Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Hermann von Pückler-Muskau / VIDEO:Nicholas Penny on the letters of Hermann von Pückler-Muskau

Pückler-Muskau was the first of five children of Count Carl Ludwig Hans Erdmann Pückler, and the Countess Clementine of Callenberg, who gave birth to him at age 15. He was born at Muskau Castle (now Bad Muskau) in Upper Lusatia, then ruled by the Electorate of Saxony.

 He served for some time in the Saxon "Garde du Corps" cavalry regiment at Dresden, and afterwards traveled through France and Italy, often by foot. In 1811, after the death of his father, he inherited the Standesherrschaft (barony) of Muskau. Joining the war of liberation against Napoleon I of France, he left Muskau under the General Inspectorate of his friend, the writer and composer Leopold Schefer. As an officer under the Duke of Saxe-Weimar he distinguished himself in the field. Later, he was made military and civil governor of Bruges.

After the war he retired from the army and visited England, where he remained about a year, visiting Her Majesty's Theatre, Haymarket and Drury Lane (admiring Eliza O'Neill), studying parks (he visited the Ladies of Llangollen) and high society, being himself a member of it. In 1822, in compensation for certain privileges which he resigned, he was raised to the rank of "Fürst" by King Frederick William III of Prussia. In 1817 he had married the Dowager Countess Lucie von Pappenheim, née von Hardenberg, daughter of Prussian statesman Prince Karl August von Hardenberg; the marriage was legally dissolved after nine years, in 1826, though the parties did not separate and remained on amicable terms.

He returned to England in 1828 where he became something of a celebrity in London society spending nearly two years in search of a wealthy second wife capable of funding his ambitious gardening schemes. In 1828 his tours took him to Ireland, notably to the seat of Daniel O'Connell in Kerry. On his return home he published a not entirely frank account of his time in England. The book was an enormous success in Germany, and also caused a great stir when it appeared in English as Tour of a German Prince (1831–32).

Being a daring character, he subsequently traveled in Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Sudan and explored ancient Nubia. He is documented as having visiting the site of Naqa in modern-day Sudan in 1837. He also visited the nearby site of Musawwarat es-Sufra, and in both places he carved his name in the stone of the temples. 

Mahbuba, ca. 1840

In 1837 the prince visited a slave market in Cairo, there catching sight of a near-naked Abyssinian girl of no more than 13 called Mahbuba, “beloved”. He promptly purchased her (ever the gentleman, he didn’t even haggle). The prince self-righteously pronounced that he was “too conscientious” to treat her as a slave, but his description of how he “civilised” her, much as one might train a puppy, makes for pretty disturbing reading.

But as they travelled together, north through Lebanon and on into Turkey, a genuine warmth developed between them, made easier once Mahbuba learnt Italian so the two could at least converse. Pückler-Muskau was smitten and while never professing romantic love for her guardian, Mahbuba did refer to him as “beloved father”. [At this point, if I were of a romantic nature I might say “he could buy her body but he could never buy her heart” but…y’know, romance schmomance.] The pair travelled on to Vienna, where they appeared before a fascinated imperial court.

However Mahbuba found it difficult to adapt to the climate and a cold she had caught in Lebanon developed into tuberculosis. Hoping the health-giving waters of Muskauer Park might provide a cure, the two travelled there in September 1840. There they had to contend with the prince’s ex-wife, who was still in residence and refused to let Mahbuba stay in the palace.

Mahbuba’s condition worsened but Lucie, who had departed for Berlin and herself fallen ill, summoned the prince there. Caught between love and obligation, Pückler-Muskau – unusually – chose the latter.

Lucie recovered, Mahbuba never did. She died on October 27, 1840, alone; Pückler-Muskau didn’t even make it back in time for the funeral. He claimed, in a letter to a friend, that “I felt more love for her than I thought myself capable of; that was probably my most intense pain…and greatest comfort.” Unlike most of his love letters it bears the hallmark of authentic feeling, though of scant consolation to the woman who still lies in Muskauer Park, surrounded by the names of the Prince’s other flames.”

In the same year, at the slave market of Cairo he was enchanted by an Ethopian girl in her early teens whom he promptly bought and named Mahbuba ("the beloved"). Together they continued a romantic voyage in Asia Minor and Greece. In Vienna he introduced Mahbuba to European high society, but the girl developed tuberculosis and died in Muskau in 1840. Later he would write that she was "the being I loved most of all the world."

