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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?
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…
YOURS IN LOVE WITH SHETLAND WOOL WEEK,