Sunspun Fine Yarns

Knitting in Scotland

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Hello there! It’s Jules here, all the way from bonny Scotland! When Amy asked me if I’d been keen to write a guest post on the Scottish knitting scene, I jumped at the chance- there’s so much to share and much of it different from at home in Melbourne and I wanted to share a little of it with you all.

We arrived in Glasgow in mid-winter and were immediately very glad of the winter woollies that I’d packed… It is always hard to anticipate and prepare for winter in the middle of an Australian summer but it was cold– often below freezing overnight and well into the day and scarves, hats and gloves quickly became part of our kit for leaving our flat. Everywhere we went I saw beautiful knits (albeit covered by jackets most of the time) and I quickly realised that what I love to knit, mostly for the joy of it, are essential garments here.

Stirling in late winter

Stirling, late winter

We soon settled into a flat and set about finding ourselves work… I was very lucky, in that I’d been contacted late last year by Clare Devine, a South African living in Edinburgh but on the cusp of moving to Melbourne. Clare is a knit designer, tech editor and teacher and, having heard that I was moving to Scotland, very generously offered me her teaching contacts. So, despite thinking that I’d never find work here as a knitting teacher- surely all Scots are born with needles and yarn?!- I stepped right into regular teaching at lovely independent yarn shops: Queen of Purls in Glasgow, Ginger Twist Studio of Edinburgh and Fluph in Dundee. Interestingly, all three are, like Sunspun, run by young, dynamic women who are very engaged in the local knitting community and carry local, independent yarn, as well as lines from larger, well-known yarn companies. They and their customers are thoroughly Ravelry-centric but are also very supportive of local designers and producers and I was surprised but thrilled to see how much these three young women work together to build their own and each other’s businesses- so refreshing in the competitive retail scene! There is real interest in more unusual classes, such as colourwork crochet, steeking, drop spindling and darning, and it’s been a joy to teach in these very lovely shops.

I was also lucky to have a small stall at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in mid-March, the second of it’s kind and an event that looks set to grow enormously. It was a wonderful opportunity to have a view into, and a meeting point with, the Scottish knitting community and I couldn’t have been more reassured that this is a good place to be as a knitter! Meeting a few of the knitting world’s rockstars, like Clara Parkes, Susan Crawford, Ysolda and Stephen West, was a big thrill, as was talking with yarn producers, dyers and designers from all over the UK. Although a small community compared to the US, it is a vibrant and thriving one and there is a lot happening here! There were classes in all manner of things, from Fair Isle with Hazel Tindall (one of the most accomplished and fastest knitters in Shetland and the world) and darning with Tom of Holland to stripes and colour with Veera Valimaki and adapting stitch patterns with Ysolda. I was too busy on the stall to take any classes but I did manage to pick up a few treasures over the course of the weekend… would you like to see?! Of course you would.

Some very beautiful oatmeal 4ply from the legendary seaweed-fed North Ronaldsay sheep, Orkney (thinking a very simple shawl that highlights the beautiful yarn?)…

North Ronaldsay 4ply

North Ronaldsay 4ply

As well as four shades of hand-dyed Shetland/ Hebridean from Highland dyer Helen of Ripples Craft (possibly a colourwork cushion?) and an interesting blend of alpaca, Polwarth (the very first Australian sheep breed developed in Colac, Victoria!) and Zwartbles (from Holland) from John Arbon in Devon (a drapey cardigan).

Ripples Craft and John Arbon

Ripples Craft and John Arbon

There are so many woolly opportunities here and I feel very privileged to have met some incredible knitters, like Brenda and her divine colourwork gloves…

Brenda's colourwork

Brenda’s colourwork

… visited Flamborough in Yorkshire to see the region’s traditional fisherman’s ganseys as part of some research on British fisherman’s knits…

Flamborough gansey

Flamborough gansey

… and been swept along in the Indieburgh Yarn Crawl, a weekend-long event organised by three independent yarn shops in Edinburgh, including many classes and events and a whole lot of knitting!

And, in case you’re heading over to the UK,  you may want to time your visit with one of the many British/ Scottish woolly and knitting festivals and events over the year, such as Woolfest, Wonderwool, Yarndale and Unravel, as well as lots of smaller ones! I’ll miss quite a few of them this year but one that I most definitely am attending is Shetland Wool Week in late September! Amy and I visited Shetland when we came to Scotland for the UK Knitcamp in 2010 and I vowed that I would return to that beautiful place sometime- I can’t wait to learn from the best teachers, walk the sea cliffs and share a little of my own knowledge of natural dyeing too. I promise to do another guest post on that with lots of photos of wonderful knits if you’re all interested!

Jamiesons Shetland Heather

Jamiesons Shetland Heather

In anticipation of that, I’ll leave you with a few knitterly details from the Great Tapestry of Scotland, a breathtakingly marvellous tapestry outlining the origins, development and past and present history of Scotland that is currently touring the country…

Detail from the Great Tapestry of Scotland

Crofters working Shetland lace as they walk

Detail from the Great Tapestry of Scotland

Girl knitting Fair Isle

Cotton milling in Scotland

Cotton milling in Scotland

Many thanks for having me, Amy! xx

3 thoughts on “Knitting in Scotland

  1. Great to read about the dynamic knitting scene in Scotland – how lovely to be immersed in all things wool 🙂

  2. Just loving the updates so very much, Im off to Scotland next year and now cannot wait . thankyou

    >

  3. What a great post. I’m hoping to head to Scotland later this year and this has made me very excited about woolly opportunities.

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