Glamourie is a Scots word meaning a charmed condition in which everything is invested with magical properties and possibilities. In this unique book, Alice Starmore leads us into the realm of glamourie and — like the witches of Gaelic folklore — casts spells with needles and a single thread. Taking her daughter Jade's supernatural stories as inspiration, she uses the art of hand knitting to bewitch and bedazzle, and illustrates the tales with elaborate costumes and accessories that portray fanciful and extraordinary ideas. In creating these costumes, she has powerfully demonstrated the glamourie that can flow from the twin wands of a master magician. While the first half of this book is an unrestrained flight of fancy, the second half contains full instructions for knitting simpler and more practical garments inspired by each costume, all written with Alice Starmore's trademark accuracy and precision. By developing each of these patterns from its associated costume, she has revealed how her mind works and how her imagination led her from the initial inspiration through to the final design. Alice and Jade Starmore are from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, and its moody Celtic landscape is the backdrop to the stories, costumes and designs they have created. The final stage of Glamourie was to take their creations back out into that landscape to be photographed. They trekked to special locations, far off the beaten track, and Jade's spectacular photographs depict both the sweeping panorama and the minute detail of their beloved native isle. Three years in the making, this combination of photography and fable, of highly conceptual design and practical instruction, will enchant not only knitters but also those in the fashion and costume world and readers fascinated by Scottish and Gaelic legends.
About the Author
An acclaimed textile designer, author, artist, and photographer, Alice Starmore is a native of Scotland's Isle of Lewis. Starmore has taught and lectured extensively throughout Britain, Europe, and the United States. She has written 16 books and countless magazine articles. Dover has previously published her acclaimed Aran Knitting, the classic Book of Fair Isle Knitting, which introduced Americans to the popular traditional technique, and the recent paperback edition of Tudor Roses.
Jade Starmore, Alice's daughter, was born and brought up on the Hebridean island of Lewis. She graduated from Glasgow School of Art with a BA first class in Communication Design and an MDes in Fashion & Textiles and is a professional photographer and textile designer. She is also a graphic designer involved in book and website design and is co-founder and creative director of Virtual Yarns, which features her photography, styling, and knitwear designs.
Read an Excerpt
The Mountain Hare
There was once a shining tranquil sea that stretched unbroken from horizon to horizon – until one day the serene silence was riven by a falling star that burnt hot through the air and was violently quenched in the cold clear water. The star was made of an ancient, magical stone so potent that when quickened by salt it gave rise to life itself. One by one, ornate fish began to populate the newly-disturbed waters and an island rose up from the ocean bed; it reached for the sun and clothed itself in a myriad of plants and flowers. Then animals awoke and chose their forms, and the air was filled with birds and sounds. For many ages that was how it remained, with the land in harmony and endless sunshine, and the sea stretching not quite unbroken from horizon to horizon. But after a time the days began to turn and in the first twilight one last creature was born from the very heart of the fallen star – the Mountain Hare. She was swift and fleet of foot, and danced in the magic hour – that space between day and night when the doors between worlds lie open.
At first she ran for the joy of running. Then she began to pause and look about her. She watched hidden amongst stones as the deer grazed the heather on the hillsides and the eagles swooped high above. She saw the Sundew coil and uncoil, merging the lives of others within itself, and she saw the distant tranquil sea and the pure sands calmly reflecting the moonlight. She was shy and gentle, curious and playful, and she longed for a companion to run with through the twilight, but the other creatures were bound to the night or to the day and she remained solitary in the strange half-light.
As time passed, the Mountain Hare became sorrowful and lonely, and lost pleasure in running; instead she would watch the daylight world – always just out of reach – from her mountain fastness. One day she saw a sleek Solan Goose flash like a white arrow from sky to sea in a single blink of her eye. But instead of a fat fish, the Solan Goose surfaced with a stone which it dropped in disgust upon the sand. With her magical eyes the Mountain Hare could see it was no ordinary stone and her thoughts teemed with possibilities.
When the twilight hour finally fell she stole down to the sand and gathered up the stone – which was the very last piece of the fallen star – and raced away to the hilltops. Recognising the life at the heart of the stone she went to the highest hill and as night fell she caught the first beam of moonlight. She waited hidden throughout the long cold night, which was not her domain, and in the morning she caught the first ray of sunshine; with these forces at her command she called forth from the star a creature that was bound to neither day nor night. This creature had no allegiance to light or darkness and was different from all the other living things upon the island; she walked upright on two legs, had deft use of her hands and had a voice all of her own. She ran with the Mountain Hare in the twilight and they both delighted in each other's company, For many weeks they were happy together, but the seasons inexorably turned and winter came. The Mountain Hare shivered so her companion climbed to the highest hill top and spun yarn from the starlight to make her a coat that would keep her either warm or cool all the year around. So once again they were happy and ran together — but it is a hard truth that nothing alive remains unchanged.
