Shetland Wool Week is a world renowned celebration of Britain’s most northerly native sheep, the Shetland textile industry and the rural farming community on these islands. Shetland wool is a world class natural fibre, with a long standing reputation for quality, strength and excellence from the fleece to the textile products. Shetland knitwear has a deserved respect gained from many generations of hard working knitters and crofters producing some of the finest lace and Fair Isle knitwear.
Since its conception nine years ago, Shetland Wool Week has grown into an internationally acclaimed event. This year there will be an extensive range of exhibitions, classes and events, which will cover many different subjects. These will include; weaving, spinning, dyeing, Fair Isle and lace knitting as well as many other fascinating subject areas. Events will take place from the most southern tip of the Shetland, right up to the most northerly island of Unst, famous for its beautiful lacework, with many locations in between.
Shetland knitwear designer and hand spinner, Elizabeth Johnston, was the patron Shetland Wool Week 2018.
Elizabeth was a natural choice for the SWW committee and we are honoured to have someone with such a deep textile knowledge. She is an inspiration: running her own small business, transforming Shetland fleeces into beautiful yarn which she then naturally dyes and eventually works into delicate hand knitted items.
Elizabeth has a life-time of knowledge about Shetland wool, learned from those who came before and honed through practice. Centuries of Shetland textile craft come together in her work: sheep-rearing, wool processing, dyeing, spinning, knitting, weaving. Perhaps more importantly, she is passing on her skills and knowledge to others through practice-based teaching, just as Shetlanders have always done.
Elizabeth said: “I am a Shetlander, and like many others who grew up in the islands, have knitted from childhood. For us knitting was something we did. Learning to knit Fair Isle and lace garments was a matter of course – and with no printed patterns. Without realising it, girls, and some boys, were learning professional knitting skills, knitwear design and colour theory, and as wool week participants you can learn some of those skills in the many classes and events during the week.
“Buying a spinning wheel in 1978, changed my focus from knitting to spinning… and spinning becomes an addiction. Life slowly changed to include spinning as well as knitting, and also teaching these skills, and eventually I started my business, Shetland Handspun. It has taken me to many places, meeting many wonderful people along the way, but my home will always be Shetland.
“I am honoured to be this year’s SWW patron. I have been actively involved in Shetland Wool Week for some time, running classes for the last five years with Niela Kalra at Hoswick. I love the buzz of the event, so being this year’s patron will only add to my overall enjoyment.”