60 north magazine

60north3i have something quite exciting to share, a little while ago I was asked to write something for 60 North magazine about the exhibition at the textile museum I curated, so I did and today I got a copy of the magazine!

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If you read my blog you are probably bored of hearing about it but in the article I went into a bit more detail about the history of the Oil Boom and my inspirations for the items in the exhibition so I hope you find something interesting in it! I love writing but I don’t think its my strongest point (I know what I want to say but sometimes it doesn’t come out how I want!) but I spent a lot of time on this piece and I’m quite proud of myself!

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60 North Magazine comes out every season full of articles about Shetland, it used to be just an online magazine but they have started printing it! Which is very exciting for me.. Im published! If you are interested in anything to do with Shetland it is worth a read, its beautifully designed and full of great pieces. If you want to buy a copy you can do so here, but you can also view it online here.

I have a busy couple of weeks coming up, which includes a trip away! (i know, im leaving the island..) and then a very exciting trip to somewhere in Shetland.. all will be revealed in time…

Speak soon xxx

ps.. yes that is a Dolly Parton top. shes my all time favourite!

peat hill and loki

Luckily Monday dawned sunny and bright so after work Me, Mam, my sister Marianne and my niece Annie headed up to Ollaberry to go to the peat hill! We went to my Grandads house to meet my Auntie Nette who was coming with us.

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You have to give the hens a peerie visit, the back garden at Grandads is filled with wild flowers and hens

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And very camera shy ducks!

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So we headed up to the peat hill, we have a very small bank (relatively speaking) but once we got about half way through me and Auntie Nette both decided it was a lot bigger than it looked! at this stage we were raising the just casted peats (youtube video, its tricky to explain in words!) into small pyramids to help them dry out, later on in the summer we will go up and turn them, which I did a blog about last year. This is a great blog, with a lot more information (and a recipe!) about peats.

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auntie nette working hard

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Mam and Auntie Nette

Mam and Auntie Nette

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Annies peerie cardigan is the thing I said I would show you in my last post, the pattern is Loki by Icelandic designer Ragga Eiríksdóttir (the pattern was available for free, but sadly not any-more) It is a nice pattern so I hope it becomes available again. The only bit I struggled with was the few rows when you had 3 colours in one row! I’m not used to that.. I took a few pictures when I finished it to give you a better idea of the yoke.

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I knit it using Lett-Lopi in a nice yellow, brown and fawn which I thought would go nicely with her hair.. I think I was right..

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It was quite an easy knit, but I think next time I would make my steek a bit wider, it was only 2 purl stitches in the middle which was fine for the body but I didnt feel the yoke stitches were that secure so I had to sew over them, Its fine now but since little girls like to run around I didnt want the yoke to unravel!!

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The sleeves are a little bit short but I’m pleased with the fit of my first garment knitted for somebody else! Annie helped us as much as she could but as she said the peats were ‘very heavy!!’

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The peat hill is tricky for a peerie lass to manuovere so Mam put Marianne and Annie back to Grandads then Me, Mam and Auntie Nette finished up. It took us a couple of hours, and it is tiring work! (especially for a toonie like me!) But the weather was so nice you couldnt complain!

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Me and Auntie Nette

Me and Auntie Nette

And this is how we left the bank, ready to be turned in a few weeks, the we will take the wettest from the bottom and put them on the top and turn the other ones the other way so the inside can dry.

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After we were finished we headed back to Grandads and had some toast and tea before heading back to Lerwick, not before stopping so I could take a picture of the sky over Ronas Hill.

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To me you cant beat a Summers night in Northmavine,

Speak soon,

xxxx

Cardigan Ravelled here

(not so) mindless knitting

thank you all for your great comments and feedback about my last blog, I nearly didnt post it because it thought it might be so boring so I’m glad I did as lots of people seemed to think it was pretty interesting!

Sometimes I think I am a crap knitter. I start far too many projects and don’t finish enough of them, I LOVE starting something new, buying wool and looking at all the projects on ravelry and planning how I’m going to take photos of it when its finished…..I get so far and set it down… then don’t pick it up again for months!! I literally have ‘notions’ that last a day. A few weeks ago I thought maybe I would like to try some fine lace (like 1ply and 2.25mm needles kind of lace) and ordered needles. By the time they came I’d kinda gone off the idea?!? To shame myself into finishing some things I even debated taking a photo of all my UFO’s and doing a blog inspired by these recent posts by Donna and Karen, alas that is not what I’m talking about today..

