Shetland Wool Week 2013 in Pictures

For today’s “Shetland Wool Week in the South” celebrations I am just going to share some of my favourite moments from Shetland Wool Weeks 2013 which was the first Shetland Wool Week that I was lucky enough to attend.


This was my first Shetland Wool Week! I was there with my friend Tom and I have some especially lovely memories of his workshop at Jamieson & Smith.

Tom van Deijnen demonstrates darning
Tom demonstrates darning

Tom and I also demonstrated our joint project, Aleatoric Fair Isle (that is, Fair Isle Knitting decided by dice rolls) at Shetland Wool Week 2013. We rolled many die and knit many interesting swatches, and I learnt a lot about how not to combine colours, and also a lot about the building blocks of Fair Isle Knitting. It was a jolly evening, sharing our swatches and processes with other knitters at the Shetland Museum & Archives.

Fair Isle swatches knit using die rolls to decide shading sequences and patterns - a project by myself and Tom van Deijnen
Fair Isle swatches knit using die rolls to decide shading sequences and patterns – a project by myself and Tom van Deijnen
A swatch created at our workshop at the Shetland Museum & Archives, using die rolls and our worksheet
A swatch created at our workshop at the Shetland Museum & Archives, using die rolls and our worksheet

Shetland Wool Week 2013 was also where I debuted the Quotidian Colourwork Class that formed the basis for my book. I have very happy memories of my friend Deborah Gray turning up with a willow-pattern china bowl that belonged to her mother, and many fragments of willow patterned china found on the beach at Bressay, as her inspiration sources.

In 2013 I also experienced my first Flock Book; this is a wondrous day in Shetland when all the rams are judged for the Shetland Sheep Flock Book, and when everyone sells and buys rams ahead of tupping season. It’s a fantastically sheepy day in which one can learn about the people and animals who grow Shetland wool. I love watching all the crofters and their animals and seeing what goes into making the flocks that produce my knitting yarn; it’s really a privilege to wander around meeting the sheep, taking photos, and trying to learn what distinguishes a Shetland from other breeds of sheep.

Shetland Ram - I think this is quite a young one?
Shetland Ram – I think this is quite a young one?
A lovely dark old ram
A lovely dark old ram

Oliver Henry gives talks all through Shetland Wool Week, sharing the amazing expertise he has accumulated over a lifetime spent grading and sorting Shetland Wool. In the bright, Autumnal light the doors of the wool shed at the Shetland Woolbrokers are left wide open, and you can always spy a little crowd of knitters within, clustered around him, listening intently. This is one of the best parts of Shetland Wool Week because it connects up woolworkers in a way that is truly unique. As knitters, we do not often get to meet the people who have had a hand in grading and sorting the wool with which we work: it is amazing to have an opportunity to do so, and to be able to learn about the history and future of Shetland wool. Standing in the wool shed, surrounded by fleeces yet to be sorted and baled all ready to go down to Haworth for scouring, listening to Oliver Henry and huffing the wool fumes is a joyous reminder that the wool industry here is thoroughly alive. I really love the warm welcome that hand-knitters receive at the Shetland Woolbrokers and it is a magical place where you can feel how your knitting is connected to agriculture, history, sorting, grading, the industrial past, and an exciting, knitterly future. I think Oliver’s talks are really important for doing this, for joining up the work that goes on in the crofts of Shetland with the knitwear for which Shetland is world famous.

Oliver Henry, Woolman
Oliver Henry, Woolman
Wool or, in Shetland, Oo, baled up and ready to go for scouring
Wool or, in Shetland, Oo, baled up and ready to go for scouring

In 2013 I also got to visit the Shetland Textile Museum for the first time and was blown away by the extraordinary colours of the knitwear on display there. I feel very bad that in my excitement to see all these incredible samples of knitwear, I did not note down any details! As you can see from my pictures, I was just blown away to see the details of colour, pattern, texture, shapes…

…I also attended my first Shetland Teas.

Shetland Teas Today!
Shetland Teas Today!

Shetland teas feature, as the name suggests, teas and cakes. However at Wool Week – most importantly – there are also opportunities to see the outstanding work produced by members of the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers. I especially enjoyed seeing all the samples for the book A Legacy of Shetland Lace on display. This is a magnificent collective publication featuring lace patterns by Guild members and a glossary of wonderful knitting words from Shetland. Together the patterns really showcase the versatility and beauty of Shetland lace. My friend Kate wrote a brilliant review that you can read here, and I want to share this quote from her review as I completely agree with the sentiment;

I don’t think it is going too far to say that the group of women behind this book are among the best knitters in the world. Their work is certainly the very finest that Britain has to offer. In this wonderful tome, key members of The Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers share their knowledge of the old traditions and contemporary practice of Shetland fine lace knitting.

