Thursday, March 23, 2017
Here’s our woolly round up of Edinburgh Yarn Festival.
Anyone who has a love of yarn and textiles probably has a big red circle marked in their diary around the beginning of March – to highlight Edinburgh Yarn Festival – one of the biggest urban knitting festivals in the UK.
It’s a big deal, attracting some 5000 visitors to the two-day market place, which is packed with vendors and knitwear designers from all over the world. It’s also a key event for the Shetland Wool Week committee, as this is where we promote our own event and announce the new guest patron for the year together with the launch of the official hat.
EYF is a brilliant place to meet like-minded, yarn and knitting obsessed people from all over the world. It’s impossible to leave without buying (another) stash of wool, a handful of buttons, a pattern or two.. and be inspired by the conversation and endless garments that vendors and visitors are wearing.
Before the event had even kicked off at Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange there was already quite a buzz, with people wondering who would be stepping into Ella Gordon’s shoes. All was eventually revealed via SWW’s popular social media streams where we were delighted to announce Shetland-born knitwear designer, Gudrun Johnston, as this year’s patron. The official hat, the slouchy-style ‘Bousta Beanie’, designed by Gudrun, was also launched.
Within minutes of the doors opening we had a steady stream of people wanting to meet with Gudrun, ask questions and take a copy of the free knitting pattern. The hat uses a variety of stunning colourways in Shetland yarns by Jamieson & Smith, Jamieson’s of Shetland and Uradale Yarns.
It was also clear from people’s comments that enthusiasm and interest for SWW continues to grow, with many people prepared to travel long distances to visit the islands.
For some, it is very much on the ‘bucket list’. We loved meeting you all and answering your questions. It was also great to see SWW patrons past and present at the stand (Gudrun Johnston, Donna Smith and Ella Gordon).
This year there was a strong Shetland contingent with impressive stands from Jamieson’s of Sandness, Uradale Farm, and Shetland Handspun.
The patron is an integral part of Wool Week and generates a lot of international interest. Gudrun Johnston is an enthusiastic ambassador for Shetland’s textile industry, so she was a natural choice for the SWW committee.
Gudrun was in high demand throughout the event and did a live podcast with Blacker Yarns. A frequent visitor to Shetland, she has attended every Wool Week since it started in 2010. Many of her designs feature Shetland patterns and yarns, and her Wool Week, Bousta Beanie hat design was inspired by the ever-changing shades of the Shetland landscape. She wanted to reflect this in a simple Fair Isle pattern that floats between one background colour and two contrasting colours. The beauty of this approach is that it creates endless possibilities for colour combinations. In fact, Gudrun surprised us on the day by arriving with a fourth suggested colourway, which uses softer shades of blue. Her gorgeous combination uses J&S 2-ply jumper weight, Shade 2; FC 39MIX; FC34MIX.
It was heartening to see such interest for SWW and the hat pattern at Edinburgh – we’ve been following everyone’s progress on social media. We look forward to seeing more of your work– please do share pictures with us by hash tagging #boustabeanie or #shetlandwoolweek2017 !
Friday, March 10, 2017
We have some very exciting news – the official Shetland Wool Week 2017 hat pattern is being launched today at Edinburgh Yarn Festival.
We’re also thrilled to announce that the SWW 2017 patron is one of our favourite knitwear designers, Gudrun Johnston – and she has designed this year’s official hat pattern. Inspired by the myriad shades of Shetland’s landscape, Gudrun has named her wonderful slouchy style hat the Bousta Beanie.
The pattern is available to download now and printed copies are available for those who are attending the festival. We’ll be at stand M8 together with Gudrun, so we look forward to seeing you there!
Knit the hat in any of the suggested colours or choose your own variations and wear it to Shetland Wool Week 2017. Remember to share your pictures with us using #boustabeanie or #shetlandwoolweek2017, we can’t wait to see your creations.
Knitwear designer Gudrun Johnston will be the guest patron for this year’s eighth Shetland Wool Week. She was a popular choice for the festival’s committee and we’re delighted to have her on board.
Gudrun’s Shetland lineage runs deep. She was born in Levenwick, Shetland in the 1970s and her grandparents were from Skerries and the Ness. Now based in America, Gudrun has successfully relaunched the Shetland Trader, a design company, first began by her mother, Patricia Johnston.
A regular visitor to Shetland, Gudrun has attended every Wool Week since it started. Many of her designs feature Shetland patterns and yarns, and she is inspired by the myriad shades of colour that can be seen throughout the islands’ landscape.