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recent bargains, on the left: Lovely alpaca from the littlewoolcompany and on the right: vintage shetland wool from the Cancer Research charity shop

I think the problem is not that I’m a bad knitter, and I’m definitely getting better, I’m just quite slow which I think puts me off. So last week I had a case of ‘startitis’ (the urge to start something new, whilst ignoring all the projects hidden away). I have so much wool guys, seriously. Problem number 1: I work in a wool shop (self explanatory, who can blame me for buying it. I’m surrounded by it.) Problem 2: I have no self control (if I see a bargain, I have to buy it) this is coupled with Problem 3: I frequent many of Lerwicks Charity Shops and the Saleroom (Cancer Research Shop, I’m looking at you, you are my downfall…but also my favourite. – nice Shetland Wool appears more often at these places than you would think. Hence, I must buy them) and Problem 4: I have a designated crafty room (in theory for my cushion making business but its slowly being overtaken by WOOL)

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SO with the urge to start something new I made myself sit down and look at stuff I already HAD: a pattern, needles and wool. I wanted to make a jumper or cardigan that wouldn’t take too long, I decided on the Annabel Cardigan which I am knitting in Shetland Aran shade BSS72. I love the look of garter stitch (knitting every row back and forth) mostly confined to ones first scarf stitch but in this case it is a completely seamless cardigan. Initially when I found this pattern on Ravelry it was the sister of the cardigan I noticed first, the Annabel Pullover but quickly I realised I would have to purl every other row. (urgh) so when I worked out that in the cardi you went back and forth my mind was set. I started this last week and I have just gotten past seperating for the sleeves and I’m onto the body

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The yoke shaping kept me interested and now that I’m past that the integrated buttonholes are given me manageable goals, there are only 6 and i’ve already done 3 so I have high hopes. I’m not letting myself knit anything else, I’m being a one project lady until this is finished!!!

Sometimes I’m quite overwhelmed by the sheer possibilities and colour combinations of all the WOOL I have so I needed something plain, squishy and easy to give me time to think about finishing all the other stuff.

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Hopefully writing this post will spur me on to keep going so I can show you the finished thing. I even already have buttons..

Tomorrow we are hopefully going to the Peat Hill to raise Peats and I should get some pictures of something I have recently finished and shock..horror.. it wasn’t for me. (hint: its not a knitted Peat cover.)

Speak soon,

xxx

boarding

So the other day I wore the sleeveless Fair Isle I showed in my last blog. I may have been slightly optimistic to say it fit me fine. Its definitely a little on the short side. I got lots of compliments on it (the joys of working in a wool shop) but I kept finding myself pulling it down – It needed to be longer. So on this Friday night I’m going to go wild, go crazy and….. show you how I dress jumpers on my Jumper Board.

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your days of being too short in the torso are numbered my friend..

your days of being too short in the torso are numbered my friend..

When I accidentally began collecting Shetland knitting, I started boarding my jumpers. If you want to know a bit more about jumper boards Hazel Tindall has a great blog about them. There’s also some great pictures of boards in use on the museum photo archive. So I’m not a pro at this, but I’ve boarded a few so I thought someone might like to see. (the more I write this the less realistic this seems..)

My set up is not fancy. I have a small storage tub I keep under the sink

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I fill it with warm water, and add one key ingredient..

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Hair conditioner! It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but I like this stuff because it smells good and I still think its funny that I buy Horse haircare.

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 dunk in the gansie and smush it about for a while, I don’t think leaving it in a certain amount of time makes much difference if your just washing it. In this case and most cases, I’m not washing it because its dirty but just to reshape it so as long as it gets soaking that’s all it needs. If its something you’ve just finished knitting, I’d soak it for about half an hour to let the stitches settle.

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One thing is when you take it out don’t lift it by the top or the bottom because the weight of the jumper and the water can stretch it in ways you don’t want so you lift it out together in one go and try and squeeze out as much water as you can but don’t twist it! Lay it out on a towel and roll it up.

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Then stomp and squeeze as much as you want!

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Its crazy how much water comes out, when you unroll it it will feel barely damp. Ive discovered the only thing more awkward than putting something on a jumper board is trying to take pictures while you do it..boarding

As wrong as it feels to be rough with something hand knitted and wet (read vulnerable) you kinda have to be to get it on a jumper board, mines is the kind that’s hinged in the middle so you slide the jumper up a put the arms through the…arms then open it out

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Then the key thing to streching it out is to pull down the knitting, you can see the board has these holes?

