Knitted Wedding Dress

I’m taking a break from the Yarn series today to show you something very special which was made using one of our yarns: the 2ply Lace mentioned in a previous post in the Yarn Series. Shetland designer Sheila Fowlie is an extremely talented knitter who is well-known in Shetland for her bespoke hand knitted Shawls and Scarfs, she often gets commissions for projects and recently she was asked to knit a wedding dress for the wedding of a local couple Rebecca and John!

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photo courtesy of Sheila Fowlie.

Of course we were very excited when Sheila told us about the project, and now the happy day has been we are pleased to share some photos from which Sheila has sent us. I asked Sheila some questions about knitting the dress:

  •  Were you surprised to be asked to make a knitted wedding dress?

I was, very surprised, wasn’t even sure if I could do it, but couldn’t find anybody else willing to take it on so decided to give it a go myself!

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photo courtesy of Sheila Fowlie.

  •  How many hours do you think it took you from start to finish?

No idea, I gave up after 100 hours and I hadn’t even finished the bottom frill!

  •  Was it important to you to use Shetland Wool in the design?

It was very important to use Shetland Wool, as I believe it’s a superior product and is what I use in all my knitwear, unless specifically asked for something else.

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photo courtesy of Sheila Fowlie.

  •  How did you go about putting together the design and was it quite complicated to do?

All I had at the start was a picture of the sort of dress the bride would like, so we began by taking some measurements and I started with the frill at the bottom after experimenting with different sized needles to get the correct tension. We had decided on three different lace patterns for the dress, one for the bottom frill – ‘willow leaf’ pattern; one for the middle bit – ‘print o’ the wave’; one for the body – ‘bird’s eye’ pattern.

I made the bottom in five panels, then sewed them together. The next bit was more complicated as I had to split the back, so that buttons could be added and therefore had to transpose the ‘print o’ the wave’ pattern to make it match on both sides of the opening. That took a few false starts and many, many swearwords before I got it right! I then grafted the middle bit to the bottom frill. From the middle and up was also quite complicated, as I had to insert darts below the bust into the ‘bird’s eye’ pattern in the front. The back had to be split to incorporate the opening and then made in two bits to join at the shoulders. I then had to attach a matching lace edge to each side from the shoulder to the waist. By the time I started the top bit I had the ‘underdress’ to copy for size, so that made it a bit easier!
(Washing the finished dress was a bit of a challenge, but that’s another story!)

I also made a 1-ply shawl to match the dress, which the bride used as her veil and a pair of matching lace ‘dags’.

Sheila the designer and Rebecca the bride.

Sheila the designer and Rebecca the bride. photo courtesy of Sheila Fowlie.

  •  Were you pleased with the finished dress and did you enjoy the wedding?!

I was really pleased with the finished result and thought the bride looked stunning. I really enjoyed seeing her wearing it at the wedding and received lots of compliments, which was nice!

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photo courtesy of Sheila Fowlie.

Rebecca and John actually live next door to us here at J&S so we were lucky enough to see Rebecca as she left on the wedding day. We are very proud to have played a tiny part in such a special garment and well done to Sheila, and of course congratulations to the happy couple!

til next time, happy knitting!

KNITSONIK – BLOG TOUR PART 2!

As you may know, Felicity Ford has recently published a book ‘The Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook‘ We took part in the original blog tour which was part of the kickstarter campaign to raise the funds for the book. The full amount for the project had already been raised by the time we did our original post so we knew this book was going to be a roaring success!! We were lucky that the first copies of the book arrived in Shetland when Felicity was here for Shetland Wool Week so we got one of the first peeks.  I sent Felicity a few more questions to see how she was feeling now the book has come out!

the_cover-950x4251: How did you find the process of writing the book and are you pleased with how it has come out? I think it is beautiful!

I really enjoyed writing the book; I was lucky to have a talented team who shared my vision and gave tons of love to its production. Additionally, I was able to share milestones with the project backers through the Kickstarter site. Working on the book felt like going an adventure with loads of friends and I think it is richer for having had encouragement, input, energy and skills from many KNITSONIK comrades.
The little sections describing each inspiration source were the parts I most enjoyed writing because I discovered so much about my local area while researching them. The Berkshire Records Office and the Local Studies section of the central library in Reading were really helpful, providing me with access to building plans and street directories. Seeing and touching these old documents from Reading’s past made me feel more connected to the history here.

