Prints from the Archives

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A bit ago there was a tweet from Orkney Library and Archives saying some spare prints from the Archives would be on sale that afternoon.  As I was looking after Nigel at the time, and as he loves bus rides, I decided we would go in to town to have a look.

I came away with 6 prints.  Some I bought as they will be useful for the book I am doing on Orkney knitwear; some were of more general interest and some I just liked!

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This one caught my eye at once.  The background shows the fishing fleet in Stromness harbour in the heyday of the herring industry.  See the rows and rows of masts from the drifters?  But it is the foreground which makes it a picture.

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Unfortunately Lovick’s Law comes in to play yet again.  The two blokes on the right are wearing cloth waistcoats, and the one on the left has a plain gansey….

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This next one is just interesting.  This must be one of the earlier diving suits, and from the size of the men’s caps the photo was taken just after WW1.  My guess is that the diving operation could have had something to do with the aftermath of the sinking of the German Fleet in Scapa Flow in 1919.

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Ganseys here are also plain, but the one worn by the right hand of the three fishermen is almost certainly handspun.

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One more sea one.  This is again Stromness Harbour, looking across to the hills of Hoy.  The steam boat tied up at the pier is called the Hoy Head, the name of the ferry to Hoy and Flotta for over a century.

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Coming on to the land, above is a photo of women and a boy hoeing, while three young children play nearby.  Taking photos of groups of people hoeing seemed to be a common activity as there are lots of pictures of this communal activity!  Here is a close up of the workers.  You can see that the woman on the right is wearing a knitted ‘cape’, shaped (not just a triangle) and with a patterned border.  I can’t quite work out what the pattern is, but it could involve cables.

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And here are the children – two boys and a girl almost hidden.  One boy wears a sailor suit jacket and the other a coat, both of which are probably knitted.  Patterns for these sorts of garments were easily found in the books of the time, or copied from what their mothers or grandmothers saw in the street.

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This next one tells a story.  From the body language of the folk in the background, the photographer was a stranger.  These folk are not posed, but have left off their talking when someone noticed the photographer.  I can see their point – not everyone wants there washing on film!

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Finally, a print I couldn’t leave behind.  At first glance it appears to be just a woman carrying a book, but closer inspection reveals that the title of the magazines in her arms is Votes for Women.  And see that three coloured badge on her shirt front?  That will have been green, white and purple.  She is an Orkney suffragette.

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Northern Lace Website Revamp

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I first built my Northern Lace website 18 years ago.  And for the last 16 winters I have intended to revamp it.  I have finally done it!

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The original site had been added to piecemeal over the years, but this time I have started from scratch and built a site long the same lines as my Northern Lace Press site.

I wanted to keep the site quick to load and easy to manoeuvre.   (My own pet hate is sites which are all bells and whistles and take forever to load!)  I also wanted to add my patterns to the site.

I have kept the colours the same on every page, but have changed the top banner each time.  The home page gives general details, along with links to my Twitter, Facebook and Ravelry feeds.  The legal bits are all on the About page.

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As the North Ronaldsay sheep are an important part of my life, I have a page about them with plenty of pictures, and that leads on to another page with more photos.

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Rather than list my books here, I have a page which links over to the Northern Lace Press website.

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All this is good, but the best bit is that I now have a shop with all my patterns accessible from my own website.  Prices are in ££ and include VAT where appropriate (sorry about that!).  And you can pay with either Paypal or directly with your credit/debit card.

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I still have all my patterns on Ravelry and Etsy, of course, but if you want the maximum amount of money to go into my pocket, buy through my own website!  Thank you.

Teaching 2016

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My weekend on Papay seems a long time ago now.  But it was a great weekend and one I will remember for a long time.

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We were staying in the Beltane hostel, the long, low building in the photo above.  It was originally a row of farm labourers cottages which now houses the community shop and the hostel.  The dining room doubles as the island bar and ‘cinema’ and it was there that we held the classes.

My first expedition is always down to the wool shop.  Yes – readers of this blog will know that Papay Post Office is my LYS!  I did my usual, going a couple of times to look before deciding what to buy.

On the way we passed both the school and the school livestock.  The Papay school has both sheep and alpaca.  And they are used in an awful lot of the curriculum.

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The knitting classes went well, and everyone worked very hard – I should have taken gold stars to give out!

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On the Saturday evening we had a spinning evening.  The light in the conservatory wasn’t perfect so Jonathan, the Papay Ranger who arranged the weekend, found some lamps.  We found the perfect place for one….

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The wheels were old and new.  This is Anne spinning on the wheel in the photo from the Orkney Archives shown below.

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I was teaching again last weekend, this time at Laldie Haans, the Orkney Craft festival.  I was teaching spinning in the morning and lace knitting in the afternoon.  Once again folk worked very hard, and it was lovely to see the progress made in a short time.

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Teaching on Papay

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Now that my health doesn’t let me travel much, I am only teaching in Orkney. One invitation I could not turn down was to teach a weekend on the Orkney island of Papa Westray, known locally as Papay.

Papay is one of the northernmost isles of the Orkney group. It is a place I have been to often, and a place I love. It is a peaceful island, with very friendly people, interesting archaeology and beautiful sandy beaches. Oh – and it has its own wool shop!

