There was a knock on the door on Saturday. It was Yvonne, the church treasurer, with a plastic bag. She had been in seeing her aunt and seen these. She knew I was interested in Orkney knitting and thought I might like to look. Her aunt, Eunice, had always been a great knitter, and there were lots of things round the house…
I will show you them in order of age…
The oldest, 1940s by the style, pattern and colours, is also the smallest. This was made for a young woman with a slim waist. The pattern, a form of New Shell, was common up here at the time – I have come across it often in various forms in photos:
The next, typical of the 1950s, is almost as tiny, but a little bigger. The bright yellow is typical of the times, as is the placing of the stranded band:
On another decade or so. By this time I suspect she had a lot of knitting to do as the wool is thicker and the stranded work only on the front and sleeves – the back is plain:
More recent still – maybe 70s or 80s – is the largest of the sweaters. This one is in slightly thicker wool still. There is the stranded work on front and back, but the sleeves have just the band above the cuff.
Finally a waistcoat. This one is stranded all over and the rib is the same twisted rib used on the last one. She must have put on weight on her front, as the sum of the two fronts is a lot more than that of the back – this was knitted by a knitter for herself!! It, like all the others, has had a lot of wear….
I have photographed them all, including the insides, and will be returning them to Yvonne when I see her next. She is a very busy lady, and I much appreciate her taking the trouble to bring them round. She says there are more…! I did suggest that she keeps in mind the fact that these are important social history and that the museum has so very little. She was surprised, but said she would.
Knitters will be interested to know that all of them use the same techniques. The shoulders are done with a three needle cast off on the wrong side. All are done to and fro in pieces on 2 needles. The floats are not caught, even when a couple of inches long, and the colours of the stripes are taken up the sides of the pieces. The front bands of the waistcoat are knitted with the rib and then worked separately, being sewn on to the fronts and then round to the back of the neck where the one from the left front and the one from the right front are sewn together where they join.
I don’t know what the wool is, but all is very smooth and quite soft. The lace one is probably J&S 2 ply lace weight (it is a typical early Shetland), and the others range through typical fingering to DK.