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As you will have seen, one section in the book celebrates my iconic Huntley & Palmers biscuit tin. I discovered through old census data that a William Chas Wellstead once lived at our address and that this individual had formerly worked as a tin-factory labourer. This information made my treasured little tin feel even more significant and personal. At the Berkshire Records Office I was enchanted to see the old building plans for the now demolished Huntley, Boorne & Stevens biscuit tin factory: this was where William once worked and where my tin was made.

Huntley_Boorne_Stevens-1-3Art_Deco-1Another snippet of local history celebrated in the book is an old pink Art Deco building on the Basingstoke Road. I was unable to discover when it was decorated in its distinctive shades. However in the Kelly’s Street Directory of 1949 the building was registered to Tokalon Ltd. (a cosmetics company) and when I found old Tokalon face powders on eBay the shades of pink were uncannily similar to the stucco facade.

TOKALON-1I don’t know if that was when it was painted but it’s a lovely coincidence!
These discoveries added extra context to my knitting and made me feel more connected to my town through stitches and patterns. Everyone who was involved in the project shared my joy in the lovely links between my knitting and my town and I feel that you can really see that in the final product.
I’m thrilled you think the book is beautiful. I am incredibly pleased with how it looks and want to credit the super talents of Fergus and Nic here because their photos and design are what really make the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook. Going on photo-shoots with Fergus was super fun as he really got the essence of the book and wanted to use the photos to show connections between my town and my knitting. The day when we went out together to photograph my bricks-inspired-swatch against the Reading brickwork was an especially happy one; I actually cried for joy when I saw his photos!

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It was also thrilling to pass Ferg’s wonderful photos over to Nic and see what she would do with them. I especially like the spread for the page opening the chapter about knitting places because the way Nic arranged Ferg’s photos is superb. She said “I wanted to put you in the middle, in your car, with all your favourite places around you” which is such a nice way to think about that chapter and something I could never have come up with by myself.
These are just two examples of how my amazing comrades have enriched this book with their talents and undoubtedly the best thing about writing the book was working with wonderful people.

2: What are your dreams for people who are using the book? We have had lots of Shetlanders asking about it!
My dreams are that people using the book will feel empowered to design stranded colourwork from things they love! I want to show that creativity is not mysterious, and that it involves practical steps which can be practised by anyone who wants to play.

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I hope the book will inspire knitters to start on hugely personal projects that feel rich and personal and significant… one of the reasons for spending all that time researching the history of old biscuit tins and factories is to show that these little things we notice each day really matter and are worthy of knitterly celebration.
I hope that reading the book will also inject a bit of fun and mischief into everyday life. The other day I saw a lovely message from Sarah who used to work for your company. She remarked on how the book had made her see some chimney pots in J&S yarn shades. That’s what it’s all about; finding inspiration and magic everywhere and cultivating creativity in unlikely places.

3: What are your best tips for people interested in colourwork but a bit scared to take the first step (apart from purchasing your book of course!) do you have any fail safe things to get colour and motifs inspirations from?

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My top tip is to edit your inspiration source down to a manageable size. If you start with the idea “I want to knit a swatch based on my favourite beach” then you may be overwhelmed! But if you can make this idea a bit smaller – “I want to knit a swatch based on this bit of sand, maybe using this individual shell and these pebbles for pattern ideas” then it has already become more manageable. Creativity is really just about solving problems – the first problem to solve is usually that the initial idea is vague, so defining the brief more clearly is the first step. I think a lot of people are tempted to start with nature subjects – a tree or a landscape for instance – and though these are beautiful and picturesque subjects they can also be quite complex. A single tree contains so many different shades and lines and colours that it can be hard to know where to begin. I address this in the book in my chapter on plants, and there are definitely ways to make it easier to knit from the natural world but if this seems complicated then you can’t go wrong with pleasing food packaging! A tin, a cereal box, even the washing up liquid bottle can all be superb starting points for stranded colourwork. These generally contain just a handful of colours which are easy to identify and it can be fun to hunt about in an initially simple-looking object for hidden patterns and shapes. I was delighted that in Shetland during Wool Week several comrades brought Tunnocks chocolate wrappers to my workshops as their inspiration source – these are ideal as they have really strong graphic lines and superb, bold colours.