So I am teaching a weekend of workshops on the theme of Orkney knitting. Here is the poster with the details:

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There are more details, and a chance to ask questions, over on Facebook here.

Papay is easy to get to once you are in Orkney. It is served by the Islander aircraft – small, eight-seater planes, which act like a bus service! The return flight from Kirkwall to Papay costs £21 if you are staying overnight. If you book on the right one, you might even get to travel the world’s shortest time-tabled flight between Papay and Westray! Just 2 minutes. Details of the timetables are here (at the bottom of the page), along with details of how to book.

As for accommodation, Papay has a ‘hostel’ in what was once a line of farm workers’ cottages. The rooms are very well appointed, and there are two well-equipped kitchens. The island shop is also part of the same complex, and it has everything you might need, including both ready meals and local produce should you want to cook ‘properly’. More details, including how to book the hostel, here.

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So what will we be doing in the workshops?

In the Orkney Lace workshop, after seeing some old photos of Orkney lace and talking about its relationship to the Shetland tradition – and others – we will first check that folk comprehend charts, and then we will be knitting a bookmark (or two) using common Orkney lace patterns.

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In the Orkney Fairisle class we will again start with looking at some examples, and talk about the connections with the Fair Isle itself before making a small pouch (or the first of a pair of wristwarmers).

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The project for the gansey class is a pin cushion using Orkney gansey patterns. Again we will look at old photos and talk a bit about the herring industry in Orkney before starting on the project.

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In each workshop, yarn will be provided and students will take home patterns for various items including socks (lace), a hat (colour work) and a cowl (ganseys). There will be an opportunity to visit the Papay wool shop to choose yarns for further projects, so if coming by air, make sure you bring and extra bag, and leave room in your 15 kg luggage allowance for taking yarn back!

It is going to be a wonderful weekend, and I look forward to seeing you there!

Mystery No More!

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The final clues in the Mystery Gansey KAL (knit-a-long) I have been running on Ravelry have been released, so here are some of the photos.

There are two patterns, one for a gansey and one for a throw and cushions. Both use stitch patterns found on ganseys in Orkney photos, most of them from the Orkney Museum and Archive. Some of these stitch patterns can be found in other places, but others I have only seen here.

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The gansey comes from a photo of several seamen on the Forward, registered in Kirkwall. The date of the photo is unknown, but the boat was registered in 1896. It is the gansey worn by the second man from the left.

The pattern includes instructions for knitting the gansey on two needles and in the round, and both methods come in 13 sizes, from 21″ to 69″ chest. The smaller sizes have a smaller version of the pattern, and some of these do not have a gusset.

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One thing about these stitch patterns is that the inside looks as good as the outside, so the gansey can be worn either way out.

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In addition, the construction means that the back and the front are exactly the same, so it can be worn either way round. This has the practical value of evening the wear to places like the elbows.

The other pattern is for a throw made up of 8″/20cm squares, There are 28 squares, each knitted up in a different colour of Frangipani 5 ply wool. Several of these stitch patterns come from the gansey on the right:

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This photo is another from the Orkney Archives and was taken on the Orkney island of Stronsey in the 1920s during the herring season. The gansey, unusual because the pattern across the front is not symmetrical, is worn by a girl known as Jess. (I have the pattern for her gansey here.)

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I blocked each individual square and when I had them all…

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… I arranged them in the order I wanted….

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…before sewing them together.

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Buy the gansey pattern here:

Buy the throw pattern here:

Flotta Yarn Bombing

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The Christmas Eve edition of the Orcadian newspaper contained the following report along with some photos.  I have added some more photos of the things that I took last week.

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Flotta folk woke up Sunday recently to find that yarn bombers had decorated the community tree with red and white crocheted decorations.

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It was first thought that Kenny Gee, who organises the tree for the Community Council, had arranged for the decorations to be put up, but then other red and white knitted and crocheted items were found elsewhere. The wooden ‘men’ in one garden had been given hats, there was a Santa on the kirk steps, and Scandinavian a ‘nisse’ in one porch.

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Later in the day, it was found that the three ‘Flotta penguins’ had also been given hats.

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Knitwear designer and author Elizabeth Lovick, who lives on the island, was asked whether she was responsible. “Knitting is my work, not my hobby,” she replied, “and I am too busy to spend time on fripperies.”

At the time of writing, Flottarians still have not figured out the answer. But they agree that the decorations brighten up the tree.

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Christmas at Shearer’s

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As many of you know, Shearer’s, the traditional grocer in Kirkwall, have a Christmas shop each year.  Nothing different about that – many businesses do.  But Shearer’s Christmas shop is up on the first floor of the original shop where goods left over from the early years of the Twentieth Century are stored.  Original shelving, a clerk’s desk, and an animal feed hopper all feature, and if you look at the upper shelves and beams in many of these pictures you will see bits from a by-gone age.

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As you come up the stairs, a traditional scene greets you.  Often the shop’s cat is curled in the chair beside the (real) coal fire, but not today!  It is only as you start to look more carefully that you see the old radio and the tilly lamps.

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So wander round the shop with me, and see what you see!

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