A Legacy of Shetland Lace - some of the sample garments on display at the Sunday Teas
A Legacy of Shetland Lace – some of the sample garments on display at the Sunday Teas

The generosity of the knitting on display and the convivial atmosphere of teas, cakes and flowers make the Sunday Teas one of my highlights for Shetland Wool Week and if you are in Shetland right now, I strongly encourage you to go!

I also remember how lovely it was, in 2013, to see my friend Hazel Tindall at the teas. She was wearing a sweater on which she had been working when I met her earlier in the summer, her version is adapted from a much older and much-mended sweater that had been in her family and I love her faithful and beautiful recreation of it. Isn’t it wonderful?

Hazel Tindall in a beautiful handknit sweater of her own creation
Hazel Tindall in a beautiful handknit sweater of her own creation

I’ve really enjoyed going through these photos today and I hope you have enjoyed seeing them too! I was originally going to do my photos from 2014 and 2015 as well but as you can see, every single Wool Week is packed with so much to see that I think I had better save those for another day of Shetland Wool Week in the South!

Really missing all my buddies in Shetland and sending you all a massive woolly hug from down here in Reading,
At least I have lots of glorious Shetland 2ply Jumper Weight Yarn with which to knit…


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A Shetlanders Fair Isle Graph Book

One of the things I love best about doing a #knitsonikmittsalong is seeing how other comrades plan and chart motifs.

I personally enjoy casting on for the ribbing of the mitts in any colour and thinking ahead to what I’ll do next while I churn out the ribbed cuff. Once the ribbing’s done, I chart a bit, then knit what I’ve charted, then review the success of the shades and patterns, and figure out the next part. For the last two #knitsonikmittsalongs, I have then used the second mitt as an opportunity to refine or improve whatever I did in the first mitt. I like to approach it in a very modular way and I think you can see that in the way the motifs are stacked in segments in my finished mitts:

Previous #knitsonikmittsalong mitts: Magnolias and Silchester
Previous #knitsonikmittsalong mitts: Magnolias and Silchester

For my process I generally work in whatever pen or pencil I have to hand.

A working KNITSONIK chart!
A working KNITSONIK chart!

Once I’ve got a design roughly sketched out, I write the yarn shade names beside each row in two different columns; one for the pattern shade and one for the background shade. It doesn’t matter if the actual pattern shade is light and the background shade is dark because my monochrome charts have nothing to do with shading or colours… they just tell me, in my motifs, which stitches relate to the pattern, and which relate to the background.

Messy KNITSONIK drawings for speedy swatching!
Messy KNITSONIK drawings for speedy swatching!
KNITSONIK swatch developed from the messy charts shown above
KNITSONIK swatch developed from the messy charts shown above

I like to get my shapes down on paper ASAP so that I can get on with the joy of actually knitting them, and black and white charts give me the speed and flexibility I need. I can work one round of my design, look at it and, if I don’t like it, write a new shade name beside the next row of the chart and swap it into my knitting for the next round. As a result of this gung-ho approach, all my notebooks and #knitsonikmittsalong charts look a bit like this, and I confess that I feel a deep affection for my working drawings and all the happy knitting they enable.

A chart developed from looking at a Huntley & Palmer's Biscuit Tin...
A chart developed from looking at a Huntley & Palmer’s Biscuit Tin…

However, though I most often generate monochrome charts for speed and efficiency, I also find coloured pencils DEEPLY PLEASING – a sentiment in which I am clearly not alone!!! It seems that for many people (including me) organising coloured pencils is an essential part of gearing up for a good #knitsonikmittsalong.

Having quite the best day 😊 #knitsonik #knitsonikmittsalong #colouredpencils

A photo posted by Vivienne (@gandt71) on

Although no amount of colouring in charts with pencils will tell you precisely how your yarn shades will behave once knitted, exploring how colours work together before you begin knitting can be really helpful for planning shading sequences.

Useful illustrations in Alice Starmore's book of Fair Isle Knitting show how a design is transformed by being worked in different shades
Useful illustrations in Alice Starmore’s book of Fair Isle Knitting show how a design is transformed by being worked in different shades

Too, there is pleasure and joy in looking at coloured charts. Though they can be a bit less flexible to knit from in terms of swapping yarn shades in and out, a good coloured chart has a glorious suggestive power, and serves many other important and inspirational functions. Coloured charts show the whole look and feel of a design; they convey a sense of what a finished garment might look like; they speak to the colours and palettes of specific regions and cultures and – perhaps most importantly of all – they excite and inspire your own innate, knitterly sense of colour.

The coloured charts in Estonian Knitting 1 give an immediate impression of regional palettes
The coloured charts in Estonian Knitting 1 give an immediate impression of regional palettes

In a stunning book recently published by the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers, the role of coloured charts is expanded even further; A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book contains pages reproduced from two notebooks dating primarily from the 1930s and 1940s. These pages detail many possible Fair Isle patterns and colour combinations, and the notebooks from which they’ve been taken were once held in the possession of William (Bill) Henry. Here, coloured charts are not only a useful reference for your own stranded colourwork, but an amazing insight into, and record of, a particular moment in the history of Shetland knitting.

