The Goose Fair has been a prominent part of Nottingham’s calendar since at least the 13th Century. Taking place from a ‘quarter day’ celebrating the harvest gathering, the Michaelmas Feast provided an ideal opportunity to stock up on provisions prior to winter setting in. In the 16th Century the term ‘Goose Fair’ is officially recorded, geese hatched in Lincolnshire were taken to Nottingham. It is said up to 20,000 geese were driven up ‘Goose Gate’ into Nottingham Market Square. As Nottingham Lace production gathered momentum stalls appeared draped in this gorgeous material. By the end of the 18th Century the fair was taking on a more theatrical personality. It’s latest incarnation is as one of Europe’s premier travelling fairs with a multitude of rides and stalls to cater for all ages and levels of daredevilry. Even before you disembark from the tram you catch a glimpse of the more stomach churning rides across the city. Your senses are bombarded from the noises and pyscadellic light shows of competing rides, to the smell of the exotic and local culinary delights. Added to this are the hundreds of thousands of visitors that throng the improvised throughways of the 10 acre site. Being October it is best to be wrapped up in something warm and woolly. My shawl ‘Much ado about nothing’ in Sherwood yarn’s laceweight, colourway Marian and hat design ‘Fletcher’ in Limestone and Lichen proved to be an excellent combination. We covered as much of the site as possible and tried out a great number of delightful rides and stalls, despite this I could find no trace of the Lace…….…….
Nottingham has a long and proud history of lace production and knitting. In Calverton around 1589 the Reverend William Lee invented the first frame knitting machine. On Saturday we were delighted to have the opportunity to visit the prestigious Nottingham company, GH Hurt & Son, which carries on this rich tradition of fine knitted lace production to the present day.
GH Hurt & Son were established in 1912 and firmly remain a family run business. Housed in a seed mill built in 1781 you cannot mistake the sense of history that permeates throughout the building. Heavy oak beamed ceilings and a winding steep staircase are a fine setting for the rare frame knitting machines which jostle for space amongst the beautiful fine lace shawls in a myriad of fabulous hues and colours. The modern machinery is housed in a building next door and it busies itself producing metres of fabulously patterned fine lace in its own mesmeric rhythm. The workers are justifiably proud of their product and there is a palpable sense of pride in every stage of production. They were without exception happy to explain their role from the machine stage through to hand finishing techniques and answer any questions regarding the production of this exquisite product. Working with designers such as Paul Smith, Dior and Burberry and with the newest members of the royal family being snapped leaving the maternity ward swaddled in GH Hurt & Son baby shawls, the future looks great for the next hundred year or two. We were also fortunate enough to have a chat with one of the directors (fourth generation of the family to run the business), Gillian Taylor whose excitement and enthusiasm for Nottingham fine lace and the Notts region in general is infectious. I couldn’t resist showing Gillian my own contribution to Nottingham lace in the form of my Wollaton shawl, in its own way, homage to the fine history of lace in this region. She was very complimentary about the product and gave her time generously, showing genuine interest in the fledgling sherwood yarn. The visit met and indeed exceeded all expectations and it served to illustrate the place of Nottingham in the production of fine knitted lace and more importantly where it’s future lies.
With the onset of Autumn it is definitely time to think about those cosy accessories that complement your seasonal wardrobe. There is nothing as versatile as a shawl or wrap to provide that warmth and a ‘pop’ of colour when taking a stroll through crisp leaves or the pavements of the city. My new design, Wollaton, definitely fits the bill!
My design inspiration for Wollaton is its namesake, an Elizabethan country house and parkland located in the city of Nottingham. The 16th century house was designed by the notable architect of the time, Robert Smythson for the Willoughby family. More recently Wollaton has been the fictional home of Bruce Wayne in the Hollywood production of Batman’s ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. My design pays homage to the ‘bat wing’ shape, with five spines radiating centrally and culminating in shapely points.
The Falkland fine merino laceweight is beautifully soft, giving wonderful drape and the colourway used is Lyncolne Grene.
The download for Wollaton can be found on Ravelry.
The Summer break offers a wonderful opportunity to get away and spend time with my family. A favourite area of ours is on the South Coast, in Dorset. In particular a 1200 acre working farm that has unspoilt rolling chalk downs running to the sea. My favourite shawls Much ado about nothing and Wollaton proved to be an indispensible addition to my limited camping wardrobe!
The children (and us) love the working aspect of the farm, which is made even better as 9000+ sheep roam the gorgeous hills. We have visited Julian’s farm for many years (pre kids ~ whenever that was ha ha) The sheepdogs are something else, so focused and dedicated, working in partnership with the farm hands on quad bikes, a real pleasure to see in their natural environment.
