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THE CRAFT OF HAND-INTARSIA IS ROOTED IN THE LOCAL HERITAGE OF THE SCOTTISH BORDERS, HAVING BEEN PRODUCED THERE FOR GENERATIONS.

2 November 2022


Against the idyllic rural backdrop of Innerleithen, hand-intarsia has been practised for more than 200 years. This traditional knitting technique, meaning 'inlaid by hand', is used to create intricate patterns with multiple colours; as with the woodworking technique of the same name, different colours of fabric appear to be inlaind within one another, fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle.

 

KNITWEAR POWERED BY PEOPLE.

To produce hand-intarsia, the yarn is laid by hand onto the needle bed of the 'dubied' knitwear machine, colour by colour, to create a clean, refined pattern. A dubied machine uses no electricity and is entirely human-powered.

By contrast, the large mechanical 'shima' machines that have automated the intarsia technique are programmed to knit automatically and will only able to produce simpler designs – machines could not compete with the work of the skilled craftspeople that realise our cursive, hand-scripted motifs.

IT IS AN INCREDIBLY TIME-CONSUMING PROCESS IN WHICH THE DETAIL AND PRECISION OF OUR DESIGNS CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED BY HAND.

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MADE IN SCOTLAND

In its heyday, the Scottish knitwear manufacturing industry employed more than 9,000 locals. Today, fewer than 1,000 people continue to work within the industry in Scotland - a symptom of the rise of mass production, when many of these jobs were lost to overseas competition.

‘My background in knitting began from an early age, gaining experience from working in the local mills,’ explains Alan, the owner of the factory where our Bamford hand-intarsia styles are produced. ‘The process of producing a Bamford sweater varies according to the complexity of the pattern and the size of the garment.’

WE CHOOSE TO SUPPORT A THRIVING COMMUNITY OF MAKERS WHO ARE WORKING TO KEEP THE CRAFT OF KNITWEAR ALIVE IN SCOTLAND.

When hand-knitting an intarsia, the maker has much more control over the piece as they can manipulate the stitches and have more control over each row. The item will be of a much higher quality with finer detail.

‘It begins with charting', Alan tells us, 'a process by which the pattern is first transferred onto a graph before knitting, and then finishing the garment by joining the panels together, washing, labelling and finally preparing for transport by road.’

 

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 WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING AT THE MOMENT?

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller. I’ve always got a tapestry on the go which can occupy valuable reading hours!

WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO SPEND TIME THIS SUMMER?

I love France, particularly the south. It’s a place I’ve visited for as a long as I can remember – from family holidays as a child onwards. The smells, the sights, the sounds – it’s all pure nostalgia. So I’ll be in Provence, doing my usual market trawling and hunter-gathering, and also lavender buying. I’m also going to Lake Como which I can’t wait to explore.

WHAT ARE YOUR SUMMERTIME ESSENTIALS?

Baskets! And plenty of them. In all their forms. I am endlessly mocked for my basket obsession and vast collection. I buy one in almost every single place I visit. Vintage dresses are another essential, plus reams of ribbons and trimmings which I use for belts and hair ties. And lots of SPF and oversized sunglasses.

ANY BEAUTY AND WELLNESS TIPS TO SHARE?

My morning routine is very basic, as is my getting-ready-to-go-out regime. My lifelines are relaxing baths with lavender-y or eucalyptus-y oils, Ross Barr Calm and Healing patches, lots of fresh (out of town) air, and Classic FM to restore calm when life overtakes (which it does and far too often). And a wild swim, sea swim or cold swim whenever possible! It’s unparalleled in its rejuvenation and invigoration. 

I’m about to embark on a course on how to breathe properly – as ridiculous as it sounds, it's not something I do at all and I’m endlessly told about how bad my shallow non-breathing is for the soul. So I’m going to learn how to breathe! According to Wim Hof it’s truly game-changing if you get it right.

 WHAT ARE YOUR TOP THREE APPS?

Instagram. I love the photo sharing element and album-like nature of it. I haven’t yet moved into reels or TikTok. It’s classic stills photography for me, forever.

I also love photography associated apps – either for editing, or transferring from my Leica camera to my phone, or a framing app for Instagram. They are all photography related as that’s my favourite hobby and always has been. And then BBC Sounds. I am plugged into radio 4 and iplayer for many hours of the day, and night. It’s a trove of wonderful things to listen to, old and new. Not to mention The Archers…!

WHO’S IN YOUR FAVOURITES LIST ON YOUR PHONE?

My parents, my siblings, and my lifelong Swedish best friend who’s on my speed dial even though she’s quite far away in Stockholm and may not be able to tend to me that swiftly in an SOS situation!

WHAT IS YOUR GO-TO BAMFORD PRODUCT AND WHY?

The The B Silent Bath Concentrate It’s truly wonderful for a bedtime bath and makes for a deep and wonderful sleep. I love a bath. And a good smell. This really is a good combo of lavender, camomile and vetiver.

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Back to Bamford Life

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