Glorious colours from the notebooks belonging to Bill Henry!
Glorious colours from the notebooks belonging to Bill Henry!

Bill Henry was born in North Yell and, by the mid-20th century, was in charge of the Hosiery Department at one of the largest and oldest woollen businesses in Shetland – at Anderson & Co. It isn’t clear whether the drawings in the notebooks are all his, or whether they have been compiled by a range of different, knitterly hands. we can however say with certainty that looking at these stunning drawings reveals an enormous amount of information about colour and pattern in Fair Isle Knitwear at this point in history.

I love the occasional notes on colours included with the charts
I love the occasional notes on colours included with the charts

In a fascinating introductory essay, Dr Carol Christiansen gives a rich background to the charts, speaking about Anderson & Co., the knitters who supplied the hosiery trade, and the ways in which the patterns found in Bill Henry’s notebooks relate to the broader historical context of their time. We learn that the swastika – an ancient symbol sometimes used in early examples of Fair Isle Knitting, prior to the rise of Nazism – is not recorded in Shetland knitwear made after 1934; and that Bill Henry had a son called Colin Noel, who seems connected, in some way, to ‘The Colin N Henry “Salad” Pattern’ that appears in the book.

The Colin N Henry Salad Pattern
The Colin N Henry Salad Pattern

Carol also writes about the Norwegian influence on Shetland knitting, pointing to the Norwegian motifs labelled as such and appearing in the reproductions from the second of the notebooks; and about how industrial developments and the increasing availability of machine-spun and commercially dyed yarns expanded the availability of materials and colours for the knitters of Shetland supplying the hosiery trade. She also intriguingly describes the differences between the notebooks reproduced in this book and another book produced by Ethel Henry, knitwear designer and knitter. Ethel was married to Bill’s older brother, and her book – unlike Bill Henry’s notebooks – has all the patterns ordered according to how many rows there are in each motif. She also doesn’t present her designs as completed colourways. In her books charts are shown with a white background, a yellow background beneath the centre of a motif, and motifs in dots of red, blue or green. The changing shades in her designs are there to guide the knitter as to when to change shades in pattern and background but are not prescriptive in showing the exact shade of every stitch involved. I have not seen Ethel Henry’s charts but from Carol’s description I am reminded of the charts of Robert Williamson featured in Fair Isle Knitting Patterns by Mary Macgregor; the green and red dots show where, in your particular shading scheme, you should change the colour of the working yarns.

Robert Williamson's charts, reproduced in Fair Isle Knitting Patterns by Mary Macgregor
Robert Williamson’s charts, reproduced in Fair Isle Knitting Patterns by Mary Macgregor

These differences are intriguing; both the organisation and the presentation of charts in Ethel’s book sound imminently practicable; organising them mathematically helps the knitter to plan a garment, and colouring them as described allows the knitter to adapt them to any given colourway. However as Carol suggests, Bill Henry’s book – in which the individual colour of every stitch in a motif is recorded – suggests that they were copied from knitwear itself. As such they sing of a vibrant moment in Shetland’s knitwear design history that was alive with richly patterned knitwear in glorious bright colours.

Glorious patterns!
Glorious patterns!
Who was Bert Parker?
Who was Bert Parker?

I really love that the physical quality of the notebooks has been preserved in this reproduction, and that we can glimpse the notebook pages as material objects with a tangible connection to the knitwear trade in Shetland. There is an argument that they may be easier to knit from if cleaned up, tidied into black and white charts and ordered more mathematically. However to do this would lose all the information about colours in knitwear during this period of history, and it would also strip the patterns of their important chronological order, and of the way that over a decade or so, they document shifts in trends and ideas. The little incidental notes – the names of people and of patterns – are details that tie these magnificent charts to history and people who are also remembered in the book’s beautiful dedication:

This book is dedicated to the many women and girls who knitted at all hours of the day and night, in all conditions, to keep the knitwear industry supplied with quality, hand-crafted garments.

The book, however, while celebrating the particular and intriguing history of these notebooks, is also firmly focused on the future. In the spirit of generosity and warmth that everyone who has ever been to a Shetland Guild Sunday Teas will instantly recognise, the opening page of the book invites you, the reader, to be inspired by the patterns and “to try them for yourselves in your own knitting.”

The temptation to do so is very great indeed! The prospect of knitting from these wonderful old notebooks is made all the richer for the book’s tangible connections to Shetland’s industrial past, and to real Fair Isle garments and knitters from history. Turning each page I feel you can sense the labour of the person colouring in the squares, and the presence of knitwear so exciting that you instantly want to recreate it for yourself.