He then lived at Berlin and Muskau, where he spent much time in cultivating and improving the still existing Muskau Park. In 1845 he sold this estate, and, although he afterwards lived from time to time at various places in Germany and Italy, his principal residence became Schloss Branitz near Cottbus, where he laid out another splendid park.

Politically he was a liberal, supporting the Prussian reforms of Freiherr vom Stein. This, together with his pantheism and his extravagant lifestyle, made him slightly suspect in the society of the Biedermeier period.

In 1863 he was made a hereditary member of the Prussian House of Lords, and in 1866 he attended — by then an octogenarian — the Prussian general staff in the Austro-Prussian War. He was awarded for his 'actions' at the Battle of Königgratz, even though the then 80-year old Prince had slept throughout the day. In 1871 he died at Branitz. Since a cremation of the deceased was forbidden at that time for religious reasons, he resorted to a provocative trick, and ordered that his heart be dissolved in sulfuric acid, and that his body should be embedded in caustic soda, caustic potash, and caustic lime. Thus, on February 9, 1871, his remains were buried in the Tumulus - a lake pyramid in the park lake of the Branitzer Castle Park. Since he was childless, the castle and the park fell after his death to his successor to the Majorats, his nephew Heinrich von Pueckler, and all cash and the inventory to his niece Marie von Pachelbl-Gehag, née von Seydewitz. The literary estate of the prince was inherited by writer Ludmilla Assing, who wrote the biography of the author and published his unpublished correspondence and diaries.

In 1826, the prince of Pückler-Muskau embarked on a tour of England, Wales, and Ireland. Although captivated by all things British, his initial objective was to find a wealthy bride. He and his wife Lucie, having expended every resource on a plan to transform their estate into a vast landscape park, agreed to an amicable divorce, freeing him to forge an advantageous alliance that could rescue their project. For over two years, Pückler’s letters home conveyed a vivid, often quirky, and highly entertaining account of his travels. From the metropolis of London, he toured the mines and factories of the Industrial Revolution and visited the grand estates and spectacular art collections maintained by its beneficiaries. He encountered the scourge of rural and urban poverty and found common cause with the oppressed Irish. With his gift for description, Pückler evokes the spectacular landscapes of Wales, the perils of transportation, and the gentle respite of manor houses and country inns. Part memoir, part travelogue and political commentary, part epistolary novel, Pückler’s rhetorical flare and acute observations provoked the German poet Heinrich Heine to characterize him as the “most fashionable of eccentric men―Diogenes on horseback.”

Monday, 27 March 2017

Albert Thurston Braces since 1820

In 1820, five years before Nelsons Column was built (to celebrate his life and death on the 21st October 1805 at the battle of Trafalgar) braces and suspenders were first made and sold by Albert Thurston from his emporium at 27 Panton Street, Haymarket, London. If you want to know whether any of your ancestors fought on the British side at Trafalgar click here Trafalgar
the Great Exhibition in Hyde ParkThirty one years later, in 1851, the nation celebrated the Victorian era, when the Great Exhibition was held in Hyde Park. Albert Thurston received an Honourable Mention for the excellent standard of their products.
By now, Albert Thurston had become a by-word for quality in gentlemens' accessories, and their braces and suspenders were destined to be sported by kings, princes, presidents and successful businessmen across the world over the next 2 centuries.
Into the twentieth century, Thurston's reputation for quality and style has continued to grow.When asked for his reaction to the outbreak of war in 1939, actor Sir Ralph Richardson replied that he had gone straight to his tailor on Savile Row and purchased half a dozen pairs of Thurston braces in case they might be in short supply. “

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Vivienne Westwood, Get a Life and the The Climate Revolution

A collection of diary entries by fashion designer and political activist Vivienne Westwood, Get a Life is a fresh, unpredictable look at the life of one of the most influential artists and campaigners of our times. Spanning six years of Climate Revolution, fashion and activism, the book is as provocative as you would expect from Britain’s punk dame.
"My diaries are about the things I care about. Not just fashion but art and writing, human rights, climate change, freedom", Westwood said. "I call the diaries Get a Life as that's how I feel: you've got to get involved, speak out and take action."

