Wool for woven and knitted garments in Tender Autumn/Winter 2018 was shorn from a small flock of 30 Ryeland sheep raised in the Scottish Borders. Their wool was offered exclusively to Tender and has never before been used for clothing.
The Ryeland breed is one of the longest-established in Britain, thought to have originally descended from Spanish Merinos. Mediaeval records show a flock of 300 Ryeland sheep at Dore Abbey in Herefordshire, where the wool was collected and processed for shipment overseas. Ryeland wool was particularly prized in Italy and Flanders, for spinning into the finest yarns which were used as the standard for other wools. In the 16th Century, Elizabeth I is said to have received a gift of Ryeland wool stockings, and thereafter insisted on wearing only clothes made from the yarn. The ‘Wool Sack’ on the Chancellor’s seat at the House of Lords was originally stuffed with raw Ryeland fleeces. Today, Ryeland wool is unusual as its varied colours and relatively slow growth make it unsuitable for commercial farming, however its texture, weight, and natural colours are second to none.
Tender helmets are produced on hand-powered knitting machines in Scotland in a series of outbuildings surrounding the knitter’s home. All the pieces are fully fashioned, which means that each panel is knitted into its correct shape before linking it on to the next panel (rather than knitting a standard sheet of fabric then cutting and sewing it like a T shirt).To do this, the knitter has to manually hook and unhook the yarn after each line of stitching. For example, one stitch is taken off the panel at every line to produce a curved shoulder seam.
Finished panels are hand linked: the two pieces to be joined are lined up stitch by stitch onto a circular drum of knitting hooks, and then knitted together using the same yarn as the panels. Finally the seams are hand-tacked at each end to keep them safe.
The Double Thickness Helmet is knitted to fit close to the head, shaped over the ears and around the back of the neck.The shape is informed by vintage leather driving helmets, worn in open top cars. The whole piece is knitted twice and linked together, one inside another, forming a substantial windproof shell.