Strathendrick (and a personal note about modelling)

This week, the West Highland Way Club passes through Strathendrick and Strathblane, close to where I live.

I walk through these beautiful valleys (or straths) every single day, enjoying the changing seasons and my surroundings. It is a landscape of great variety: the bare muir blooms with colourful flowers, pasture meets rocky outcrop, and verdant woodland borders watery bog. The landscape which surrounds my home provided perfect inspiration for something I’ve long wanted to design – a statement allover sweater in which vintage colourwork combines with a contemporary look and shape.

Strathendrick is knit in 6 shades of Milarrochy Tweed. The colourwork echoes the rich floral tapestry of my home landscape in summer.

Oversized does not mean shapeless, and there are key shaping elements here that make all the difference. . .

. . . the way the shoulder increases are worked, the top-down narrowed sleeves, the stepped ribbed hem. . .

I really love this look, just like I love the wide cropped look of Carbeth. Shape, silhouette and proportion are things I think about a lot, and which often inspire my design process. Everyone has different tastes and predilections, though, and I confesss that I’ve found some of the reactions to the images of me wearing these designs to be a little . . . weird.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been receiving some increasingly odd (sometimes verging on aggressive) communications about the shape and size of my body as unrepresentative, un-“average,” somehow less “real”. All I can say is that my body (aged 44, just over 5 feet tall, disabled by a stroke, white, wonky and yes – a little bit skinny) is about as real as it gets for me. We are not a large company and I model my designs simply because it is convenient for me to do so: using my own wardrobe for styling and nipping out with Tom for a photoshoot when the conditions are right. I will say, in all honesty, that modelling is definitely not my favourite part of what I do and confess that it is sometimes very odd for me to look back across a decade of wearing my own knitting and to see images of myself in jumpers and cardigans before and after my stroke. And sometimes I also find it curious that these modelled images also effectively provide a very public record of my own ageing process. But mostly I accept modelling just as part of what I do, and am happily largely able to avoid what is surely a completely natural tendency towards self-criticism (does anyone really like looking at pictures of themselves?) Finally, though I honestly feel that my physical body represents nothing but itself, I will say that as a disabled woman I feel it is very important for me to keep on putting on the jumpers, and to keep stepping outside to show you these things that I’ve designed and made. “I’ve had a stroke and I can model a jumper” is hardly a revolutionary sentiment, but it is one which often motivates me with the confidence to stand before the camera, and to stand in front of you.

Here I am in June 2010: five months post-stroke, proud of being able to walk again, and proud of what I’m wearing because I knitted it with a hand that could barely move at all. This is my body. Please remember that when you write to tell me that to you it seems less “real.”