Through her designs, publications and teaching she has been able to share Shetland’s rich heritage with a broad international audience.
To find out more about Gudrun visit her website.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
‘Taak dy sock’ was an expression Donna Smith was familiar with whilst growing up. Here she discusses the origins of some ‘knitting’ words in the Shetland dialect and how they are still very much in use today.
Those of you who have attended classes or events at Shetland Wool Week and are not familiar with the Shetland dialect might notice that there are many different words we use in Shetland and interestingly many of them involve knitting. Often for a local teacher, it can be tricky to try to ‘translate’ the words or words to be used, particularly when nervous (I am speaking from experience here!).
Many of the words and terminology used to generally speak about knitting are dialect words, for example, we speak about laying up loops (casting on stitches), wires (needles), wirsit (wool yarn), dressing (blocking), we call our knitting “makkin” and the the verb “knit” is “mak”.
The origin of the Shetland dialect, as any language is, is complicated and defined by the history of the place, its ownership, and the people living in and visiting the islands, amongst other things. The Shetland dialect is largely a mixture of English, Lowland Scots and Norn, which is a variation of Scandinavian languages. Norn is now extinct but used to be spoken in Shetland from around the 9th century until it eventually was largely superseded by the Scots language in the 18th century and became no longer a distinct language.
A large number of distinct words are still found within the Shetland dialect today, many of the words are used to describe things that were a large part of day-to-day life such as the weather, crofting, fishing and knitting. For example according to Jakob Jakobsen, who extensively studied the Norn language and in turn compiled the Etymological Dictionary of the Norn Language in Shetland in the 19th Century, the word “makkin”, the Shetland dialect word for knitting, comes from the Norn verb “makk” a which is defined by Jakobsen as “to knit woollen yarn”.
Other common words you might hear Shetlanders use include:
Sprett = to rip back or the newly coined term “frog”, this comes from the old Norse “spretta”, and in Shetland dialect the unravelled yarn is the “uppspretta”
Geng = row or rows
Sweerie geng = the first row in knitting. This is often thought to be the most difficult one and so it is best to complete it in one go, otherwise it would be a long time before the garment is finished.
Riggies = Garter stitch rows
Interestingly, many dialect words are only used in certain places within Shetland, and I still often hear words I have never come across, many by the older generation. I love finding new words but I often have trouble remembering them; I must learn to write them down! A collection of words were made before Shetland Wool Week last year and printed inside the notebooks that were for sale. I hadn’t actually come across many of those words so it’s really important to compile them and write them down while we can. Like the knitting heritage, the dialect is something we need to make sure we preserve.
A phrase I used to hear my Granny say to us was “Taak dy sock and hadd dee oot a lenger” which was an invitation to come along with your knitting, basically it means take your knitting to prevent boredom. So, if you have your knitting you won’t get bored – sounds right to me!
You can read more about the history of the Shetland dialect in John Graham’s essay on the Shetland dialect website
Friday, January 20, 2017
Shetland Wool Week and its patron Ella Gordon have just returned from a packed few days in New York where they and Ella’s ‘Crofthoose hat’ hit the North American market at the popular Vogue Knitting Live show.
We escaped the storms in Shetland and arrived in NYC, home to 8.5 million people, where we were met by a world of contrasts, noise and colour.
This is the second year we have attended the event – which is one of the biggest dates in the knitting and yarn calendar on the East Coast, attracting around 8,000 visitors. It took place in Times Square, a somewhat incongruous setting, and, over three days, knitting aficionados indulged their passion for yarn with thousands of like-minded people, bought endless quantities of wool from stall holders, attended classes, listened to talks and watched fashion shows. It was also a wonderful opportunity for visitors to wear their beautiful hand-knitted creations and there were many moments spent admiring and sharing compliments.
Our Shetland Wool Week stand attracted a lot of attention and it was so encouraging to be met with such enthusiasm. People seemed genuinely delighted that we had made a return visit and it was a wonderful chance for us to talk about our favourite things: Shetland’s textile industry and heritage, the yarn, the islands, as well as answer any technical questions. We also loved meeting old friends and making new ones too.
We had taken samples of the different crofthoose colour ways – from Shetland Organics, Jamieson’s, J&S, and Spindrift Crafts – among other Shetland samples. People appreciated the chance to be able to touch and feel the yarn and admired the different colours, especially the natural dyes from Spindrift.
