Last weekend two long longed-for visits happened all at once. Some of you may know that I have a bit of a “thing” for the gloves knitted in the Scottish Royal Borough of Sanquhar, and I had always wanted to visit the local Tolbooth Museum where there’s a lovely display of these gloves, with a wealth of information. So you can imagine I didn’t hesitate when Professor Lynn Abrams asked me to give a presentation at a Knitting in the Round event set in Sanquhar itself.
Sanquhar High Street circa 1860 – the building with the clocktower now houses the Tollbooth Museum
The event was very informal and convivial. Lynn Abrams presented on knitting in the Scottish landscape – wool has always been very important in Scotland in many different ways. I did a presentation on the history of Sanquhar knitting, and how the old patterns and gloves to this day have inspired knitters the world over. A very tasty lunch was available in the café of the A’ the Airts Centre, where the event was hosted.
A gallery of Sanquhar Gloves
The Tolbooth museum had a small but perfectly formed permanent exhibition on the gloves. They also had a handling collection, which contained, amongst others, a number of gloves belonging to one lady cyclist. Most of these were darned on the palm side; you can imagine I was elated to see these!
Cycling gloves with darning
Also on display were some carpets made in nearby Crawick. Originally the gloves were knitted with left over warp threads of the carpet manufacture, which explains the hardwearing qualities these gloves were famed for (within limits, as evidenced by the above gloves…)
A carpet made in John McQueen’s Mill, Crawick
However, the absolute highlight of the day for me was meeting May McCormick. Mary still knits Sanquhar gloves to a very high standard, and indeed, she is the very person who knits the gloves for the Coronet who leads the riding of the marches, an annual event taking place in August, going back about 400 years, when Sanquhar became a Scottish Royal Borough. I was too excited to talk to her and get some hints and tips from a master knitter to get a picture with her. However, to make up for it I can share with you the beautiful display she made:
Mary McCormick’s Sanquhar Knitting Display, showing all the different patterns, including samplers, scarves and stockings
So, what about that other visit, I hear you ask? Well, I also got to meet a good friend whom I had not met before. How? In the age of email and internet, this is possible. Through our mutual friend Dr Felicity Ford, better known perhaps as KNITSONIK, I have known Kate Davies for a few years now, and we’ve worked on Wovember together. We have been scheming to meet up in real life for such a long time, and my visit to Sanquhar finally made this possible.
We spent many happy hours together, talking about small things and large, eating food and drinking tea, and going for a long drive.
My first time in the West Highlands and I could tick off all typical attractions in one go: castle ruin, tick; loch, tick; glenn, tick; mountain, tick!
The George Hotel at Loch Fyne
We had a gorgeous lunch at the George Hotel at Loch Fyne – the only place that Samuel Johnson managed to enjoy when he visited Scotland.
If this has made you curious about the knitting in Sanquhar, then keep an eye out for my next blog post, where I will go into a bit more detail of the history of Sanquhar knitting.