Readership down, weight up, and it’s raining – One of Those Mornings.
Surprise news, however, from yesterday’s cultural outing. One of our ports of call was the National Museum of Scotland. I hadn’t been there for quite a while, and made a point of going straight to the knitting showcase – Sanquhar gloves, a Fair Isle sweater, a 19th century Shetland lace shawl, a few machine-knit things.
And not just any 19th century Shetland lace shawl – the Princess herself!
To be precise: it was labeled as a copy of the shawl presented to Princess Alexandra in 1863. This one, the copy, was given in the same year to Miss Campbell of Jura, for her wedding, and later presented to the Museum by (presumably a different) Miss Campbell.
This provokes speculation about the identity of the knitter. Did the same woman knit it twice (a repetition, not a copy)? Or did she help a friend reproduce it? Either way, it must be the case that the original Princess shawl knitter was known to Miss Campbell, and probably connected to her by blood or love or both. And wanted her to have a princess’s shawl to wear on her wedding day.
Sharon Miller says somewhere, I think, that she believes she has located the Princess shawl knitter in the Report on the Truck System (see the passages in her Hap Shawl book) or the Statistical Account for Scotland. But I can’t find the passage. Could it even have been in a message to the Heirloom Knitting group? I could search the archives.
Anyway, when I got home I found a picture on the Museum of Scotland website. I don’t dare reproduce it, and I’m sure this URL won’t work:
(I've just tried it, and it does work. The sprouting seeds appear to nod away from the centre. Sharon's change is an improvement. )
I got it by googling on “Shetland lace shawl presented to Princess Alexandra in 1863” (without the quotation marks). The National Museum of Scotland was among the first dozen suggestions.
In the showcase, it was strategically folded so that you couldn’t see any of the cruces – the sprouting seeds and their nods, the insertion, the centre pattern. Perhaps if I wrote to the Curator of Textiles and said that I once spoke to Sharon Miller on the telephone….
I had always assumed that Sharon’s pattern was based on the actual presentation shawl in the Royal Collection (if it exists). But maybe she used this one. Her pattern is likely to be the most elaborate lace knitting pattern ever published, but it’s not a copy of the original Princess – it’s a simplification (!) and interpretation, a design of Sharon’s own.
The original was worked with finer thread (again, !) and has 16 ½ feathers instead of Sharon’s 11. The centre and edging are different, Sharon says, but similar in complexity and “feel”.