Scotland has had a long held tradition with hand knitting, wool production, traditional knitting patterns as well as wool mills and production of machine framed knitwear. Pringle, Johnston’s of Elgin production of Cashmere have a long history for the economy of Scotland. Tourists still look for cashmere garments to take back home as souvenirs despite China now makes cheaper versions. Quality cashmere and Scotland still go hand in hand.
Scotland also has a great history in connection of wool production. The countryside is covered in small Black face sheep wandering the highlands with thick curly fleece on their backs. North Ronaldsay sheep on Orkney produce a different wool altogether which has a wonderful sheen, Shetland sheep produce yet another tight curly wool which is put to great use by the knitters of the island.
Not only do we produce a wide variety of woollen yarn in Scotland, from the cobweb yarn of Shetland to the durable chunky Arran yarn, but we also have produced a wide variety of patterns and designed handed down over centuries in families around Scotland.
Visitors can go to museums around the country to learn more about this rich tourist theme. Here are a few.
A World heritage site about Robert Owen’s Mill which also provided education for the families who worked there. See the Mill working and follow the story of one of your girls who worked there. There is also a modern hotel, café, shop, museum about the housing and living quarters.
A distinctive pattern devised in this small Ayrshire town in the South West of Scotland. Here there was a thriving cottage industry in the 18th century created to make practical garments, stocking and gloves, which would provide work for such communities. THe workmanship is highly skilled and still of great interest to knitters who want a challenge!
Ganseys (Guernseys), Jerseys, Aran and Fair Isle are names given to fishermen’s knitted pullovers that were universally popular in the 19th and early 20th century. Each fishing village had its own pattern and within the local pattern there were small variations, and sometimes names, that identified the family and individual. Though it may sound macabre today, the garment served as a means of identifying a body washed up on shore – often many days or weeks after the initial loss of life. Following identification of the individual, the family could then perform the funeral service and bring the painful experience of the loss of a loved one to some form of closure.
“The Textiles Collection cared for by Shetland Amenity Trust is a Recognised Collection of National Significance in Scotland. The quality collection held at Shetland Museum and Archives portrays the iconic significance of Shetland textiles on an international scale.” Lerwick is also the home of wool brokers Jameson & Smith. Those knitting needles will be clicking after a visit here!