You can buy this amazing book from the Shetland Times Book Shop, and I also have a copy to give away! To be in with a chance of winning a copy of this fantastic book, leave a comment about charting. Tell us about your favourite way to chart, charts you especially like, how you chart – it can be anything at all as long as it relates to charting! A name will be drawn at random from the list some time next week and I shall arrange postage of the book to you.

I hope you have enjoyed this evening’s discussion of charts, and a glimpse inside the beauteous pages of A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book in Colour. Many thanks to the amazing Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers for publishing this wonderful book; it is a gift to the knitting world and to anyone who is interested in tracing the history of Fair Isle knitwear!



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Knitting Pundits

Right now, the Opening Reception for Shetland Wool Week 2016 is taking place. From previous experiences of the opening of Shetland Wool Week, I am sure this is a very jolly gathering with many wondrous knitters, an astounding collection of Crofthoose Hats, traditional Shetland music, and an inspiring address on the value and specialness of Shetland Wool. It is always a great night out and I’m sending a massive woolly hug to all my comrades there!

Ella with her Crofthoose hats - the official hat pattern for SWW 2016, by Ella Gordon
Ella with her Crofthoose Hats – the official hat pattern for SWW 2016, by Ella Gordon

This time last year, at the Shetland Wool Week Opening Ceremony, I shared an idea that had been rolling around in my head for a long time: Knitting Punditry. Today I want to tell you about Knitting Punditry so that if you ever find yourself knitting alone, you can imagine the cheers and company of other knitters, and perhaps even visualise a jolly pundit commenting on your mad knitting skillz, (especially if you ever find yourself doubting them).

Knitting Pundits Mucker & Comrade, AKA Felix Ford & Louise Scollay
Knitting Pundits Mucker & Comrade, AKA Felix Ford & Louise Scollay

So, what is Knitting Punditry?

Good question. I feel that knitting is incredibly important, but that it does not receive the same level of blanket media coverage as, say, for example, Football, and I am interested in exploring how this might be changed or challenged.

Now, I will not knock Football here.

But I will say that it would be good if, as well as all the Football on the television, there could be some equivalent knitting-related programming. I’m not talking about some patronising, sad little low-budget craft special every now and then: I mean SKY KNITTING as the serious knitterly equivalent to SKY SPORT. I’m talking about stadiums filled with thousands of knitters. Pundits commenting on the nuance of each knitters’ work. Endless re-runs and multiple camera angles to showcase the technical accomplishments and techniques of knitters. Opportunities for knitters to cheer on heroes and roar for joy when faced with knitterly excellence; that kind of thing… to me, that is Knitting Punditry. It is about pundits, but it’s also about love and dedication and commitment and enthusiasm; the pundits in Football are part of an infrastructure of awe and unchecked collective appreciation… I like the idea of a similar cultural framework for knitting and I say, it’s 2016, why not.

For quite a while I had been wanting to make sound pieces that demonstrate the amazing world where this dream is real; I asked my magnificent pal Louise Scollay if she would help me and in a flurry of texts, we wrote a sketch drawn from our collective knowledge of football and knitting. We borrowed ideas from the esteemed pundits of football, and we egged each other on.

The knitting pundits hard at work at the opening ceremony for Shetland Wool Week 2015
The knitting pundits hard at work at the opening ceremony for Shetland Wool Week 2015

However, what gives a live Football match its magical atmosphere is the sense of a present and engaged crowd urging the players onwards. I can think of no crowd more able to supply the sounds of a rapt knitterly audience than the one assembled for Shetland Wool Week, and so last year, to bring Knitting Punditry to life, I recorded this wondrous gathering.

A year ago today myself and Louise got up on stage in front of that audience and presented our vision for SKY KNITTING. We set our digital recorders up and then painted some scenarios involving a knitting foul; a knitting goal; a knitting victory etc.

The audience were AMAZING!!! We left with an incredible little set of sounds created by a mass of enthusiastic and generous knitters; oohs and aahs and cheers and whoops and the occasional low boo (when visualising a terrible knitting foul being committed). We later re-recorded our script to make it much clearer, and then we mixed the magnificent sounds generated by the audience together with our words. A dodgy accordion rendition of the theme for “Match of The Day” and my recording of Hazel Tindall knitting with a belt at fiendish speed brought our Knitting Punditry mix to its completion. I feel this is a truly collective and collaborative sonic enterprise and I really hope that when you listen to it, you can hear all the fun of its creation.

I also hope you agree that everyone who is binding off a second sock should have this much cheering and accordion music.

All the sounds were recorded in Shetland and if you were whooping and clapping and whistling and shouting at the opening ceremony for Shetland Wool Week 2015, then YOU are here in the mix somewhere.