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My favourite swatch in the book is the one based on my little handheld recorder. The object is so simple – just a little black plastic device with a digital screen and some buttons – that I really had to look hard to find details. Once I started, I had millions of ideas and it was a fun project.

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So my best tips are to start with a small idea or to start with a big idea and then make it smaller!

4: How do you think writing this book has changed how you will approach colourwork in the future?

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The main changes are that I have fallen in love with swatching (which I used to really dislike) and I feel more confident that you really can use anything as a starting point for designing stranded colourwork. When I started trying to design my own colourwork projects I didn’t know what I was doing; there were so many variables and I kept making ugly things or getting confused about the numbers or messing up the colours. As I solved each problem I got a bit more secure in my own creative process and my swatches got longer and longer as the ideas started really flowing.

In the Kickstarter video I said “I want to make this book for us” and in finding ways to clarify my process for other knitters, it inevitably became clearer to me. I had to put structure and language around what I do when I am designing stranded colourwork and that helped me to organise my thoughts. The result is that now I feel quite at home in the KNITSONIK system and know exactly where to start if I have an inspiration for stranded colourwork. I really hope the book makes others feel the same.

5: I really hope you liked working with our 2-ply Jumper Weight, I’m going to be horrible and make you choose your absolute favourite shade! If you can’t choose one, I at least want your top five!

Your 2-ply Jumper Weight is amazing and it was a pure delight to work with it for many reasons. Its provenance can be traced back to crofts on Shetland; its hand is soft and bloomy; and the range of shades is magnificent. After working on this book I almost know the shade card numbers by heart… there is no way I can choose one all time favourite shade, but my top five would be 9097, FC11, 202,1208 and 125.

90979097 is a calm red; it is the exact colour of the distant poppies that bloom on the horizon when driving my favourite road and it has a magical relationship with FC12 if you want to transition between red and green.

FC11FC11 is the most beautiful verdant green. It energises all plant-based design themes with its vivid hues; it is the colour of fresh leaves that have the sunlight passing through them.

202I think I used 202 more than any other shade in the book; it is an incredibly useful neutral shade and appears in many palettes with its translucent cool creaminess. It tempers brightness in surrounding shades and is really useful for describing such textures as faded pages or old paint; spots on a beach where the sunlight is hitting the sand; faded road markings and clouds. It is versatile and understated and I feel a must-have shade for every knitter trying to turn everyday inspirations into stranded colourwork!

12801280 is perfect for transitioning magically between purple and green shades as I discovered while I was knitting sloes. The bloom on a sloe is a beauteous and elusive thing but this shade I think goes some way towards capturing it.

125Finally I love 125 because it is almost the exact same colour as Reading Red. That is the colour that Reading clay fired to in the Victorian brickworks once plentiful in this town and there is nothing like it. You can see that the later bricks were not made of Reading clay because they are not the same vivid shade as your wonderful 125.

Thanks Felicity and Congratulations!

Wool Week Saturday and Sunday

Our last class yesterday was with the brilliant Felicity Ford, who’s new book arrived on Friday, nearly ready to post to all the people who backed the campaign to publish it!

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Felicitys friendly teaching style meant for a great class on being inspired by pictures and your life in your Fair Isle Knitting

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The shop was open til dinnertime then I headed to the Wool Week hub at the Shetland Museum, it looked really great!

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This map was full of pins showing where all the visitors have come from!

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big3 big2As well as the hub being open the Town Hall was filled with producers at the Makers Market, from Foula Wool to Shetland Handspun.

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There was also some historical things there, one of the makers, a knitter also had on her table some Wool related memories, including these vintage slips from Jamieson & Smith in the 1970s!

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Today marked the end of Shetland Wool Week and I went out to Whiteness for the annual Sunday Teas held by the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers

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As well as the great teas and fancies the Guild also has a presentation of their work, and there were some fantastic things to be seen from some well known Shetland Knitters: Ina Irvine, Hazel Tindall, Linda Shearer and Kathleen Anderson to name a few!

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I also spied a number of things which were entries to the Colourbox Competition we hold at the Voe and Cunningsburgh shows like Lindas jumper seen above.

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Members of the Guild were also demonstrating which was great to see!

big4Sue, Loretta, Outi and Eve spinning and knitting away.

