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Hebridean knitwear firm launches baby range inspired by the Herring Girls

© Dee KearneyM'eudail Range Baby Blanket colour range
M'eudail Range Baby Blanket colour range

A new range of baby knitwear has been launched by a clothing company inspired by the ‘Herring Girls’ of Scotland.

The Herring Girl Collection, based on the Isle of Barra, used age-old patterns and techniques to create their new M’eudail Range – named from the Scottish Gaelic for Wee Darling.

The new collection is aimed at newborns to two-year-olds, and includes bonnets and mittens, cardigans, pinafores, blankets and layette sets.

The garments all consist of traditional fisherman’s patterns, produced by a band of eight dedicated local craftspeople who work to keep traditional skills and patterns of the Herring Girls alive.

These were a band of formidable island women who, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, spent many years following the shoals of herring around the British coast undertaking gruelling work to gut, cure and pack the fish for the local merchants.

While away from their families, they’d pass the time by knitting using patterns, such as anchors, ship’s wheels, hearts or marriage lines, that were handed down through the generations.

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Each community had their own unique designs which meant the home island of the person wearing the knitwear could be easily identified. On the Isle of Barra, the unique pattern is known as the True Lover’s Knot.

The M’eudail Range also uses the CY code which denotes the fishing boat registration mark of Castlebay – Barra’s main town.

The Herring Girl Collection’s eight local knitters each use the CY mark along with the name of an historic fishing boat connected to their family or village. Therefore, the knitters are only known to their customers by their CY boat name.

The only exception to that is The Herring Girl Collection’s founder and designer Margaret Anne Elder, who is known as ‘CY Grian nan Oir’ to her customers.

Elder, who was inspired to establish the company having learned the traditional knitting skills from her grandmother, said: “We are very excited to launch the M’eudail Range and grow our family of products by bringing out a collection of clothing for our precious wee darlings.

“The range we have created captures the needs of anyone who is looking to clothe a new arrival in individually hand crafted, sustainable garments and that come with a huge degree of history and heritage.

“Our ethos is to create a collection that captures the spirit of the Herring Girl and the traditions they protected so dearly and ensured were passed down to my generation.

“Almost every newborn in the islands will have worn a hand knitted item of clothing, crafted by a close relative using handed down skills and patterns, the M’eudail Range is an extension of that age-old practice by offering beautiful garments for people to spoil a precious new arrival with a handmade gift.”

The clothing is made with natural wool blend, creating a sustainable and comfortable fabric that will ensure a warm and cosy wee one as the colder weather closes in. Items are priced between £15 and £99.

Knitter CY Mayflower is the lead in creating and producing the baby range.

They said: “I am delighted to be leading the new baby range. As a grandparent to some wonderful children, I’ve spent many hours creating beautiful clothing for them to wear.

“I now knit every garment for The Herring Girl Collection as if I was knitting for my own, with every item created with love and it’s fabulous to see young ones wearing these hand knitted items.”