About a year ago I was asked if I could make a Korsnäs sweater for a new book “Lankapaitoja”. I happily said Yes, I can! The writers Marketta Luutonen and Anna-Maija Bäckman are both accomplished writers and editors, and both have done a life long work in craft associations. Marketta wrote her doctor’s thesis about sweaters: “Rustic Product as a conveyor of meaning, A Study of Finnish Pullovers” (text in Finnish).
The gorgeous photos in Lankapaitoja are taken by Anna-Maija’s husband Gunnar Bäckman, who worked as a professional photographer for many decades.
The sweater I made a copy of is in child’s size, 2-3 years old. The original is in the Finnish National Museum. I got two photos to work from, which wasn’t a problem as they were taken by Gunnar Bäckman. The sweater is unique because of the use of colours: the pink yarn used has not been found in sweaters for adults. I took this photo when I had finished the sweater.
Korsnäs sweaters are unique because of the techniques used, and because of the many colours in a culture where the natural sheep colours white, brown, and black and blends of those was much more common: there’s tapestry crochet in the hem, the upper part of the body, and in the cuffs and upper parts of the sleeves. The “lus”-pattern known from Norwegian sweaters is knitted.
The sweater is named after the municipality where it’s been made since the 19th century. I visit the small museum in Korsnäs almost every summer. The impression when you enter the room with the sweaters is overwhelming every time: it’s so red! So colourful! It’s a wonderful room.
A unique technique was also used in earlier days for knitting the middle part of the body: three knitters sit in a round and knit their own rows simultaneously. The best knitter knits the “lus” (the stranded knitting with one white stitch, and one red or green in alternating rows). This photo is from a knit-in-public day at the museum:
The tapestry crochet was always done by an expert. Not many could do it.
I first learned to knit and crochet the Korsnäs sweater at Marketta Luutonen’s first class in 1982. Even if I haven’t made more than two adult and this one child sweater, I’m fascinated by it. I really do want to make one more.
But, back to the book. There’s much more than the Korsnäs sweaters in the book. Sweaters and accessories from the western coastal region fill the beautiful book. There are also new interpretations of old finds, all just as well made and with the piety you can expect from the two ladies. An example: a cardigan designed by Anna-Maija from an old vest, knitted and crocheted by Jeanette Rönnqvist-Aro and Berit Bagge. Sorry about the bad photo quality, the photo is from an evening at an exhibition where Marketta and Anna-Maija talked about knitting history and the book. The photo in the background shows the vest:
This is also from the exhibition. My small sweater compared to the ones for adults.
The book has 255 pages, 23×30 cm, printed on high class paper with a beautiful layout. It’s written in Finnish, and there will be a Swedish version in the autumn. I don’t know anything about an English version, but my personal opinion is that this is a book that should be translated. The quality is amazing all through, and I’m sure the sweaters, cardigans, purses, mittens etc would interest a bigger audience. Besides the expertly written section about knitting and crochet history in Finland, there are also written patterns with charts.
My sweater modeled by a lovely boy!
I have a few of the myriads of books on knitting in Shetland. As with my spindles, when I’ve bought yet another book I always think “OK, now I don’t need another one”. And as with spindles, eventually I find that I’m wrong.
I gladly recommend all the books I show you today! The textile tradition in Shetland is so overwhelmingly manifold, that one book in your textile library just isn’t enough.
I don’t knit very much Fair Isle, but I still have a couple of books:
As you can see, two classics (McGregor and Starmore). I think you can survive pretty well with those two. Kate Davies is a must for all knitters! For me she represents the very best of new designs leaning on tradition. And the photos are wonderful!
“Knit Real Shetland” is a collection of new designs by among others Jared Flood, Hazel Tindall, Gudrun Johnston, Wolly Wormhead, Sandra Manson, Mary Jane Mucklestone, Mary Kay.
“Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook” by Felicity Ford (Knitsonik) shows you how to make your own designs by using colours and shapes in your surroundings. Felicity is also behind Wovember, the great event we all look forward to this time of the year.
“Wool Week Annual” 2015 and 2016 include essays about Shetland textiles, and designs by designers like Hazel Tindall, Donna Smith, Gudrun Johnston, Outi Kater, Ella Gordon, Wilma and Terri Malcolmson. 2015 is sold out, but 2016 can at least today still be purchased here.
I love knitting lace, and Shetland lace is especially dear to me. I have books on lace knitting in Estonia and Russia also, but I always return to my Shetland lace books. I must confess: I read the books, and look at the photos more than I knit these complicated looking designs. I know it’s less difficult than it seems, so now I’m totally determined: the Premium fleece I bought at Shetland Flock Book will become a Shetland lace.
“Heirloom Knitting” by Sharon Miller is out of print, but can sometimes be found as used copies. This book is considered to be THE book about Shetland Lace.
Liz Lovik’s two books, “The Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting”, and “Magical Shetland Lace Shawls to Knit”, are two books with admirably well and logically made instructions, easy to follow and understand.
“The Book of Haps” is edited by Kate Davies. It’s a collection of hap patterns designed by a number of skilled designers from several countries. As the term “hap” suggests, the shawls are designed for everyday use. The book also has also a fairly long essay about haps and shawls, written by Kate Davies.
All the books above have articles about knitting in Shetland.
“Shetland Textiles 800 BC to the Present” has no patterns, but is just like the titel says, a history book. Of course, you can’t go deep into the different techniques in just one book, but as an introduction it’s very good, and so beautiful!
I forgot to buy a book I’d really love to have, but forgot to buy during Wool Week: A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book by the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers. I’ll buy it as soon as my credit card has recovered from my trip. Another book on my wish list is “A Legacy of Lace” by the same guild, also to be found at Jamieson and Smith.
