Knitting Knots in Glasgow

Yesterday I spent a fantastic day in Glasgow attending Glasgow University’s Re-inventing Scotland Woollen Traditions Public Study Day and generally sight seeing.

The event was staged at The Lighthouse, A Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed building originally for the Glasgow Herald newspaper, and now home to Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture. It has some fabulous Mackintosh exhibitions and I was on a bit of a Mackintosh drive yesterday. I’ve been working on designs with my own Mackintosh inspired lace pattern and have been reading up on the Glasgow Four along the way. So I also took a quick visit to Glasgow School of Art, a fabulous building where you can really appreciate, and touch many the detailed design features which characterise the Glasgow Style, and we all know knitters are a tactile bunch. I also had a lovely bowl of Cullen Skink for lunch at the Mackintosh designed  Willow Tearooms on Sauchiehall Street. You enter through a jewellers and I ate in the dining area on the first floor, but would also recommend going upstairs to see the other rooms whilst you’re there. The staff were lovely and even invited a couple who were not eating to go upstairs and have a look. The Creative Mackintosh Festival is currently underway; 15-28th October with lots of events throughout the city, including the Glasgow School of Yarn at the ‘Mackintosh Church‘ at Queen’s Cross today and tomorrow. I forgot my camera so just a couple dodgy phone pics I’m afraid of the School of Art:


As for the Study Day, The first person I got taking to was Trevor Pitt and here’s where so real knitting knots start. It turns out Trevor curated the Wow exhibition at Rhegged in Jan-April this year which I attended with friends from the Lancaster Knit Cafe. Among the exhibits were Trevor’s own Knitting Salon, and an installation by Susan Crawford reflecting the hours of work (including the knitting, writing, and of course the maths) that went into producing her book a Stitch in Time 2:

Just peaking out of the corner of the exhibit is a swatch of the stitch pattern for Gay Bolero which I’ve mentioned before here and is my first project from the book:

Its the red and white stripy piece at the centre bottom of the picture. Well it just so happens that whilst sitting on one of the benches knitted as part of the salon, speaking to Trevor and knitting I was wearing my Gay Bolero. Not only that, a fellow knitter recognised it and complimented me on it. Which is not the first time I’ve been complimented for my bolero, it attracted multiple comments and compliments at a previous outing to an academic dinner. Thanks Susan.

Moreover, the Public Study Day also attracted media attention and little did I know that the person filming a group of us sat on the benches knitting was from STV and the footage appeared on an STV broadcast last night and can be viewed here. Apologies but I think you have to watch the adverts too. So my bolero has now been on TV, not seen to it’s best I’m afraid whilst I was knitting on a new sock design.

Trevor is also working on a new project ‘Yarning’ for which I was interviewed. Among other things we discussed how I started knitting; how growing up in a rural community meant no real access to teenage  fashions that were becoming more readily available at that time. We also talked about the Blackpool Knitting Group and why I thought of a knitting group when thinking about those affected by susbtance misuse, homelessness, mental health issues and domestic violence. I found that one a bit difficult, but thinking about it the informal support, the confidence derived from learning a new skill and making nice things, and the way people come together in such a supportive manner when knitting in a group social situation makes it perfect.

And so to another knot and that sock I was knitting. The sock is a new design I’m working on inspired by the gloves my paternal grandmother knitted prodigiously during my childhood. It’s worked using the Ringwood Pattern which was a favourite of Gran’s but we never called it that. I only realised that Gran’s signature stitch was the Ringwood stitch when I saw a glorious pair of gloves knitted by TomofHolland on Ravelry and read his blog post. A bit of Ravelry chat ensued and Tom was very generous with information and advice regarding the edition of the Richard Rutt book to try and get hold to find out more. It seems Ringwood was the centre of a cottage industry of glove making in Victorian times. My interest was stirred by the fact that I grew up about 20 miles from Ringwood, but knew nothing of this. My budget hasn’t stretched to it yet, but yesterday, Frances Lennard who teaches Textile Conservation at Glasgow University had a copy as part of her display. So I had a quick read and found out that the history of Ringwood glove making reaches much closer to home; the book speaks directly of my home town and discusses a division of labour among female family members just as my Mum tells it. There are further links which I’ll keep for another blog post when I’ve had chance to get a copy of the book and discuss what it says with Mum, and raid her stash of Gran’s gloves which are still going strong, including the unworn collection, many years after Gran’s passing.

I’m hoping the sock pattern will be available by the end of the month, it’s currently in testing, and will feature both cuff down and toe up versions. The sample sock I was knitting yesterday led to a a number of discussions including one in which I think I convinced a fellow knitter to give sock knitting a go. I made no mention of slippery slopes and the possibility of developing sock obsession…

There was also a great presentation of the Shetland Mirrie Dancers Project by Roxane Permar and a stunningly illustrated presentation by Carol Christiansen from the Shetland Museum. Carol talked through a brief history of Knitting in Shetland and the various methods of construction used in creating garments. Much of the museum’s collection is available to browse online and there are some real gems there. I’m also aware of a number of projects underway looking at vintage garments, some of which may make them accessible/replicable for the modern knitter, which I’m sure I’ll come back to in future posts when appropriate.

Oh and if you’re wondering why I keep speaking of knots; knots are what the effect created by the purl stitches in the Ringwood pattern are called. Thus the term seemed particularly appropriate for reflecting on how different strands of our knitterly selves intertwine with other knitterly beings and practice. yesterday, we were encouraged to knit through presentations and so there were lots of literally as well as metaphorical knots made.

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