Thank you to everyone who helped bring Knitting Punditry to life; I have the feeling that Mucker & Comrade have only just begun…

Mucker & Comrade, Shetland Wool Week 2015
Mucker & Comrade, Shetland Wool Week 2015

…and thank you to the lovely Jeni Reid for taking these wondrous photos, which are used here with kind permission.


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Cast On #knitsonikmittsalong!

Whoop whoop, it’s time to CAST ON for the #knitsonikmittsalong!!!

KNITSONIK mitts!!!
KNITSONIK mitts!!!

#knitsonikmittsalong factfile

Cast On date: 24/09/2016
Bind Off date: 24/10/2016
Brief: knit a pair of KNITSONIK Fingerless Mitts. Use the mitts as a canvas on which to develop your own stranded colourwork motifs and shading schemes using a shared inspiration source.
Inspiration source: there are two shared inspiration sources for this #knitsonikmittsalong and these are 1. the collection of Knitting Sheaths held in the Shetland Museum and Archives and 2. the Shetland Croft House Museum.
Where to find the pattern: a basic template + pattern for KNITSONIK Fingerless Mitts is provided in the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook. However, this pattern has also been redesigned to reflect each of the two Shetland themed inspiration sources. Patterns and books are stocked by Purlescence UK and Jamieson & Smith. You can buy the pattern as a standalone product, or in a kit along with 8 suggested shades of 2ply Jumper Weight Yarn, RRP £26.00.

Yarn: if you would like some help picking out your shades, the 8 shades recommended in the kits are as follow:

Shetland Knitting Sheaths held in the Shetland Museum and Archives
Shetland Knitting Sheaths held in the Shetland Museum and Archives

Option 1: SHETLAND KNITTING SHEATHS; J&S 2 ply Jumper Weight Yarn in shades: FC43, 77, 5, 9113, 1403, 93, FC47 and 142.

The Shetland Crofthouse Museum in Dunrossness
The Shetland Crofthouse Museum in Dunrossness

Option 2: SHETLAND CROFT HOUSE MUSEUM; J&S 2 ply Jumper Weight Yarn in shades: FC61, FC62, 121, FC45, 202, 29, 77 and 81.

However, you are OF COURSE free to work from stash with whatever yarn you prefer!

Share your work: the beauty of doing a #knitsonikmittsalong is that you can see other people’s progress in the KNITSONIK Ravelry Forum and on Twitter and instagram, using the hashtag #knitsonikmittsalong. This enables us to see each others’ work, to encourage one another, and to learn together about palettes, patterns and shading.
Shetland: Shetland is an amazing place with a rich, knitterly history. Knitting together from Shetland-based inspiration sources enables us to celebrate this place together in the most apposite medium of wool from its wondrous sheep.

A Shetland ram photographed at the Voe Show, August 2013
A Shetland ram photographed at the Voe Show, August 2013

Some trail blazers to inspire you!

Some comrades have already made a start; you can see their progress (and share your own) using the #knitsonikmittsalong hashtag. I don’t know about you, but I just love seeing the different ways in which people organise their creative process.

All mapped out for the #knitsonikmittsalong but I might need more yarn from @purlescenceuk

A photo posted by Catherine Hopkins (@chopkinsknits) on

Progress with swatching for the #knitsonikmittsalong might have to swap some colours about

A photo posted by Catherine Hopkins (@chopkinsknits) on

Pro-Tips for joining the #knitsonikmittsalong

If you are at Yarndale this weekend and would like a kit, you can pick one up from Purlescence. Please say hello to Sarah and Jonathan for me if you see them; they are on stand 110.

Purlescence - a palace of fun :)
Purlescence – a palace of fun :)

There is no exact hour for casting on as everyone is in different time zones, but let’s keep checking in on Ravelry, Twitter and Instagram, and sharing our progress as we go. Because I know some of you will ask, of course it’s totally fine to Cast On later; the deadlines are there to motivate and help and not to exclude anyone.

I confess that, though I am not normally excited about colouring in my charts with coloured pencils, the new book – A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book – released earlier this week by the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers, has got me all inspired to use a lot of colouring pencils for this #knitsonikmittsalong.
I have been preparing accordingly…

A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book, published by The Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers
A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book, published by The Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers
Pencil and Yarn Palettes to match...
Pencil and Yarn Palettes to match…
More yarn and pencil palettes to match...
More yarn and pencil palettes to match…

I hope to see some of you soon online, and I’ll be back tomorrow with a special sound piece created to celebrate the opening ceremony of Shetland Wool Week!


Guess what I'll be mostly wearing this week...
Guess what I’ll be mostly wearing this week…
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Shetland Wool Week… in the South!

Greetings, Comrades!

Since 2013, the turn towards Autumn has seen me sorting out final details for classes and deciding what to pack for Shetland Wool Week. This year – for several practical reasons – I’m not going (BOO!). Instead I shall be beavering away on multiple projects here, where I live, 800 miles South of what can only be described as one of the greatest woolly gatherings on Earth.