Ella was in her element as she met and chatted with her blog and instagram followers. Many were familiar with her hat design and had already knitted it, while others were keen to take the free pattern and give it a try. There were lots of questions about two colour knitting, which maybe need to be addressed. We feel another tutorial coming on …
Yarn art is a key component of the event and there were some fantastic pieces on display, but the highlight surely had to be the magnificent depiction of Claude Monet’s iconic ‘Woman with a Parasol’. Produced in Europe by Citémôme it is the result of 100,000 knitted squares. It really was a masterpiece and made a dramatic backdrop to the non-stop fashion shows which took place.
Outside of the event, we gradually started getting the hang of Manhattan’s grid plan. Seeing iconic buildings such as the wonderful 22 storey, triangular Flatiron which was built in 1902 was one to tick off the bucket list. Walking the High Line, a converted train track, and now an urban walkway with incredible views and public art was another highlight. We loved soaking up the culture and found the architecture, food, textures and colours an endless source of inspiration.
Thank you for having us NYC. We hope to be back and also see many of you at Shetland Wool Week soon.
Monday, January 16, 2017
A new year can only mean one thing … new projects.. We asked some of our Shetland Wool Week tutors what they’ve got lined up this year and what they’re looking forward to. Read More
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Shetland Museum curator, Carol Christiansen, tells us about about a recent donation to the museum which hails back to the oil boom days of the 1970s.
Parcels of knitting sometimes arrive at my desk from people who wish to see it returned to Shetland. A small pair of mittens, in very Christmassy colours, appeared a few weeks ago from Hampshire. They were donated by Brenda Dawtry, in memory of her late husband Neil, who passed away earlier in the year. Their story is set in a time of great change for Shetland.
In the 1970s a huge terminal for North Sea oil extraction was built at Sullom Voe, in the north part of the main island. Oil and gas development has transformed the islands, greatly increasing the standard of living and attracting workers from around the world, including Neil Dawtry, who worked as an electrical engineer. On his days off he explored the islands and during one of his excursions he met the Nicolsons of Brunga House, Northmavine parish. They were an elderly couple who had raised a family of four on a small croft. As a crofting wife, Kirsty Nicolson (1898-1985) knit her whole life, and sometimes demonstrated spinning to tourists at the St. Magnus Hotel in Hillswick. On the back of Mrs Nicolson’s calling card Neil wrote ‘Mr and Mrs Nicolson bred their own sheep, sheared them, spun and dyed the wool, knitted it up. I bought her last pair of mittens. Mrs Nicolson’s sight failed. 1979’.
The mittens are in fawn wool with green, white and yellow diamond fair isle pattern stripes, bordered by a red and white small pattern. The left mitten has a central band of turquoise in the fair isle diamond motif, whereas the right mitten has a slightly lighter green colour. Perhaps this colour difference was due to Mrs Nicolson’s failing eyesight at age 81. She told Neil that she had spun, dyed and knit the mittens from her own wool, and had completed them in one day! However, the mittens are not made from hand-spun, hand-dyed wool, but rather typical Shetland jumper weight machine-made yarns. No doubt there was some embellishment about the making of the mittens in hopes he would buy them, which he duly did for his then future wife, Brenda. We are grateful to Brenda for her kind donation.
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Donna Smith meets regularly with a group of young knitters from the Anderson High School. Here she explains how the group came about and what they’ve been up to.
Every Thursday at lunchtime during school term, a group of youngsters meet in one of the biology classrooms at the Anderson High School in Lerwick to knit. The group consists of pupils, ranging from 12 to 18 years old, and school staff, and attracts a range of individuals from those who have never knitted before to those who have been knitting for several years and are expertly designing and knitting their own Fair isle garments. This group is known as the Anderson High School Maakin and Yakkin (knitting and talking) group.
Over the past few weeks the group have been busy knitting garter stitch triangles (this has helped them practise casting on and decreasing) which were then transformed into Christmas cards to raise money for the school funds during a mass production line over a couple of lunchtimes. Last Saturday I spent a very enjoyable morning at AHS Christmas Coffee Morning helping out at the Maakin and Yaakin stand and needless to say, the cards featuring the hand knitted trees proved to be very popular. Pupils and staff also gathered in the ‘Knitters Neuk’ to spend time knitting and were joined by many members of the public who had come for their morning coffee and to browse the many stands in the school hall.
