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A big MDK welcome to our new contributor, Jeni Hankins. She’s an American performing artist, writer, and maker living in London and Lancashire. So happy to have her taking us on a trip to one of our favorite cities today.

Ann and Kay


If you’re feeling like satisfying the universal hankering for Scottish knit-vana, may I recommend a spontaneous trip to Edinburgh? I’ve just been for the weekend and experienced a cultural wool-a-palooza which I think you will love.

Right now, Dovecot Studios is presenting “Knitwear: From Chanel to Westwood” chosen from the personal collection of Cleo and Mark Butterfield. This exhibition kicks off with a sweet Fair Isle sweater which Cleo knitted when she was a teenager. From then on she had the obsession with knitwear to which we have all succumbed. Visitors can see everything from a wall of Fair Isle sweaters in delicious colors to intarsia swimming costumes to the wild concoctions of string dreamt up by the likes of the late Vivienne Westwood.

during world war ii recycled yarn was knit into “make-do” multi-colored sweaters.

There are snappy Chanel outfits and plenty of slinky garments from the various see-through crocheted dress booms, too. If, like mine, your attraction to wool extends beyond knitting and crochet, you can nip upstairs to feast your eyes on a selection of tapestries and gun-tufted pieces in the upper gallery. And, depending on your timing, you may even see the Dovecot weavers and tufters at work in the atrium below.

But you’ve only just begun when you leave Dovecot, because just around the corner is the Bernat Klein color and texture explosion at The National Museum of Scotland in their special free exhibition “Bernat Klein: Design in Color.” A Serbian, Klein settled in Scotland, post-World War II after aiding the British in the war, and he set the world of fashion and furnishing textiles on fire with his slub wool, velvet ribbon, and wild mash-ups of colors—think fuchsia, clementine, ochre, and army green in a single skein. This kind of color daring seems commonplace to us now in the world of custom dying, but that wasn’t the industry norm in the 1960s.

A Bernat-Klein Sample book

Just to add that touch of class, Klein presented his wool collections in ivory and brown hatboxes. What an eye. There’s a slideshow in the exhibition of the press combing through these hatboxes of candy colors which makes time travel seem an urgent necessity—oh, to be one of those reporters! Chanel didn’t miss a beat here, either, and used Klein’s fabrics in her collections which catapulted him to fame. But his textiles weren’t just for the elite; they also found their way into Marks & Spencer as well as institutional office chairs and sofas.

I was excited to discover that Klein’s wife Margaret Soper added a vital commercial dimension to the business by devising knitting patterns for his slub wool and variegated colors. You can see a few framed booklets in the exhibition. Wouldn’t we all be ecstatic if someone collected these together in an omnibus edition from various museum and university archives? And don’t miss the bijoux Klein display in the museum’s newly reframed Fashion and Style gallery on Floor 1. The whole gallery is a wonder.

You will be desperate for a cup of tea and a piece of cake by now. If you head over to the City Art Centre for the last exhibition on the menu, you can find something scrumptious at Mimi’s Bakehouse, the celebrated Edinburgh eatery.

Now for the feather in the cap of your wooly day: City Art Centre’s “Glean” featuring the work of fourteen women photographers and filmmakers. These intrepid women showed Scottish life of the early and mid-twentieth century just as they saw it, some of them living for months or years with crofters. Though there are incisive photos of city life, I was, of course, drawn to the many pictures of crofters with their sheep, spinning wheels, and knitting needles.

In Jenny Gilbertson’s 1930 silent film “A Crofter’s Life on Shetland” I watched a woman threading, then blocking a lace shawl on pegs driven into the snowy ground. A Fair Isle sweater gets a wash and then is pegged out on the line, then the woman goes to get peat for her fire and knits as she walks. These are the things we’ve read about in histories of knitting, but this is some of the rare documentary footage from a time when this way of life was rapidly fading and when double-pointed needles flashed through miles of knitting in moments. Jenny Gilbertson also managed to film Shetlanders rooing their sheep, then rolling the fleece up under their arms and carrying it home for spinning.

