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The characteristic two-coloured pattern known as "Sanquhar knitting" has become world-famous over the past years.

There are about a dozen known, named, traditional Sanquhar knitting patterns. Original colours were generally black and white or navy and natural. Traditionally, it was common to make a pair of gloves with initials or a full name worked at the wrist.


Sanquhar's most famous knitting pattern, its name refers to the Dukes of Queensberry and Buccleuch, the region's nobility and benefactors of Sanquhar's knitting industry.

The Duke pattern has many variations including the Cornet, Cornet and Drum, Drum, Drum and Trellis, Rose, Rose and Trellis, and Glendyne:


In Sanquhar's annual Riding of the Marches celebration, the Cornet is the principal horseman who leads all the horseriders of Sanquhar around the Marches of the burgh. The Cornet pattern adds a square with a diagonal cross to represent the Scottish cross of St Andrew.

This pattern was named in 1930 after the birth of Princess Margaret Rose, the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II.

This pattern, one of several variations on the Duke design, is similar to the Rose pattern. Named in 1922 after Lord Glendyne of Sanquhar, a successful businessman from the burgh.



 
This pattern was reputedly named after Edward VII, Prince of Wales, who visited Sanquhar in 1871. Taken from weaving, the dark check of the pattern is said to represent the three feathers of the Prince of Wales' emblem.   This pattern derives from the effect of weaving with two colours to produce plaids or checks. A large woollen shawl or plaid was part of every shepherd's gear, used as protection against the weather.

This pattern derives from weaving, where bird's eye checks are traditional. Also known as Midge and Fly, this is probably one of the oldest patterns.

 

This pattern is reputed to date from the time of the Napoleonic Wars when French prisoners were in Sanquhar.

In Sanquhar, the presentation of traditional Sanquhar gloves is still an important symbol and part of local celebrations even today. Traditional Sanquhar gloves are given to international celebrities visiting the town, and they are worn at rites of passage, such as weddings and graduations, and are treasured by ordinary folk, each of whom has a story to tell about them.




Wool trade was important in Sanquhar since medieval times and by the 18th century the burgh had developed as a manufacturing centre.

Accounts from the mid 1700s tell about the flourishing of Sanquhar's knitting industry: "...spinning of wool and knitting of stockings, which they do better here than anywhere in my tour, has of late greatly increased, and is daily increasing. The fabric of these goods is of an excellent quality, and find ready sales". Most trade was done in the home market and to the colonies, particularly to Virginia.

Scottish historian James Brown wrote in 1891: "...A considerable trade was done in the weaving, by hand, of stockings and mittens, which were sold in many quarters, and bore the distinctive name of Sanquhar gloves and Sanquhar stokings, earning a deservedly high character for comfort and durability".

Wool processing and knitting employed a huge workforce and at one time there were at least 120 looms in the small burgh.
 
Traditional Sanquhar knitting was passed on from generation to generation of knitters. The patterns were never written down, but were passed on by patient teaching.

Printed Sanquhar knitting instructions were published for the first time by the Scottish magazine "People's Friend" in the 1950s. Since then, Sanquhar knitting patterns have featured in many articles and publications from all around the world, particularly in North America and Japan.

 


"Sanquhar, a small town in the south of Scotland, has been a major crossroads for centuries"
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