Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are enjoying a most welcome week of spring sunshine and warm weather. We've been spending our pandemic time quietly, catching up with designs I've had in mind, walking our dogs, and of course homeschooling. With my daughter at long last returning to in-person school, I feel like I'm waking up and stretching after a very long winter!
You'll notice some changes to my Store page. Knitting kits are temporarily unavailable while I host a clearance sale on April 17th and prepare to make some changes that will keep this business thriving in the absence of in-person venues. I miss our local farmers' market and was disappointed that this year's Vashon Sheepdog Classic will be closed to the public. The Seattle Mariners are still planning to host their annual Stitch & Pitch in July and we're keeping our fingers crossed for Salmon Days in October, but the high-contact nature of our offerings makes attending these venues unwise at this time.
I create historical reproductions of 18th- and 19th-century fishermen's sweaters, faithful copies of family heirloom sweaters, original patterns and knitting kits, and resources for learning the art of gansey and Aran knitting. I just published a new original Aran sweater pattern featuring Celtic-inspired motifs - visit my Store page for your copy!
This is an authentic cottage industry, a home-based small-scale manufacturing business drawing on skills handed down for generations. "Beannaigh" is an Irish word (pronounced BAN-nah), meaning to bless, to honor, or to salute. Handknitting was originally a way for poor women and girls to earn the only extra cash they would see for the year; one elderly woman from the Yorkshire Dales said that as a child, doing some extra knitting "kept the wolf from the door". Another from Ireland referred to her knitting needles as the "four crowbars of poverty".
These are powerful stories for me. When they weren't gutting and packing fish, hauling loads of peat for the fire, and growing their only food themselves, these women knitted. They spent endless hours of winter darkness working by the light of a single candle, if they could afford one, or huddled close to the fire if they couldn't. In spite of their hardships, they created incredibly beautiful patterns and designs that in some cases have remained popular for more than 200 years.
I preserve and pass along the stories of these women with my sweaters, knitting patterns, and classes. The village fishing life of the British Isles has largely disappeared in favor of tourism and larger industries, and their traditional handcrafts have become mere hobby. Thanks to a few dedicated researchers many centuries-old sweater patterns have been recorded, along with the stories of the fishing villages in which they originated and the women who knitted them. Books by Michael Pearson, Mary Wright, Gladys Thompson, and others are still in print and can be found at local bookstores and libraries - take a look at them to learn more!