Thursday, 15 September 2016

The Knitting & Crochet Guild Journal, Issue 152

The Knitting & Crochet Guild publishes an excellent journal, Skipknot, full of fascinating articles written by Guild members. The latest issue, number 152, has just been delivered and is a great read as usual!

Front Cover of Slipknot Issue 152

The content shows the diverse interests of Guild members, with articles on Hebridean Knitting, Worldwide Knit in Public Day and a Guild visit to the V&A Clothworkers Centre. There are several book reviews including a special focus on Irish Crochet. Alison Ellen's recent exhibition "Soft Engineering" is reviewed (you can visit the Exhibition in Sleaford, 12th November 2016 to 8th January 2017 - see Alison's website for details). Along with branch meeting reports and knitting event reviews, the journal reflects the busy knitting lives of the members!

I am very proud to have three articles published in this issue. My first is a review of the Guild's excellent 2016 Convention (which you can also read on my blog). A visit to Graduate Fashion Week showed that hand knitting is being used in very creative ways by students and recent graduates and you can read more about this in my second article. My third article in this issue is all about my visit to discover more about luxury cashmere garments at Barrie Knitwear in Burlington Arcade, London during this year's London Craft Week. 

If you aren't yet a member of the Guild, please do consider joining. Its a great way to keep up to date with all that is going on in the world of Knitting and Crochet. There is a wealth of information and knowledge amongst our members that is enthusiastically shared at Branch meetings and Open Days. Details of how to join are on the Guild's website. In the meantime, if you don't yet have access to Slipknot, here is my article about my visit to Barrie Knitwear.  

Barrie Cashmere at London Craft Week 2016
(Slipknot, Issue 152)

London Craft Week is an annual event that showcases luxury craft skills. It provides opportunities for highly skilled craft workers to demonstrate their skills. Anyone can attend these events and demonstrations and although some of the events charge a small fee, most of them are free. Looking through the extensive programme for this year's London Craft Week, I noticed an interesting event hosted by Barrie Cashmere at their Burlington Arcade boutique. This was a chance to find out more about the production of luxury cashmere knitted garments. 

Burlington Arcade, London

The Barrie Mill in Hawick produces beautiful cashmere garments for several luxury brands. Founded in 1903, the Mill was famously rescued from bankruptcy by Chanel's Parafection subsidiary in 2012. The Parafection subsidiary is known as the French group's "artisan division", which seeks to promote and preserve artisan skills in fashion. Although the mill is now owned by Chanel, customers continue to include many other luxury brands such as Hermes, Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. In the last few years, Barrie, a distinctive own label, has also been developed. The Burlington Arcade shop is Barrie's second stand alone retail unit. The first shop opened in Paris on the Rue Saint Honoure in June 2014.

Knitwear for the Barrie label is designed by Creative Director Odile Massuger, part of Chanel's own knitwear team. Her beautiful garments combine technical excellence with stunning luxury cashmere fibres. 

The LCW16 event at Barrie was hosted by Claire, who is the head of design. The Barrie mill in Hawick employs approximately 250 people and also runs its own training scheme to develop the specialised skills needed to work with fine cashmere fibres. To our delight, Claire had brought along two big bags of cloud-like soft cashmere fibre for us to feel.

Claire described how each garment is meticulously planned before being knitted up in pieces. Once the main parts of the garment are knitted, they are joined and then washed and pressed. Claire had brought “before and after” samples with her and the difference was amazing to feel. With all the lanolin washed out and the garment pressed, the fibres had softened and the stitches had relaxed. We all had the chance to try on this gorgeous sweater to feel it’s softness first hand!

I particularly wanted to look at some interesting textural open work knitting that I had spotted on the Barrie website. Claire took us for a close up view and explained how the design was formed by knitting each small section separately then joining up these sections and repeating. The resulting machine knit openwork fabric is lightweight and of course, has the beautiful drape of cashmere.

This LCW16 event was a fascinating insight into an own label brand working along side, but distinct from, a large world renowned brand. It was also an interesting example of a big brand nurturing creativity with a view to the long term. Preserving the skills and knowledge at the Barrie mill is a key aim for Chanel. 

For more information on next year's London Craft Week programme, that runs from Wednesday 3rd to Sunday 7th May 2017, visit

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