callmemadam (callmemadam) wrote,

This Golden Fleece, Esther Rutter

I greatly admire Esther Rutter’s knitting skills. I certainly couldn’t knit the cabled front of a cricket sweater while watching a cricket match or knit a complicated ‘gansey’ or Fair Isle pattern while travelling on a train, bus or ferry. She has also been extremely industrious in her research and untiring in her travels. From Fair Isle in the far north, west to Wales and down to Cornwall she journeys to visit the breeders of rare sheep, the spinners, dyers and preservers of old patterns. As she points out at the end of the book, there is a correlation between extreme climatic conditions and excellent knitwear. This is the story of a year of knitting, in which she planned to knit items with a long history of use, whether a gansey (worn by fishermen), a ‘Monmouth cap’ or a lacy ‘hap’ for a baby. It seems to have been a huge success, if a difficult task at times.

I can’t agree with all the reviewers saying the book is ‘beautifully written’; I frequently got bogged down and the book took longer to read than is usual with me. Nevertheless, it is full of interest. I liked the comparison of knitting with folksong: first an oral tradition, very localised, then becoming more widely known outside its native area and written down. Of course, this means changes, but everything changes and not necessarily for the worse. When I returned to my sock knitting (sadly, I can’t knit and read at the same time), I felt a connection with all those knitters, men and women, from centuries past. That’s the greatest tribute I can pay the book as it’s what it’s all about.
I read this thanks to NetGalley.

One of Esther Rutter’s pilgrimages was to the famous yarn manufacturers Jamieson and Smith and

I think I heard about Jamieson and Smith at the school gate, where opinion was that the yarns were good and the prices cheap. I wrote off to the company (no internet purchases in those days), received the shade chart and ordered yarn to make a waistcoat in a Fair Isle pattern. Inside this booklet is a receipt, old-fashioned looking even for 1983, which tells me that the yarn cost £5.92. I wore the waistcoat for years.

Tags: esther rutter, knitting

Recent Posts from This Journal

  • Jane Austen, Lucy Worsley and me

    I very much enjoyed Lucy Worsley’s Jane Austen at Home. It is exactly what the title suggests: a description of all the houses Jane Austen lived…

  • The man who loved Dylan: Bob Willis, cricketer and fan

    Bob Willis, A Cricketer and a Gentleman credited to Bob Willis & Mike Dickson, edited by David Willis. Bob Willis (1949-2019) was the second…

  • Film watch: Hue and Cry

    Hue and Cry was the first Ealing comedy, made in 1947. What was normal life then, i.e. bombed-out London with children playing on the bomb sites, is…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.