A Danish island knitting gathering was the inspiration behind a new festival in the highlands
Christel Seyfarth’s grandmother taught her to knit when she was five years-old; she has been knitting ever since. She grew up on Fanø, a North Sea island off the coast of south-western Denmark. “On Fanø, someone is always knitting something somewhere, whether from wish or want,” she said, “so it was easy for my grandmother to collect bits and pieces of yarn, in every imaginable colour, from her friends on the island.
“My muse resides on Fanø; she is the ocean, the light, the waves, the storms, the birds and the powerful nature. [It] is a seafaring island and for generations my ancestors were sailors and ship masters who returned with cloth from every corner of the earth. So even back then, the colours were vibrant and effervescent.”
She inherited the islanders’ wanderlust – leaving aged 16 to spend time in America and Canada – but is now back on the island and has her own business, creating designs for people to knit. In 2006, Seyfarth also established Strikkefestival, the Fanø International Knit Festival, which has become a huge success with more than 10,000 people attending from all around the world and millions of pounds in inward investment.
This year, it features Scottish designer Di Gilpin, whose international couture business began on a croft on Skye, and Catherine Sclater, of Travelling Yarns, based in Drumnadrochit. But now Seyfarth is returning the favour with an appearance at the first International Inverness Loch Ness Knitting Festival, as well as helping in its development.
Over three days in September, beginning with a gala dinner, it features more than three dozen workshops, fashion shows, lectures and trade displays. There will also be a concert showcasing Highland music and dance, and specially chartered ‘knit-cruises’ on Loch Ness. It is anticipated that the festival will attract an additional 3,000 visitors to the Inverness Loch Ness area and generate an additional £1m in direct and indirect spending by visitors to the area.
The festival is a project of tourism organisation Visit Inverness Loch Ness. “We have already had queries from the US, Canada, Scandinavia, across central Europe, and throughout the UK from people who have heard about the Festival and who want to plan a visit around it,” said Alan Rawlinson, business tourism manager. We are hoping the Knit Fest will become an annual event, continuing to raise the profile of Inverness Loch Ness.”
It is being supported by Highland Council, the Inverness Common Good Fund and EventScotland. “Scotland is the perfect stage for cultural events, and it is hugely exciting to see [this] festival taking place during the 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design,” said Paul Bush, director of events for VisitScotland. Highland Council’s Audrey Sinclair added: “With programmes such as ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and ‘The Great British Sewing Bee we’ve seen a surge in interest in traditional skills and it would appear that knitting is no exception.”
What: Knit Fest
Where: Eden Court, Inverness
When: 29 September – 2 October