Thistle & Boom x Clarks - We meet the knitters!

Nov. 25, 2011 by teampaula in Interviews

We're loving this collaboration between Clarks shoes and Thistle and Boom - a Scottish company renowned for it's fair trade, Fair Isle knits. Only a total of 1,200 pairs of the very special Desert Boots will be available and each pair has been lovingly created by 1 of the 35 hand knitters that live across Scotland. We caught up with one of Thistle and Boom's expert knitters, Gracie, 72 to find out more about the project...

Tell us how the collaboration came about with Clarks?

I first read about the work with Clarks through an advert in my local paper. I did some research on Thistle and Broom, was really impressed with the work that they do and thought "why not?!". I saw knitting as a pleasurable way to earn some extra money to fund my summer trip to Africa.

Knitted boots are definitely a unique idea - is this the strangest project you've knitted with?

I think the knitted boots are really fun and quirky, sadly my walking boots are now moulded to my feet after many months of training to climb Kilimanjaro. Initially I hadn't fully grasped how the cuffs would be used so the basic shape didn't seem that strange as opposed to previously knitted socks for dogs and ponchos for children amongst many other projects. But now having seen the finished product there is a sense of pride in the finished article and an element of curiosity as I wonder "is that one of mine?".

How long does it take to complete each boot?

I'm a reasonably fast knitter and the pins do tend to go as fast as my jaws i.e. the faster I talk the faster the pins go ( my partner would testify to that)!. So I could knit two to three cuffs in a night but like so many people I have various family commitments, work and study amongst others therefore my output did depend on external factors.

Knitting has come into fashion over the past few years with the emergence of 'Stitch and Bitch' groups as well as 'Graffiti Knitting'. Is it hard to master the art and what advice would you give to any budding knitters out there?

I learned to knit at a very young age but the complicated "stuff" I learned from my co-workers on night-shift in a psychiatric hospital, very-old school knitters but meticulous in their techniques. By the age of 18 I had progressed from "socks" for my dog to arran jumpers and Icelandic cardigans. My advice to new knitters is take a small simple pattern with basic stitches and a decorative yarn, and "give it a go". The sense of achievement from the smallest of projects immense. Most of my completed garments either sewn or knitted I give away to friends and family as gifts, a handmade gift means so much more and gives a double shot of pleasure from the making and completion of a garment to the person opening and wearing the finished item.

How long have you been knitting for and is it a big part of your life? How did you first discover knitting?

Crafts in general are a huge part of my life and during times of ill health have proven therapeutic and a useful coping mechanism. I am a "dabbler" and like many crafty folk have boxes of yarn, threads and materials hidden under the stairs! Coming from the Scottish Borders textiles are inescapable, many of my family were mill workers and traditional crafts such as knitting were always around the home. As a child I can remember clearly winding hanks of unwashed yarn around a kitchen stool and vividly remember the smell of the natural oils similar to the unwashed yarn for this project.

Lastly - we love the Aran Pattern knit Desert Boots- will you be wearing them this Winter?

Although very tempted by the innovative design they are sadly not practical for the muddy local hills that I can be frequently found traipsing.