Twist Collective Blog
Walking in the Steps of Jane Gaugain
by Kate Davies
Visiting Edinburgh? You too can walk in the steps of Jane Gaugain! Several centuries of knitting heritage are written through this beautiful and dramatic city, and you can experience it in the best way possible—on foot! This near-circular walk covers 4 miles around the centre of Edinburgh, and should take 2-3 hours from start to finish. You can break it up with a cup of tea (or two), if you like and some knitting. Edinburgh is a hilly city, and there are a few steep gradients around the closes of the old town, and Dean Village.
1. North Bridge
Your walk begins at the crossroads of the High Street (part of the “Royal Mile”). Turning North, you walk past Jane Gaugain’s Edinburgh beginnings: the locations of the tailor’s business established on North Bridge by her father, and the stationery and haberdashery shop owned by John James Gaugain, her future husband. The original buildings no longer exist, but Gaugain’s shop was located where the Balmoral Hotel now stands.
edinburgh castle, circa 1870
2. Register House
During the early medieval period, Scottish wool was a prized commodity. The Register House on the corner of Princes Street houses a document that reveals just how valuable it was—the 1182 trade charter from Philip of Flanders to the Monks of Melrose Abbey (a few miles outside Edinburgh). The monks kept sheep; these sheep produced luxurious fleeces; and these fleeces were exported to Bruges, to be woven into fine cloth by Flemish weavers. Pack-horses laden with Melrose fleeces would pass slowly through the centre of Edinburgh on their way to be shipped out from the port of Leith.
princes st, circa 1900
3. 63, George Street.
A fine example of eighteenth-century town planning, George Street (named after King George III) was the grandest street in the New Town, generously proportioned and linked by two imposing public squares, one of which (St Andrews Square) became the most exclusive address in nineteenth-century Edinburgh. At number 63—the building that is now Crombies Menswear—stood Jane Gaugain’s knitting emporium. Here, in the 1840s, you would have been able to buy the latest shades of Berlin and Shetland wool, as well as the fashionable patterns written by Gaugain herself.
4. Stockbridge and the Waters of Leith
Walking down Frederick Street, once the site of the auction rooms and stationers business of Jane’s husband, John James Gaugain, you descend out of the New Town into the lovely village of Stockbridge. Ahead, there are fine views of the Forth Estuary and the rolling hills of Fife, and on your right (if you are so inclined) is the Edinburgh branch of McAree Brothers yarn store. Your path now follows the beautiful winding Waters of Leith. Downstream from Stockbridge once stood several woollen mills, and the flow of the river was dammed and diverted to power the machinery.
St Bernard's Well, Stockbridge
5. Dean Cemetery
Crossing the bridge at Dean Village, you walk up a wooded hillside to Dean Cemetery, the final resting place of Jane Gaugain. Her grave is unmarked, but we know she is buried in the cemetery’s “section H”. Jane is in good company. Many eminent Scots are buried in Dean Cemetery, including Dr Joseph Bell, said to be the real-life inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. “Sauntering here,” according to one Victorian guidebook,, “you cannot divest yourself of the idea that you are wending your way through some Highland Glen.” Whether you nurture Highland fantasies or not, Dean Cemetery is still a very beautiful and melancholy place.
near jane gaugain's unmarked grave
6. Lawnmarket, West Bow
The Lawnmarket is so-called from the linen and wool market that used to be held here at the thriving heart of the Old Town. The steep closes around Edinburgh Castle were famous for their textile and tailors shops—and indeed they still are. In 1825, West Bow was apparently home to an enormous “woollen warehouse.” There is no warehouse there now, but you will find K1 Yarns boutique and tea-room instead. Stop here for a welcome cup of tea, and to knit with Katherine, Sarah and Ysolda.
photo courtesy of k1 yarns
7. National Museum of Scotland
Your journey ends in the textile galleries of the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street. The museum preserves several different editions of Jane Gaugain’s works as well as many wonderful examples of nineteenth-century knitting and weaving. You can learn about Scotland’s different regional variations and specialities, including Fairisle colourwork, Sanquar knitting, Shetland Lace, Paisley shawls and, of course, tartan. Among the Museum’s fantastic collection of nineteenth-century woollen textiles are the remnants of a pattern carefully worked in Berlin wool. On the back of one tiny piece is written the name “Gaugain.”
Kate Davies authored "In the Steps of Jane Gaugain" in the spring issue of Twist Collective. She is senior lecturer in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth Century Literature at the University of Newcastle, UK. She loves writing, knitting, and walking, and (best of all) to combine all three. She blogs at http://needled.wordpress.com.
Design Process: Pisara and Pyörre
We are delighted to feature two designs from Mari Muinonen in the spring issue, a pair of sweaters that demonstrate how special her design sense is, and how little details like her colour choices and an original take on the cable can make a simple tunic a unique and powerful piece of clothing. Mari shared her thoughts about the sweaters on her blog shortly after publication, and I am delighted to pass them along here.
