Shoal


When we launched our “Knitting the Herring” project back in the autumn we invited our network of knitting and gansey enthusiasts as well as the wider public  to “pick up sticks” and collaborate with us on the creation of a knitted Shoal of herring which would expand into the space of our exhibition gallery but also be captured in photography and shared online with our scattered diaspora of friends and followers.  

3D model of cream hand-knitted gansey with various patterns including starfish, Indian corn, small starfish, horseshoe, marriage lines, diamond, tree of life, open tree, heart in home, harbour steps, open diamond, cable, fish net and wave. Diamonds and diagonals pattern on sleeves. Three buttons at collar. Rib welts on body, cuff and neck are worked in 2 purl 2 knit. Knitted by Christina Margaret McInnes of Eriskay in the 1980s.

As the country entered the dark and cold months of winter with weeks of uncertainty ahead of us, we were genuinely buoyed up to receive little parcels of wooly goodness from other parts of Scotland, the UK and Europe.  Our contributors were modest and sometimes shy about their work but we hope they can now see how all these small and seemingly isolated crafty endeavours have come together to create something beautiful which represents unity and symbolises the anticipation with which we look forward to being together again.  

These lovely gansey herring have joined the Shoal, knitted by Carolyn O’Hare who told us – “Thank you for creating this lovely project and letting lots of people take part, even though many of us haven’t been able to visit you recently”.

We were so delighted to be able to distribute knitting kits to members of the North East Fife Adult Learning groups with the help of their tutors.  An example of what was achieved by beginner knitters and ‘old hands’ (whose interest in the craft had been revived) can be found with this hearty plum pennant and it’s peedie purple pal by Carol Thomson and three coastal cuties clashing on a clam by Anna Gardner.   

Thanks to Lucy Wilson, a tutor at Fife Council Adult Learning for her interest in and enthusiasm for our project – as you’ll read, she went slightly above and beyond the call of duty…!

“I am sending a photo of my fish. Honestly, I don’t knit but I had a ball of Aldi wool, borrowed some knitting needles and had a go, so thank you so much for the inspiration. It was very satisfying, with the exception of the tail! It drove me mad and I had to get a friend to help me find the stitches and get started – difficult in the middle of a pandemic! It was great for me to learn and to be reminded of all that can be achieved from such an accessible activity”.

A gansey beauty in blue has swum to join the Shoal from Berwick upon Tweed! Courtesy of Irene Thomson, who wishes for unpolluted, plastic-free oceans and seas, where all marine creatures can live and thrive.

This last minute addition to the tail end of shoal is a silvery reminder of the tough winter we’ve all swum through together, with a dash of sparkling hope for brighter days ahead. Courtesy of Sarah Hailwood in Edinburgh who told us – “My knitting has developed hugely over the past year. I aspire to trying a gansey one day and look forward to visiting the museum when you reopen”.

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