Kirsty Farquhar, Misa Hay and Selina May-Miller - team Shetland Wool Week, 2015, holding Donna Smith's Baa-ble hat and Baa-ble
Kirsty Farquhar, Misa Hay and Selina May-Miller – team Shetland Wool Week, 2015, holding Donna Smith’s Baa-ble hat and Baa-ble

The incredible team at Promote Shetland have turned Shetland Wool Week into a World Class Event featuring an exciting set of workshops; a rich activities programme; opportunities to meet Shetland sheep and to learn about the supply chain for Shetland wool; and – most importantly – an amazing chance to meet and learn from the supremely skilled wool workers of Shetland.

Jan Robertson at the Shetland Woolbrokers
Jan Robertson at the Shetland Woolbrokers

If you are in any doubt at all about how much I love Shetland and in particular, Shetland Wool Week, please watch my song, composed for Shetland Wool Week 2013.

I’m sad not to be going this year, and I’m also sure I’m not the only person with a serious dose of FOMO*. To remedy this, I’ve decided that if I can’t go to Wool Week then maybe I can bring a bit of Wool Week here. Towards that end, I’ll be writing much more about Shetland here in coming days with a particular Wool Week focus between 24th September – 2nd October. I’m also creating several Shetland-themed activities in which you can join in if you would like.

The first of these is a special KNITSONIK Mitts-a-long devised to coincide with Wool Week. As I am sure you know, Shetland Wool Week is the birthplace of my Quotidian Colourwork class, on which the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook is based. A highlight of my year is traveling to Shetland to teach this class and to meet with the wondrous knitters who attend and who are, like me, excited about translating everyday inspirations into stranded colourwork. I will dearly miss seeing what comrades do with yarn, pictures, imagination and needles, and the Mitts-a-long is a way of having a bit of that experience distantly.

A swatch produced at Shetland Wool Week in one of my classes at Jamieson & Smith
A swatch produced at Shetland Wool Week in one of my classes at Jamieson & Smith

As in previous Mitts-a-longs**, the idea is to work together from a shared inspiration source and to use the Fingerless Mitts template from the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook as a canvas on which to develop motifs and shading sequences. The official cast on date is September 24th, 2016, and the bind-off date is October 24th! The timing of the Mitts-a-long will hopefully enable us to converge in the KNITSONIK Ravelry group and the KNITSONIK Facebook group and to knit on our mitts while Shetland Wool Week is taking place.

For the Shetland Wool Week Mitts-a-long, I’ve produced two editions of my KNITSONIK Fingerless Mitts templates, each with a Shetland theme. One is based on Shetland Knitting Sheaths – about which I wrote last year – and the other is based on the Shetland Croft House Museum. I chose these inspiration sources because each of them speaks directly to Shetland’s knitting history and because I wanted to offer both a muted palette and also something very bright in order to suit different knitterly preferences.

Shetland Knitting Sheaths held in the Shetland Museum and Archives
Shetland Knitting Sheaths held in the Shetland Museum and Archives
The Shetland Croft House Museum in Dunrossness
The Shetland Croft House Museum in Dunrossness

The printed patterns contain clear instructions for knitting a pair of mitts; blank chart templates in which to sketch your own motifs; several inspiring photos from which to work; and links to a Dropbox folder in which you can find extra information about each inspiration source plus large copies of my photos to print out or keep on your phone or computer for easy reference while knitting.

Shetland Knitting Sheaths Mitts-a-long pattern (cover detail)
Shetland Knitting Sheaths Mitts-a-long pattern (cover detail)
Shetland Croft House Museum Mitts-a-long pattern (cover detail)
Shetland Croft House Museum Mitts-a-long pattern (cover detail)

I’ll tell you more about the Knitting Sheaths and the Crofthouse Museum in coming days but, for now, if you want to join in the KNITSONIK Mitts-a-long as part of my Shetland Wool Week in the South celebrations, the best way to get your hands on a kit is to order from my friends at Jamieson & Smith or Purlescence. Kits cost £26 each, and contain 8 specially chosen shades of Jamieson & Smith 2 ply Jumper Weight Yarn plus a printed paper pattern.

Yours in Shetland Wool,

*Fear Of Missing Out
**To understand how a KNITSONIK Mitts-a-long works, you might enjoy this video that documents that last one we did on the theme of Magnolias:

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Some of you may remember that in the TURBO THANK YOU episode of the KNITSONIK podcast, Mark Stanley, my wondrous comrade, debuted his first composition; it was a bold and celebratory a capella jingle to which he envisaged a video montage of everything I have monogrammed with my KNITSONIK logo. I have recently used my new found video-making skillz to bring his vision to life, and am thrilled to present IT’S GOT KNITSONIK ON IT: THE MUSIC VIDEO.