 How Vivienne Westwood fell in love with Prince Charles
A T-shirt emblazoned with an image of the heir to the throne might not seem like the likeliest showpiece from Vivienne Westwood’s AW15 collection – but perhaps the pair have more in common than we thought …

Morwenna Ferrier
Monday 19 January 2015 14.38 GMT Last modified on Monday 19 January 2015 14.52 GMT

For a designer who has long used the establishment as a frame of reference for reaction, Vivienne Westwood – the anti-monarchist, anti-establishment, godmother of punk – dedicating her autumn/winter 2015 collection to Prince Charles in celebration of his environmental work was always going to polarise fans.

“I want to pay tribute to Prince Charles,” wrote Westwood on a set of briefing notes (emblazoned with an image of Charles in a beret) given to guests at her autumn/winter 2015 menswear show in Milan. “If Prince Charles had ruled the world according to his priorities during the last 30 years, we would be alright and we would be tackling climate change.”

The T-shirts, worn under blazers and by Westwood herself, are part of a Westwood perennial of using fashion as a political vehicle; fans might recall tops embellished with “I Am Not a Terrorist” for civil-rights charity Liberty, and an entire collection in 2013 dedicated to Chelsea Manning. The rest of the collection, though, was relatively staid for the designer, referencing traditional royal sartorial norms: sharp Savile Row-style tailored suits, trad brocade florals on blazers and coats in a houndstooth print.

Given Westwood’s history with the royal family – she has twice attended Buckingham Palace with no knickers on, and has regularly goaded the establishment in various ways over the past forty years – this homage might seem implausible. But she recently set her targets on the environment, and previously endorsed Prince Charles, saying he had done an amazing amount in this world.

Charles has long been an outspoken environmentalist, and was recently handed increasing responsibility of the Queen’s Sandringham estate as part of the “gentle succession”. He is expected to use the land to implement more changes, including organic farming, an activity Westwood has backed with equal candour.

It’s evidence of the designer’s continued move away from her roots. After all, along with her partner Malcolm Mclaren, she played a pivotal role in establishing the punk scene in the late 1970s and has previously described her motivation for adopting anti-establishment messages into her collections as “an heroic attempt to confront the older generation”. But as Westwood knows, the medium is the message – and what better way to send it home that by subverting expectation?

Vivienne Westwood by Vivienne Westwood & Ian Kelly, review: 'fabulously, fetishistically brilliant'
The life of Vivienne Westwood is told as an uproarious picaresque romp by Beau Brummell's biographer

By Philip Hoare1:00PM BST 25 Oct 2014

The Seventies may seem like another age, but it was not the decade that taste forgot. It was an era that utterly reinvented the modern world. In almost every aspect of culture, from politics to pop, the status quo was overturned. And in the fast-moving arts of music and fashion you could detect those tectonic shifts most distinctly. Bolan, Bowie and Roxy Music reconfigured the way an ordinary suburban boy such as myself could imagine the future. They evoked a retro-glamorous, science-fiction world, an epoch defined by George Melly’s Revolt into Style as a third period of pop culture, “its noisy and brilliant decadence” lighting up “the contemporary landscape as if by a series of magnesium flares”.
It is that landscape that Ian Kelly examines in Vivienne Westwood. As a practised, deft biographer, he’s already given us flash-lit lives of Beau Brummell and Casanova – and is thus a perfect match for the Enlightenment figure Vivienne Westwood aspires to be. The book is billed “as told to”, but one gets the impression it was one long stream-of-consciousness rant, careering off on an uproarious picaresque romp through a wild and often unaccountable life. Holding a legend to account is Kelly’s dilemma – and his skill. He accomplishes it by the skin of his buckskin breeches, with a wit and humour of his own.
In 1976, newly arrived at college on the outskirts of London, I’d make my pilgrimage down to the darker, emptier end of King’s Road, home to the black hole that was sex – announced by huge letters in what Kelly dubs “condom pink”. It took a lot of courage to cross that threshold. In the dim interior stood the intimidating figure of Jordan – the first person to receive an Arts Council grant for being herself. With her peroxide punk beehive, Kandinsky make-up and PVC fetish wear, Jordan was the living symbol of Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s startling new aesthetic. Indeed, the entire staff of the shop were Warholian superstars, awaiting their 15 minutes of fame, from Chrissie Hynde and Glen Matlock to Midge Ure and Toyah Willcox.
This was, recognisably, the birth of something – though we weren’t quite sure what. Scaffolding rails were hung with jumpers which were little more than nets knitted by giants, and bondage trousers with strapped knees and zips that ran right up your backside. This was more hardware than fashion; less style than anthropology, dealing in notions of tribalism and myth; more James Frazer’s Golden Bough than Vogue editorial. Towelling flaps slung around the groin were vestigial loincloths. Tartan kilts became pleated symbols. Gender was blurred and heightened. “Sex,” Westwood tells Kelly, “translated into fashion becomes fetish… the very embodiment of youth’s assumption of immortality.”
These clothes frightened people. I had to save up for a shirt roughly stitched together out of muslin with elongated, straitjacket sleeves and a screen-printed inverted crucifix over a swastika. It offended everyone, including me. But I wore it because Johnny Rotten did – indeed, Westwood claims she was as much the inventor of the Sex Pistols as McLaren. When Anarchy in the UK erupted, she tells Kelly, “the idea and the title were mine”. (Mr Rotten has since declared Westwood’s claim to be “audacity of the highest order”.)

