Monday, February 12, 2007

gunnister man

Last summer while reading my Spin Off magazine, I had noticed the article about the Gunnister Man's pouch, and made a mental note to go back to it someday after I had taught myself to do some stranded colorwork. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Several weeks ago, I started knitting it and as I worked on it, I could not help but wonder about who designed and knit the bag originally. Did the man knit it for himself? Did he have a woman who knit for him? Did he find or buy the bag?

I started to read as much as I could find out about the clothing and other articles from the late 17th century grave at Gunnister.Pretty soon, there was more reading being done than knitting, but the information gathered in the process enriched the knitting experience. I have listed below, just a few points that I found to be of interest.

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The Gunnister man's pouch is thought to be the earliest existing example of stranded two color knitting in Shetland.

The purse was found at the man's left side in his breeches, and contained 3 coins and a folded length of silk ribbon that measured one and one half inches wide and 24 inches long. I really wonder why he carried the ribbon. Was it to measure things?

Reading about the coins really took me off on some tangents. Two of them were silver from the Netherlands (dated 1690 and 1681). The other was copper from Sweden, dated 1683. There was a deposit on the coins that was examined under a microscope and "revealed that the brownish fibers which constituted the material of the purse penetrated the deposit completely and were not merely adhering to its surface. Hence the deposit was formed while the coins were in contact with the interior of the purse"-A.A. Woodham B.Sc, PHD., F.S.A.SCOT

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A chemical analysis of the deposit on the coins indicated that the copper for the one coin had been deposited on the silver coins by electrolytic action. This was suggested to have occurred by the acid medium of the peat bogs. OK , so now I want to go and read about the peat bogs...which by the way, need to be preserved. Funny, isn't it ...peat bogs which preserve things, need to be preserved.

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So, what happened to this Gunnister Man anyway? How did he meet his end, that his remains should be found so many years later, and spinners and knitters and fibery enthusiasts, look at his garments and attempt to learn from them? Well, one theory is that he perished whilst trying to steal a sheep...presumably on his shoulders... perhaps the added weight caused the ice to brake..

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Now that the bag is finished, I want to go and find a piece of silk ribbon that measures 1 and 1/2" wide by 24" long...and carefully fold it and place it inside, just because.


Cathy said...

Wow. I'd be inclined to keep a penny or two as well as other coins in the bag. Are you going to SPA?

flwrhead said...

Perhaps he was bringing the ribbon to his sweetheart as a gift. Your bag is so pretty - I need to subscribe to Spin-Off.

Anne said...

Yes yes yes!!! (she says clapping her hands gladly!) I loved that article. I did a lot of reading on the Bog People of the north sea area. There is a lot of very interesting info out there on them. Alas, I did not get to actually SEE a bog person during our Ireland/Scotland tour, but I surely looked every museum we went to.

Anonymous said...

I never heard this story! That is fascinating. I'll have to search for more!

Have you ever read any of the works of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich? She is a professor here in New England - she was at UNH but I think she has now moved on. She studies old fabrics/linens of the American Colonial period and writes about them. My favorite of her works is "Diary of a Midwife - the Story of Martha Bachelder" (I think I have it right - close, anyways. It is a fascinating view into that era.

Thanks for posting! I really enjoy your blog! Kate/Massachusetts

cyndy said...

Cathy- right now, the bag is hanging on my great wheel, I was planning on using it to hold spinning stuff. Not going to SPA, lately we are as poor as church mice and aren't going anywhere!

Flwrhead- what a romantic idea!

Anne- The bog finds are fascinating...there was little left of the actual Gunnister man (only some bits of hair and fingernails and bones...)
how cool is it that you got to go to Ireland and Scotland...did you at least see a bog?

Kate- I have never read any I shall have to look for some of her works, thank you! Have you read Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs and Burials? Quite interesting...for a primitive society, I think they were way more advance than we are!

meresy_g said...

What a cute little bag with such an interesting story behind it! Funny that he may have been stealing a sheep. Bogs are very cool places and are really fun to walk on.

Spinner Gal said...

Wow, that is a really interesting history lesson. Its amazing what is still around to be studied!

Love the bag!!!

Marcy said...

I agree with flwrhead. Ribbons were expensive and favorite ornaments; they were often gifts for the ladies.

Nice job on the bag!

Fiberjoy said...

Fascinating, the bag and the history. Thank you for sharing. Now I want to dig into this.

He was carrying the ribbon to give to his betrothed. His romantic notions lead him astray along an unfamiliar track. The treacherous bog deceived him, snatching him into its embrace while his love earnestly searched for him, in vain.

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