This Golden Fleece: A Journey Through Britain's Knitted History by Esther Rutter
|This Golden Fleece: A Journey Through Britain's Knitted History by Esther Rutter|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Erudite, interesting and absolutely magical. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: September 2019|
|External links: Author's website|
It was December and Esther Rutter was stuck in her office job, writing to people she'd never met and preparing spreadsheets. The job frustrated her and even her knitting did not soothe her mind. January was going to be a time for making changes and she decided that she would travel the length and breadth of the British Isles with occasional forays abroad, discovering and telling the story of wool's history and how it had made and changed the landscape. She'd grown up on a sheep farm in Suffolk - a free range child on the farm - and learned to spin, knit and weave from her mother and her mother's friend. This was in her blood.
The stories she tells are fascinating, from the Highland communities cleared for sheep farming, the development of the West Yorkshire mill towns, the Market towns built on the profits of the wool trade and the ganseys made for fishermen along the coast of the United Kingdom, showing how each has contributed to the industries we have today. There's a wealth of information here.
Rutter is a knitter: she could not explore this history without looking to knit significant garments reflecting the stories of the areas she visits. Her aim was to knit a garment a month, but the 'gansey' (guernsey sweater) she knit for her father took far longer and given that it is knit in one piece was far too bulky to haul about with her once she got up to the chest area. I loved the Dentdale gloves and the Shetland scarf and her descriptions of the yarns she used left me drooling. But it wasn't just the yarns: she has a knack for capturing places in just a few words. I found that I live in a place of wild seductive magic, something I've long known but never been able to express quite so evocatively.
The writing is erudite but always accessible. I found it a slow read, not because it was in any way difficult, but because I kept being tempted away to discover more about areas or subjects Rutter had visited. I spent nearly an hour at Propagansey and know exactly where I'll be going the next time I visit Whitby.
There are nuggets of advice - 'keep short needles' is something any experienced knitter will know instinctively. It doesn't refer to the length of the pins, but rather to the benefits of keeping the stitches as close to the point of the needle as possible. Hearteningly, Rutter is happy to tell us of the downsides of her work - the second sock is never as interesting as the first - stocking stitch, particularly on four needles, is boring - and of the areas where it needed practice and perseverance to achieve something presentable.
It's a joy of a book and one to which I'll return many times. I'd like to thank the publishers for letting Bookbag have a review copy.
If this book appeals then you might also enjoy The Knitter's Dictionary: Knitting Know-How from A to Z by Kate Atherley - after six decades of knitting I still found new and useful information.
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