Vivienne Westwood's autobiography, book review
By Vivienne Westwood and Ian Kelly

Andrew Wilson Thursday 9 October 2014 13:12 BST

Vivienne Westwood was at school when she wrote her first autobiography. Since then she has made various attempts to document the extraordinary story of her life, from the child of working class parents in Derbyshire to the mother of punk and later the creator of a global luxury brand.

Some time after meeting her friend Gary Ness in 1977 she collaborated with the ‘Canadian homosexual aesthete’ on a fifty-page memoir that they later set aside. Then in 1993 she asked the fashion historian and journalist Jane Mulvagh to write her life story, a project that Mulvagh accepted on condition that the designer did not vet the manuscript before publication. Westwood soon had second thoughts and promptly withdrew the offer of co-operation. On the publication in 1998 of Mulvagh’s insightful book the designer described the unauthorised biography as ‘a lot of rubbish’.

After this debacle, Westwood’s husband, Andreas Kronthaler - whom she met while teaching in Austria - insisted Vivienne write her own book to set the record straight. ‘I said the last thing I want to do is write about myself,’ she told an interviewer recently. And so it was that this new book was born, a publication trumpeted as a memoir but written by an amanuensis, the actor and biographer Ian Kelly (whose previous subjects have included Casanova and Beau Brummell). The resulting volume is a strange hybrid, neither memoir nor critical biography, and its beautiful pages emit the distinct odour of hagiography.

One of the problems of the book - thankfully mostly confined to the opening chapter - is the insistence of Kelly to place himself in the story. Phrases such as ‘My Year of Magical Blinging’ - a reference to the year the author spent interviewing and shadowing Westwood - and ‘the business that is show’ really grated, and I didn’t care how little sleep Kelly had during Paris Fashion Week.

The pace begins to pick up with the introduction of Westwood’s own voice about thirty pages into the book as she details her childhood. Here, we learn fascinating details that suggest that her character had been largely formed at an early age: she had a precocious visual memory, believed that she could make a pair of shoes at the age of five and, from the beginning, she was something of a rebel and non-conformist. She remembers being in the back of her aunt’s greengrocer’s shop when she was a girl and seeing a representation of the Crucifixion on a calendar. Her cousin Eileen told her about the death of Jesus Christ, which up until that point had been kept from her. ‘I could not believe that there were people in the world who could do this,’ she recalled. ‘And the truth of it is this: I became Derbyshire’s only five-year-old freedom fighter! Dedicated to opposing persecution!’

Kelly is particularly good at documenting Westwood’s co-creation of the British punk movement and her toxic partnership with Malcolm McLaren, the red-haired, pale-faced (courtesy of talcum powder) Situationist who helped change the course of 20th-century fashion and music. (It’s a shame, however, he gets the date of the first Sex Pistols gig at St Martin’s wrong: it was 6 November 1975, not 1976.) Incisive testimonies from Westwood’s two sons, Ben (from her first marriage) and Joe (the product of the relationship with McLaren) as well as her brother Gordon (who introduced Vivienne to Malcolm) reveal McLaren to have been an abusive control freak. Although the biographer has had access to Westwood’s inner circle (complete with anodyne quotes from a number of models, PRs and fashion insiders) there are some notable absences. For instance, Vivienne talks about her first husband Derek Westwood, but the man himself does not have a voice.

