WWW: In Sheep’s Clothing

Vintage spinners at work.

We insist you set aside 10 minutes in your day to watch a short movie. The film “In Sheep’s Clothing” was made in Shetland in 1932, by a woman called Jenny Brown. She made a number of films, and this one focuses on the creation of a sweater. This absolutely amazing 10-minute video shows the entire sweater creation process, from the sheep to the garment. Everything is done by hand, and it’s a wonderful view into the process, and the everyday lives of the Shetlanders in the first half of the 20th century. If you don’t have 10 minutes to spare today, skip ahead to the 9 minute mark to watch these women knit. They’re blindingly fast, using the “anchored needle” (a.k.a. needle tucked under arm) method.

Whether you’re a knitter, a spinner, a lover of fabulous wild scenery, a dog-lover or a cat-lover, there is something in this video for everyone. I particularly love the interfering kitten.

The film has been made available to watch online by the Scottish Screen Archive, and we thank them for it.

The filmmaker.

The filmmaker, Jenny Gilbertson (nee Brown), has an amazing story. She was born in 1902, and although trained as a secretary, she decided that she wanted to be a filmmaker. She travelled to the northern reaches of Scotland, Canada and the Arctic to document the lives of the residents. At the age of 79, she spent a year living in an Inuit community 900 miles north of the Arctic circle, documenting their lives. She was a one-woman show – doing all the script-writing, filming, sound, lighting and direction herself. There are several of her films in the archive. I don’t know that she was a knitter, but she certainly knows what we are interested in.

Shorter and more modern, our own Kate is featured in a video on the Toronto Star website. The paper is doing a video series about the 501 streetcar route, the longest route in the greater Toronto area. As a regular rider of this route, Kate is featured, doing what she always does: knitting a sock.

A reader has brought to our attention (thanks!) a fascinating study on the use of wool to relieve pain in Fibromyalgia suffers. Wearing wool long underwear has been proven to reduce pain and other symptoms. The theory is that keeping warm ensures maximal bloodflow to the joints.

One of the Knitty team was recently contacted by another knitter, seeking permission to distribute one of our patterns to members of the US military, as part of a charitable program. The knitter works for a small defense contractor in the greater Boston area. In her words…

We build protective equipment used by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have a strong connection with service members worldwide, and embrace our commitment to support them however we can. People at work participate in both company sponsored and independent efforts.

Supporting heroes in many ways.

One of the independent efforts that folk at work have been pursuing is the Local Heroes program. It’s an all-volunteer organization, with 100% of the donations going to support service members from the New England region.

Our coordinator put out a call for the items listed on the website, plus a selection of other things that he knows about via direct request. In addition to personal comforts and snacks, many of the items are “idle hours” type things – magazines, crossword puzzles, cards, games, music, hobby supplies, and the like.

We also noted that women in the military are often forgotten, and the things that are donated and collected are often “guy-centric.” Which is not to say that men wouldn’t want to knit or that women are not interested in football magazines.

So in the hope of bringing some idle hours comfort to some knitter (probably female) in a hard place, far from loved ones, I thought about what would make me smile in that circumstance. I decided to put together some small knit-kits – socks, hats, scarves, drawing on yarn from my stash, augmented by some needle purchases and web-available patterns. I have to have my kits bundled and ready this week to make our collection deadline.

Our knitter friend urges people to seek out small, local organizations of this type that might benefit people from their regions. Local veterans’ groups are a good place to connect with them.

More cuddly than a calculator.

And for the numerically inclined in our readership, a pattern for knitted Napier’s Bones. Napier’s Bones are a type of abacus, a tool to aid multiplication, invented in the 17th century by mathematician John Napier. This gives me an idea for a scarf…

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13 thoughts on “WWW: In Sheep’s Clothing

  1. nancy

    I can’t get this to work. Obviously at least one person can, looking at the comments. When I click on the image it acts like an image, rather than a video (i.e., opens in a new window, rather than launching a video). Would love to see the film. Any idea what I’m doing wrong? I tried it in both Firefox and Safari.

    1. Jean

      Nancy, you have to click on the hyperlink in the text and go to the Scottish Screen Archive website.

      That’s as far as I got, though. When I click on the video there I get an error msg saying “Server not found”. I think KnittyBlog readers must have crashed their server. I’m going to try again later.

  2. Purplepenguin

    I watched it. What surprised me was they “plucked” the fleece instead of shearing and they twisted the raw fleece, not worrying about it. Later, I was surprised to see the woman sitting sideways to her wheel, not face front. Interesting.

  3. Deborah

    Sigh. Another online video which requires Adobe Flash. Is there a non-flash version available? I prefer to watch my videos on the iPad, which doesn’t support Flash.

  4. Barb

    Thank you so much for this gift. I got a good laugh off the cat insisting on being on the lap. Cats and knitters seem to have an infinity.

  5. grammiesknits

    That was a great video about Shetland. I heard about rooing, but never saw it done. It is interesting that the women were standing to knit.

    Also, a great video of Kate and hearing some of the things she thinks about while riding and knitting. I love how knitters have such a universal common ground.

    Thanks for the links.

  6. Maureen

    That was amazing. I loved the look on the woman’s face as she was spinning, relaxed and happy. I can imagine what a joyful respite spinning would be, a break from all that hard, hard work.

  7. Boringlibrarian

    Thank you so much for posting the link to the Scottish Archives! The film was fantastic and I’m so glad to see local historical short films being preserved. A link to the Scottish Archives will be on the list of “websites of the week” that my co-worker at the library puts out for in-house use. My gosh, it was a labor intensive occupation. I’m so glad I have the luxury of buying my wool spun & ready for use.

  8. Michelle Rafalowski

    I LOVE the yarn used by one of your fans to knit the Lanesplitter skirt posted on Knitty Blog!


    Unfortunately, the brand/color is not identified. She is standing with her back to the camera with hands on her hips. Any chance you can help me out?

    Happy New Year!!!
    Wishing you Peace and Fleece,

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