One of my favorite photographs of the exhibition by Violet Banks shows a croft on Harris with a long stretch of tweed cloth practically wrapped around the house for drying. The exhibition curators have also thoughtfully included two pairs of multicolored knitted socks made by a Miss Shand in 1950 for the Home Industries which took my mind back to the very first stranded colorwork knits of the day which I’d seen at Dovecot Studios.

My time in Edinburgh was limited, so I did see these three exhibitions in a single day. They were not large, but they were dense with inspiration. If you have more time, you could certainly see the Bernat Klein exhibition on a separate day, and that would give you the chance to take in the many other wonders of the National Museum of Scotland, especially the Fashion and Style gallery.

I wish you could raise your umbrellas—which I definitely needed in Edinburgh—Mary Poppins-style and whisk yourselves over to Edinburgh for the weekend!


A Note: Each piece in our series A Knitter’s Weekend is written by a knitter with a personal point of view. If you have additional places or information you’d like to share, please leave a comment. And here’s how to save this article in your MDK account

About The Author

Jeni Hankins is an American performing artist, writer, and maker living in London and Lancashire. Since 2008, she’s toured extensively throughout the USA, Canada, and the UK. Find her recordings on Bandcamp and catch up with her musings on Substack.


  • Thank you, Jeni, for this trip to Edinburgh. Travel is out of the question for me right now so this is the next best thing!

    • You are so welcome! I’m glad you could have a virtual adventure. Thank you for reading along with me. I’ll hope to take you to some more places with me later in the year!

  • There are also two fabulous yarn shops in Edinburgh – Be Inspired Fibres and Ginger Twist Studio. Both are sufficiently close to the city centre to be visited on foot.

    • Definitely on my agenda for next time. I was desperate to go to all of the knitting shops in Edinburgh, but ran out of time! And I really needed some 8mm needles. It’s so fun to go to knitting shops whilst travelling. So, Thank you for the recommendations!

    • Add Kathy’s Knits to that list – lots of British wool

      • I have Kathy’s Knits on my list and I cannot WAIT to stock up on some gorgeous British wool.

      • Where can I find patterns for those fabulous Scottish vests? I’d love to knit one!!

        • Shetland Wool Adventures journals would be a great place to start. You can buy them online in digital and physical form.

  • I will be in Edinburgh in July and I hope to see some of these in person. Can’t wait!

    • Even though these particular exhibitions will finish before July, they always have something exceptional on at Dovecot. AND the National Museum of Scotland have an extensive fashion and style room which has beautiful knitwear in it. City Art Centre do loads of exhibitions on Scottish culture, so always good to see if something there interests you as well. Have a terrific trip this summer!

  • Hi great article. I’m starting teaching knitting workshops in Edinburgh at Summerhall in March @knit_happens_classes, Helen

    • Really excited to see your new class venture! I’ll definitely check to see if you have class going the next time I visit my friend in Edinburgh! Or maybe make a trip especially!

  • I was also excited to see the account of these wonderful exhibitions. I will also be in Edinburgh in July, but when I followed each link, these inspiring displays will be gone in the Spring. So sorry to miss seeing them “in person”. I’ll just have to “make do” with studying the lovely photos! And hope that perhaps one or more will be extended. Thank you Jeni, for the inspirational tour.

    • Even though these particular exhibitions will finish before July, as Kay says they always have something exceptional on at Dovecot. AND the National Museum of Scotland have an extensive fashion and style room which has beautiful knitwear in it. City Art Centre do loads of exhibitions on Scottish culture, so always good to see if something there interests you as well. Have a terrific trip this summer! And thank you very much for reading and commenting. It makes my day!

    • Be sure to go to Dovecot Studios, where they always have an interesting exhibit plus the ability to watch giant tapestries being made. It’s in a former Victorian public bath, a really interesting building that adapted perfectly to its current purpose.

  • What a treat on a dreary rainy morning! The photo real actually made me catch my breath! Jeni was a perfect tour guide!

    • Huge smiles and thanks for your kind comment, Sally!

  • That was a wonderful article. Is Bernat the same company that ended up making knitting yarn and patterns? They’re now owned by the Red Heart Yarnspirations conglomerate, but I remember their patterns and yarns from my youth.

