done and a nice atmosphere ending with music made by a World music group. More dinners are coming up the coming weeks
And yes, of course: I am knitting. Currently working on the Ringwood gloves from Knitty and will finish them hopefully today, so I can wear them in this cold weather.
I am planning to write more posts the coming days about... well..you will see and read..But till now I hope you enjoy the winter XX