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Well you stick in the metal pole about where you want to stretch it down to (I’m not exact in my measuring…)

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make a slip knot on a piece of waste yarn and thread the other end through a needle..

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slide it onto the pole and start sewing through the gansie, down and around the pole..

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like so.. you can really make it stretch a lot and since the rest of the board is keeping the jumper at the right size you don’t have to worry about the gansie loosing width.

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That middle bit gets a bit awkward  with the wood in the way and every time I do it it comes out different but when you finish it looks like this..

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Now I’ll get even more wear out of this gansie, theres something I love about boarding jumpers (i told you I was rock and roll?!)  Its such a traditional thing that to me cant be bettered. I’d love to know if there is anything similar in other knitting cultures? I’ve only ever seen them in books about Shetland knitting.. sometimes with the name ‘Woolly Horse’..  who came up with that?!

I hope this has been interesting to somebody, :)

Speak soon x

back home

IMG_2486No, I haven’t been ferociously knitting.. well I have, but not these things. These are three very Shetland things, made in Shetland Wool that through the wonder of eBay (to detrimental effect on my bank balance as per) I have brought back to Shetland. Much thanks have to go to my colleague and bezzie work pal Sandra who is a pro at finding Fair Isle and Shetland knitwear on eBay and rather than be selfish and buy it herself, she shows me and I buy it… although quite often we both find it and show each other!

The two Fair Isle gansies were both purchased from the same person, the first one is a lovely blue and purpley all over which is make from the OXO Fair Isle pattern originally found in the Traditional Sweater Book by Madeline Weston (out of print but I got my copy for 1p on Amazon!)

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It is very well knitted and as far as I can see they have knit it in the round up to the armholes then gone back and forth (I cannot deal with purling Fair Isle, hats off to anyone that can keep track!) and picked up the sleeves. These colours are not my personal first choices but they have been blended very well and it actually makes for a very lovely and subtle jumper that I’m sure I’ll get a lot of wear out of. Look at that corrugated ribbing! I wish it wasn’t so tedious to knit, I love how it looks.

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The next one is this snazzy little sleeveless number. It was actually labelled as a childs jumper, but it fits me fine! I don’t think its as vintage as the colours make it look  but perhaps it is, it seems to hardly have been worn. The colours are quite a typical matte selection of brights with naturals with that old favourite - Peach, it is one of those colours that, I think, you either love or hate in Fair Isle. I would never knit with it but I’m not against a bit of peach in my Vintage!

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Doesn’t it look brand new? It also has a sweet little turned up edge, neatly hand sewed into place.

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This top has been steeked at the neck and at the armholes. The leftovers from steeks have been sewed down but the edges haven’t been secured, just left to felt over time.

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The last piece of knitwear was an absolute bargain at £8, it is a lace jumper.. a hand knitted Shetland Lace Jumper no less..

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(sorry its a bit crumbled, I still need to dress it) This lovely jumper is knitted in the ‘Print ‘O The Wave’ lacey pattern, which is one of my favourites. Its knit in Woollen spun 2ply Lace which makes the pattern a bit thicker looking than it does in 1ply, you can see it better with my hand behind it here

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The most interesting thing about this one is the label in the neck:

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Wouldn’t you love to know more about that?!? I certainly would. I’ll need to ask around. Now don’t shoot me, but I might have to take the label off because I think I’m going to lower the neck by taking away the ribbing. As we all know, I hate being strangled by my knitwear (who does? see here and here as to my previous alterations) Honestly I think it disrupts the flow of the jumper which is quite thin and soft then a hunking bit of folded over rib at the neck? So we’ll see.

The last eBay buy I have to show you is I was just looking through of my usual searches of ‘Shetland’ (I’m a loser, I know) and I came across a copy of one of my favourite books ‘Life In Shetland’ I dont really need to say anymore about it, I’ve mentioned it about a gazillion times. The copy I had was my Grandads and although he lent it to me indefinitely, Im glad I can give him his own back.

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My luck was in with this one, it was labelled as ‘Kife in Shetland’ so I got it for hardly anything. teehee..

