part 1 The beginnings of An Orkney Jumper. '40 years of comfort'.

 I've been invited to take part in an exhibition curated by Bruno Vinhas, the gallery director of  the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador.  'Sensorius' is to open in August 2021 at their gallery in St.Johns, Newfoundland.  The exhibition is themed on accessible tactile work.  

Click here to find all blog posts about 'An Orkney Jumper'.
Colours of  peat and heather.  My dads 40 year old jumper, on Dunnet Head.  Scars of old peat banks once cut by hand for fuel mark the landscape.

Bringing home the peats from Dunnet Head - 1970's. Me with my dad

For the exhibition I will up-cycle a hand knitted woollen jumper that has provided comfort for nearly 40 years for both my dad and husband.  Made to measure for my dad,  Michael O’Donnell, this jumper was hand knitted in the late 70's by Camilla Eames knitwear in Kirkwall, Orkney.  She had two shops, the first, in the late 1970's was in Victoria St which had a small coal fire at the back of the room. A few years later she moved to open a shop in King St, Kirkwall.

It was from the Victoria St shop my dad purchased the jumper (he remembered the coal fireplace).   
Handed down to my husband Joe a few years ago,  it was in need of repair.
In 2018, while maker in residence for the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador at The Old Cottage Hospital in Norris Point, I invited the public to bring me their woollen garments in for repair. I titled my residency project ‘On The Mend’.  My dad turned me a wooden darning dolly to use during the residency, and to start things off, I brought 2 garments with me to mend – one was this 40 year old jumper.

I'm in my 'mending room' in The Old Bonne Bay Cottage Hospital museum room, Norris Point, Newfoundland.

Now, a few years on, this jumper, still a favourite, but beyond repair. Using only the wool from the jumper, I plan to make two hand muffs.

Hand muffs are a traditional garment in decline. In recent years they've had a resurgence, re-invented as a comforter for those with restless hands - a ‘twiddle muff’. 

One of my muffs will be soft and fluffy inside like the Newfoundland thrummed mittens. The other, however, will have a different feel as I fill it with much stiffer strands reminiscent of heather roots. I've yet to decide construction method  as I explore the possibilities but could might include wrapped stands or felted strands. The outside of each muff will be the same – the knitted pattern of the jumper and some of the decorative visible mending made while in Newfoundland, retained.

A new collaboration:

As well as the muffs, I'm delighted to be collaborating with one of the other exhibitors, Sarah Albu, singer/performer/vocal explorer/spinner of wool and knitter from Montreal, Quebec!   Click here to listen Sarahs soundscapes from the Knit, Purl, Listen exhibition at the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador, and click here to view the exhibition catalogue which includes stories compiled by Intangible Cultural Heritage and Folklore dept at Memorial University in St.Johns. 

Going back in time before going forwards.

In my search for info about the Orkney knitter, I was interviewed by BBC Radio Orkney reporter, Huw Williams. This resulted in many enthusiastic responses from listeners who knew or once worked for Camilla. Many suggested she moved to Edinburgh and then possibly to Africa.

Click the link below to listen to the interview - the jumper features in the last 5 minutes of the programme.

During the 1980's, my parents Liz and Michael O'Donnell, exhibited their collaborative decorated turned wooden bowls at 'The Tent', Edinburgh Festivals Craft Fair in Princes St Gardens.  Camilla Eames also exhibited at The Tent in the 1980's.  I exhibited alongside my parents at The Tent in 1991.

Africa perhps?

A google search found this:

"... MozambiqueCamilla Eames has joined the Visual Arts School in Maputo as a Textiles Teacher..."

 but the links are broken............... 

Dunnet Head Lighthouse and keepers cottages, Caithness,with the Pentland Firth and Orkney in the distance.
View from my home over Brough village on Dunnet Head with the Pentland Firth and Orkney beyond. Watching boats in the Pentland Firth  and the changing light on the cliffs of the Orkney Island of Hoy, seem to make doing the washing up less of a chore!



More about the exhibition at the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador gallery: 


"Removing barriers is the way to create an environment that will give equal opportunities for the population as a whole. Integration, respect, adaptability and challenging stereotypical portrayals can and will generate a healthy change in attitudes. Accessible spaces and works early on the curatorial design process has been the primary focus of Sensorius: Where The Skin Meets The Eye. Every accessible program has the potential to inspire, welcome and develop a safe space for all public that will result in an open conversation about art and contemporary craft reducing the anxieties that stem from beginning a new experience in a “foreign” place "