Have you been to Sanquhar? I am ashamed to say that I hadn’t — until Saturday.


Sanquhar Knitting Workshop was part of Glasgow University’s Knitting in the Round project and was held at A’ the Airts, a lovely community arts centre at the heart of Sanquhar.


At the workshop May MacCormick, who has knitted literally hundreds of pairs of Sanquhar gloves, was demonstrating her considerable skills.


I was particularly intrigued by the finger gussets, which, as I understand it, are a unique feature of these gloves.


My comrade-in-wool Tom of Holland, gave a great talk about Sanquhar patterns and the many different ways in which they have inspired him, from the creation of swiss-darned socks to pencil case patterns


Then over at the Tolbooth Museum we were introduced to many intriguing items from the collection. I particularly liked the selection of gloves that had been commissioned by a local cyclist to match her different outfits. She possessed gloves in Sanquhar patterns knitted in wonderful shades of russet and gold, and must have cut a very striking figure as she zipped about on her bike.


Her beautiful gloves were evidently much loved and used, as is apparent from their very visible mends.


One thing that particularly intrigues me about the Sanquhar story is the relationship between the local carpet industry, and domestic hand knitting.


Woven rugs and carpets, with geometric monochrome patterns similar to those that characterise the gloves, were created in the homes of Sanquhar folk. The gloves were knitted from the strong yarns used to weave these rugs, as well as from the drugget threads that were used in John McQueen’s Mill, a carpet and blanket manufacturer formerly situated in Crawick, near Sanquhar.


It was a day which brought much knitterly food for thought.


Thanks to the dedicated efforts of the folk at A’ The Airts, many exciting projects are underfoot: projects that will assure a bright future for the distinctive knitting styles of Sanquhar. I thought A’ the Airts was a very inspiring place: one of those exemplary, welcoming community arts centres which local folk really feel part of and proud of – and with reason. When you have an opportunity, I suggest you go and visit the centre and the Tolbooth Museum, and make sure you leave time to have lunch in the cafe, and enjoy some of Norma Simmon’s fantastic locally produced and home-cooked food.

Thanks to Glasgow University and A’the Airts for a great day.

20 thoughts on “A day at Sanquhar

  1. My friend’s mum lives in Sanquhar and had invited me down for the event, but I wasn’t able to make it unfortunately. Looks like a great day! I love Sanquhar patterns, about to start my second pair of gloves.


  2. Absolutely magnificent gloves. I had never heard about these beauties before. Thank you very much for sharing. The designs are all quite intricate and look ratyher complicated..


  3. Kate, wonderful post. I enjoyed it and then exploring the link to the Toll-house. I followed through to the link to obtaining the pattern, which is difficult to get if one isn’t in Scotland.

    For those in NA/SA, there was an article in one of the Piecework’s in the last few years with a pattern for the gloves.


  4. How odd. I was in a charity shop in Annan and I found a gorgeous pair of gloves that are EXACTLY the same as in Picture 10. I couldn’t find a label on them either – I’m wondering if they are hand knit too? Beautiful post, very interesting.


  5. I spent my teenage years in Sanquhar and my parents live just up the hill from the tollbooth. Sanquhar knitting is gorgeous and its on my list to do some at some point in the future. Glad you had a fun time at A’ the Airts :)


  6. Kate, Once again I am inspired, delighted, envious, and educated, all at the same time. Like the other posters, I love these gloves and hope you are busy making us a pattern for other items, perhaps a scarf, or hat, or mittens. Loved learning about this, way across the pond in Pennsylvania!


  7. Green with envy, I’ve been obsessed by these Sanquhar patterns since making Ecclefechans for just about everyone I know in as many colour ways as I jamiesons could offer and since then have been spending far too much time acquiring patterns from ebay and old books, am hoping to stop planning and actually start on my design soon. Thank you for the inspiration.


  8. Fascinating. You are probably aware that there is a tradition of knitting quite similarly patterned gloves in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Labrador. Robin Hansen and Janetta Dexter documented these in their book from the 90s, “Flying Geese and Partridge Feet”.


  9. Please Please No more treats…..Love everything….Can hardly wait for your book and now the gloves…what a lovely way to start the day…Many thanks again


  10. Kate, this was a fabulous post. You’ve got me wondering how it could be that I had not before heard of Sanquhar. Now you’ve got me hooked and I look forward to learning much more.

    (May I also compliment you on those new designs you’ve been showing us. They are gorgeous!)

    Best wishes.


  11. It was an inspirational day in many ways. I just ordered several balls of wool to make Sanquhar gloves for Christmas presents. It was delightful to meet you, Mel and Tom and the drive to and from Sanquhar was entertaining as we dodged many sheep on the road! (Great photos for the friends back in the USA) Everyone associated with the event was kind and helpful.


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