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This last thing is something I got a while ago but kept forgetting to mention, since I’m talking about bargains, I got this handknit ‘New Shell’ lace scarf knit it Shetland Heritage from the Charity Shop!! I look at Wool all day, err day so I can spy J&S from a mile off. As soon as I spied it I snapped it up. Its so soft and proof, even though I knew it, that Heritage works great for Lace as well as Fair Isle.

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Minus the scarf (bought in Lerwick) I always wonder what the people who I buy all this Shetland stuff (this is the tip of the iceberg) think when they sent it to me in Shetland.. You would think you can find it all here (which you can, if you know where to look!) but it really reminds you that Shetland knitting is a worldwide thing and its quite nice to bring it back home (aww, cue Dolly Parton link)

speak soon, xxx

fair isle yoke

warning: slightly rambly post ahead!

Thank you all for your lovely messages about my last blog, It’s so great that people are really as interested in that time, and that they would go and see sometime I curated?! So thanks again. I also mentioned briefly that I was making a Fair Isle yoke, greatly inspired by all the yokes I was looking at for the exhibition. Big surprise your probably thinking as it seems to be all that I make (ahem.. see here, here and here) BUT this one required a peerie bit more thinking. The classic Shetland Fair Isle Yoke is something of a rite of passage for a Shetland knitter I suppose, and perhaps this post will only be of interest to myself if only so I remember what I did..!

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I have amassed a small collection of these old patterns from eBay. Top tip, if you get one, just buy one. they all contain essentially the same pattern, just with different star pattern which can be easily changed. Still I like that it gives you different colour ideas. I have quite a few vintage yokes that I have bought from eBay and charity shops etc, which I love but the main problem I have is the necks are just too high! I think I must have been strangled or something in a previous life because I really hate the feeling of jumpers up around my neck and cardigan band tops stabbing me in the clavicle (not that im dramatic or anything) so I end up not wearing them which is such a waste.

*sob*

*sob* (although actually these two aren’t too bad to wear)

I had the idea to try to make a yoke but to lower the Fair Isle and eliminate the raglan shaping which is what brings the pattern up so high. (I’m quite the rebel, you know) So far so good? Now maths is not my strong point so one night I happily sat with my calculator and did all my sums. Then the Sunday when I was going to knit the sleeves and body on my machine I thought I’d do a quick check over and realised I’d left out the stitches of one sleeve… (damn you, illegible writing, you swindled me again) A one-armed yoke was not what I was going for. This meant I had a lot more stitches then I required. So after a very helpful twitter message marathon with Kate I ended up with a better plan. If you look at a yoke, more often than not there are six stars, three on the front and three on the back. I added two extra repeats giving me eight stars. This meant it would give me the stitches to have the yoke lower.

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I also wasn’t sure whether to start my pattern in the middle of a star or a tree? I casted on 9 steek stitches in the centre back which is where I did all my colour changes, so when I cut it open I cut away all my ends! Genius, if I say so myself. I decided just before I started to begin in the centre of a star so a star was the middle motif on the front and Im glad I did. Its quite clever really the way it works, you knit away then decrease at either side of the tree at specific points which means by the end of the chart you have just a few stitches between the stars.

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On Ravelry I listed one of those vintage patterns as the pattern I used but really all I used it for was the stitches to cast on, etc etc (or as we would say in Shetland ‘da loops!’).. I chose the star motif from one of my many Fair Isle books.. because there wasnt one on any of those patterns that really stood out to me. As long as its 25 stitches wide and 25 rows your good to go!

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a page from Sheila MacGregor Traditional Fair Isle Knitting book, she happens to be my Dads first cousin.. im destined to be a knitter.

In relation to my colour choices, I scored a few bags of peerie balls of old Shetland wool on my weekly pilgrimage to the Cancer Research charity shop. there were five bags, I bought three of them. No restraint. Anyway, I could spy some lovely old J&S and Hunter of Brora shades that I drool over on the old shade cards so I snapped them up. I was very much inspired by the colours I had been surrounded by while curating the Bod exhibition.

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Mmmmm… I used Shetland Supreme shade 2001 as my background for the Yoke. I have matched the blue and one of the oranges up as Jumper Weight shade 71 and 73 but I cant quite match the other orange. For the body and sleeves I went for a hugely underated colour which is FC58, Initially it just looks like a brown but it has flecks of orange and blue and green… you get the picture. You can see here how the flecks pick up in the yoke.

