I’m so pleased to be able to introduce you to Duntreath!
After we successfully launched our lambswool snoods last year, I really wanted to develop a line of garments. Having researched and written a book all about the history of yoke sweaters, I knew I wanted to make yokes, and I also knew who I wanted to make them. I was aware of Harley of Scotland because I had, in my vintage knitwear collection, a couple of yoke sweaters made by them. I knew that Harley had been producing top-quality knitwear in Peterhead for several generations, and I also knew that they’d perfected a method of seamless garment construction ideally suited to machine-knitting circular yoked sweaters. So I got in touch with Harley, and developed two garment styles – the first of which is Duntreath (I’ll be able to show you the second style shortly).
Duntreath is a two-shade seamless, circular yoke sweater with a bold and simple colourwork design. We’ve produced the garment in two colourways, and four sizes, which roughly accommodate UK 8 to 16. To give you a perspective on fit: both Jane and I are wearing Duntreath here in the first size.
I’m wearing the blue sweater with 6 inches of positive ease at the bust while Jane is wearing hers – also in the first size – with an inch of positive ease. Both of us are wearing layers underneath. While I am short of torso, meagre of chest, and narrow of shoulder, Jane is none of these things.
I usually wear a UK size 6-8, have a 31 in bust, and am 5 feet 2 inches tall. Jane usually wears garments in a UK size 10-12, has a 36 in bust and is 5 feet 8 inches tall. If I say so myself, we both look fine in the same size of this fine sweater!
If you need more information about fit, here are Duntreath’s actual measurements in all four sizes
So these sweaters have been expertly made at the Harley mill in Peterhead, here in Scotland, but what about the yarn that’s used to knit them?
The wonderful lambswool we’ve used in the production of Duntreath is spun by JC Rennie in the historic Miladen mill they have occupied since 1798. (You might be interested to see this post from 2012, when Mel and I paid a visit to the mill.) One of just a handful of traditional woollen spinners remaining in the UK, Rennie ‘supersoft’ is a light and airy yarn with a beautiful even hand and a lovely range of colours. Much beloved by Scottish hand-knitters, Rennie’s yarn is routinely used by many well-regarded brands around the world in their knitwear and woven products. If you are interested in the ‘supersoft’ colourways we’ve used in the these pullovers, the shades are Silver / Cumin and Therapy / Putty.
“therapy” is a wonderfully matt, saturated, pleasingly greyed-out blue. . .
But the palette also abounds with rich and complex heather shades, of which cumin is a prime example.
Rennie’s ‘supersoft’ lambswool – like most lambswool produced by UK commercial spinners, has been sourced from Australia and New Zealand. As someone who knows the hard work involved in producing a 100% Scottish wool yarn, I understand the automatic wish for completely local provenance, but, as a historian, as well as a manufacturer, I have a perhaps more nuanced sense of the issue. I am totally committed to being totally open about production, so before you move to question Rennie, or Harley, or myself for the product miles, or origin, of the raw materials with which we make our goods, please take the time to read the important aside at the foot of this post.
I’ve spent many years researching, writing about, knitting (and wearing) yoke sweaters. Now I’ve taken the risk of making some myself, on a more commercial scale.
It’s a big step to make. But it’s an exciting step as well.
If you buy a Duntreath, you know that its development began with me. Creative production involves many decisions – from the initial shade choices (there are so many beautiful colours in the Rennie palette!) right down to the location of the garment label (above the waist ribbing, rather than at the neck, because I know so many people who find the latter irritating). If you buy a Duntreath, you know who spun the yarn that made your sweater (Rennie) and you know where and by whom the sweater was made (Harley of Scotland, in Peterhead). When you place an order for Duntreath, you know that it will be carefully packed for you by Jane . . .
And it will be shipped to you packaged in a lovely KDD duffle bag, which you can use to store and care for your sweater . . . or which you might use for any other purpose, when you are out and about.
I really am very proud of everything that has gone into the production of Duntreath, and love the end result. I do hope that you like it too.
An important aside:
Before questioning the use of Australian and New Zealand fleeces in British (or Scottish) yarn and knitwear, we should carefully reflect on our own position as first-world consumers and the murky imperial story of these beautiful wool products. Why do our spinners produce so many yarns that are Australian and New Zealand in origin? The main reason is that profiting from the natural resources, climate, and productive capacity of these regions of the world was what empire was all about. Britain’s punitive restrictions on colonial manufacturing meant that raw materials had to be shipped back home for processing into goods that might be worn or used: those who lived and worked in Britain’s former colonies were simply not allowed to make things themselves (this is why homespun cloth became such a powerful sign of resistance during the American Revolution). The rules of the global wool trade were effectively set by Britain centuries ago and we continue to reap the empire’s historic legacy in the fact that the vast majority of the New Zealand wool clip is still scoured and spun here, simply because we actively prevented New Zealand from developing its own processing infrastructure. One aspect of the “international localism” I began discussing yesterday might be to start conversations which reflect a little more deeply on our ourselves before engaging in knee-jerk condemnation of another country’s agriculture, industry, or – by extension – its identity. Before we denunciate product miles and global trade networks, we have to first understand how these things are symptomatic of our own imperial legacy (and indeed how commerce still happily thrives on such thoughtless imperialist attitudes). Perhaps if we began by treating everyone involved in fibre production and processing – wherever in the world they are – with interest, and with respect; perhaps if we sought to understand the global complexities and imbrications of everything we eat and wear and buy; perhaps if we were all a little more transparent and a little less judgmental, we might begin to change commerce and manufacturing for the better.