The lunchtime Maakin and Yakkin sessions were started in February 2013 by biology teacher, Caroline Simpson, a keen knitter who thought that it would be a good way to bring pupils and teachers together with a common interest, while introducing knitting to those who were less experienced. I work as a science technician at the Anderson High School and go along to the group whenever I can. It is so good to see so many youngsters knitting and it is really good to see someone progress from never having knitted a stitch before to knitting Fair Isle.
The group is part of the Peerie Makkers scheme, a two-year pilot scheme that encourages and enables skilled volunteers to teach traditional knitting methods to pupils in several schools around Shetland. When I was in Primary school, we all got knitting lessons, but several years ago these classes were stopped due to lack of funding. I remember at the time being horrified that this had happened and even wrote a letter to one of the local councillors, something that is not usually in my nature! However, through the Peerie Makkers scheme, and the enthusiasm of several volunteers things are definitely looking up and we are seeing pupils attending these knitting sessions because they want to rather than because they have to which can only be a positive thing. We are even hearing stories of the pupils getting their mothers interested in knitting which is fantastic!
The Anderson High School Maakin and Yakkin group have been involved in several things and projects and have attended other knitting events and groups. In 2013 they made hats and tunics for babies in Malawi in conjunction with UNICEF, they have attended several events at Shetland Wool Week and this year several of the group members modelled their own work at the fashion show during the opening ceremony at the Clickimin Centre. I am very sure these are the people to look out for during future Wool Weeks!
You can read more about the Maakin and Yakkin group on their new blog.
You can read more about the Peerie Maakers here
Thursday, November 24, 2016
We’ve just attended our first ever Shetland Arts & Crafts Fair which took place over the weekend in Lerwick. It was so good to chat to novice and experienced knitters, or those purely interested in Shetland’s wool and textile heritage. Shetland Wool Week really does have a diverse following! And, we’ll be hitting the road again in the New Year, so here are some dates for your diaries.
Having attended this very busy show last year, where we had such an incredible response and made so many contacts, we knew that we needed to exhibit again at VOGUEknitting Live textile and craft show New York, 13 – 15 January.
We’ll be taking a stand and will be on hand to answer any questions, give details on SWW 2017 and chat about all things Shetland wool and knitting.
Take the opportunity to meet our SWW 2016 patron and knitwear designer, Ella Gordon and find out the inspiration behind the popular Crofthoose hat pattern. Also attending will be Dr Carol Christiansen, who is in charge of Shetland Museum’s Textiles Collection, a recognised Collection of National Significance in Scotland. Carol has extensive knowledge of historical and archaeological textiles in Shetland and the Nordic countries.
If you’re planning a trip to the show, please come and visit us. We’d love to see you there.
A must-have date for the diary is the popular international Yarn Festival in Edinburgh from 10 – 11 March.
As well as taking a stand, we’ll be launching the official Shetland Wool Week 2017 hat pattern and also announcing this year’s patron.
Printed copies of the pattern will be available too!
Hope to see you there!
Monday, November 14, 2016
Here is our round up of Shetland Wool Week 2016
The seventh annual Shetland Wool Week was the biggest and busiest one yet! From the most northerly to the most southerly islands of the Shetland archipelago, participants indulged in wool-related workshops, drop-in sessions, talks, demonstrations, studio visits and our famous Sunday teas. Over 160 different events were offered, many with repeat sessions.
Many of Shetland’s most experienced makers, designers, and textile specialists participate each year by presenting courses and other events. For 2016 the programme had grown considerably large and varied covering everything from spinning, dyeing, many types of knitting, and weaving to making accessories for wool-working such as shawl pins, silver buttons and baskets.
The Opening Ceremony was a wonderful way to kick off the nine-day festival and guests were given a snapshot of Shetland culture throughout the evening.
The Lerwick Jarl Squad put in a surprise appearance, and there were delicious canapes to try, using only Shetland produce and ingredients, as well as some painstakingly made, and very woolly inspired, cupcakes. There was music and talks and, for the first time, a Fashion Show, curated by Faye Hackers of Shetland College UHI. It was an eclectic display and showcased a variety of wonderful pieces from delicate handspun lace to Fair Isle jumpers and a dramatic Shetland tweed cloak. Keen that no one should miss out, the event was streamed live via facebook which meant that people all over the world could experience the evening.
With so many classes and events taking place throughout the week it’s impossible to capture everything, but here is a snapshot of pictures and words:
The tours to the outer isles of Whalsay, Fair Isle, Yell and Unst were incredibly popular and sold out quickly. People especially appreciated the warm welcome they received and the chance to meet and chat with islanders and find out more about their particular textile traditions. One participant commented on facebook, “The pride everyone has in Whalsay was evident which added so much to the day.”
