Contents

Page

Introduction 1

Old Knitting Catalogue 4

Fair Isle H

Unst 21

Skerries 31

Fetlar 39

Yell 46

Shetland Knitting Today 56

Lace Patterns:

Cat's Paw 61

Bird's Eye 61

Fern Stitch 62

Small Diamond 62

Hap Shell 62

Print and Wave 63

Pattern Section:

Fair Isle Base Jumper 65

Child's Scarf 66

Fair Isle Allover 69

Fair Isle Allover 71

Norwegian Lumber 73

Fisherman's Jumper 75

Suggestions for Fair Isle Allover 77

Churchill Pattern 79

Pagoda Pattern & Intaking Anchor 80

Selection of Star Patterns 81

Various Component Patterns and Allover Designs 87

Old Patterns (from Robbie Williamson's pattern book) . . 112

Norwegian Lumber Jacket 121

Glossary 122

UNST

YELL

FETLAR

SHETLAND ISLANDS

UNST

YELL

FETLAR

INTRODUCTION

Old examples of knitting.

Ten years ago the 'knitting' shelf in most bookshops and libraries held a few ancient, grey, and predictable volumes on the twin-set and the matinée jacket. Since then a knitwear revolution has taken place, with top designers and chain stores vying to attract attention for their special collections. No longer is great aunt Aggie's gift of a hand-knit sweater hidden away in the bottom drawer.

This surge of interest has resulted in the publication of several specialist books on the knitwear of the Shetland Islands — the group of islands off the north-east coast of Scotland. In this cold, remote spot the craft of knitting has flourished for many years, and the skills of the Shetland knitters are known all over the world.

Traditional Shetland knitting takes two forms — the fine delicate lace work, nowadays most commonly associated with Unst, and Fair Isle which is two-colour knitting using intricate geometric and graphic patterns. Since the 1930s machine knitting, combined with hand knitting and finishing skills, has become a part of local industry. The versatile new table machines by Knitmaster, Jones and Singer, which knit Fair Isle and lace, have become more popular recently, but most work is still done on double bed machines such as Daplux, Dubied and Harrison, or the smaller Passap, which can produce tubular knitting and proper ribbing in keeping with the tradition of seamfree garments.

Most women can knit, and many do; although now more from habit than necessity. In the isles and remote parts of the Shetland Mainland men also knitted, either to augment the family income or as an alternative to being unemployed. However, few of them enjoyed this type of work and today nearly all of those who knit do so on large industrial machines.

In Shetland many knitwear firms have come and gone over the years. These range from large factories producing plain garments for the mass market, to one-woman businesses dealing with private orders, but most medium-sized and small businesses, such as the one my husband and I ran for nine years, are operated as 'cottage industries'. Machine and hand knitting is done at home using the factory's wool and sometimes, if the knitter is prolific, the factory's machine. During the sixties in particular many husband and wife teams derived a good income from this arrangement; the man knitting on the machine and the woman grafting the jumper or putting in a Fair Isle yoke by hand. Recently many small businesses have adapted the old knitting skills to produce more fashionable garments, such as 'stripey' jumpers and Fair Isles in brighter, more exotic colour combinations. These experiments have generally proved successful and the products are sold throughout Britain and abroad.

Many women still prefer the independence of making up garments with their own wool, either producing the same work (such as gloves) on a regular basis, or creating something different, as the fancy takes them, according to the wool in their 'cloo bag'. This work is usually sold direct to the knitwear shops in Lerwick or sent to specialist stores in the south.

Over the past ten years the prosperity brought to Shetland by the Sullom Voe Oil Terminal has caused a decline in the knitwear industry. With this in mind, and realising that many of the traditional skills were in danger of becoming extinct, I decided to record some of the patterns, styles and memories of the older generation of knitters before they were lost. The patterns were noted and, where possible, examples of work were photographed. By looking at a photograph of a garment a skilled knitter can copy or improvise on the idea, but for those with simpler skills, or different talents, I have placed a pattern section at the back of the book.

I cannot claim to have produced a definitive work on Shetland knitwear but I have compiled a collection of patterns and information which appealed to me, and which 1 hope will interest and stimulate other knitters. I would like to extend my thanks for the kindness and hospitality shown to me on all my visits to the islands and on the Mainland, and to the numerous knitters whose advice and encouragement helped me produce this book. I hope it will be used for both pleasure and profit and that some readers will try out the old styles, perhaps modifying and personalising them, and so designing a unique range of woollens which will keep themselves, and their friends, and maybe even great aunt Aggie both warm and well-dressed for many years to come.

Allouer on man.

Section of fine lace shawl.

Knitter at machine.

Handknitter.

Stripey jumper. F.I. Base jumper.

Allouer on man.

Knitter at machine.

Handknitter.

Section of fine lace shawl.

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