The Mountain Hare's companion became entranced by the starlight, and went again and again to spin with it, faster and faster, until one day she became entangled and the magic wound itself all around her. Her body began to swell and her steps became slow until she gave birth to a multitude of children. Nimble and clever with their hands, they were not bound to night or day, and neither were they bound to the hills. They sought the undulating fertile lands near the machair, and the companion of the Mountain Hare, with a sorrowful backward glance, followed her children downwards and went no more to dance in the twilight.
The Mountain Hare watched from the hilltop as the creatures born from her companion multiplied until the race that is now known as the Children of Men came into being. They fashioned metals with their industrious hands and they broke the skin of the earth and dug down, forcing the soil to do their bidding. They went to sea in boats made of Rowan wood and brought back fish and salt. They forayed to the hills and killed the deer, and the Mountain Hare hid in fear behind the stones. The land itself shivered and shook with their enterprises and the first tides began to turn; the days and nights spun faster and the seasons grew harsher, but still the Children of Men multiplied.
The Mountain Hare viewed this with great sorrow. She climbed to the top of the highest hill and in the magic hour she ran, pulling the twilight around her and opening the door to another world – a distant place where time does not exist and light cannot penetrate. As she ran, she wove strands of starlight and caught a creature of the darkness which she released into the night – and thus she brought Death to the Children of Men.
From that day on, men, women and all other creatures no more lived lives as long as the ages of the hills, but instead they grew old and died.
The ageless Mountain Hare watched as the animals and birds were born, glimmered briefly in the sunlight and then fell to the earth. But her sorrow was mitigated by the ease with which their bodies returned to the soil, and their spirits flew to the worlds beyond the starlight and the hilltop. The Children of Men however were bound to neither day nor night, and though their bodies were easily claimed by peat or water, their spirits lingered and wept on the shoreline. When the magic hour fell the Mountain Hare called to them in the language of her old companion, and she led them to the hilltops and opened doors with starlight so they could pass through and be at peace.
From that day to this, the Mountain Hare has been known by my kinfolk as the Faire Chlaidh – the graveyard watcher. She runs in the twilight: a swift-moving figure at the edge of sight, neither in this world nor the next. She is fleeting and transient, but at the very last breath she offers a comforting hand in the darkness and opens the door to a new and different world.
Notes on the Mountain Hare costume
I firmly believe that the supernatural properties endowed upon the Mountain Hare (called in Gaelic, maigheach-gorm; literally "blue hare") are a product of its extraordinary ability to appear and disappear before your very eyes. Though they do occasionally travel to the lower regions of the hills, they spend most of their time up above the heather-line where the terrain changes and becomes rarified. Plants and lichens grow on, and around, numerous blue-grey rocks and boulders in a landscape where no human could permanently sustain life. To be in this landscape is to feel a powerful sense of leaving the everyday world behind and stepping closer to the stars – the perfect theatre for a cosmic legend.
As our photographs show, there is austere beauty all around – in form, colour and texture – and into this the Mountain Hare fits perfectly. The mountain boulders, worn and shaped over aeons, are their cities; the montane lichens and mosses are their gardens, and so they change the colours of their mantles to match the changing seasons. So it is that a hill-walker will see a rock or a clump of moss or a snowdrift suddenly leap into life and vanish in a flash. The traces they leave can be as magical and evanescent as the sight of them. Once, near the summit of a hill called Liuthaid, I came upon a winding trail of unmistakable hare's foot and tailprints in the snow, alongside which ran the tiniest four-legged prints of a shrew. It was impossible not to imagine the glamourie inherent in the hare and the shrew's adventure around the mountain.
The hare's costume evolved in my head and in my hands as an inextricably linked blend of sightings of these creatures, the colours and textures of their montane landscape, and the legends I grew up with. I chose colours evoking the "blue hare" and the boulders, lichens and mosses of the rarified landscape. The soft pelt and shapely curves of the hare led to the idea of felting the pieces after I had knitted them.