Pyörre (Finnish for swirl) is a men's hoodie. Well, it can be made in sizes starting at 35" chest, so it's a boys' hoodie also. I thought of cool summer nights and still wet hair, just throwing the hoodie on and going on until morning. The yarn is Valley Yarns Williamstown from Webs, and a new yarn for me. I love it and love the texture. Those are my dad's logs in the photo on the left. I am often inspired by them, I guess.
Pisara (Finnish for a drop) is a women's simple tunic-length pullover with interest on the sleeves and cable-details. I like the model in the magazine photos very much. She is very feminine-shaped and Pisara looks good on her. The pattern includes 10 sizes, which was a lot of math for me :) but I want to give this many sizes as possible. The swirl cable on the upper back was a challenge for me to design.
I fell in love with the yarn [ShibuiKnits Merino Alpaca], and thought about putting in every possible detail and cable, but then I decided that simple was the best way to feel and show the yarn. Still, I wonder if I could do something more with it?
But new stitches, new day.
Need a Knit Tattoo Idea?
I know a lot of knitters with knit and spin themed tattoos, but this one is the first I've seen with a practical application.
This is Sophie, who I met at Yarns in the Farms in Beverly Farms, MA, and who has her gauge tattoo featured on YitF's shop blog. It's six inches worth of 1/4 inch marks, which she must find to be very useful while knitting on the subway.
If you're thinking about getting a knitting tattoo, you can also check out the collection that Terry has curated for her brilliant blog, sknitter, and the associated cultural reportage. Considering the possibilities is half the fun.
Design Process: Colours for Luke's Diced Vest
One of the things that drives me as a knitter is colour, so I am drawn to Mary Jane Mucklestone's work in general, but (this week) Luke's Diced Vest in particular. Three harmonious patterns of different scale compliment the proportions of the body, and turn a traditional garment into something modern and compelling. It's both masculine and beautiful, which is a rare fusion in a man's sweater.
Meanwhile, the potential for play in fair isle is impossible to fathom, and I would be paralyzed by the choices. I asked Mary Jane to share the swatches she made as she settled on her masterful final combination. How she ever managed to make the final decision is beyond me, because all of her color choices are so delicious, and the yarn from Sunday Knits impossible to put down (don't take just my word about Sunday Knits: read Clara's Parkes sensuous evaluation of the yarn used in Luke's Vest in Knitter's Review).
Colors used according to the pattern chart follow the swatches, with the brighter background colors listed in the left column, and the darker foreground colors in the right.
Luke A: this pattern is slightly larger than the final version
From the center bit above 2 rows of Espresso, the rows on the actual pattern chart would roughly be:
rnd 14: curry chestnut
rnd 13: curry chestnut
rnd 12: pumpkin raisin
rnd 11: pumpkin raisin
rnd 10: tomato espresso
rnd 9: tomato espresso
rnd 8: melon/berry iris/pickle ( either or!)
rnd 14: pumpkin earth
rnd 13: pumpkin earth
rnd 12: curry chestnut/sea
rnd 11: curry chestnut/sea
rnd 10: wheat raisin
rnd 9: wheat espresso
rnd 8: pickle/bone iris
rnd 8: sage espresso
rnd 7: twig raisin
rnd 6: twig raisin
rnd 5: stone chestnut
rnd 4: stone chestnut
rnd 3: bone earth
rnd 2: bone earth
rnd 1: cloud pumpkin/pickle
• there is a little more variation at the top of this one, which includes iris.
This swatch tries a little bit of everything used thus far, plus plum and fir.
Luke E: The launching point for Luke B veering towards the super standard at top which includes beet at the center
Luke F is closest to the final version. Tempted? Check out the lovely guy wearing Mary Jane's beautiful garment, and click on the shop page for more details.
The issue is up, and we're all ready for spring knitting at my house. I adore this issue because this has been an especially long and cold winter here in New England (stop laughing, you Canadians), and I find the colours and the garments in Twist Collective's spring issue so lively, so girly and optimistic, I can't help but trust that the season will follow suit. Cue the leaves! Bring on the flowers. Cast on with Bamboo Silk. I'm ready.
Another little surprise we have for you is in the shop. It's this.
It's 12 x 16½ x 7"/30.5 x 42 x 8 cm, with 20" handles, made of natural canvas, and printed with a fun graphic by Marianne Dubuc, who illustrated the Sock-a-Doodle-Doo story in the spring issue. I love the clean black and white of the drawing, but honestly, I can't wait to get out my fabric pens and color in the ladybugs.
It's a pre-order only, so if you want want want one, order it soon. $18, shipping included to continental US.