Choo-choo! It's the Knitted Flying Scotsman!

Posted 22nd May 2011

Knitted Flying Scotsman

It's a given that when you're a novelty knitting pattern designer by profession, you can expect to take on projects which are a bit on the unusual side. It has to be said however that my latest a scale model of the magnificent Flying Scotsman steam engine probably takes the knitted biscuit for being my most unconventional design yet.

Inspiration for designs often come from the most unexpected sources and so it was this time too, a local BBC news broadcast one afternoon when it was announced that the National Railway Museum in York were launching a model-making competition to celebrate the legendary Flying Scotsman's return to steam later this year. The piece had scarcely concluded before my Dad suggested that perhaps I should have a go at submitting a knitted model.

I've got to admit, the concept seemed impossible at first. The Flying Scotsman? In knitting? But after some consideration and a quick check of the NRM's website, I began to think that perhaps it might be feasible after all. The terms of the competition were reassuring in that there were no restrictions on the materials used for construction (candy floss and monkey nuts being amongst my favourites of their quirky suggestions), therefore a knitted entry would be eligible providing I could do it, of course! The next task was to get some dimensions, and for this I send out a big woolly thank you to my brother-in-law who once again came to my technical aid by sifting goodness knows how many websites before finding some great photographs and diagrams that I could scale down into knitted proportions.

And then the work really began. Although I thought I knew what a railway engine looks like in principle, it turns out that I really didn't. At all. Every time I looked at the raft of photographs, I discovered another component that I hadn't previously noticed, not to mention the fact that many refits meant that just like the rest of us, the Flying Scotsman's appearance had been gradually modified over the years.

So where to start? Well, I thought the best thing to do would be to break the whole endeavour down into manageable pieces and indeed that's what I did, starting with the wheels, moving upwards to the chassis and then so on. As you can probably imagine, the narrative of how it all came together is a bit too lengthy to recount on this page, but basically, the Knitted Flying Scotsman was achieved mainly by means of cardboard lined components held together with adhesive tape, which in turn were covered in knitting and stitched together.

Knitted Flying Scotsman

Two months after the original broadcast, it was a proud day indeed when the Knitted Flying Scotsman was handed over to the enthusiastic team at the NRM, where it has now taken its place amongst the other competition entries. Although it would of course be wonderful if my woolly model were to win, the sense of achievement in creating it and the subsequent opportunity to talk about the whole project on BBC Radio Newcastle (incredibly nerve-wracking but such good fun!) have already made the whole thing a hugely enjoyable experience.

So, at the end of all these knitted shenanigans I only have one problem now what on earth am I going to create next?


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