In the Northern Isles of Scotland you’ll find the Orkney Islands – a place of history, beautiful wildlife… and life-size knitted Christmas trees! The Orkney Library & Archive recently posted a picture of their amazing tree on Twitter, which was made with the help from people around the world. We decided to get in touch with the principal librarian, Karen Walker, to find out more.

Getting started

Karen and her colleague Heather started a knitting group called Yap & Yarn in 2013, alternating between Orkney Library & Archive and the library in Stromness, Orkney’s second biggest town. A member of the library staff attends each meetings, and they host workshops and shawl knit alongs. In 2013 they decided to try and knit a Christmas tree for a community project. They asked on Facebook and Twitter for green squares and decorations and they received knitted and crocheted squares from all throughout Scotland and even as far as Australia. It was so well-supported locally that they sometimes found squares in their book return box!

Recyclable and reusable

They made the tree structure from recycled materials – the inner post and base was an old leaflet stand. They then placed a small traffic cone on the top and attached bamboo canes over plastic hoops to form the conical shape and covered this frame with garden mesh. They stitched the squares onto the mesh. and all the different leaves meant so many different textures and shades of green.  For the lower layers the squares were 20cm wide, while the middle layers were 15cm and the top ones were 10cm. They sewed 2 squares together to form a point and then overlapped in rows so that it was 3D rather than flat like roof tiles.

Learning and growing

The Stromness library moved location in 2015, which gave an ideal opportunity to knit a second tree. This time they used the same construction but with a broken office chair in the centre so they could wheel the tree around. Smart move! Every year they receive new decorations to add to the trees, including a stocking just last week. Children love it especially as it’s so tactile and they can touch the tree without fear of hurting themselves or breaking anything. People in the community have now started specifically asking for the trees, so Karen and her team make sure they come out early in December.

We love this story about knitting and using crafts to bring together the local community. Do you have a story about knitting that you would like to share with us? Please leave a comment below and we’ll get in touch.

Thanks to Karen for the interview and providing the photos. You can find out more about Orkney Library & Archive here and on their Twitter page.