That festive feeling …

Winter is officially here. We’ve been battered with seemingly relentless wind and rain for the last few weeks, as if the weather gods are saying slow down and cosy in.

On the days when we have ventured out the island is looking beautiful; both in terms of its natural scenery as well the festive sparkling lights adorning homes, fishing boats and offices which give a magical cheery light to the short, dark days.

‘Da Street’ comes into its own too during the festive season, the Christmas tree, gifted to us each year from Norway to commemorate the Shetland Bus operation taking pride of place at the Market Cross. The shops pull out all the stops too. This year Jamieson’s of Shetland window display features inspired hand-knitted baubles which have been sent in from people from all over the world, and eventually they will be sold off with all money raised going to Shetland’s MRI Scanner Appeal.

Staying in though has given us a chance to look back and reflect on what has been an amazing, busy and sociable year as we celebrated our tenth Shetland Wool Week.

We welcomed over 1000 people to the festival from near and far and, as always, were touched by the support for our fibre community, with people travelling across oceans to be here, to learn and share skills, make friendships, and lasting memories.

We had an inkling that this was going to be our biggest Wool Week yet, which is why so many people in Shetland rose to the challenge to put on our broadest range of events ever.

There are too many highlights to mention, so we will share some images here with more on the blog.

We were honoured that HRH Duke of Rothesay wrote the forward to our SWW Annual Volume 5 as well as recording us a special video message which we shared at the ‘Welcome’ in his capacity as Patron of Campaign for Wool. Shetland Wool Week is a result of the CfW initiative and we’re delighted that we have been able to grow and develop over the years.

Most of our previous patrons were able to join us for the week too, which provided a rare photo opportunity at the SWW Welcome, as well as a chance to see them in ‘their’ SWW hats again!


Huge thanks to this year’s patron Oliver Henry, the man behind the Roadside Beanie too. It was the first time that we didn’t choose a ‘knitter’ as patron, but it made absolute sense to us to bring the event back to its roots: Shetland sheep. ‘Ooie Ollie’, as is his social media moniker, has gone above and beyond in his duties, sharing his knowledge, countless stories, expertise, and thoughts and ideas on the Shetland wool industry. He gave talks, workshops, and interviews throughout the week to the point where he was practically voiceless. Oliver, we salute and thank you!

Please do follow his blog and Instagram which will most certainly give you your Shetland sheep fix.

As those who have attended Wool Week in the past know, it can be tricky to get your first choice in classes, as typically they and the venues are small. But sometimes it’s the best laid plans that have a way of working out well, and the feedback suggests that people benefited from a varied programme, travelling all over the islands to experience a mix of classes, open studios, tours, talks and drop ins.

We were delighted that the trips to the islands of Foula and Fair Isle all went ahead, creating last memories to those and have made lasting memories. Some lovely feedback from the Foula trip: “Outstanding, highlight of the week!” and “Don’t change anything about this wonderful opportunity!”

There were croft tours all day every day – taking people all over the islands – to see stunning locations, meet crofters, sheep dogs and the hardy Shetland Sheep that make it all possible.

Classes encompassed all manner of subjects from Fair Isle knitting, to spinning, steeking, lace, dye, weaving and so much more. We’re always keen to evolve and are grateful to our tutors for coming forward with new ideas – such as Helen Robertson’s ‘Gunnister Man’s Gravit’ class or Deborah’s Gray’s extremely popular and intriguingly titled ‘Knitted Secrets, Illusions and Code’ workshop. The art of Japanese origami in the form of knitting a furoshiki bag in Shetland wool was also a first time for us with tutor Chihiro Sato.

The Makers’ Market was a highlight for all – with a wide choice of stalls as well as the ShetlandPeerieMakkers group who were there demonstrating their skills throughout the day. Many wonder why we only host this once at the end of the week and the answer is purely because most of the makers are also SWW tutors so are extremely pushed for time.

The ‘Hub’ located at the Shetland Museum and Archives was buzzing, always busy it was a cosy space for everyone to get on with their projects or ask questions, and at other times it was bustling with visiting musicians. We were delighted to host and support the MRI Makkers who came up with genius ‘Harriet’s Hat’ pattern. Amanda Souter of Island Holistics was also there offering relaxing reflexology and hand massage – with all proceeds also going to the Shetland MRI Scanner Appeal.

