We had lost our marketing person at work in the summer of 2010 at fairly short notice and just before she left she had signed us up for a visit and lectures at Knit Camp, an international textile event at Stirling University in September. Sandra Manson, also of J&S, and I agreed to deputise at the event, along with my wife Catherine, who would also help.
Catherine and I travelled down via Scrabster in the north of Scotland and stopped off at Brora for a nostalgic visit to one of my old friends from Hunter of Brora, spinning manager Bill Ballantyne. We travelled down to Stirling through some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world, the Highlands of Scotland, and stayed overnight at the Kinlochard Hotel.
We walked part of the West Highland Way and along the shores of the loch amidst beautiful scenery. Much to my surprise we came across a field of Shetland coloured sheep! They looked very similar to the native Shetland coloured sheep belonging to the Abernethy family back home in Shetland. Suddenly the penny dropped, of course Fergus Wood, former chief executive of the Scottish Fine Wool Project in which I took part as a wool judge.
We found our way to a group of houses and enquired the householder, “Was this the home of Fergus Wood?” He pointed out a large building called Kinlochard House and added, “Fergus was not at home, and did we know he was Provost of Stirling!”
We travelled into Stirling the next day and met Sandra at the university to set up our stand. This was the start of an extremely busy week, I gave a talk on Shetland, sheep, wool and textiles and deputised on our stand for Sandra. She agreed to take part in a spur of the moment event, back to back challenge to make a garment straight from the sheep to completing the finished garment. First of all they had to find a team of hand spinners and knitters and, of course, a suitable fleece. This did not present a problem attending the event was none other than Fergus Wood, Provost of Stirling, who brought along some of his wool clip, out of which I chose a suitable fleece.
The team of knitters and spinners, who came from all over the world only met that day yet managed to produce the finished garment in approximately six hours a very admirable result indeed from a talented group of strangers.
Not only did I meet my old Friend Fergus Wood, I also met up with quite a few designers; some new to me and some were old friends, such as Nancy Bush from the U.S. who specialised in fine lace as a designer, author and knitter. The highlight of my visit was to spend time with one of the first designers to use our knitting yarns in 1969, Sasha Kagan. I also met up with fine lace knitter and designer Liz Loveick from Orkney; we put on a joint workshop and talk to some of the visitors. I was honoured to meet up with one of the younger upcoming designers Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed.
Quite a successful and enjoyable trip: very hard work, I now had to come back down to earth and return to the wool store!