Kelly also passes over certain events that are crying out for more analysis and interpretation. For instance, on the way to have an abortion (paid for by McLaren’s eccentric grandmother Rose) Vivienne changed her mind and used the money to buy herself a cashmere sweater and a matching piece of fabric from which she created a skirt. I would have liked more on this, more on the psychology of fashion, the deep-seated reasons why Westwood felt so drawn to clothes. ‘Nothing from the past is entirely true,’ she told Kelly. ‘But you are only in those scenes properly when they are put together. That’s what we should do, you and I, Ian: sew together all the life scenes.’ In this respect, Kelly is a competent tailor, but my guess is that in the future there will be other, more adventurous seamstresses who will come along to unpick and restitch the Westwood story.

Andrew Wilson's biography of Alexander McQueen will be published in February (Simon & Schuster)

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The magic Red Box

Ministerial boxes, informally called red boxes, are used by ministers in the British government to carry their documents. Similar in appearance to a briefcase, they are primarily used to hold and transport official departmental papers from place to place. They are not to be confused with the parliamentary despatch boxes from which speeches are given in Parliament, although ministerial boxes are also referred to as "despatch boxes" in government documents.

"Ministers are permitted to use ordinary lockable briefcases to transport information which has been classified ‘Confidential’ or below. For information with a higher security level (such as ‘Secret’) they are required to use dispatch boxes, which offer a higher level of security, and which are usually red. However a travel version of the despatch box is also available in black, which offers the same level of security as a red despatch box, but is designed to be less conspicuous. In practice Ministers use despatch boxes for transporting the majority of their documents due to the greater level of security they offer."

The design of ministerial boxes has changed little since the 1860s. The boxes are manufactured in London by Barrow and Gale. Covered in red-stained rams' leather, they are embossed with the Royal Cypher and ministerial title. The 2–3-kilogram (4–7 lb) boxes are constructed of slow-grown pine, lined with lead and black satin and, unlike a briefcase, the lock is on the bottom, opposite the hinges and the handle, to guarantee that the box is locked before being carried.

The colour red has remained the traditional covering of the boxes. The lead lining, which has been retained in modern boxes, was once meant to ensure that the box sank when thrown overboard in the event of capture. Also bomb-proof, they are designed to survive any catastrophe that may befall their owner.

Exceptions to the red colouring are those carried by the government whips, which are covered in black leather. Discreet black boxes are also available for ministers who need to travel by train.

One box cost £865.43 in 2010. Between 2002 and 2007 the British Government spent £57,260 on new boxes. In 1998, a Whitehall initiative began to replace document boxes with an extensive intranet.

Other red boxes of note are the ones delivered to the British Sovereign every day (except Christmas Day and Easter Sunday) by government departments, via the Page of the Presence. These boxes contain Cabinet and Foreign and Commonwealth Office documents, most of which the monarch must sign and give Royal Assent to, before they can become law

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Sunday Images / The triumph of the fair island knitwear

 “Fair Isle is a traditional knitting technique used to create patterns with multiple colours. It is named after Fair Isle, a tiny island in the north of Scotland, that forms part of the Shetland islands. Fair Isle knitting gained a considerable popularity when the Prince of Wales (later to become Edward VIII) wore Fair Isle tank tops in public in 1921. Traditional Fair Isle patterns have a limited palette of five or so colours, use only two colours per row, are worked in the round, and limit the length of a run of any particular colour.
Some people use the term "Fair Isle" to refer to any colourwork knitting where stitches are knit alternately in various colours, with the unused colours stranded across the back of the work. Others use the term "stranded colourwork" for the generic technique, and reserve the term "Fair Isle" for the characteristic patterns of the Shetland Islands.”

On tiny Fair Isle, a cottage industry enjoys the sweet smell of success
The Shetland island’s knitwear designers are quietly pleased at the attention they won when Chanel was obliged to say sorry for copying their designs

 Karl Lagerfeld leads models wearing Fair Isle designs at Chanel’s Metiers d’Art show in Rome. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Kevin McKenna in Shetland
Sunday 13 December 2015 00.04 GMT Last modified on Sunday 13 December 2015 00.06 GMT

On Fair Isle, the 10th-largest of Shetland’s 15 inhabited islands, the locals don’t permit themselves to gloat even when occasion gives them reason to. So, this weekend, there may simply be a quiet nod here and there and some little tugs of acknowledgement that might say “well done”. But there is no doubt that the island, home to fewer than 60 souls, has just scored a remarkable victory, and one that may yet have huge and beneficial consequences.

