Christmas jumpers have become a festive wardrobe favourite, and it’s heart-warming to see charitable initiatives benefitting from the generosity of this festive tradition (this year Save The Children’s Christmas Jumper Day falls on Friday 11th December). The sad reality is however, most festive knits are not designed with the planet in mind: jumpers mass-produced from lower quality synthetic fibres are unlikely to withstand more than one or two years of wear; and unbiodegradable features such as baubles, bells and other embellishments present challenges for safely disposing of the garment at the end of its life cycle in a way that is kind to the earth.
Our Design team were intent on producing a festive sweater which would not only be wearable throughout the entire winter season, but that would endure in style and quality – eliminating the need to dispose of and replace your Christmas jumper every year.
Made from 100% lambswool using the incredibly rare skill of hand-intarsia, a traditional knitting technique meaning ‘inlaid by hand’, the bright white snowflake pattern is woven into the panel of the sweater by skilled hands, resulting in a defined and clean motif. The craft of hand-intarsia is rooted in the local heritage, having been produced there for generations. ‘My background in knitting began from an early age, gaining experience from working in the local mills,’ says Alan, the owner of the factory where our Bamford hand-intarsia styles are produced. ‘Twenty years ago, I started my own business and have been producing hand-intarsia garments ever since.’
It is here that our Bamford Christmas jumpers continue to be made, yet unfortunately not all knitwear producers in the region have been as fortunate. The introduction of automated intarsia machinery that facilitates ‘fast fashion’ cycles have impacted the local work force, and lead to the closure of two mills in the town as production has been sought elsewhere. By working closely with our knitwear producers in Scotland, we hope to sustain and preserve the craft that is at the heart of the community, and the community that is integral to the craft.
SKILL OF THE HUMAN HAND
The shima machines that have mechanised the intarsia technique are only able to produce simpler designs such as diamonds and geometrics however, the intricate design featured in our sweater can only be produced by hand – machines could not compete with the work of the skilled craftspeople that realise our seasonal snowflake.
‘The process of producing a Bamford sweater varies according to the complexity of the pattern and the size of the garment,’ Alan explains. ‘It begins with charting, 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 preparing for transport.’ A single jumper demands hours of attention and care from the makers, but the effort pays off, resulting in a responsibly made and enduring piece that will retain its iconic style, shape and softness for a lifetime.
First, the Bamford snowflake pattern is charted onto a graph which will guide the knitter doing the hand-intarsia.
The machine has two main components: the head, which when pulled along knits the row of stitches; and the bed, the part which holds all the needles in place.
The snowflake pattern gradually emerges in our Snowflake Christmas Jumper - the ice-white contrasts against a Holly green backdrop.
Once the hand-intarsia is complete, the panels of the sweater are attached before washing, labelling and preparing the garment for transport.