I also have books that only have a couple of Shetland patterns amongst others from all over the world. But if you really want to learn about and understand Shetland knitting, you need books that concentrate on the topic, and that preferably are written by people from Shetland (or at least Scotland Mainland). They know what they are talking about! I very soon realised that when I went to Shetland the first time.
I have promised a post about Shetland Museum and Archives for a while now. I like museums, and I like this one very much. As with all museums, also this one has a lot more to show than you can see in the public exhibitions. For instance, textiles are often stored away from light that may damage them. In the Shetland Museum you can still see a lot, both originals and copies. They are behind glass, which you can see in my photos, sorry for that.
Sweaters, cardigans, vests, tops, hats, tams, scarves. Stranded colourwork has developed especially in Fair Isle, the little island southeast of Shetland mainland. But it’s been, and is, practised all over Shetland. In one of the photos below you can see a photo of Edward, Prince of Wales, wearing the sweater that started a boom in the 192os. Fair Isle knitting is an ever changing story. Throughout its history the fashion of the period has influenced the patterns, and the colours used.
Sheila McGregor and her books have their own showcase:
Shetland tweed. Weaving has been much more common in Shetland than is usually known. This would be something for me to explore next time.
When you see all these beautiful textiles, you can’t but marvel at the women who did all this beside their everyday tasks. It’s overwhelming. I can’t fully comprehend it.
And when you come to the cases with lace – it’s then when a spinner and knitter would be happy for a chair to sit on, because the sight makes you feel weak.
Lace shawls and haps, case after case. Sometimes the lace is so fine you need a magnifying glass to see it properly. Samplers remind us that all knitters couldn’t read, and that there weren’t always charts to follow. The lace knitters were extremely skilled. They made their own patterns, and they varied them in their own fashion. Skilled lace knitters work like that still today. The finest shawls are still called Wedding Ring Shawls. Even the biggest of these shawls can be drawn through a wedding ring.
The equipment for spinning the fine yarns are the same we use today. Hand carders for the very fine Shetland wool, a spinning wheel, a niddy noddy, a lazy kate. In the photo below there’s also something we don’t use anymore: a smoke barrel with sulphur for whitening the yarns. Nowadays some of us also use dog or cat combs to prepare the wool for worsted spinning.
There’s lots more in this amazing museum! But I want to show you the Gunnister Man. The link takes you to Wikipedia, but there’s much more to read about him and his clothes and accessories. I like this article with lots of links: Costume Historian. There are a free purse patterns on Ravelry, the link takes you to one of them. I’ve made a few purses to give away to friends.
This year’s Shetland Wool Week hub was in the museum. In the hub you could meet other attendants, sit down and knit for a while, have coffee or tea, get information about everything concerning Wool Week. You can see some of the knitters behind the Gunnister Man.
You could also take part in a charity project by knitting a square or two for a blanket, bring them to the hub, and have them sewn on to a blanket. The blankets will be sent to South Africa to children that have lost their mothers because of aids. I knitted three squares.
If you want to know more about knitting in Shetland there are lots of books and articles, and much to be found on internet, like the museum’s digital photo archives. I will show some of the books I own in my next post.
Today I want you to watch Josefin Waltin’s beautiful video “Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater”.
While on Youtube, watch her other videos! There’s one on how to spin on a supported spindle which in my opinion is one of the best instruction videos about this technique.
As so many others, I admire Kate Davies’ knitting designs. I’d like to knit them all, only I have so little time for knitting. But I am knitting A Hap for Harriet now, from a yarn I spun a couple of weeks ago.
It’s a blend of BFL/silk dyed by my friend Britt-Marie in Sweden, shrieking pink longwool, red silk, tomato red Merino. I carded the fibers on the drum carder. It’s a strong, fine, soft yarn, I’m quite pleased with it. I use 3 mm knitting needles.
I’m happy with the colour: a deep, vivid red with a hint of fuchsia.
The pattern is easy, and I like the shape of the shawl. It can be used as a scarf, which is how I usually wear my shawls.
You can find the pattern here: A Hap for Harriet.
Spring is here! We’ve seen so many birds returning already. The first flowers are blooming. I took this photo a week ago at 10 in the morning, now the snow is gone and the road is almost dry, and the sun is much higher in the sky by ten o’clock.
About 14 years ago I started to knit a blanket from left over yarns. Like other badly planned projects, also this one came to a halt when I got out of red yarn in that particular shade and weight. So I put it away and thought I’d buy more one day. And forgot all about it.
I found the blanket when I moved my spinning, knitting, crochet etc into my new room some years ago. And I still didn’t have that red yarn, so I put it on a shelf to wait for better times. It took a while for me to realise I do have more of that yarn! I had bought it for a crochet project, but had forgotten all about the afghan. One day this January, while waiting for the cold to leave my head and let me think again, I saw it! And I finished the blanket. It’s big enough for hubby’s afternoon nap.
The technique is domino knitting the way Vivian Høxbro teaches it. Here’s a link to her Danish site, where you can change to English. But do look at the photos in the Danish version first! She doesn’t teach very much anymore, but if she happens to come somewhere near you, don’t hesitate! She’s a strong Nordic woman with much integrity, a big laugh, colourful clothing, and great knowledge about colours and design. Domino knitting is one of my favourite techniques. It’s perfect for left over yarns. It’s also perfect for many big projects, as you knit one small square at a time, then attach it by knitting the next one onto it like a Domino play. You don’t have to hold the whole heavy project in your hands, only that small square. Good for your hands, good for your mind as you can knit a square within half an hour, and feel as if you’ve finished something.
Now I wonder where the rest of my UFOs are…