The knitwear thread

The Shooman

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A question to the group: I am travelling to Scotland in a week for a short holiday. I will pass by Hawick and then head North west to the highlands and will then spend a few days on an island.
Can any of you recommend any vintage store that might have interesting knitwear?
Or even factory stores...? I am planning to visit Johnston's although the quality is not the best...
Does anyone know whether Barrie has a factory store?

Thanks a lot

What about John Laing? That would be well worth the visit is your could find them. I understand they make the best of the best these days.
 

The Shooman

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This ebay auction has been going for months. Looks like no-one is falling for the con. If this was made in Scotland it would have sold long ago, even at a much higher price, but it is not made in Scotland; instead it uses cheap off shore labour and is machine made with likely inferior materials, inferior workmanship and certainly machine knitting instead of being hand framed. Notice how they never show the label where it is made. It seems like everyone knows it is suspect. Maybe they google things and find this site. :problemo:
Ballantyne - made in Mongolia 1.jpg


Ballantyne - made in Mongolia 2.jpg

Another bloke is also selling one for a King's ransom, but no-one has bought that one all year. People want the real thing, not inferior wears with a Ballantyne name. Nothing good comes from this, only bad things come from it.
 
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Swiss

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What about John Laing? That would be well worth the visit is your could find them. I understand they make the best of the best these days.
Thanks for the suggestion. John Laing is indeed one of the few interesting makers left.
Looking it up on Google maps, I realise that they are just next door to Barrie (and Glenmac...).
I will try and phone them up to see if there is a factory store (although I doubt it).
This brings me back quite a few years when I was a student in the UK and I went for a one week trip to Scotland and visited a couple of factory stores in Hawick. This was quite a few years ago and Scottish cashmere was still up there... I dont expect such a good experience this time round unfortunately.
 

Swiss

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Speaking of John Laing, I just bought this intarsia this morning
An addition to my collection of sweaters I will not wear but just enjoy having
 

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Grand Potentate

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Speaking of John Laing, I just bought this intarsia this morning
An addition to my collection of sweaters I will not wear but just enjoy having
this has shooey's name written ALL over it.

all it needs now is an animal in the background. maybe an alligator walking across the course?
 

The Shooman

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this has shooey's name written ALL over it.

all it needs now is an animal in the background. maybe an alligator walking across the course?

Some good ones for sale right now, unfortunately none fit or are suitable for me.

Some lucky lady will own these one day. Made by Ballantyne
Ballantyne intarisa - dog - pink 1.jpg


Another good one by Ballantyne
Ballantyne intarsia - leopard - black 1.jpg


This one by Ballantyne is still for sale. The only problem is that the men on horses are not detailed like the dogs below. If those horses and men were fully detailed that jumper would have been one of the greatest masterpieces ever made.
Ballantyne intarsia - dogs - brown.jpg


And this one by big Johnny Laing


John Laing intarsia - ballet dancers 1.jpg
 
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belinmad

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I can appreciate the technical work that goes into making these, but by god they are fugly.
I can only picture my 95 yo grandma weating them in a stylish way.
 

The Shooman

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I was reading a very interesting article by David Cox. Looks like some of our instincts were correct, Ballantyne possibly made the greatest cashmere jumpers in the history of the world, and nothing compared.

Here is someone's dad working at Ballantyne making an intarsia. Look at those old looms, they were supposed to be near 100 years old, and they all got smashed up at the end of Ballantyne's Scottish history.



Looks like those were the dozen or so looms Mr Hopes refers too.

Here Linda Cox (David's wife??) links a photo of the famous Ballantyne 1 ply intarsia that was said to take about 30 hours to make. A masterpiece. Just imagine all the fine 1 ply intarsia work that needed to be done to do this. Actually, I could buy this if l wanted it. :troll:


I understand Ballantyne also did evening wear in the 50's of jewelled intarsias. A Masterpiece of Masterpieces!!!! According to David Cox, no-one did what Ballantyne did when it came to intarsias; of course they didn't.