There was an amazing silent auction of scarves too – thanks to Faye Hackers of Shetland College UHI,  who knitted up scarves inspired by ideas of various SWW supporters in the community.

We had talks throughout the week including from author Esther Rutter who spoke about her new book ’The Golden Fleece’ which gives a literary ‘journey’ through Britain’s knitted history, including an insightful chapter on ‘Haps, Shawls and New Arrivals’ in Shetland.

We launched our first #swwfairislefriday, and it was wonderful to see locals and visitors decked out in their finest Fair Isle knitwear.

We were even joined at Hay’s Dock by two Shetland ponies who squeezed themselves into their ganseys, again, all in aid of charity.

There were evening events aplenty with film and meal nights, quizzes, talks, ‘sprees’ (dances), and drop in maakin and yakkin or spinning groups, open studios… the list goes on.

Local community halls pushed the boat out, throwing open their doors with music, demonstrations, sales table, markets and our famous Shetland teas.

One social media user summed up her experience of SWW visit by saying:

“This has been a wondrous trip … I have loved every moment of being here. The nicest group of people I have ever met, live right here. Your hard work, dedication to fibre arts and hosting the event are superb.”

Shetland Wool Week Annual
The Shetland Wool Week Annual Volume 5 has also been enthusiastically received. The 16 patterns were outstanding and captured the essence of Shetland Wool Week, all inspired by the scenery, the heritage and culture of the islands. Already we see that some of you have completed garments. Please do continue to share these with us or upload them to instagram using #shetlandwoolweekannual2019.

He’s back  …
It’s not woolly news, but we were thrilled to hear that BBC drama Shetland and  DI Perez will be returning to our screens for two more series. The film crew and cast will be up in Shetland for the next two summers, so if you happen to be here at the same time, who knows who you may be sharing a café with?

Amidst the murders, the scenery and mysterious plots we’re hoping that there will be more woolly designs modelled by the cast. We’ll let you know!
In the meantime you can find out about the real Shetland, the show’s locations, the books by Ann Cleeves and more.

Shetland fine lace knitting
The latest blog on the Lace Assessment Project looks at blouses made in Shetland fine lace knitting.  They were popular in the 1920s and 1930s, a feminine yet bold garment for the time.  If you thought Shetland fine lace was all about shawls and stoles, you will be pleasantly surprised!  These newly donated objects to Shetland Museum’s collection rival any of their knitted lace for pattern design and fineness of spinning.

Fruity Knitting video podcasters Andrea and Andrew joined us during SWW where they interviewed several people, including Shetland museum textiles curator Dr Carol Christiansen and also Helen Robertson, with an episode on Shetland Lace. You can view it here (episode 89), as well as link to their other Shetland-related posts.

My Winter Warmer
And finally, as we head towards the shortest day of the year, we couldn’t miss the opportunity talk more about woolly winter wonders.

We thought it would be interesting to catch up with various Shetland wool lovers and ask them what items comes out of hibernation that they return to year on year to keep them snug throughout the season.

Oliver Henry, SWW Patron and Man of Wool
My item of choice is my Roadside Allover which Sandra Manson designed and made for me earlier this year. It reminds me of the jumpers worn by Burra and Whalsay fishermen – my ancestors. It also reminds me of this year as patron as it was worn during EYF and SWW 2019. It may be a familiar sight to many of you.

Anne Eunson, lace knitter and tutor
This was a knitting project a few years back; it’s a design from Outi Kater which I adapted slightly. Knitted in Shetland yarn makes it the perfect cosy jumper for a cold winter’s day.

Donna Smith, Shetland knitwear designer and tutor
I have always loved scarves and shawls. I have several drawers full of them and very seldom go out without one. I feel if my neck is warm and I can stop the draughts blowing down my neck the rest of me is cosy. During the summer I tend to wear lighter scarves made of linen or cotton and as it get colder I reach for the woolier, larger ones. I have been wearing my Brough shawl a lot this winter: it is large, cosy shawl I designed last year and is knitted with my Langsoond yarn, a Shetland yarn in a double knit weight that is cosy but light to wear. It is an excellent defence to the bitter Shetland winds and I have also been known to wear it inside, draped over my shoulders on a particularly cold day.

