This two-colour child’s jumper was knitted in the mid-1900s by Claire Lomnicki (née Bain), using a design created by her father George Bain. The all-over angular spiral design is inspired by Celtic art and reflects Bain’s studies in his influential book Celtic Art: Methods of Construction.
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George Bain was born in 1881 in Scrabster, Caithness and became an artist and art teacher. His work made an important and influential contribution to the revival of interest in Celtic and Insular art in the twentieth century. He was the first artist to analyse the designs found on Pictish sculpture and metalwork and in illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Kells. Bain’s book Celtic Art: Methods of Construction was published in 1951. The book describes and illustrates over two hundred historical designs and is unique in its detailed instructions on creating interlace, spiral, and key pattern designs.
Bain had a vision for the creation of a new cultural movement in Scotland and wanted craftspeople to be proud of taking part in a living national art. Like other writers and artists of the twentieth century Scottish Renaissance, he aimed to create a new Scottish national culture that fused together the Celtic past and modern ideas. He saw Celtic craft as a way to revive the Scottish rural economy and imagined Celtic folk art made and sold in small workshops across Scotland.
The jumper is knitted in a fine yarn (probably 3-ply) so that from a distance the stepped diagonals appear to be smooth lines. Bain’s knitting patterns tend to focus on two designs: key pattern and angular spirals. This may have been because these types of patterns can be easily laid out on a grid. However, while the strong vertical lines of key pattern are easy to achieve, the diagonal lines present a challenge to knit.
The George Bain Collection is a Recognised Collection of National Significance to Scotland and is cared for by Groam House Museum. It provides a unique insight into Bain’s working methods, his teaching and advocacy for Celtic art, the impact of his publications, and the ways in which his domestic life reflected his commitment to the philosophy of Celtic art. Groam House Museum is developing a digital project to allow online access to the collection, this will be available via the museum’s website.
Groam House Museum exists to inspire people of all backgrounds and ages to enjoy and understand its collections and develop associated skills.
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All photography & video by Jim Dunn unless otherwise stated
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