Those who follow us on Instagram will have seen recent posts about Kitty's visit to Shetland in October. In recent years she has tended to head west to the isle of Lewis and Harris in search of Harris Tweed®, so she was thrilled to finally head north and make this long anticipated trip to see the Shetland Fair Isle story in person.
The Shetland archipelago is located 100 kilometres (62 mi) north of mainland Scotland and is on a the same latitude as Greenland. The capital, Lerwick, is almost as close to Bergen in Norway as it is to Aberdeen and the Norwegian influences are reflected in the Fair Isle knitwear designs. Shetland is made up of over 100 islands, though only 16 of these are inhabited.
Jamiesons of Shetland Wool Mill
First port of call was a visit to the iconic Jamiesons of Shetland family run wool mill in the far west of the island, where we were treated to a fascinating tour from none other than Garry Jamieson himself.
The business was started in the early 1890’s. Set up by Robert Jamieson in Sandness, on the west coast of the Shetland Isles. From his shop, he bought or exchanged for goods, knitwear from the local crofters. The knitted goods were then sold on to meet the public demand for fashionable Shetland hosiery beyond the island’s shores.
Here, locally sourced wool from Shetland sheep living on the island is dyed, carded and spun into a spectrum of gorgeous colours, all the processes happening under one roof.
We have a range of Shetland and Fair Isle knitwear in store made with Jamiesons wool.
Terri Laura and Wilma Malcolmson
Having visited the wool mill we went to find Terri Laura and her grandmother, renowned Shetland knitter Wilma Malcolmson who runs the Shetland Designer store. We worked with Terri and Wilma on our sleeveless slipovers which were made in a gorgeous blend of Burnt Umber and Grouse.
Together Terri and Wilma are working hard to ensure that important skill sets around Shetland's Fair Isle knitting tradition are passed down to the younger generation before they are lost.
We have had many calls with Terri over the past year, so it was exciting to finally meet each other in person. We love this photo of her great grand mother and her sister, pictured here flashing their engagement rings and dressed in their gorgeous Fair Isle knits.
Barbara Gray kindly opened the doors of the Shetland Textiles Museum in Lerwickwhich we highly recommend to anyone wishing to learn more about the history of Fair Isle knitting and weaving. This year their exhibition has celebrated the union of the home based knitting machine and the work of hand knitters. Traditionally made Shetland Fair Isle yoke jumpers are started on the hand frame to create the body and then lifted off the needle bed without casting off to knit the yoke by hand.
The museum is an educational insight into this highly skilled craft which is still so popular and sought after today. We need to do all we can to ensure these special skills are protected and passed down to future generations.
As luck would have it we were treated glorious sunny weather before storm Babet took hold, and subsequently delayed the return to Edinburgh, allowing us another day to explore the island and capture the landscape both on camera and canvas. We managed to walk some distance across the sand towards St Ninian's Isle which was in the lee of the storm, whilst over on the east coast the waves were crashing down onto the shoreline and one could feel the full force of the weather.