Janette Budge, Shetland knitwear designer and tutor
The inspiration for my winter warmer was to knit the ultimate warm winter hat to keep my head and, particularly my ears, warm on a wild and windy Shetland winter’s day.  It needed to be longer than my other hats to be able to tuck my curls into, with a double layer to keep my ears warm and not have a draught blow through in stormy weather.

Using what yarn I had I reached for Jamieson’s of Shetland DK.  In typical Shetland fashion, as I ran out of one colour I adapted the design to accommodate the new colour changes and added a bit of Fair Isle for my own knitting interest. It’s in muted colours of grey, which is not something I’m known for! The crown has a form of twinned knitting to make it a denser, warmer knit that holds its structure well.  Is it the ultimate Shetland hat?  Only time will tell but it’s working well for me so far!

Chris Dyer, Garths Croft, Bressay
A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine, Elizabeth Edwards, gave me a call and asked if I could come and shear her small flock of Shetland sheep at Gunnista, at the north end of Bressay, looking out across the sea towards Whalsay and Nesting. I took my shearing equipment one Sunday morning in July and, in a few hours, had a bag of rolled fleeces ready for the Wool Brokers. Everything was packed back in the vehicle, ready for departure, when Elizabeth suggested a cup of coffee – always an excellent idea! As we sat around the kitchen table, she suggested a hand knitted Fair Isle jumper as a token of thanks for the shearing. What kindness! Elizabeth and I had great fun designing the jumper; the vertical patterning and selection of natural colours. It’s my favourite Winter Knit although I enjoy wearing the garment during Shetland Wool Week too, and telling the tale of friendship, community and wool to those visiting Garths Croft, Bressay.

Andy Ross, weaver, classical singer and owner of GlobalYell Textiles
This is my favourite jumper. I trained as a classical singer and when I moved up to Yell I commissioned this from Shetland Collection designer, Doreen Brown. That was way back in the very early 2000s. It always attracts attention whenever it goes on an outing!

Hazel Tindall, Shetland knitwear designer and tutor
This jumper was knitted about 25 years ago from a mail order company’s sale. The colour was not my choice, dyeing didn’t work and no-one else in the family would wear the colour. Using my favourite go-to knitting book A Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara G. Walker, I designed and knitted the jumper for myself, and it still fits – but that’s maybe due to the flexibility of the ribbing! I take it out each winter to brighten the dark days. Once the days lengthen again it’s washed and stored for another year.

Terri Laura, Shetland knitwear designer and tutor
My winter warmer is definitely my Moss Cardigan. From September to March it lives on the back of a chair rather than being properly put away. You may even have seen me with it over Wool Week when the days started to get colder. It’s perfect for around the house as well as going out. I love the oversized fit, meaning it can be one of many layers at this time of year. It was also the first cardigan I ever made, with Granny Wilma and Irene’s help, in the Shetland Designer workshop where I sat at my machine and put it together. The excitement when that last button was sewn on is such a great memory for me, I threw the cardigan on right away and even now it’s never too far away.

Carol Christiansen, curator of textiles at Shetland Museum and Archives, spinner, dyer, knitter and fibre lover
I find myself migrating close to my shawls at this time of year. I like a triangular shawl and Donna Smith’s Houlland design from Kate Davies’ Book of Haps was ideal. I took the project on a hiking holiday in Germany and realised I had only packed the pages of the pattern I had already completed!  I quickly messaged my friend Deborah, who had knitted another shawl from Kate’s book, and within minutes I had the pages I needed. At the Estonian Craft Fair in Tallinn a few weeks ago, I bought a hand-forged copper brooch from a local silversmith, who was learning the craft from her father. It goes beautifully with the Jamieson of Shetland’s Spindrift in Peacock, a colour I can’t seem to live without.


And on that note, we would like to wish you all good will and seasonal cheer and we look forward to sharing our plans for 2020 with you in the New Year.

Best wishes from the SWW Team.