Ballantyne MASTERPIECE - Barbara Furphy pic.jpg



Ballantyne MASTERPIECE - Barbara Furphy 1.jpg


Haven't heard from David Cox in a while. I'll give him a few months and get in touch with him if we haven't heard from him.
 
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The Shooman

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Is David Cox The Master Knitter The Master Knitter ?
I am very interested in that project

Yes. He made many iconic models for Ballantyne. His name is a perfect description of what he is, A MASTER KNITTER, the best of the best.

It is interesting to read what he said about the cashmere quality declining. Of course globalisation brought it on after the 80's, and David's understanding is that cashmere growers increased production massively and mixed much of the better cashmere with lesser cashmere, and Chinese businessmen took over more of the processing operations (possibly cutting corners too IMO).

I have read that Mongolian farmers were packing heaps of goats on the land to make bigger profits, and natural feed eventually run out leaving the hills dry. Food stuff had to be brought it, and it makes me wonder if this also effected the cashmere, ie, no more fresh food to feed those cashmere goats. It was after the 80's that Ballantyne cashmere started to pill quite a bit, it was never the same after after globalisation brought forth the democratisation of cashmere.
 

Swiss

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It’s pretty but that’s definitely a woman’s piece. Also, definitely not for the under 65 crowd.
I really like the dog and basket one. Where is it for sale?

Thanks a lot for the photos and explanations around them. Always fascinating!!
The beach cabin must be a really cool piece also.
Such a shame all that equipment and skills are gone
I used to live in London in the late 90's early 2000's and bought a couple of sweaters from N.Peal in Burlington Arcade which has stood the test of time very well. I had very limited knowledge at the time otherwise I might have been able to find some interesting stuff from Berk or other places... oh well...

Following up on my own question regarding factory stores in Hawick: a local contact confirmed that Barrie doesnt have one but has a factory sales every other year. The next one will be in 2023...
She also said that John Laing was shut in 2006 which leaves me a little confused
So in the end, there will not be much to see in Hawick knitwear wise.
I am still planning to go to Johnston as I would like to try and find a bed throw and possibly some merino scarves

It's always great when this thread is active. Such an enjoyable read!
 

Johnny

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I see that you all are in that old Ballantyne garments
Good for you. Nowadays only 3-4 makers still do incredible cashmere/wool garments. i would avoid RL any of their label and some others brands mention here...they lack the quality of the grade are position at
 
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güero

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Saw that there is a store carrying some MbS close to me. Bought this today:

482alk40.jpg


It is 245g. Not the color I wanted, but if it holds up well, I'll buy some more anyway. They also had the ones with 155g, but not the really heavy ones with 380. But I guess this is good for a start.
 

The Shooman

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I see that you all are in that old Ballantyne garments
Good for you. Nowadays only 3-4 makers still do incredible cashmere/wool garments. i would avoid RL any of their label and some others brands mention here...they lack the quality of the grade are position at

Yes, RL do wonderful traditionally styled jumpers, but why would anyone want to buy there stuff. To me, one doesn't buy just on appearance, but buys mainly on how it is made. RL is made in China, so for starters that rings alarm bells. Why? Because the pedigree jumper making culture no longer exists, all those years of skills and knowledge of the factory are gone. Eventhough the factory in China will be trained with skills, the pedigree of talent no longer exists. Those skills take years to develop. Yet, RL starts up in China making jumpers, starting from scratch, and it is doing a cost cutting exercise, and they may cut corners in many areas. Why would anyone support a company who isn't dedicated to quality and making things the best way. Isn't that the trouble with the world, people don't want to make quality things anymore in their country, instead they want to use cheap labour offshore to make sub par quality things.

These days many businessmen have gotten rich from using cheap labour; originally the consumer had savings, but now these cheaply made goods are being sold at increasingly high prices. Not many people know about quality goods anymore. This trend has been a failure on many levels.
 