If you like the idea of things that have KNITSONIK on them, you can now also happily own your very own KNITSONIK tote bag. It’s got KNITSONIK on it, and you can squish a magnificent quantity of J&S yarn balls inside, if you so wish.



As a knitter with a penchant for carrying around an unholy quantity of yarn balls at any one time, I do appreciate a roomy tote. This one has a gusset to ensure plenty of storage room for all your yarn and notions as it’s 38cm wide x 43cm high x 10cm deep. It’s sewn from natural, unbleached cotton and… did I mention? It’s got KNITSONIK on it.


Pick yours up here for £6.50 + P&P:


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KNITSONIK on the Fruity Knitting Podcast

If you’ve been watching the KNITSONIK YouTube Channel, you’ll know I’m having a blast learning to make videos. I’m completely inspired by the wondrous possibilities for combining knitting and sound and I love how easily I can show colours and images, but also underscore them with recordings from the extensive KNITSONIK archives. Basically, I WANT TO MAKE ALL THE VIDEOS ALL THE TIME.

A couple of weeks ago I learnt more about video production through being interviewed over Skype for the Fruity Knitting Podcast. This video podcast is produced by Andrea and Andrew who do an amazing job of assembling their episodes and who really maximise the visual possibilities of the medium. I’ve watched a few episodes now and they are a visual and knitterly feast! Like any of the sweaters that Andrea and Andrew knit, their podcast is lovely to look at and has been well made. A knitterly eye is evident in how they edit and assemble all the footage and everything you’d like to see in detail is clearly shown. Andrea and Andrew are Australians living in Germany and podcasting regularly from their Offenbach studio. It was a huge pleasure to be a part of episode 12, and I loved talking to them about my interest in knitting and sounds; how I became interested in the provenance of wool; and why artists are necessarily practical people. I especially love Andrea’s amazing stranded colourwork sweater (it’s a beautiful Jade Starmore pattern, adapted to fit Andrew) and was thrilled to hear some of my field recordings in the final edit. Listen out for Cranes in Estonia; creaking gates in Cumbria and Terns in Shetland, as well as a couple of KNITSONIK songs and jingles.

Having spent the past few months trying to get to grips with video myself, I can really appreciate the work that goes into producing the Fruity Knitting Podcast and I hope you’ll enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed being interviewed for it! Also, my friend Jeni Reid appears in the KNITTERS OF THE WORLD segment, with amazing hair and, I think, filmed by the charismatic Leona of Fluph in Dundee. I love their segment and the brief appearance of Jeni’s handspun PINGLEWIN!

Watch the podcast is what I’m saying.

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The Jamieson & Smith Yarn Shades Song

Greetings, comrades!

If you’ve ever been to one of my Quotidian Colourwork classes, you may have noticed that several years of swatching with their flagship 2 ply Jumper Weight yarn range has left the shade numbers somewhat, erm, ingrained in my brain. When I’m swatching and charting designs from everyday inspirations, I confess I begin to see J&S yarn shades everywhere.

I was thinking of that when a series of links on Twitter led me to a phone app* that will “read” any image and give you suggested, related Pantone colours like so:


I love the simple way in which this app presents a palette based on any given image, and it is very close to my own way of seeing the world. However to me the above image reads like 34, 79, 1280, FC17 and 203 with some 77 for those hard black shadows, and perhaps a touch of 23 and FC7…


Today I want to tell you about a video I’ve created for my YouTube channel which celebrates finding J&S Yarn Shade colours in the everyday world and then knitting with them – a concept more deeply expanded in my book, the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook.The song is called the Jamieson & Smith Yarn Shades Song and you can watch it here.

I’m having a busy summer working on several projects that I can’t tell you about just yet; I’ll be back soon with news and sounds and knitting and announcements but, in the meantime, I hope you enjoy my song! If you’re missing the KNITSONIK Podcast, you can hear me and my sounds in several other places, including The Last Outpost produced by Kerry Purcell and Woman’s Hour for which I was interviewed as part of a chain during Listener Week. Some of my work is also on display at the Open Data Institute in London as part of the Data As Culture – Thinking Out Loud exhibition that launched there in July.

For now, I am yours in J&S YARN SHADES and SONGS!!!

*The app I am using is available for free on some Android platforms and is called Pantonera. I cannot advise for other phone models and apps, but there do seem to be lots of both free and paid options for applications that will parse photos into Pantone colour swatches…

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Magnolia Mittsalong – now on YouTube!

Greetings, Comrades!

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s post, the video I’ve been working on most recently is now available to view on YouTube. It documents the process and outcomes of the Magnolia-themed #knitsonikmittsalong that took place this spring.

In the video you can expect to see my gurning face and wildly gesticulating hands, loads of enthusiasm for colours and patterns and shading, and FANTASTIC finished projects such as these glorious mitts, knitted by Sarahhandson.

