Friday, August 16, 2013

Knitting Gunnister Man's Bag

The knitting has begun and stopped. (I ran out of spun yarn and fleece. I am waiting for more of the colors I have to become available from North Ronaldsay). And what a tricky beginning it was! You can see the crocheted chain loops. These were done every 7 stitches. I am assuming the final chain will go through these loops to act as a pull closure. The pattern called for a knit cast on which sounded very much like cable cast on so that's what I did. Every 7th stitch was pulled through and a 10 stitch crochet chain was added. Then put back on needled to knit 7 more and add chain. This continued until 105 stitches and 15 chain loops were in place. This was very new to me and I am hoping I did it right. I'm working on size 2 dpt needles. I really don't know why circular needles couldn't be used for this. If I was home where I could grab a circular needle I would. But for now I'm at the lake and I'm following the directions which says to use dpt (double pointed) needles. There must be a reason. I hope. This pattern comes from the summer '06 Spin Off magazine. Here's what the finished bag should look like although rather than a dark brown stripe I'll have a pink stripe like the original bag had. This is fun so far. Mary

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Spinning for Gunnister Man's Bag

Deep in the vast chocolate moorland high in the 60*latitude north the remains of a man, Gunnister Man, lay hidden for many years. It is assumed that he walked the Scottish island sometime in the 1700's since a coin in his bag was dated 1690. His remains were found by two crofters, aka farmers, in 1951. I read about him years ago in the Summer 2006 issue of Spin Off Magazine. What caught my eye was a photo of the recreated bag that he was wearing. It is believed that his bag is one of the oldest examples of Shetland knitwear and a very early example of stranded knitting (two color knitting). This magazine's pattern was part of a larger article written by Deborah Pulliam on the seaweed eating sheep of North Ronaldsay. North Ronaldsay is a tiny island off the northwest coast of Scotland and is considered part of the Orkney islands. Ever since reading that article I've wanted to visit that island and it's sheep and spin/knit that bag using North Ronaldsay fleece. Years ago when I tried to purchase some fleece I found out I couldn't. Hoof and Mouth had spread through the UK and raw fleece was not available to anyone in the states. Then I found out about this fiber trip (many older posts below)and was surprised and ciked to see that a trip to this tiny island was part of the itinerary. I signed up and I wasn't disappointed. And the best part was that fleece and yarn are now available to purchase! You can read about my visit to the island at this link: So I'm back in the states and a bit jet lagged but very excited to see packages from Orkney and Shetland have already arrived. They contain the coveted fleeces from Shetland's wool brokers (Jamison and Smith) and some from North Ronaldsay. After sorting through the fleeces and yarns and choosing which I wanted to share with knitting and spinning friends I decided that I would use the Shetland fleeces after all for this bag. Gunnerston Man was found in Shetland after all! I pulled out my madder to dye the white fleece pink and then stopped when I noticed that some of the fleece from the wool broker was the perfect heathery pink color. Which works just right since I only had an ounce of the white fleece so I didn't really have enough to dye it anyway. Then I notice that the pattern calls for a tad more grey fleece then I had. But I had a lovely fawn brown. Since the bag was found in the peat bog I thought it must have been brownish because the peat soil of Shetland is the most chocolaty soil I've ever seen. Rather magnificent looking really. (But it really stinks when it's burned for heat!) Once I was done spinning the pink and the white I began combining the tan and the grey to make a tanish grey. While it would not be something I'd use in a piece of clothing it was perfect for this project.See the slight different shades of these two fleeces. The 3 skeins of yarn have been hand washed in a gentle soap, rinsed in a mild vinegar water, and are now drying while this knitter waits patiently for the knitting part of this project to begin. I do worry that my yarn is thicker then what is called for. I'll measure them when they dry and go from there. The pattern calls for the yarn to be 15-16 wpi (wraps per inch). I'll keep you updated as I progress, which will be slow I'm sure. Happy spinning/knitting! Mary