Johnny

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I didnt suggested not to buy any RL and others just because is made in China or other countries...its just not the garment that RL intended for their own clients
We always had our issues with them because they label for its customers one thing and in our investigation/under microscope is another thing
Every maker will praise his own thing, so words for me means nothing, their garments speak for them. 2 things are most important when i pay - fit and the quality of the garment/quality and fit. RL has the artisans to create shapes but they clearly dont have the quality for its grade and price. They always pay the price and keep the same quality. In our investigation even Malo and Loro Piana had their issues, but not so much, is not consistent.
Johnstons of Elgin since 2019, i got into the conclusion that they wanted to keep their prices as much as they were back then , no inflation big impact and they chose to reduce its quality , different yarn/fibre
This month i got into lab garments from Fedeli and i am incredibly curious to see how they evolve and what trend they took, since the last garment from them was on my table in February 2018. And i can expect by the end of September to try Begg and/or Berk. Another "kid from the block" is Colhays, is not the best of the best but you know what you get because their info is true to its garments down to microns
After 10-12 years now i buy with my own money only from 2-3 true makers when it comes to wool or cashmere
 
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Johnny

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These days many businessmen have gotten rich from using cheap labour; originally the consumer had savings, but now these cheaply made goods are being sold at increasingly high prices. Not many people know about quality goods anymore. This trend has been a failure on many levels.
I agree with this statement 100%, unfortunately this is the reality
 

Johnny

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I placed an order for this one, it will arrive in mid September
 

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The Shooman

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We always had our issues with them because they label for its customers one thing and in our investigation/under microscope is another thing

Can you explain more about this?

Every maker will praise his own thing, so words for me means nothing, their garments speak for them. 2 things are most important when i pay - fit and the quality of the garment/quality and fit. RL has the artisans to create shapes but they clearly dont have the quality for its grade and price.
You mean they use more machine work in shaping the garments?

In our investigation even Malo and Loro Piana had their issues, but not so much, is not consistent.

Can you explain more about this,what issues?
Johnstons of Elgin since 2019, i got into the conclusion that they wanted to keep their prices as much as they were back then , no inflation big impact and they chose to reduce its quality , different yarn/fibre
I understand they use the cheaper yarn from China instead of inner mongolia. I suspect they cut corners with the yarn due to the goats having their cashmere machine harvested rather than harvested by hand, and this would result in shorter fibers and more pilling in the garments. I also suspect the looser knit is due to their computerised machines where the tension in their knitting is looser. What do you think?

And i can expect by the end of September to try Begg and/or Berk.

Will be interesting to hear how they stack up. I understand that Begg makes their scarves, but maybe not their jumpers. Surely their scarves will be top notch, their knitting of these is incredible, ie, a nice thick ply, solid knitting and little pilling. No-one does what they do imo.

Berk is a funny one. Some of their old stuff by Ballantyne was excellent; their Lockie stuff is less so, but still good. I wonder how good their post Ballantyne stuff made by the ex Ballantyne workers was; did pill somewhat, but was supposed to be knit properly with good tension and density like the old stuff.

Another "kid from the block" is Colhays, is not the best of the best but you know what you get because their info is true to its garments down to microns
Numerous new kids on the block are not supposed to be that good. What about McGeorge getting stuff made in Scotland again?...not supposed to be as good as it once was. What about Ballantyne doing a Scottish collection?...I suspect that it would probably be midend at best, but l don't know for sure. Any idea?

After 10-12 years now i buy with my own money only from 2-3 true makers when it comes to wool or cashmere

Who do you think are the true good makers left nowadays?
 