This marks the end of my posts about Shetland Wool Week, its been a fantastic week and I hope you have enjoyed seeing what was happening in Shetland. I have so many pictures I didnt get to use that you may be seeing some more! For now though its time to tidy up the shop and get things back to normal,

Happy Knitting! xx

Wool Week Friday

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We began Friday morning with another Shetland lace class with Elizabeth Johnston of Shetland Handspun.. another class full of concentration..

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In the afternoon Deborah was back, doing a bit of drop spindling!

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Before you knew it and working with raw fleece everybody was spinning away!

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big2Everyday this week, as he has every year, Oliver has given his talk on what we do at Jamieson & Smith in the Woolstore, i popped in on Friday to take a few photos. There were lots of people there listening, as there has been every day!

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PicMonkey CollageIll be back tomorrow with more pictures from the final weekend of Shetland Wool Week, it has been fantastic!

Wool Week Wednesday and Thursday

big1So we began Wednesday with another class on Fair Isle by Hazel Tindall, again it went down a treat!

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PicMonkey Collage big2In the afternoon we had the first of our lace classes with Elizabeth Johnson of Shetland Handspun, as usual once things got going this was one of the quietest classes.. lots of concentrating going on!

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We stayed open after five last night to host the Shetland launch of Gudrun Johnstons newest book, The Shetland Trader Book 2!

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Gudruns new book has 10 patterns, a number using J&S yarns, 3 of which you see here! We sold out of the book after a couple of hours and it was great to see how many people came to support Gudrun

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Today we began the day with something a bit different for us, a fleece preparation class with Deborah Gray.

big1This involved Deborah showing the group how to prepare raw fleece for spinning, really interesting!

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And this afternoon another class from Mary Henderson, this time of steeking! aka cutting your knitting! (not as scary as it sounds!!)

big1Mary had the group knit a ‘Mug Hug’ mug warmer, a nice small project perfect for steeking!

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Another great few days, I headed to the Museum tonight to listen to Hazel Tindall and Stella Ruhe’s talk on Knitting in the 1960s and Dutch Ganseys, really interesting! Ill be back on Saturday with a round up of the last few days of Shetland Wool Week at J&S.

Happy Knitting!

 

Wool Week Monday and Tuesday

So we began Wool Week at J&S with a class from our Wool Week patron Hazel Tindall, Hazel designed a bookmark which involved a bit of Fair Isle and steeking! the perfect small project which everyone made great progress on in the 3 hour class

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We even had some finished ones by the end!

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In the afternoon we carried on with the Fair Isle with a class on Colour knitting by English designer Mary Henderson, Mary has designed lots of things using our wool and her use of colour is fantastic!

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Of course the shop was busy all day with lots of wool being bought so I only took photos when I got a chance!

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Today we had another two classes with the US based dreamteam Mary Jane and Gudrun who are both here with a tour group. First off Mary Jane took a class on Fair Isle socks

big1of course she brought her suitcase of Fair Isle swatches and soon everyone was knitting away!

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In the afternoon we had a bit of Lace with Gudrun Johnston, Gudrun who was born in Shetland has a great pattern for a Shetland Hap, she had the knitters make a mini Hap which was a great way to try out all the elements of the shawl

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From the initial triangle, old shell pattern and the edging, in the mini-hap the students were able to try out all the things you need to know for a full size Hap!

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Today the shop was very busy with knitters buying basketfuls of wool, Me and Sandra were serving all day!

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and lots of decisions to be made!

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Ill be back with more pictures from Wednesday and Thursday on Thursday night!

Happy Knitting! xx

Wool Week Opening Ceremony

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So today saw the opening ceremony of this years Wool Week, it was held in Mareel and there were lots and lots of visitors around!

IMG_3556For something different this year different textile makers and yarn producers all had a table to show off our wares to all the visitors. It worked great and we got to speak to lots of people

IMG_3559It was hard to know what to bring so I just took a selection of the yarns and products we make. It was inspiring to see the other makers too, like Mati Ventrillon

IMG_3564Linda Shearer and Ina Irvine, mother and daughter super knitters from Whalsay

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And Kathleen Anderson, a beautiful lace knitter

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As well as lots of others. Of course like last year there was the fabulous Fair Isle Cake!

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and lots of Shwook hats to be seen, the exclusive pattern designed by Hazel Tindall, patron of this years Wool Week

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Oliver was one of the speakers who opened Wool Week, and as always it was interesting to hear from him the origins of Shetland Wool Week and amazing to see how far it has come!

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Cheers to a great Wool Week!!