I am so lucky (and I know it) that since Shetland is a pretty small place.. everyone knows how much I love knitting. For example while I was walking to work the other day someone asked me if I wanted a Jumper Board. Thats just how it goes..
My Mam’s friend Kay is one of those people who know about my interest (cough..obsession) Last year when they were downsizing her Mams house she offered me a huge amount of her Mothers knitting books. I love the books and things I got and appreciate them so much. Kays Mam has since sadly passed away and earlier this week Kay invited me and Mam to hers to look at some of the other textile things her Mam had. Again I came away with some amazing things and I thought I would share them.
Now these things are special because Kays family ran what we call a Hosiery Business (a knitwear business), it was run by Kays grandparents Bobby and Jeannie Anderson from there home in Brugarth, Whiteness. It is thought it traded under the name ‘Charleston Brothers’ and was linked to a hosiery business in Hawick, it operated purely as a Mail Order company, and the firm in Hawick would place the orders with the Andersons: sizes and colours required for all over jumpers as well as the main colours of the body’s for the yokes.
To begin with it was a small family business with the Andersons paying outworkers to knit jumpers and the bodies of the yokes on knitting machines, then they were taken to the hand knitters who would add in the hand knit yoke and then they would dress the finished jumper. Once they came back they Anderson’s would do a quality check before the item was shipped out. After the death of Bobby Anderson in 1962 Hilda Hunter (Kays Mam) joined her mother in the business.
At this time, Fair Isle knitwear was a big thing, and the business continued to be run from Brugarth with more and more outworkers being employed, this allowed people to make an extra income, much needed in the unstable time when fishing and crofting were the mainstays of a family’s income in Shetland. The samples shown here are examples of things they would send these out workers to give them the patterns for yokes.
These samples are not colour samples, you can see they have been made in whatever wool was lying around purely to show the patterns, as long as the tone of the yarn was the same the colours didn’t matter.
The reason only half the pattern is shown in that in a Star pattern in a yoke the other half is purely a reflection on the bottom half so to save time only half has been knitted.
I love that these are working samples, they have been sent out who knows how many times to give guidance to knitters on which patterns to use for a specific order.
Some have been knit as a tube, others sewed and cut open and one has been backed expertly with a silk ribbon, just as you would do in a cardigan
My favourite are the sample of yokes backed on paper which include the tree pattern that goes alongside the Norwegian star and in which the clever yoke decreases are placed
I am going to keep the samples for a while to use as inspiration but I will then give them to the Shetland Textile Museum for their collection, until then I know I will look at them often. Kay’s family business ran until the Oil Boom which is very interesting to me. I’ve mentioned before how Oliver (my boss at Jamieson & Smith) told me it was amazing to him that my degree show work was inspired by that era when to people in the textile industry in Shetland at that time were seriously worried about people deserting the industry for the big bucks at Sullom Voe. As you know, (i swear ill stop talking about it eventually) I curated an exhibition at the textile museum about knitwear from that time and its interesting and important to note that as well as being a boost for some textile workers, that time also marked the end of some businesses.
Thank you to Kay and to her Mam who has given me some of my most treasured books about Shetland Knitting as well as these amazing samples.
Speak soon xx