Johnny

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Can you explain more about this?
Yes, its quite easy these days since there are laws...RL and a lot others were issues with fines because of their labels/specifications of their garments
Back in the days they said their yarn/fibres are 36-38mm, tightly knitted but under our investigations their were not, most grade A makers says one thing and the reality is another.
Another recognised brand is Johnston of Elgin, who like i said..they tried to go the other way than the others...to keep the prices as low as before but cut on the quality, take less quality yarns for their garments. Is still a good mid tier maker for those prices, hard to beat.
You mean they use more machine work in shaping the garments?
I mean, some of the makers they do have artisans that creates the shape...by hand or by machine...in my teenagers years i was a fan of Armani because of its fit...until i saw that i payed top dollars for great fit but "garbage" quality (i really dont want to offend no-one here, since i was shocked by how my garments lasts and how they showed when i check in detailed their garments)
For example...Kiton and Attolini still have the artisans even today but also the quality of the yarn/overall garment...so in that price you pay for both the fit/cut/handwork but also for the higher grade quality of the fibre. More to come on this
Can you explain more about this,what issues?
Loro Piana was and still is known to provide the best yarn...but their consistency is not there..i mean, to explain easier a good example is a must
We take 2-3 garments from the same category of the maker..and if the maker is also producing the yarn, we take 2-3 pounds randomly from the warehouse
"baby cashmere" loro piana 3 garments, 1 had 38mm fibre and more tightly knit while the others 2 were not so(again same garment, same colour) ..Also their 1 ply summer differ from the heavy ones for FW collections. But never mind, overall is still a great house for wool/cashmere garments, grade A out of A+ in our books

I understand they use the cheaper yarn from China instead of inner mongolia. I suspect they cut corners with the yarn due to the goats having their cashmere machine harvested rather than harvested by hand, and this would result in shorter fibers and more pilling in the garments. I also suspect the looser knit is due to their computerised machines where the tension in their knitting is looser. What do you think?
We are not allow to follow the footsteps outside EU, so we dont know from where is the yarn coming from..we just focus on the specification of it to meet the reality for the consumers; aside from that it could be what you are saying, you can be probably 100% right.
Nobody should pay for something is not...Since on electronics its easier to return if it doesnt met your specification that you ordered, here its a lot harder for customers to do that because it involves destroying the garment/tear it apart) if you say on your specification that is 36-38mm it must be between those numbers no matter what, doesnt matter if you keep your price or raise it...if your quality gets weaker you should not label an 30mm fibre as being 36-38mm, in some of countries is require by the law and you are fined for that. I still have from them 4 cashmere garments (3 round neck and 1 turtleneck) from 2014 and still in great shape, but again back then they had better specification and better dyed/more careful process. But again even knowing this, if i were in a budget or if i see something that i like i would still buy personally from them because of the price. Grade B+ (mid tier, like i said)
Will be interesting to hear how they stack up. I understand that Begg makes their scarves, but maybe not their jumpers. Surely their scarves will be top notch, their knitting of these is incredible, ie, a nice thick ply, solid knitting and little pilling. No-one does what they do imo.

Berk is a funny one. Some of their old stuff by Ballantyne was excellent; their Lockie stuff is less so, but still good. I wonder how good their post Ballantyne stuff made by the ex Ballantyne workers was; did pill somewhat, but was supposed to be knit properly with good tension and density like the old stuff.
Im very interesting too since, me personally i never had any of the Begg/Berk in my lab or in my wardrobe
Numerous new kids on the block are not supposed to be that good. What about McGeorge getting stuff made in Scotland again?...not supposed to be as good as it once was. What about Ballantyne doing a Scottish collection?...I suspect that it would probably be midend at best, but l don't know for sure. Any idea?
Maybe you are right...but here is everything right, for now.Lets see if this still stands 5 years from now...we all see how great houses used to produced great stuff for decades and they started to cut corners. For now, its a safe bet especially for the slim fit guys.
 
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The Shooman

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Yes, its quite easy these days since there are laws...RL and a lot others were issues with fines because of their labels/specifications of their garments
Back in the days they said their yarn/fibres are 36-38mm, tightly knitted but under our investigations their were not, most grade A makers says one thing and the reality is another.

Not surprised to hear that.

For example...Kiton and Attolini still have the artisans even today but also the quality of the yarn/overall garment...so in that price you pay for both the fit/cut/handwork but also for the higher grade quality of the fibre. More to come on this

I have a couple of Kiton jumpers that are of excellent quality. Thick, tightly knitted and don't pill. I also have a Borrelli that is the same. I wonder if Loro Piana made them.
Loro Piana was and still is known to provide the best yarn...but their consistency is not there..i mean, to explain easier a good example is a must
We take 2-3 garments from the same category of the maker..and if the maker is also producing the yarn, we take 2-3 pounds randomly from the warehouse
"baby cashmere" loro piana 3 garments, 1 had 38mm fibre and more tightly knit while the others 2 were not so(again same garment, same colour) ..Also their 1 ply summer differ from the heavy ones for FW collections. But never mind, overall is still a great house for wool/cashmere garments, grade A out of A+ in our books