Last week Mati Ventrillon, a craft textile designer who has lived and worked on Fair Isle with her young family for eight years, forced an apology from Chanel after she discovered that the French couture giant had used some of her unique Fair Isle knitwear designs in its recent Metiers d’Art show in Rome. She immediately took to social media to air her grievance, asking if this was “endorsement or plagiarism?”.

Chanel acknowledged that it had erred and issued a full apology, crediting the designs as the creation of Fair Isle textiles specialists. What chance did a French fashion house have when pitted against several centuries of Scottish heritage and tradition on an island whose very name signifies the highest quality of designer knitwear?

Mati Ventrillon at work in her studio. Photograph: Mati Ventrillon

Ventrillon, it seems, is now happy to let the matter rest, but she also believes the incident has turned a welcome spotlight on the ways of a world far removed from the high-octane rhythms of French fashion.

“In the end some good may come of the whole episode,” she told the Observer on Friday afternoon, as the last glimmer of daylight disappeared across the water on this northernmost outpost of Britain. “Not only did they issue an appropriate apology and correction, they also carried an article about the history of craft textiles and knitwear on Fair Isle, and the skill and dedication that have been handed down through generations of women. Millions of people might now become aware of what it is we do here, and how much it helps to sustain this place.”

A genuine patterned Fair Isle jumper is considered an authentic work of art. These garments will take, on average, more than 100 hours each to hand-knit – and that’s before you factor in the time spent on designing them. This is an intricate and highly skilled process, involving arranging the traditional patterns and the five colours that typically characterise these threads.

It took Ventrillon more than four years to study and practise the techniques and patterns that were first used by the women of Fair Isle and the wider Shetland islands two centuries ago. Her desire is to eventually establish an industry on Fair Isle that will offer products to all parts of the market, rather than just to the luxury goods sector, with its bespoke online customer base. “In this way, I will be able to offer to islanders training and employment that is both sustainable and organic.”

Wool and knitted textiles are enjoying something of a renaissance in the world of high fashion. Perhaps that’s what led Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel researchers to this tiny hothouse of textile creativity in the first place. But while wool and garments made from it have been a staple on Fair Isle for generations, a group of edgy knitwear companies in London – with names such as Unmade and Wool and the Gang – are turning the traditional model of purchasing fashion products on its head. Using computer programming, online technology and the power of crowdfunding, these cutting-edge collectives are using wool – that most traditional of yarns, often associated with dozing grandmothers in rocking chairs – to challenge the accepted economic rules of fashion retailing.

Ben Alun-Jones, one of the co-founders of Unmade, reflected last month on estimates that 10% of all the clothes being made in the world go straight to landfill, which is, he says insane.

“We seem to have lost something in mass production, where you are making things for everyone, but everything is made for no one,” he said.

Wool and the Gang, meanwhile, has a global battalion of 3,000, mainly female, casual knitters, who use the company as an agency to supplement their incomes.

On Fair Isle, Ventrillon sustains a lifestyle that marries the wisdom and craftsmanship of the ages with online technology. “I have a waiting list of online orders that is 18 months long, and so I have had to close it,” she said. “My customers interact with me at every stage of the creation, right through to the design. They know that they are getting a genuine garment made entirely on Fair Isle, in a process that uses our unique patterns and techniques but allows them to play a part in the crafting.

“I don’t buy into the concept that big global fashion house equals bad, and small traditional craft-making equals good. There are many opportunities for mutual beneficial partnerships between the big houses and small community-based enterprises.”

Elizabeth Riddiford of Exclusively Fair Isle is one of three commercial hand-knitters on the island. “I have been a Fair Isle hand-knitter and hand-spinner since moving here more than 30 years ago.

“I learned the intricate patterns and techniques of real Fair Isle knitting from experienced local Fair Islanders who were all born on the island in the early 1900s and who, along with their sisters and cousins, had been taught to hand-knit by their mothers and grandmothers from when they were toddlers,” she said.

“The tradition of Fair Isle hand-knitting is still practised and passed on by mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers to their daughters on Fair Isle today, although nowadays this is mostly for the pleasure of knitting for family members and friends.”

Earlier on Friday, Ventrillon had other duties to attend to. Another thing that knits this tiny population together is its community spirit. So she has trained as a firefighter and forms part of the team that daily attends to the island’s airport.

“In this place,” she said, “helping each other is a duty – and a pleasure which stitches us all together.”

Two Photographs of myself wearing “Fair Island“ which are circulating in the Internet