21st March 2008 at 00:00
The National Museum of Costume opens for the season today with a new exhibition for 2008 that reflects not only Scotland's rich knitted textiles heritage, but also the rise of the designer knitwear industry and an upsurge of interest in knitting as a past time.

Hip Knits has been described by curator Kristina Stankovski as a celebration of contemporary Scottish knitwear. All the pieces on display - some made only a few months ago - have been either produced in Scotland or inspired by traditional Scottish designs.

Among the major exhibits at the museum, in New Abbey near Dumfries, is the sensational Jig Saw outfit from Vivienne Westwood's 2007 Gold Label collection, featuring tartans made in Scotland and a Scottish cardigan.

Like Westwood, the Borders-based company Queene and Belle attracts celebrity costumers, among them Madonna and Jemima Khan. In the show are 1930s-style cashmere and silk pieces, decorated with antique lace. The machine-knitted cashmere "Catriona" cardigan (right, over a silk satin "Bird" slip dress) features a hand-beaded butterfly fastening inspired by a 1920s brooch from Paris.

Two shawls were lent by Ingrid Tait, who made them in 1989 for her art school degree show, shortly before she set up the highly successful Scottish textiles company Tait and Style.

A young Shetland-based designer, Andrea Williamson, is already making a name for herself as a creator of quirky, hand-knitted accessories inspired by her island home and Scandinavian folk art. Some are on display; and long-established, internationally known companies, such as Pringle, Johnstons and Ballantyne, are also represented.

A potted history of Scottish knitting highlights Fair Isle work, which continues to inspire designers throughout the world.

Hip Knits, which runs until October, also features an activities corner where visitors can handle cashmere and lambswool, have a go at knitting and read more about the subject.

National Museum of Costume, T: 01387 850375. Schools that book get in free. www.nms.ac.ukschools.

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