Earlier this year I got an exciting message from my friend Caroline Simpson to say that the Maakin’ and Yakkin’ group at Anderson High School had commenced a school-wide bunting project using Liz’s pattern from my second book. Because of the way my health has been this year I wasn’t going to go to Shetland Wool Week. However, as soon as I saw Caroline’s glorious flag, I knew Liz and I needed to get to Shetland to see the finished project.
We left for Shetland last Wednesday. On Thursday morning we got to meet some of the amazing knitters who have worked on this special bunting. We were both completely blown away to see their stunning work. So fun! So colourful! So glorious!
When Liz originally wrote the KNITSONIK Bunting pattern, it was for mine and Mark’s Wedding. Liz created the pattern and sent it to all our knitting friends. The original KNITSONIK bunting spoke to ideas of community, love, and friendship… and it’s come to every class I’ve taught ever since.
We reprised the idea of collective joy and celebration for the Tarmac Tuesdays themed Bunting created for the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Playbook, and we hoped that other groups of knitters would use the pattern for other community projects.
However, when we talked about putting Liz’s bunting pattern out into the world, I don’t think either of us imagined anything quite as impressive, inclusive and fun as the flags knitted for the opening ceremony of Shetland Wool Week by the knitters of Anderson High School.
Every element of School life is celebrated in the bunting. Each department has a flag…
…But other aspects of school life are also celebrated.
There are also some special flags designed by Nancy which celebrate the iconic hats designed by Wool Week Patrons since Hazel Tindall started the trend in 2014. Nancy used Deborah Gray’s handy 2-flags-at-a-time technique to produce pairs of flags, each of which bears a Wool Week hat design on one flag and traditional peerie motifs on the other.
Isn’t it fantastic to see Shetland Wool Week flags hanging side by side with flags celebrating Physics, the School Canteen, Pupil Support and Maths? And to see traditional Shetland motifs worked in the distinctive greys and oranges of the new Anderson High School interior?
Liz and I were so inspired that we each contributed a flag of our own. Our flags drew palettes and motifs from the grellow school crest that decorates the floor inside the shiny new building.
As well as being a fantastic expression of collective creativity, this wonderful bunting speaks to the determined way in which Shetlanders are keeping knitting alive in schools. Following a decision made in 2010, knitting is no longer officially taught in Shetland schools. However, initiatives like the Maakin’ and Yakkin’ group set up by Caroline Simpson and the Shetland Peerie Makkers established by the Brough Lodge Trust are ensuring that knitting skills are passed on to younger generations in Shetland. The fantastic bunting hanging in the foyer of the school celebrates these skills as a rich part of school life as do the informal knitting sessions held at Anderson High. I wish I’d be able to stay in Shetland long enough to attend the special “Tak your sock” night hosted there this Wednesday as part of Shetland Wool Week.
It was really something to be able to go to the Opening Ceremony for Wool Week in the prestigious new school building, and to see so many knitters from all over the world gathering together to celebrate and learn from the incredible textile traditions of Shetland. Caroline took this photo from the balcony, looking down at the crowd; the photographer was trying to get a picture of us all and asked us all to put our phones away. People’s phones were out because they were looking up towards the bunting and trying to take its photo. No wonder, really; it looks amazing. I wish I’d been able to get some better pictures of it myself!
It was really inspiring to have the opening ceremony in the school; people like me come to Shetland for Wool Week to learn from the talented wool workers of the islands and to celebrate the rich knitting culture. Whether or not it’s officially part of the curriculum, knitting remains at the heart of learning, exchange, and knowledge in Shetland and I’ve never seen a better expression of that than the superb bunting made by Anderson High School.
The bunting will be there at the Makers Market tomorrow if you are still in Shetland and would like to see it, and apparently Nancy has taken some proper pictures of each of the flags which you may be able to see soon if you check on the AHS Maakin’ and Yakkin’ blog. If you’re up at the school tomorrow, do stop to look at the glorious flags – all 55 of them – knitted by Anderson High School. And if you see Caroline there, please give her a massive hug from me. She is the force of life, enthusiasm and fun that made this bunting happen and I think she’s amazing.
The most exciting thing about my work always involves seeing what other people make using the techniques, patterns and ideas from my books; it’s my favourite thing ever when other people join in. I love celebrating daily life in stranded colourwork, and I love how Liz’s genius bunting pattern has given people a framework within which to play with the KNITSONIK System. It’s been just magic to see what Anderson High School have done with these ideas. From the janitors’ Henry Hoover to the designs on the dinners ladies’ breeks to the bunsen burners in the chemistry lab to the shiny new school crest to the sports hall, all the textures of school life are celebrated here in technicolour glory. You could spend all day looking at it (I nearly did on Friday when it was being put up). The bunting is a thing of joy; I feel really honoured that the school used the pattern from my book in this way and am thrilled Liz and I got to see what they made for ourselves.
YOURS IN ALL THE JOY OF BUNTING,