    • Hi Nina, I was wondering the same thing. I saw several knitting patterns in the exhibition which Klein’s wife designed. AND they definitely made wool for home knitting, some of which I’ve seen on Etsy recently. It’s really exciting that you remember their patterns. The patterns on display only showed the cover and I really wished I could have seen inside the booklets!

  • We’re thinking of visiting Scotland in the fall. I’m saving the article and comments for future reference. Lovely article for my morning coffee. Thank you!

    • HI Bobbie, Even though these particular exhibitions will finish before the fall, they always have something exceptional on at Dovecot. AND the National Museum of Scotland have an extensive fashion and style room which has beautiful knitwear in it. City Art Centre do loads of exhibitions on Scottish culture, so always good to see if something there interests you as well. Have a terrific trip this summer! I’m glad my adventure could be part of your morning coffee time!

      • How generous of you to get back to all of us. I love all these knitters. What a community!

  • What a dream day out – thanks for taking us along, Jeni! Although if I’d been with you in person I might never have made it past Dovecot. I “met” Master Weaver David Cochrane on twitter years ago, and have followed the studio ever since. Would LOVE to visit. And then come home and probably try to build a tapestry loom out of deadfall branches and baling twine 🙂

    • HI Quinn! I love this comment. That is SO me, too – making a loom out of branches and twine. My beleaguered Englishman never knows what strange project (or project supplies) I’m going to drag home next. Big smiles to you!

  • What a wonderful outing. The wool and knitting lore is great, but I was really drawn in by the film clip link — there is a wealth of documentary footage.

    • I was SO glad that this film footage was available online because I knew a lot of people wouldn’t make it to Edinburgh before the exhibitions ended. Really happy to hear that you followed the link and saw it. I can’t believe I haven’t watched “Shetland” yet. Must do that.

    • And the film clips referenced Lerwick in Shetland. Fast forward to British crime drama “Shetland.” I think one of the earlier shows featured the Viking festival in the film clips.

  • Either Miss Poppins’ umbrella or a quick lottery win – I must fly to Edinburgh before the Knitwear and Bernat Klein exhibitions close. Meanwhile, I shall try to reverse-engineer the “make do” cardigan in your first photo. That colorwork pattern is so simple, yet what an impact.

    • If you reverse engineer that make-do cardigan, I would love to know about it! I hope you’ll write to me here or elsewhere online! It was definitely my favorite knitwear in the exhibition!

  • What fun!!! Thanks for the vicarious tour!

    • Thank you both for reading! Sharing this adventure has brought me so much joy!

    • What a wonderful essay. Thank you!

  • Thank you so much for this dive into knitting history, Jeni! I would love to see some Margaret Soper patterns, and a pattern for that marvelous WWII era cardigan made from recycled wool. It looks like it inspired Kate Fassett.

    • Hi DZED, Yes, I felt the Kaffe Fassett resonance in that cardigan, too! Just dazzled me. I would really love to see some of those Margaret Soper patterns too. I think they are due for a revival! Thank you for reading and commenting.

  • *I* am going to Edinburgh in September and I cannot WAIT! This definitely makes me wish I was going now! 🙂

    • Ohh! Even though these particular exhibitions will finish before September, they always have something exceptional on at Dovecot. AND the National Museum of Scotland have an extensive fashion and style room which has beautiful knitwear in it. City Art Centre do loads of exhibitions on Scottish culture, so always good to see if something there interests you as well. Have a terrific trip this summer! Sooo excited for your own adventure, Emily!

  • Thank you for your article. I have tickets for the knitting exhibition for a week today and I am looking forward to it even more now. I think that your article should mention that the 11th March is the final day of the exhibition so that people living in the UK know that there is an urgency if they want to visit.

    • I am SO glad you can go, Jane. Yes, I mentioned that closing date for the exhibition in my original article, but some things were edited out for space. Eek! But I do hope some folks can get there. I only wish I had gone earlier so that I could have written about it for MDK sooner. Enjoy your adventure!

  • Thank you! I hope to visit all of these when I’m in Edinburgh next week.

    • I’m so glad you are going in time before some of the exhibitions finish! Enjoy your adventure!

  • Thank you for giving me more reasons to desire a nice long trip to the UK!