In discussions with Julian about farming, sheep, wool and the process of getting to a finished article, it provided an opportunity to introduce him to skeins of handdyed sherwoodyarn. I am not sure that he used the term ‘squishy’ or ‘colourway’ but he was delighted to see the result of his labours turned into a beautifully spun and coloured skein ready for a project. At that point I just had to introduce him to Much ado about nothing and Wollaton. He was most interested in the getting from skein to F.O. and called over others to view the labours of a team effort by farmer through to dyer-designer-knitter. I think a worsted weight in a larger size would perhaps suit the 6ft+ farmer J
Much to my delight it was a real privilege to be invited to view the sheep shearing in the woolshed on the following morning. A team of three shearers were to relieve the sheep of their heavy winter fleece. Once again passion, dedication and devotion to the task in hand were on display by all, and no small measure of skill. Neil, Nick and Trev sheared well over 900 sheep that day ably supported by Kayleigh, Emily and Julian, a real team effort.
Our Summer breaks are always refreshing but the insights gained on the farm this year have given me a deeper respect for the product that I love working with and I return to Sherwood with further inspiration for colourways and designs which I will love to share with you over the coming weeks and months. Rachael x
As a dyer and knitter I am always interested to see what becomes of my yarn, here are just a few projects that I thought I would share with you.
DGard has knit a beautiful Southwell Cardi, designed exclusively in Sherwood yarn by Olive Knits. The yarn is British Bluefaced Leicester Sock and the colourway is the sumptuous Sandstone – you look fabulous!
Ruth chose the jewel-like colour combo of Lionheart and Blackberry for her stylish twin-set (twinset bicolore). The alpaca and merino 4 ply blend give a fantastic sheen and drape to her beautifully knitted vest. Ruth I now can’t wait to see your cardigan :)
When Julie Blagojevich of Crochet Works designed Rowena, a sophisticated crochet shawl, a plethora of beautiful projects followed. The yarn is Falkland fine merino laceweight and I am sure that you will agree they all look absolutely fantastic. From left to right: Alivaz used sandstone, Alma made hers in Marian, beautiful detail of Cindi's in Lionheart, Kristinlynn rocks her Rowena also in Lionheart, jench chose skylark, Leasa's looks lovely in Wild orchid and finally sskcraftshop in scrumptious blackberry :)
The talented Julie Blagojevich of Crochet Works has completed and published her gorgeous design, Rowena. Rowena is a beautiful asymmetric shawl that is crocheted in my super-soft Falkland Fine Merino laceweight yarn. The colour that Julie chose to use for her design is Greendale. You can read the fascinating inspiration for this yarn here!
I am pleased to announce the fabulous, Southwell cardigan, designed and knit by Marie of Olive Knits. The yarn that she chose for her design is my Bluefaced Leicester Sock in beautiful Marian, I am sure that you will agree it looks absolutely stunning! You can purchase Marie's pattern from her Ravelry page.
Right now I need to go and cast on!
Which colour will you choose for your Southwell?
I am as passionate about knitting and designing as I am creating gorgeous new colourways in the dye-pot. When inspiration struck I knew I had to cast on with medieval Lyncolne Grene, in the superbly soft Falkland merino lace. Wollaton is going to be a cosy, yet stylish shawl to wrap-up in on those cool Summer evenings in Sherwood. It is worked from the centre top down and will radiate to a lace border. I am just loving knitting this colourway with all its beautiful hues, subtly ranging from emeralds through to bluey greens.
Much ado about nothing is now complete and is available as a free download on my patterns page. This has been a very enjoyable project to work on and I know I will love wearing it! The pattern is asymmetric and is worked edge to edge in a combination of Shetland lace patterns to give a beautiful flow and drape. The yarn is delightfully soft and delicate. Marian in laceweight displays all of her tonal variations, I love the ebb and flow of the golden and mustard shades in this weight. I hope you have as much fun knitting this shawl as I did!
Today has heralded May-pole celebrations in Nottinghamshire. This annual event has its routes in medieval times and is a sight to behold, with a multitude of stalls and events, a fun and entertaining day is had by all. Craft stalls (selling homemade wares) and flower stalls, with beautiful plants, are interspersed with tombolas, coconut shies and swingboats. A firm favourite of children and adults alike is the Punch and Judy show, this much loved tradition goes back 350 years and its slapstick humour has stood the test of time. Feasting and revelry are the order of the day, with the Olde Red Lion Inn and traditional hog roasts doing a roaring trade.
The day culminates in the crowning of the May Queen and the dancing of the posie bearers around the May pole intertwining coloured ribbons. The may pole celebrations are the inspiration for my new beautiful colourway, May pole, my intentions are to capture the colour and movement of the spectacle!