Shetland Visit Part 2

Shetland Visit Part 2

We know how much our customers love the traditional Shetland Fair Isle designs and as there are only a finite number of sheep living on the island, the output of authentic Shetland knitwear is ultimately limited!  We were delighted therefore that  as a result of this visit we have added to our Fair Isle range in store.  The colourful headband and fingerless gloves shown here are made by Shetland knitter Alma Stove with wool from Jamiesons of Shetland mill which we mentioned in part 1 of our Shetland blog. Check out our new Shetland range of knitwear accessories and sweaters here 

Fair Isle Gloves

Fair Isle Headband

 Meeting with Hazel Tindall, the Fastest Knitter in the World...

Hazel grew up in Shetland where she was surrounded by knitters who needed to knit quickly and accurately in order to gain an income. There were three generations of knitters in her family home - my grandmother, mother, aunt and older sister. She says "One of my earliest memories is being sent outside to check if I could see my 80 year old grandmother who was carrying a kishie of peat on her back and knitting as she walked up the hillside."

Hazel has been knitting Shetland Fair Isle for longer than 60 years now and has developed an efficient technique which has earned her the title of "Fastest Knitter in the World!" by knitting 255 stitches in 3 minutes!  Kitty was lucky enough to film her knitting in action. See our instagram video of Hazel, knitting needles in hand, which has now had over 2.5 million views!  

Hazel Tindall


The History of Shetland Fair Isle Knitting

Hazel has designed many knitting patters and written at length about the history of Fair Isle Knitting. We have included an extract from her website here:

Traditional Shetland Fair Isle knitting has a rich history and become synonymous with the Shetland Islands where Shetland wool is highly prized for its softness and warmth.

"The origins of Shetland Fair Isle knitting can be traced back to the late 19th century, when a group of women in the Shetland Islands began to experiment with new knitting techniques. Shetland knitters wanted to create new designs that would showcase the unique qualities of the wool and began to incorporate multiple colours into their knitting, using a technique known as stranded knitting, where background and pattern colours are skilfully blended, usually using just two colours in a row/round. Very rarely, three colours are used. This created a distinctive woven effect, which would become a hallmark of Shetland Fair Isle knitting.

At first, the patterns were simple and geometric, but as the technique evolved, the designs became more intricate and varied. The women of Shetland began to create sweaters, hats, and gloves featuring designs inspired by the natural world, such as stars, flowers, birds, and sea creatures.

As Shetland Fair Isle knitting gained popularity, it became a thriving cottage industry in the Shetland Islands. Knitters, mostly women, would sell their knitted items to local shops and visitors, and the intricate designs and high quality of the wool made these items highly sought after.

Fair Isle Knitting Patterns on display at Wilma Malcomson Shop

In the early 20th century, the popularity of Shetland Fair Isle knitting spread beyond the islands. In 1921, a collection of Shetland Fair Isle garments was exhibited at the British Industries Fair, where they were seen by fashion designers and buyers from around the world. In the 1930s, the fashion industry embraced the style, with designers such as Coco Chanel and Jean Patou creating their own interpretations of the traditional Shetland Fair Isle patterns.

Today, Shetland Fair Isle knitting is still practised by knitters in the Shetland Islands and around the world. The patterns continue to evolve, with contemporary designers incorporating new colour palettes and styles while still honouring the traditional techniques. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in preserving the traditional techniques of Shetland Fair Isle knitting with knitting groups working to teach the next generation the intricacies of the technique and promote the use of locally sourced Shetland wool."

Spectacular scenery punctuated the trip with yet another dramatic view around every corner.

Hoswick Bay, Shetland

Shetland Woollen co

With origins dating back to 1924 the Shetland Woollen Co nestles in the small village of Hoswick in the south of Shetland and enjoys stunning views out to sea. Employee owned since 2019, all their designs are created inhouse. They pay close attention to their carbon footprint with yarns sourced locally on Shetland, mainland Scotland and northern England. There is no surplus wool lying around this mill!

We have just taken delivery of our first order of Shetland Woollen Co sweaters which have been made exclusively for us as a result of this visit.  Sustainably made using Jamiesons of Shetland yarns colours inspired by the Scottish landscape - Lomond Blue, sunrise and a natural undyed marl. With only a small carbon footprint within Shetland, their longest journey so far has been to the shelves of our Edinburgh store!

Shetland Jumper Sunrise
Jamiesons of Shetland Wool Mill
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