It has been a very frustrating week. I’ve not been up to anything much, and have been unable to go outdoors. Tom decided to cheer me up with a non-taxing outing, and we drove to Hawick. I love to walk in the Borders, but when one cannot walk, pootling around in the car will do just fine. In a curious way, the landscape reminds me of home (Lancashire) with its hedgerows, its dry stone walls. By this, of course, I mean that what is familiar to me is the way that the land is parcelled up — the way that property and productivity are visible in it — and in this sense the steep valleys, the mill buildings, the nineteenth-century workers’ housing, are very familiar to me as well. Like Lancashire, this is textile country. What industry remains — in the brand-led processing of luxury yarns — is a mere vestige of what it once was, and yet the past inspires a tremendous amount of local pride. This is very evident in the new Borders Textile Towerhouse, which has recently opened, and is well worth a visit. The building (a restored sixteenth-century fortified tower) is truly fabulous, and the historical exhibits are thoughtfully and carefully put together. I liked the wheels, frames, and looms. . .
. . . and you can’t go wrong with a Trade Union Banner — particularly one that depicts and celebrates the stocking frame.
Tom inspected some knitwear. . .
. . . found himself a new bonnet.
and pondered the practicality of the kilt combinations.
Upstairs, there was an exhibit exploring the ‘future’ of Borders’ textiles, which largely focused on golf sweaters, and Vivienne Westwood. Now, the sweaters aren’t really my thing, but I will say (having examined them carefully) that they were beautifully designed and exceptionally well-made. However, I was so disappointed to encounter berloody Westwood, yet again. However hard one tries, one just can’t get away from her! I can think of several other exhibitions in several other Scottish institutions, all of which explore the past and future of Scottish textiles — and all of which conclude with some obligatory tartan / argyle / tweedy gubbins designed by Westwood. Whether or not one wants the ‘future’ of Scottish textiles to look like Westwood’s parodic aristocratic costumes, one certainly has to question whether Scotland really wants to celebrate a designer whose bespoke ‘Scottish’ materials are often not what they purport to be, and whose shameless appropriation of the Harris Tweed Orb has probably done more harm than good. (Yes, you can tell I talked to the weavers of Harris when I was last there). But whatever one thinks of Westwood, to have her represent the future of Borders’ textiles to me suggests a certain paucity of imagination. Over the past few years, I’ve met so many superb independent Scottish weavers, designers, artists, and makers — all of whom are graduates of the Borders’ textile college at Galashiels. Why not devote this fine, new exhibition space to some exciting, contemporary, truly forward-looking and local talent, rather than a hasbeen of metropolitan high fashion?
Invigorated by anti-Westwood feeling, we went outside and bought some Hawick balls for my cough, and I got Tom to take a picture of my new hat.
This is the much-made Sideways Grande Cloche from Laura Irwin’s Boutique Knits. It was a quick knit, but — as I was attempting to manipulate a super-bulky yarn on 5.5 mm needles — not a particularly enjoyable one. I wanted to create a very dense, firm fabric — and it is certainly that. Following Mel and Sarah’s advice, I cast on 27 stitches (rather than the 45 recommended), and made several knitterly modifications to a suprisingly non-knitterly pattern (casting on provisionally; joining the brim with 3 needle bind off; knitting the crown in the round &c). I won’t be making another one of these in a hurry, but this is a very jolly hat, that goes well with a jolly coat, and which I can hide my non-jolly flu-ridden phiz in. It is ravelled here.