I was taught to knit by my Cornish grandmother when very young and kept myself in clothes through school by knitting arans for friends! When ill health forced me to stop teaching when I was 40, I did what my forebears would have done – I turned to knitting again. Now, from the house I share with my elder son, Ben, outside Kirkwall, Orkney, I design, write and knit, specialising in designs bringing the patterns of the Northern Isles to a new audience.
The three great knitting traditions of the Northern Isles form the foundation of my patterns, but I like to use them in modern ways. These forms of knitting grew out of necessity. Ganseys kept fishermen warm, shawls kept the women warm. Later, knitting lace items, then Fair Isle designs, for sale to others, evolved to bring much needed income to Orkney and Shetland families.
Almost all the time, I will have three projects on the go – one gansey, one piece of lace and one Fair Isle – and other ideas sketched out in her head and on paper. I like to use natural fibres most of the time, ranging from the local North Ronaldsay wool and Jamieson and Smith’s Shetland wools to ColourMart cashmere. For ganseys, I reckon Frangipani’s 5 ply is the best there is. I do like nice yarn, but it does need to be right for the job the garment has to do. And although I love working with natural fibres, give me a good acrylic over a bad wool or cashmere any day!
For relaxation I stay with fibre, spinning and dyeing wool, silk and other exotic fibres. There is usually an audio book on the player while I knit, and my two Scotties, Eilidh the wheaten and Magnus the brindle, will either be at my feet waiting for the next walk or looking out of the nearby window snoopervising anything happening.