By Karen Carruth

Yet another tremendous display of handcrafts on show this year, ably organised by the Scottish Women’s Institute. Linda Retson, the current national president, reported that entry numbers were up this year.

It has been 10 years since the SWI took over the running of the competition, and Linda is standing down after this year’s show and will hand the baton over to current vice president Anne Kerr, who will continue the excellent service the ladies give to this event.

As for the standard of entries, the level was quite incredible. Covering all aspects of handcrafts.

Jane Currie, of Stirling, entered what was a worthy winner of this year’s competition with her stumpwork box featuring intricate embroidered detail of children playing, building snowmen and sledging during a winter’s scene.

Jane has been showing at the Highland for many years, winning the Agnes Bryson Perpetual Challenge trophy twice previously. An expert in stumpwork, Jane teaches and lectures in this craft all over Scotland and she hopes the north of England shortly.

A member of the Embroiderer’s Guild, Jane totalled how long it took her to make the box, and it turned out to be 448 hours. “I decided to take a note of it this time, I don’t usually, however, but it did make me wonder what else I could have been doing with all that time.”

Jane continues: “I am absolutely delighted. I just thought, wow, there is so much talent in this tent, to win is amazing.”

What can’t be seen, as the lid of the box is closed on display, is that Jane decorated the inside of the lid with a stumpwork snowflake pattern, and on the base of the box, is a removable layer of what looks like a snowdrift. She had planned another layer, but after 448 hours, she decided that she had done enough.

Taking the reserve title was Gillian Chapman’s watercolour, pulled from a watercolour with a medley of crafts class. Gillian’s photo was also a snowy scene set in a woodland. This is the third year that Gillian has entered at the Highland, and she has lifted first place in the painting competition every year. This year she had two entries, her other one, an acrylic painting got a second.

Purely a hobby for Gillian, she says that painting is her therapy, and this one took two to three months, working off and on.

“Taking reserve is a huge compliment, to think that my painting has been judged the second- best thing here among all this talent. I can’t imagine how they decide. I know I couldn’t pick a winner from all the entries. It’s fantastic.”

Keeping the winning streak in the family, Gillian’s boys, Jamie and Struan also entered into the kid’s classes, and both took home prize tickets.

Crooks and sticks

A relative new exhibitor to the Highland Show crooks and walking sticks section, has taken the overall prize for best neck crook with a fancy wood head, the Thomas Archibald Memorial Prize.

Barry Frizell, of Wigton, in Cumbria, says that even though he has been doing well at the shows he has been exhibiting at, this was like his Wembley moment. He was delighted to hear that he had won, even though he initially thought the celebratory phone call from the Royal Highland Show was a prank call.

Ever modest, Barry explained that he had initially started making sticks back in the 1970s, as he has always been one to use his hands, usually through his career in metalwork, however, when he retired he decided to give it another go. Barry was particularly pleased to win at the Highland as the rules state that you can only enter one stick in each class and it must have been made in the year of the show, which he thinks is a terrific idea.

This is his third year showing at the Highland and he put in seven sticks. In his first year he won the novice class, and last year he did well with two firsts and a second. And now in year three, he’s bagged one of the top rosettes.

His winning crook was made using Burelm, which he tells me is difficult to get his hands on, since Dutch elm disease made its mark on the elm population. Barry works from a workroom at his home in Wigton, he cheekily tells me that he hasn’t told his wife that he has won. “She will read it in the paper,” he says.

Also in his trophy cabinet at home are winning rosettes from Yetholm Show for the past three years, winning the novice title, which takes in stick entries from the whole of Scotland.

A name that is never far from the score sheet in this section, Dane Love, from Cumnock, took the red rosette for the best crook with his neck crook made with fancy horn head, which was awarded with the Perpetual Challenge Silver Cup.

Dane, also took the award for the best set of four crooks and sticks, consisting of one horn crook, one wood crook, one horn stick, and one wood stick, which was awarded with the Mrs Allister Campbell Memorial Trophy and rosette.

Dane has won the overall title at the show 14 times, his first time exhibiting was back in 1980.

A member of the Scottish Crookmaker’s Association and British Stickmaker’s Guild, showing up and down Britain, his name is synonymous with crookmaking in Scotland.

Barry summed it up well when he said: “Really we are all here because of Dane and his contribution. He shares all his knowledge with fellow stick makers. I’m so pleased with the goodwill and camaraderie that the guys in stick making have, we are all pleased when someone does well.”

Special awards:

Best overall exhibit in patchwork, quilting and applique – R Barret’s Christmas tree skirt.

Best hand-made felt exhibit – K Huggett’s 3D nativity scene in hand made felt.

The Edinburgh Knitting and Crochet Guild Perpetual Champion for knitting and crochet – J Drylie’s crocheted Santa is coming house.

The Inverness best woven item in weaving section – S Hoyle’s throw, made using hand weaving.

The best exhibit in fancy yarn – M Beith’s hank of fancy yarn.

Jean Parker prize from Scottish crofting counties of two ply extra fine Shetland yarn for lace knitting, handspun – R Barnet’s hank of Shetland yarn.

Best exhibit in lace section, with special reference for creativity – J Matthew’s lace and tatting Christmas decoration.

Scottish Basket Making Circle’s prize for best exhibit in class of basket making – A Shaw’s log basket.

Jean Bruce prize – K Anderson’s shawl in fine lace knitting.