Loro Piana makes excellent cashmere jumpers in my limited experience, and l haven't had any garment pill, not even a bit. Yes, some are more tightly knit and others are more densely knit. Brunello Cucinelli however is not near as good, lots of pilling in all my garments, and not all garments are tightly knit either.

here its a lot harder for customers to do that because it involves destroying the garment/tear it apart) if you say on your specification that is 36-38mm it must be between those numbers no matter what, doesnt matter if you keep your price or raise it...if your quality gets weaker you should not label an 30mm fibre as being 36-38mm, in some of countries is require by the law and you are fined for that. I still have from them 4 cashmere garments (3 round neck and 1 turtleneck) from 2014 and still in great shape, but again back then they had better specification and better dyed/more careful process. But again even knowing this, if i were in a budget or if i see something that i like i would still buy personally from them because of the price. Grade B+ (mid tier, like i said)

This is all very interesting, thanks for sharing these great posts.
Maybe you are right...but here is everything right, for now.Lets see if this still stands 5 years from now...we all see how great houses used to produced great stuff for decades and they started to cut corners. For now, its a safe bet especially for the slim fit guys.

Another maker l love is the knitwear Barrie makes for Hermes. It is nice and thick and densely knit like some of the old school Scottish jumpers, especially Lyle & Scott, but sadly, like most knitwear, it will pill a bit. Barrie for Hermes still makes some of the best knitwear. Do you know much about the knitwear Barrie makes for Hermes?

Barrie for Hermes impresses me the most; but so does Loro Piana because it doesn't seem to pill, and this tells me the cashmere and processing methods are very very good; but like you said, not all their cashmere is the best of the best, and it might explain some reports from customers of pilling jumpers.

William Lockie can be very good, but quality varies. Malo can be good, but quality varies. The old Ballantyne, Pringle etc were consistently excellent. Very difficult to find quality cashmere jumper these days, too much inconsistency, but perhaps the safest bet would be Barrie for Hermes (no unfortunate surprises).
 
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Johnny

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Who do you think are the true good makers left nowadays?
I think nowadays the true good makers are the one who keep their quality (no matter the costs)
Grade A+ (not in any particularly order)

Kiton- they still have the same artisans that they had at least 12 years ago. Now they are more vertical than before since they own Carlo Barbera Mill

Colombo - there is no doubt this is true roots in wool/cashmere, they makes only for their own name because they are a lot smaller than others
- they are the only one who have an 40mm fibre nowadays and use around 38mm fibre in their blend garments with silk
- owner brother in law is in charge to yarn and take care of some of their Xinjiang region hircus goats
- their 1 ply fibre is the same quality as the 4 ply garments
- if you are in Italy you can go in their warehouse with pictures of some garment that you want and if they have the material they will do it for you(same as with Kiton). They even do 12 ply garments at request since they dont believe there is high demand for heavier cashmere garments.

Cesare Attolini/Fioroni(owned by CA) - great stuff, great artisans, great quality, more reduce in cashmere/wool levels compared to Kiton/Colombo; what i mean by that is that Kiton/Colombo you have some nice process to receive something remarkable but also delicate, for example kiton has even supers 300 if you want, Colombo has 12.8microns wool that is very delicate but very refined, Colombo also has something they named it cashmere 4.0, extremely light worsted cashmere incredible fibre. At Fioroni/CA you have that old school cashmere. I have an classic navy 4 ply cashmere from them that is 4 years old and still remarkable every time i wear it

Grade A
Loro Piana - great quality, but the shape can be a hit or miss on some particularly individuals and can look like tent on them, not the same level of "know how" artisans like on those from Grade A+ , also the consistency must be improved

Malo - great quality, still, also like i said has the same consistency issue but still, great garment
Brunello Cucinelli - great quality, luxurious feel of the colours

