Take 10 minutes out of your day and watch this film, In Sheep’s Clothing. I can almost guarantee that you will have a new appreciation for the ease of our lives, yarn stores, ready to knit wool, and sheep.
It took some discipline to simply stop, slow down, and watch this film. I kept wanting to fast forward, but realized a few minutes in that I wasn’t watching facts or a “story”, I was watching a way of life from 80 years ago. I owed the filmmaker and the subjects the respect of watching and I’m glad I did.
A short description – crofters are seen gathering and then “rooing” sheep, carding and spinning the wool to make jumpers – and making a jumper, to order. “Rooing” is plucking. In one sweet shot, a woman seems to be comforting one of the sheep in the midst of the undoubtedly uncomfortable, if not painful, rooing.
It’s somehow both sobering and remarkable to see the work it took to get the fleece from the sheep, prepped for spinning, spun, then knit. The jumper order was for coloured yarn, but we don’t get to see the dyeing, unfortunately. It’s interesting, too, to see the women knitting so fast, standing, with one of their needles pushed up a sleeve.
Jenny Gilbertson Brown, a filmmaker in the 1930’s, created this “remarkable record of the sturdy sense of identity” of the working women of Shetland, with no budget, just “friendship and time”, according to Shona Main, filmmaker and artist in residence at the Shetland Archive.
Take the time. Watch it.