Beautiful magnolia themed mitts, knit by Sarahhandson
Beautiful magnolia themed mitts, knit by Sarahhandson

About the video…

For the structure of the video, I took on board a comment from turtlebird26 in the KNITSONIK Ravelry group:

“My favourite part is seeing the progression – photo, sketch, and then several iterations of the knitting”.

I looked at the inspiration source for the mitts, then at at our different palettes, patterns and shading sequences. I included some feedback on the amazing mitts and swatches produced for the #KNITSONIKMITTSALONG… The result has turned out far too long at 15:28, but I’ve been working on it for over a week already and did not want to delay its release any further!

I’m still trying to understand what I can leave up to the camera and what I should explain absolutely clearly with words; the explanations and text were cut down with each successive filming and editing session, but it feels to me like I could still improve. Finding the right pace for talking is tricky too; I don’t want to rush too much but is it too slow as is?

Please tell me!

About the sounds in the video…

SONIK buddies may be interested to hear that the video includes a field-recording from the part of Pembrokeshire where I saw and photographed that beautiful Magnolia tree!


I uploaded the sound to my all time favourite collective sound project, the aporee sound maps, and comrade Vincent Duseigne – a fellow user of aporee – informs me that the birds you can hear are as follow;

Carrion crow
Common chiffchaff
Common wood pigeon
More far, a great tit
44s : I think an angry green woodpecker, but it’s quite far
1:16 : blackbird beginning
1:32 : shortly a common chaffinch
1:47 : a very young blackbird
2:00 : great spotted woodpecker
2:21 : wren
3:16 : humans ;-)

I heart the generosity of the global community of recordists who use aporee!!!

Your Thoughts

If you fancy a 15 minute multimedia journey into the microcosm of the Magnolia #knitsonikmittsalong, I’d love to hear your thoughts.



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KNITSONIK YouTube Channel

Greetings, Comrades.

Things have been very quiet around here for two reasons. Firstly, I have been learning new skillz.

For several months I have been quietly researching how to set up my own online school; I’m envisaging a digital palace of ideas where you can study the KNITSONIK System through different tutorials and creative projects, and where I can bring together my passions for knitting stranded colourwork and working with recorded sound.

A major reason for taking the self-publishing route with my book was that it allowed me to maintain creative control of the content, and to include things that a mainstream publisher might not have allowed! (I’m looking at YOU, beaten up EDIROL R-09 and YOU, dirty old tarmac road…)…

EDDIE my affectionately nicknamed EDIROL R-09 digital sound recorder
EDDIE my affectionately nicknamed EDIROL R-09 digital sound recorder

…having investigated different options, I’ve decided to create all the lessons myself using a combination of PDF downloads, new knitting content, and high quality videos. I love teaching, and one of the most important things is being able to respond to, and learn from, students; to me it is essential that I am able to change the format of my online classes if they aren’t working, and to respond instantly and creatively to feedback from students. I’ve therefore decided to use a platform that provides a beautiful structure for lessons, but which will also allow me to present my content however I like. My plan in coming months involves developing content that you can play and replay in your own time and lessons that can be fitted in around busy lives. If you are interested in attending the KNITSONIK school, the best way to keep on top of developments is to sign up to my mailing list.

In the meantime there is much to learn about scripting; lighting; framing; cutting between different types of shots; and presenting to a camera… There are also a language or media questions regarding how much to leave to visuals; how much to leave to sound; how much to say in words; and how much to say with captions.

While I’m finding my way with all these things, YouTube is an amazing place to share my adventures with this medium. Making videos is also an amazing way to celebrate and big-up the projects and work I love. For instance, Estonian Knitting; an amazing tome produced by my friends in Estonia – the Saara Publishing House. I reviewed Estonian Knitting in the first of many FELIX LEARNS VIDEO YouTube releases. At 07:47 it’s a bit on the long side but I hope you enjoy it, and the glimpses it provides of this highly recommended book about Estonian Knitting!

Estonia is just one of several amazing European countries in which I have had the privilege to work. I feel immeasurably enriched by my exposure to Estonian knitting and culture (the same is true of my time in Ireland and Belgium) and my adventures in such places were made possible because of the freedom of movement afforded to me as a proud citizen of the European Union.

The second reason I’ve been quiet is that, like many of my much-loved friends in KNITWERLD, I voted to remain in the EU last Thursday.

Because this was a vote concerning citizenship, the referendum campaigns and results have touched deeply on core issues of identity. For me, being in the European Union was connected broadly with cherished ideals of tolerance, multiculturalism and liberalism. The victory of the LEAVE win feels like a regression to less tolerant, multicultural and liberal times… in short, it feels like the destruction of the values I hold dear.


I have much to say on all this and I shall say it on my other blog which has always been a more personal space.

If you are reading this and are one of my EU buddies, please know that I did not vote to leave.
And please know that if you are a non-UK national living in the UK, KNITSONIK WELCOMES YOU.


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