Thursday, 16 May 2019

Foo's yer doos?

I do love a collaborative craft project, enjoying the gratifying feeling that a small effort on my part can create an impressive result once all the individual contributions come together.  When I read about the Birds By Hand Project organised by The Net Loft, a yarn and craft shop in Cordova, Alaska, I knew I wanted to make a bird for them.

But why on earth did I choose a pigeon?

Pigeons hold a special place in one of the everyday phrases common in the North East of Scotland where I live.   When you meet a friend, you might ask 'Foos yer doos?'  A 'doo' is Scots for a pigeon, its home being a dovecote or 'doocot' hereabouts.  So the enquirer is asking after the health of your pigeons.  The reply, supposing all is well, is 'aye peckin' meaning they're eating fine thanks.

None of this presupposes anyone actually owns pigeons, or knows anything of their eating habits.  It's just one of those quirks of the Doric dialect which means that, even after living in rural Aberdeenshire for more than a quarter of a century, I can still have no idea what locals like my husband are actually saying!

When I saw the rather cute 'cushie doo' on the front cover of Sue Stratford's Knitted Aviary book, which I'd borrowed from my local library, I knew that was the pattern I wanted to knit.  A rifle through the yarn cupboard revealed suitable colours, all in Scottish yarns, which seemed appropriate for a birdie travelling overseas to be part of a global gathering.

So, to the knitting itself - this was a quick and easy project thanks to Sue's clear knitting instructions.  I knitted all the pieces, seamed and stuffed the body, sewed on the tail, wings, beak and feet before adding eyes made from white felt and black beads which really brought my pigeon to life!

I've placed all my chosen wool onto the map of Scotland to show that the yarns come from all over the country.

The body is knitted from New Leaf Yarns where the alpacas graze near Edinburgh and the light grey silky wings are Dye Ninja from nearby Livingstone, striped with darker Gongcrafts my most northerly choice dyed in Caithness.  Gorgeous green dyed by Cookston Crafts near me in Aberdeenshire adorns the neck together with soft naturally coloured purple from Skye based Shilasdair Yarns.  The cream stitches which join the beak to the head is from Kincraig Fabrics in Dornoch and The Border Tart beautifully dyed the salmon mini skein I used to knit the feet about as far south in Scotland as you can go!

I also needed a bit of sparkle for the pigeon's iridescent neck which I found in my embroidery box in this cheerfully named Happy Bag.

I was certainly happy with how my pigeon turned out!  

Pigeons travelling a distance are usually carrier pigeons so I knitted him a wee bag from a precious scrap of Ripples Crafts yarn, another favourite Scottish hand dyer of mine. 

 After completing the comprehensive registration form, I was ready to pop him in the post.  Yes - him - the registration form required my bird to have a name (and I don't think they meant the scientific pigeon family name Columbidae).  As I was gazing at my knitted birdie in the same way as a mum gazes at her as yet unnamed newborn, my husband suggested Doogal and I thought it was perfect!

Doogal arrived in Alaska by airmail in just a few days and in time for the 2019 Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival.  The extensive programme of events to celebrate the annual migration includes a wonderful display at the Copper River Gallery of birds made by hand - and now it includes a Doric inspired pigeon from Aberdeenshire knitted entirely from Scottish wool.

Foo's yer doos, people of Cordova?  I hope they're aye peckin'!


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