I wanted to create some surface design that would echo the hare's legendary power to slip between worlds. At the time I was rising at 3am to check on my cattle who were imminently calving. Experiencing a diamond-sharp Hebridean winter sky in the silent dead of night is something worth losing sleep over, and the icy stars and Jupiter with its attendant moons conspired to focus my imagination on the hare on the mountain top, drenched in starlight, with innumerable parallel worlds at its disposal. This led me to think of the ways in which humans have expressed their relationship with the universe. I am fortunate to live in a place where people built monuments to the cosmos which we can still marvel at five thousand years on; the Callanish Stones cosmic clock marks the movement of heavenly bodies to this day. Ancient humans also carved abstract imagery of circles, spirals, stars and lines into rocks in remote places; these images evoke the profound mysteries of the universe and can be interpreted as a powerful visual expression of the possibility of travel from one dimension to another.
I didn't want to draw up a plan for the embroidery in advance so I just worked a quick swatch to try out ideas in stitches and shapes. I decided to work the embroidery on the centre back and front pieces and my first step was to arrange very small drifts of carded wool in Driftwood, Sundew and Sea Ivory which I needle-felted in place so that they became barely visible. Then I threaded the needle at will and proceeded to create the cosmic shapes with a variety of embroidery stitches. For the spirals, circles, arcs and lines I laid out shapes of strands of yarn and closely overcast them. I worked stars and French knots in abundance and also made star shapes by working Bullion Stitch radiating from overcast circles. Since heavenly bodies were a powerful part of the theme, I decided to create knitted and felted spheres to decorate and fasten the jacket. This proved to be a fast and fun exercise and so I upscaled the idea and created an orb to serve as the magical stone that the Mountain Hare finds in Jade's story. I finished the hat "tail" with a wave of blackface sheep's wool found on the hillside. Jade digitally created a subtle fabric design from a photograph of montane lichen and then designed and made the skirt to complete the costume.
After the land and sea had settled into a form that the eye could recognize, the first of the birds began to appear. The Robin grew out of berries and twigs; the Gannet came from sleek, sea-honed pebbles, and the piratical Great Skua materialised from a particularly vicious gust of the north wind. All came forth from that which represented their nature, and they chose their colour and form as was appropriate to their wants and needs.
The mother of all ravens was the very last bird to appear on the far north-western islands, and she grew out of the blood and tears of the fallen and became the colour of bleached bone. Her nature was to take what life had already left – the unwanted and the forgotten. She was a shy and lonely bird, and when she tentatively approached the warmly-coloured berry eaters they scurried away in fear because she had grown larger than they were. She made her way to the cliffs and watched the gannets dive beneath the waves, but she could not follow them as the sea was not her domain. She followed the skuas over the moorland, but they were brigands of the air with great disdain for those who did not live constantly for the chase. So she remained alone, a scavenger seeking temporary refuge on the cliffs and moors, still unsure of her purpose and form.
As the months of spring and summer passed, the land was plentiful and the birds multiplied, and the Raven too saw her kind grow in her likeness. But although the seasons passed more slowly in those early days, they still had to turn. When winter came it was dark and harsh and cold, and the children of the Raven began to starve. As the birds and animals had appeared, so had men and women, and although the Raven had been wary of these creatures who were so different from herself, she began to venture nearer in search of food. She tried many times to approach them but found herself driven back with stones, and so she returned to the cliffs with nothing.
One day she noticed that a dwelling had been built near the foot of the cliffs; it was a small house made of stone, but neatly kept. It was lived in by a woman and her children, and although the Raven had become wary of men, desperation made her venture closer. Upon seeing the starving white bird the woman brought out some berries, but the Raven could take no nourishment from them. The woman then brought out some scraps of meat, and the Raven feasted. As the long nights of winter passed the Raven grew comfortable in the woman's presence, and even after the days began to warm again and food was once more plentiful, the Raven still visited her and they often sat side by side in the evening, sharing stories and watching the night chase the sun over the horizon.
As the years passed the woman grew older and her children grew up and had children of their own. One evening when the days were at their shortest, the Raven and the woman sat on the shore beneath the cliffs and watched the weak winter sun as it melted into a hundred colours and disappeared into the sea. The woman turned to the Raven and said, "Goodbye my good friend, I have seen the sun set and rise many times, but this is the last." The Raven was filled with pain and horror as she realised that her friend was dying, and said, "But this must not be the end; there must be a way that we can stop it; there are herbs I have heard the blackbird speak of that prolong life in mortals; let me find some for you."
"No," the woman replied. "My life has been long, and I have seen my children and my children's children grow. It is time for me to go, just as the sun is eclipsed by the night."
"But you cannot want to end," the Raven replied. "For when you are gone it will be as if you have never been."
"That is not true," said the woman, "Yes, I am mortal, and my body will turn to dust as all mortal things do, but I will live on through my children, and through the stories I have told you. Though I will be long-gone when the world reaches its end, you will still remember me and my life will not be forgotten." And as the night claimed the sky the woman contentedly breathed her last, and the Raven was left alone on the shoreline.
