New month, new challenge. Now April is here I’m off to the Scottish Borders to learn about tweed, tartan and handframe knitting. For those of you who’ve not come across the latter, the handframe is the missing link between knitting by hand using needles, and the modern computerised knitting machines used internationally in the textile industry. First designed by Nottinghamshire’s William Lee in 1589, the knitting frame looks rather like a loom to unaccustomed eyes, with its curved bench for the machine operative with peddles beneath. The Border Textiles Towerhouse has a splendid machine from 1798 on display:
I also paid a visit to the School of Textiles and Design at Heriot-Watt University’s Galashiels campus to get to grips with using a modern knitting machine, thank to MA student Emily who very kindly showed me around and instructed this novice in the art of machine knitting. Walking through the college’s huge knitting machine room was indeed a thrill – rows up row of knitting machines and floor-to-ceiling shelves of yarn cones just waiting to be used. Emily patiently talked me through setting up and using a Dubied machine, producing a strip of two-tone green knitting in mere minutes. Images below appear thanks to the School of Textiles and Design at Heriot-Watt University.
Then it was off to Hawick’s Heritage Hub which welcomes researchers interested in all things Hawickian. There followed one of the jolliest afternoons I’ve ever spent in an archive. As well as sharing their original satirical poetry and plenty of local tips including arranging a personal escort to the bus stop (that really is going above and beyond), Kathy, Hannah and Paul could not have been more helpful in guiding this novice through the complex web of Hawick’s textile history. I’m very much looking forward to returning later in the month to interview people who have worked in the industry, and to getting stuck into knitting April’s garment. All will soon be revealed!
Apologies for the brevity of this post – this month’s a whirlwind of packing and DIY ahead of moving into the new house in 18 days’ time…