Fair Isle trip – a first for 2016, a lucky group of six ventured to this gem of an island to meet with Mati Ventrillon. Blessed with beautiful blue skies, the six took the short plane journey and began their full day tour, which focused on island life and knitting.
There was a guided tour to the South Lighthouse, and the Fair Isle Museum, as well as open studios and talks with Mati Ventrillon and Hollie Shaw. A delicious home cooked lunch at the Aauld Haa Gueshouse, followed by a trip to the impressive Fair Isle Observatory and Lodge rounded off a perfect day, and will remain a favourite for many.
Joanna Hunter’s Havera island trip went ahead in a slightly different format due to bad weather, but everyone still had the chance to view knitwear made by its inhabitants back at Joanna’s home.
Joanna Hunter and Donna Smith’s moodboard classes, always an inspiration, went down well. Joanna commented: “What an amazing wool week, meeting so many creative and exciting people, making new friends from all around the world. Everyone who attended our classes was so enthusiastic and the work they created was fantastic. I can’t wait till next year to see who comes through the studio door.”
Experienced wire lace knitter Helen Robertson, held ‘Light up your lace’ lampshade classes, which proved to be very successful, with many commenting on her wonderful teaching skills and calm approach. Participants left the class with a totally completed project.
Natural dyeing workshops were available this year too, with Julia Billings exploring the essential steps involved in transferring the colour found in plants onto fibres.
Shetland’s textiles and textile-making traditions are the focus each year but we also aim to bring different traditions into the mix by inviting foreign specialists. This year Estonian knitwear designer and researcher Kristi Jõeste joined us. She taught several classes in her speciality, Estonian glove-making, and one of her patterns was included in the Shetland Wool Week Annual. Along with Shetland knitwear designer and Finnish native Outi Kater, Kristi discussed her research and designs at our Baltic Night evening lecture.
The popular Makers’ Market is an opportunity for local wool producers and makers to show and sell their wares during this nine-day event. It went down a storm with people keen to snap up a unique wool item. This year exhibitors featured yarn made from wool of Shetland’s two most remote islands communities, Foula and Fair Isle. Students from Shetland College’s Textile Department sold knitwear they designed and made in their courses and Shetland Handspun designer and maker Elizabeth Johnston made available her gorgeous hand-spun yarns in Shetland wool, coloured with natural dyes.
Talks were a great way for people to meet up in the evening and mainly took place at the Shetland Museum and Archives. Again, they were mostly all at full capacity, with Baltic Knitting Night; and SWW Patron Ella Gordon’s ‘Being a Knitter in Shetland’ especially drawing in the crowds.
This year the Shetland Wool Week Committee introduced a new online booking system using Little Box Office. This made registering for events easier, as tickets could be printed by the participant or simply shown on their phone, and allowed vendors to check participant numbers as events filled.
This year’s HUB also enjoyed a change, and had moved from Islesburgh to the first-class location of the Shetland Museum and Archives. Here woolly participants could meet up with friends old and new, and enjoy a cuppa with their maakin. There were also many knitted donations throughout the week to the popular Shetland With Love charity.
Shetland was blessed with ‘Indian Summer’ weather on most days but participants also got a taste of our wild and windy autumn weather. Even Da Mirrie Dancers, the aurora borealis, made appearances on several clear nights – truly a magical nine days.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Well, we’ve had a chance to recover from what was our biggest Shetland Wool Week yet! It was an amazing festival – packed with hundreds of classes, talks and tours, all celebrating Shetland’s fantastic textile heritage and crofting community.
Now in its seventh year, our participant numbers have doubled – with almost 600 attending. As always, we are humbled by how far people will travel to join us. This year we welcomed visitors from all corners of the world from Norwich to New Zealand to Denmark and California.
We’ll be circulating a round up shortly with highlights and photos of the event. In the meantime, we would appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to complete our short survey to help us with our planning for 2017. As ever, we are keen to make improvements and ensure that the event stays fresh and relevant, so your feedback is important to us. As a thank you, you’ll be entered into a free prize draw where you will have the chance to win an annual subscription to our 60North publication. The prize draw will close on 7th November 2016.
2017 dates announced
Looking ahead to next year we are pleased to announce that Shetland Wool Week 2017 will take place from the 23rd September until 1st October 2017. Planning is now underway and we can promise you that 2017 is set to be another unforgettable year!
We hope you enjoyed SWW 2016 and thank you for your continued support.