Friday, 12 November 2010


Pittenweem Craw Step Gables

Fife East Neuk fishing port

Textile finishing is an interesting field and after visiting 'Extravagansey' today is even more so. Dr Annie Shaw of Manchester School of Art has created a clever collection of knitwear designs based on the traditional gansey sweater worn in the 19th and 20th Century by deep sea fisherman. Looking backwards to look forwards has resulted in an inspiring collection that comments on cheap mass manufacturing in relation to monies saved in production and reinvested into design and finishing. The design inspiration is from the coastal fishing villages we are familiar with in Fife and their rich heritage handed down from generation to generation.

The eastern seabord of the UK and in particular the fishing ports around the north east of England -Filey, Whitby and our own Fife fishing ports of Pittenweem, Anstruther, Crail had traditional patterns worked into the knitted fabrics to identify seaman from specific ports. This design device was useful whilst the men travelled between ports and also should they unfortunately drown, helped to identify the bodies (similar to the origins of naval tatoos but in garment form).

Usually made in one piece with no seams and in a navy, oiled wool to aid hyrdrophobic properties, the sweaters were hard wearing, practical and made by the loved ones of the fishermen to protect them from the harsh north sea environment.

The Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther have invited some of our students to hear a presentation by Dr Annie Shaw this week. We look forward to hearing about the thematic development and how she has integrated modern technology into a series of mini ganseys made in cashmere and worsted lambswool. Textile finishing techniques are inspired by the gansey end-use theme and include sea washing, rubberising, embroidery, beading, printing, embellishment, needle punch felting, lacing and piercing. All of this adds up to a very contemporary range with an edge, linked to Fife.

Is fashion - art, wearable and commercial? Yes and the deep fried example above is for experimentation purposes. The Scottish Fisheries Museum is an excellent day out and a great place to knit with a friend, a pot of tea and a friendly chat with the locals. Where do Tom Hanks, Prince William and Samuel L Jackson go when playing golf nearby? Anstruther Fish Bar.


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