January 2009: Blue Bunnits and the Global Economy

by Lynn Gray Ross

The new knitting pattern in our Arran collection is for the traditional Scottish Blue Bunnit in two different thickness of yarn, as well as a version for handspun.

Coincidentally in time for the 250th anniversary of the birth of our Scottish poet Robert Burns who wrote so many down to earth verses, including “A Man’s a Man for A’ That”.

His words about the value and equality of human beings as opposed to material wealth are very appropriate for the inauguration of a new era in the US presidency and our hope that the world will use emotional intelligence instead of clenched fists to communicate.

In the current economic situation money and banks have spiralled out of all recognition from the institutions and systems I grew up with and thought I could trust. Friends my age in different parts of the world are expressing the consternation that I feel as familiar support structures like pension savings disappear in a puff of backroom cigar smoke.

What has all this to do with knitting?

In a very modern Skype conference the other day with my sons in the US & Peru the conversation brought to mind the early days of their upbringing where my spinning and weaving studio was the only building on the site at the time, surrounded by various huts, caravans and a big white military tent for the summer children’s workshops.

One of my students used to refer to our handspun knitting as a product of the “Arran International Centre for Low -Grade Technology Textile Production”. We never quite got the brass plaque made, but she was right.

Clothing production has been one of the signs of economic craziness for decades.

We import textiles which are often produced with cheap and exploited labour. Meantime our own skills and techniques are being lost. Not to mention what they mean to our tradition and culture.

Some twenty years ago I knitted a handspun blue bunnit for Mick Broderick of the Whistlebinkies folk group to wear on tour in China. He had to practically glue it to his head to hang on to it, much like Tam O’Shanter in Burns Poem who rode through the churchyard “whiles holding fast his gude blue bonnet”.

For the next tour I knitted a few more for Mick to hand out as momentoes of Scotland. I’m hoping to track down the album photo where Mick is wearing the bunnit on the cover, meanwhile you can read about what the group is doing nowadays on their website (link below).

Enjoy this mini-exploration of Scottish poetry and culture and enjoy knitting our patterns as your collection grows.