Through the night the Raven shed tears which turned into black stones and covered the body of her friend until nothing more of her could be seen. By the time the pale morning sun had crept into the sky, the Raven had shed her last stoney tear, and her feathers – and those of all her descendants – had taken on the colours of midnight.
And from that day to this she has lived on the edges of the lands of men, watchfully keeping her distance while diligently collecting their stories and lore. My kinfolk talk of fios a fitheach – the wisdom of the Raven – and there is truth in this, for she keeps the knowledge of men alive in her boundless memory long after their spirits have taken the dark and mysterious pathways beyond the realm of day.
Notes on the Raven Costume
Sinister and menacing are words often used to describe the raven. However, I have the great privilege of sharing my croft cliffs with a resident pair, so I find neither of these words to be a fair description. Intelligent, resourceful, hardworking and fun-loving are words that fit my daily observations of them. They are the first birds to start preparations for nesting: as soon as the winter solstice passes they involve themselves in long and rapturous amorous displays and very shortly thereafter they can be seen flying purposefully to and fro over the house bearing twigs they have scavenged or snapped from shrubs and heather to mend their nest in the cliff. I know that they have completed the mending stage when they move to the machair to pull up marram – a tough yet pliable grass that is laid inside the nest. Then finally, they scour the crofts for scraps of wool fleece which they diligently gather and cram into their massive beaks. Not only is wool the perfect lining for incubation, I have observed on more than one occasion that when both birds have been compelled to leave the eggs and the newly hatched chicks, they use wool as a blanket to cover them in their absence, thus keeping them both warm and hidden from predators.
Excerpted from "Alice Starmore's Glamourie"
Copyright © 2018 Alice Starmore.
Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
About the stories, 12,
Costumes & Stories,
The Mountain Hare, 21,
The Raven, 35,
The Otter & the Damselfly, 40,
The Selkie, 65,
The Sea Anemone, 77,
The Eagle & the Lapwing, 91,
The Cailleach, 115,
Mountain Hare Jacket, 135,
Mountain Hare Hat, 145,
Otter Sweater, 148,
Raven Poncho, 158,
Raven Cardigan, 170,
Lapwing Sweater, 185,
Cailleach Cardigan, 196,
Eagle Wrap, 207,
Selkie Cardigan, 221,
Damselfly Cardigan, 232,
Sea Anemone Sweater, 246,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Alice Starmore's work is, in the knitting world, legendary. As a knitter, this means I went into this book completely biased and super excited. "While the first half of this book is an unrestrained flight of fancy, the second half contains full instructions for knitting beautiful garments based upon each costume, all written with Alice Starmore's trademark accuracy and precision." The collection of stories truly are wonderful, and the costumes to go with each are beautiful. The book has breathtaking photography of not only these costumes, but also the patterns that were inspired by them. To many knitters, just starting knitting is to knitting a Starmore pattern as walking up a hill is to climbing Mount Everst. That being said, there were several patterns in the book that are not AS complex as one normally thinks of when they think of Starmore (though I'm still not sure I have the courage to tackle them).
Alice Starmore's Glamourie by Alice Starmore Book starts out with a table of contents: projects and notes, then patterns, techniques and abbreviations. Introduction where the author talks about where she grew up, story behind the stories and patterns. Love what Glamourie is and how she weaves her stories and dreams into her knitting. Have read other works by this author and this one I found so inspiring, no rules and so adjustable for any size. Not only is this book about knitting but she weaves a story in the background so I feel like I'm getting two books in one. Very high quality photos showing not only the designs but the landscape where they meld into one but have enough contrast to show off the designs and patterns in the garment. Super photography! So many different types of animals, my favorite would be one of the birds, Like a bit of everything from each one. Each of the costume patterns start out with designer notes, about the animal they are representing in the knitted garment and a bit about them. Pattern starts out with color photos from various angles showing the angles and flare. Sizes are given, knitted garment measurements, materials: yarn and needles, tension measurements and then the start of the actual knitting. Easy to work on, as each row is described. Love chart where it has the decreases marked out in cell form that you can check mark off once you've completed them. Diagrams show finished dimensions so you can line them up to finish the final seams. One thing I did not notice was the level of experience you'd need. I'd suggest high rating as it's going to take a bit of time to do and keep everything straight. Some of the patterns are using charts for color changes so be sure to read through at least once before making them. Credits and resources close out this book. What a treasure. The pictures shown do not all have corresponding patterns. Received this review copy via Dover Publications via Netgalley and this is my honest opinion.