During the event, I was reminded of the awe that textiles inspire in me as Di Gilpin and Sheila Greenwell talked about the history of the Gansey Sweater based on the research for their book, The Gansey Knitting Sourcebook. Can you imagine the thrill of finding a woman with note cards documenting 100 years of Gansey stitch patterns? And that the craft was endangered as being lost up until recently? I’m most certainly purchasing this sourcebook and am thankful to Di and Sheila for their work to save this heritage.
Vawn Corrigan was equally as fascinating as she shared her research on the Irish Aran sweater, and the power that celebrity has in making the Irish Aran all the rage. Yup, buying her book as well: Irish Aran: History, Tradition, Fashion.
Lynn Abrams spoke about her research on Scottish knitting. My ears always perk up when people address the role of women’s work in textiles. In this case, knitting was key for the economics of Shetland women in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Lynn’s continued research can be followed here.
Photo from Knitting Modern Europe website
I swooned over the fine stitches of 12th Century and beyond knitted liturgical gloves, the focus of a research project that engages Leslie O’Connell Edwards. Just as I was thinking what an amazing resource the gloves would be as inspiration for designing, Leslie suggested that very thing and encouraged all to peruse the Knitting in Early Modern Europe site.
Betsan Corkhill shared insights from her book, Knit for Health and Wellness. Did you know that texture is two times as significant as color in affecting mood?! Texture! For me, that translates to texture in touch, as well as the visual that texture creates. This might be one reason I find such joy in knitting with our yarn. It is soft and easy on the hands. And then there’s the soft, comforting, lightweight feeling of cashmere on my skin when I wear my finished garments all. the. time. In design, it might explain why I’m drawn to stitch patterns more than colorwork. Stitch patterns fascinate me. They create intricate design by how we work our needles. They create texture – amazing to feel and beautiful to the eye. I wonder what the impact is of texture combined with color, which is where my interest in colorwork lies—when it combines with texture, as in the photo at the start of this blog showing some of my texture meets colorwork design play. Interestingly, our colorwork knitting pattern kits thus far all mix color and texture. I guess our designers were on to something. . .
Betsan shared that knitting can offer us emotional life skills, in particular that it’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, it’s good to make mistakes. For people who stress about perfectionism (yeah, me), allowing a knitting mistake is excellent therapy to remind us that perfectionism is unattainable. Besides, I’ve always heard that by leaving in our mistake, we create our signature, the evidence of our hand in making, our design element, as it were.
Knitting is calming, purposeful and helps to quiet that part of the brain that gets anxious because we’re occupying it with knitting. But we avid knitters know that.
Take my sister Signe as an example. I just learned that making dishcloths helped her get through Covid. When Signe couldn’t concentrate or focus with all that was going on, she made dishcloths. A stack of dishcloths. It calmed her mind so that she could focus on other knitting, like the knit samples she makes for June Cashmere.
Signe's pile of knitted dishclothes - Covid survival.
We learned from producers of yarn and knitted goods. Hélène Magnússon is known for her Icelandic Knitting designs. I’m particularly interested to learn more about Icelandic intarsia, an old technique in danger of being lost that Hélène helped to preserve. . . Sonja Bargielowska is one of the new owners of John Arbon Textiles who mills their own British wool yarns, as well as the yarns of many other well-known British brands. It's fascinating how their mill works – using solid equipment of yore. . . Donna Wilson is a knit goods designer who uses knitting machines to create her products. She’s venturing into a mini mill to expand her work. . . I was there to represent June Cashmere and tell about our work with shepherds and goats in Kyrgyzstan, as well the qualities of high quality cashmere yarn for knitting. You know, I haven’t talked about those qualities for our blog, so it is now the topic of my next post. If you haven’t joined our community of knitters and supporters and are inclined to do so, you may sign up at the bottom of the page using your email. You’ll be first to know when the next blog post is available.
It was a 3-hour long event packed with knowledge and resources that I, for one, am excited to dig into a bit more and use as inspiration for my work here at June Cashmere. Maybe you'll find something of interest as well among the offerings.
As always, find joy in knitting! But also find knowledge, inspiration, calmness, and an escape for the anxieties that continue to plague.