    • Aww, thank you for commenting. I hope you can come over and take in the knitting and the wool everywhere!

  • Did anyone else WATCH the woman in the Crofter video wash the sweater? Pretty robust, is all I can say.

    • My friend and I were both wondering about that when we left the exhibition! When we watched the video at home, we kept trying to decide if that was the sweater she was twisting or some other piece of laundry! Then we had a laugh about the fact that this was SO important to us and how most people up and down the street would just stare at us in disbelief because we were desperate to figure out if the woman had washed that sweater so robustly! Being amongst knitters is great!

  • Thank you Jeni, I too love Edinburgh so it was a delight to walk beside you on your day out. Happily I had been able to ‘view’ the Dovecot exhibition courtesy of ROWAN Connect recently. For those interested to learn more about the Kleins, his daughter Shelley has written a lovely memoir The See-Through House.

    • Thank you for the recommendation about the memoir written by Klein’s daughter! I’m so glad you were able to make a tour of the exhibition with ROWAN connect, Debra.

  • Thanks for this wonderful article. I loved it. Now off to follow the links.

    • Thanks very much for travelling along with me, Dana!

  • Thanks for this! I’m headed to Edinburgh in April and while two of the shows will have closed by then, I’ll definitely be checking out the Bernat Klein show. Cheers!

    • And there’s some fine knitwear to see in the Fashion and Style section of the National Museum of Scotland downstairs from the Bernât Klein show! Enjoy your trip to Edinburgh!!

  • Jeni, your article sent me over the moon! Like some others, I too will be in Edinburg this year and you raised my anticipation meter! I already had Be Inspired Fibres and Ginger Twist Studio on my agenda and hope there will be exhibits to take in as well.
    I’ve no idea about what fiber sites to see in London though, so will be researching that next.
    Thanks for a lovely armchair trip to whet my travel appetite. :<)
    Mary Ann

    • Mary Ann, I am SO excited for your trip to Edinburgh! My recommendation for London is to check out what’s happening at the Fashion & Textile Museum in the Bermondsey neighborhood. Their exhibitions are very well put together and often feature folks like Kaffe Fassett and Orla Kiely! I think there will be a Kaffe Fassett exhibition at Dovecot later in the year in Edinburgh which first showed in London. The HILMA AF KLINT & PIET MONDRIAN show opens at Tate Modern on April 20 and even though it’s not a textile exhibition, anyone who loves colour and shape will be fascinated. And the permanent collection of fashion always on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum features plenty of knitwear, too. I hope that’s helpful! LOOP in Camden is an excellent knitting shop or if you’re south of the river, Stag & Bow have a smaller but LOVELY collection of wool and notions. Enjoy your adventure!

  • I lived in Edinburgh in the early ’80s when I did my Masters degree in Celtic Studies & Scottish Highland culture at the University of Edinburgh and have returned a number of times since. I research the historical social and material culture of Highland women. Oh, how your article makes me want to be back there now in my favorite of all cities! The National Museum is a treasure as is the City Art Centre.

    • Wow, Roxanne! Your studies and research sound fantastic! I am sure I could talk with you about all of these things for hours! I hope you get back to Edinburgh again soon.

  • In film clip #5, A Crofter’s Wife, I was curious about quick flip of the woman’s right hand as she threaded her shawl. Then came the washing segmemt of that clip. Now I’m wondering if she was moving her hand through the air instead of sliding it along the edge in order to make the shawl “let go” and then keep it from snagging on the rough skin of her hands. A harsh way of life!

    • I love this observation. I wish we could go back and ask her so many things about her life and her shawl-making.

  • Never afraid to branch out Jeni…..I like your style

    • Thanks for keeping up with my adventures everywhere online, Jed!

  • What a fabulous piece, thank you!

    • Thanks very much for reading and commenting, Karen! I hope you’re having a good day for knitting or making things wherever you are! Jeni

  • Thank you so much for this. It came out as I was about to travel to Edinburgh, and I was able to visit the Dovecot and City Art Centre exhibits on their last weekend. Fabulous!

    • Rebecca, I am SO happy to hear that you were able to go! That’s the BEST. Many thanks for letting me know!

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