Colhays- great starter like i mention, true to its definition for now

William Lockie - somehow between , they can be hit or miss but you can blind buy from them ...that old school Scottish feel and fit still in grade B+ at the lowest

Grade B+
Johnstons of Elgin - great stuff, not the same quality as decades ago but still, for their prices you can find great stuff


Ballantyne - - also good stuff, sometimes can be a hit or miss, in my opinion not as great as decades ago

John Laing - right there..not a lot of range to chose from like JoE for example

Hawico - another brand that is spun and knit in Scotland, dont know why is not mention like JoE or Ballantyne

Grade B
Gobi cashmere - ok for an entry level, budget friendly cashmere garments
- some times we had a grade A garment from them..like 1 out of 8..so you cant vouch for it
- always go for the lighter colours from them since they seem of a better quality overall (avoid darker colors...since their fibre is shorter or the process is harder on the garment, cashmere cannot be bleached, the darker colour fades away after some washes or frictions
Another thing we saw that houses like Colombo, Brunello that under the armpit they double seam for more durable place where your most friction is

Still to come from Beeg, Berk, Nadaam for September
 
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Johnny

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nother maker l love is the knitwear Barrie makes for Hermes. It is nice and thick and densely knit like some of the old school Scottish jumpers, especially Lyle & Scott, but sadly, like most knitwear, it will pill a bit. Barrie for Hermes still makes some of the best knitwear. Do you know much about the knitwear Barrie makes for Hermes?

Barrie for Hermes impresses me the most; but so does Loro Piana because it doesn't seem to pill, and this tells me the cashmere and processing methods are very very good; but like you said, not all their cashmere is the best of the best, and it might explain some reports from customers of pilling jumpers.
Nothing from Barrie or Hermes..for now. Maybe next year..since this year we kind of know what we will get
 

The Shooman

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Some fun words from David Cox


Grand Potentate Grand Potentate and belinmad belinmad ,you will like this. It is about Ballantyne putting doggies and old dead guys on their jumpers.


"Ballantyne was also particularly famous for its hand intarsia work that involved knitting many different pieces of a pattern and then working them together by hand to create a design. This was the way they created their famous, if banal, argyle diamond patterns, but also how they made Fred, as well as a number of other extremely complicated designs. I’ve seen images of an intarsia design of Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, for instance. It’s unclear to me how or where one would wear a sweater with that design, or with the puppies and kitties that adorn the women’s intarsia sweaters they sold at Berk in the Burlington Arcade, but for decades they were an exercise in uselessly extravagant, expensive fancy. About a decade ago they did a collaboration with Matthew Williamson that did a good job modernizing the intarsia designs by juxtaposing the diamond pattern with odd slogans and vaguely Gothic images. I wear Fred once or twice a year just for the hell of it. I wouldn’t wear white tie as often.
But Fred’s dead, baby".


Fred on your jumper, but why???
Ballantyne - fred astaire intarsia.jpg


The doggies on your jumpers, but why?
Ballantyne intarisa - dog - pink 1.jpg Ballantyne intarsia 1.jpg Ballantyne intarsia - dogs - brown.jpg

But like David seemed to imply, it was all old hat and slightly odd, so Ballantyne modernised the designs.
 
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The Shooman

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More interesting stuff from David Cox from the above link


Labor was comparatively cheaper in Scotland than in many other parts of Britain, power for mills available from various streams and rivers, and Scottish knitters moved upmarket into cashmere when cheaper imports began to undercut Scottish wool sweaters. In other words, the Scots applied their knowledge and expertise in knitting to premium materials that could be priced to include their labor costs. That history made for a trained workforce with great skill in the old knitting machines and techniques.
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Certain of the newer machines, I understand, can knit faster and turn out more production, but the speed they work with makes for a slacker, less tight and thus less dense knit.
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Some ascribed the Scottish reputation for knitwear to the soft water knits are washed in for finishing. I think that’s a myth
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In the 1990s the Chinese, who supply most of the raw material for cashmere production, greatly expanded the supply of cashmere fibers and took over more of the processing operations. My understanding is that the increase in production meant that coarser and lower quality fibers were also included in the mix
 
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