Friday, August 28, 2015



Back across country from Galloway, we arrived at Sanquhar, just north of Dumfries.  Many years ago now, I was a regular reader of a blog written by a Texan, which often suggested interesting links to knitting related sites.  Thus, I heard about the publication, in Japanese, of a book on Sanquhar knitting, which I had never come across before.  How the internet shrinks the world!

 Basically it involves knitting gloves on very fine needles, using a range of geometric stranded patterns.  Early examples seem to have made use of drugget, a kind of cotton thread used in the carpet industry.  There was a carpet factory nearby.  Now, a little industry has started up, producing items in the famous patterns, using knitting machines.  The gloves, which have acquired symbolic status over time, are just too complex to make on a machine.

The museum is housed in the Tollbooth, under which was the town jail.  You can still see the iron ring to which thieves would be tied for pelting purposes on market day.  Inside is a treasure trove of Sanquhar gloves. 

Back on the street, we visited a curious shop combining dog biscuits, and pet supplies generally,
with knitting yarns.  I was surprised to see that the preferred yarn for the famous gloves is now Regia, not the sock yarn, but a plain three-ply.  Of course, I bought some, along with a set of wickedly fine dpns for glove knitting.  One pair apparently takes ninety hours to complete. 

On the drive back, I made this little hat, incorporating the most famous pattern, the Duke, after the Duke of Buccleuch, the local landowner.  I like to think of the small boy on the Pine Ridge Reservation starting school in this hat.  Small world, indeed.

This one, although similar, is in the pattern "Cornet".  The Cornet has a symbolic role in the Common Riding ceremony in Sanquhar.  A pair of gloves in this pattern were presented to the first Cornet when the parade was revived in the 1930s.

Also knitted on this trip was this bright jumper.  It is going to Pine Ridge for the Shannon schools pre-school drive, to support children going into kindergarten.  I hope it fits someone.


Thursday, August 27, 2015


Threave Castle

Last year we went to Dumfries and Galloway for the first time.  Plenty more here to explore, we thought, impressed by the Northumbrian crosses at Whithorn and the wonderful little bays along the shore.  So we booked three nights at Portpatrick, out on the Mull of Galloway, just past Stranraer.

Portpatrick itself has a setting  best viewed from above, especially from the dining room of a rather swish hotel where we celebrated my husband's birthday.

The coastal path leads north, up and over sheltered bays  where families were enjoying the freedom of fossicking in rock pools.

To the south, is a long drive down to the lighthouse at the actual mull.  Of course, we had to climb to the vertiginous gallery, looking out to the distant rock where the gannets roosted.  We enjoyed watching squadrons of gannets patrolling out at sea, en route for the fishing grounds


On the way back, we called at Logan Botanical Gardens.  For garden lovers the whole area is a delight, with at least five major gardens making the most of the sheltered climate, and abundant rainfall.

We were struck, though, by the absence of interesting settlements in the mile after mile of fields of contented beef cattle we passed through.  Where do the people even do their regular shopping, we wondered.

At last we saw a sign leading to a remote church, and ancient stones. You take the turning off the main road and reach a set of iron gates, padlocked, on a minor road.  Behind is a grassy track, leading out along an avenue.  Following this track brings you to Kirkmadrine church, and it could hardly be more isolated.  Once, it was the site of a monastery pre-dating Whithorn; the ancient stones from that time are displayed behind glass in a kind of porch on the church.  A strange forgotten place.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Art in Context

A walk around Marks Hall, just outside our village, where an exhibition of sculpture had been set out.  Marks Hall is an arboretum on the site of a mansion demolished just after WW2.  A stream has been dammed to form lakes and the whole thing is a delight.

On part of the walk is a walled garden, now set up as a series of garden rooms in a very inventive way.

We've never seen peacocks in the grounds before, but this one was very richly coloured.


And this week's knitting.  Recently, I visited Maldon for lunch and was sorry to see the wool shop closing down.  Two 100gm balls of yarn at £!.73 each made all these: two little cardigans and a Gidday Baby knitted from the bottom up, and incorporating a Fair Isle band from Sheila McGregor.