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With this sort of thing really my thinking is you have to just give it a go, by knitting the body and sleeves on a machine you are greatly reducing the time spent on the jumper (hence why they are made) Its not that its particularly easy and it still took me a whole Sunday to knit them (the back I had to knit twice..oops) but that is a lot less than months to hand knit them. Which it would have been. Plain knitting with 2ply and 3mm needles..? Id still be on my first sleeve. So I was able to try out what I was thinking and see if it is possible. I added short rows to the back ala Puffins 1 and 2 to bring up the back of the neck and then picked up around my open steek and knit a button band on the back. Which I have since knitted shut because it sits weird, presumably they have these buttonbands to get your neck through the smaller yokes of the classic style but I just like how they look. It also gave me and excuse to buy orange buttons. I like orange.

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button band, why you curve?

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As for the fit, I’m pleasantly surprised with how it looks,. While I was knitting it I didn’t know if my alternative decreasing would work but it has. This time I wasn’t actually going for three quarter length sleeves but I got them… oh well. I think it is the yoke which pulls the sleeves up but never mind. Or maybe I have long arms. I’ve never actually considered that…… hmm.

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Anyway I’m very pleased with my yoke. Its not perfect, but thats ok. The next step is to make my sister a yoke cardigan. But I cant get away with fobbing three quarter length sleeves on her so I will have to do it right. Maybe i’ll have to do a swatch?! shock horror.

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I have a busy couple of weeks coming up but hopefully I’ll squeeze in some (personal) knitting time, I have a few Crofthouse commisions and next weekend is the Cancer Research Relay for Life. With my friends I am in a team, and we will be walking all night to help raise money. It is a huge event in Shetland and we always have a massive turnout. Cancer is one of those things that affect all of us and I’m so glad to be able to do something to help (alongside spending all my wages at the Cancer Research charity shop!) If you would like to donate to my team you can do so by clicking here. Thank you so much if you do,

Speak soon! xx

oil/knitting

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Ive never organised an exhibition before so the past couple of months have been a crash course in how to do so.. Obviously I love textiles in many shapes and forms so when I was given the opportunity to curate the 2014 exhibition at the Shetland Textile Museum (of which I am a trustee) I had to do it. I showed a few weeks ago some of the items I looked at at the ‘big’ museums archives which really helped to confirm the things I’d been looking at were on the right track…

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a jumper from the Shetland Museum and Archives collection

I also mentioned before that the main inspiration was the Oil Boom in Shetland in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It has been something that has benefited and impacted on life in Shetland. We benefited from the huge amount of money secured from the creation and development of Sullom Voe but it also changed the way of life here. As my Dad told me tonight he went from having £2 a week pocket money to £190 every week when he worked at the Toft camp. It really changed everything. Knitting in Shetland has a worldwide notoriety which is amazing if you think about the size and location of these Islands. The Oil changed the need for knitting but also opened up Shetland and its wares to the world.

photo credit: Douglas Young

photo credit: Douglas Young

I am very aware that I wasn’t alive when it was all going on but I have the experience of someone who was born and grew up in post-oil discovered Shetland and it all seemed very appropriate as we are currently going through another mini Oil Boom. I spent my childhood seeing Sullom Voe from the car on our way to Ollaberry where my Mam grew up. All the lights looked at night like a city and couldnt understand what it was and how it looked so busy? I had the luxury’s of fancy Leisure Centres (not that I frequent them often) and good roads. A local council that at some points threw money at problems. That time is over and the majority of the Oil money has run out, our newspaper is filled with reports of money saving cuts which although necessary all seem to feel that life in Shetland is going backwards rather than forwards. Although this all sounds rather doomy and gloomy.. it is how it is and it all helped me to think through how we (me and Cushla) wanted to exhibition to look.

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One of the things that I think is the best thing about Shetland knitwear is how innocently amazing it is. I wanted to focus on everyday things that people wore. Now these are not boring or plain things because everyday knitwear in Shetland is not boring. But some of these things have probably not been in an exhibition before because they are everyday. I was not strict about the things being made in the Oil Boom but the items had to encircle the idea and theme of the time and have been worn in that era.

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Of course yokes feature predominantly. What can I say? I have a problem. The Fair Isle yoke has huge variations, look in any Fair Isle pattern book and there will be pages of Norwegian stars to choose from. It enabled knitters to make a Fair Isle item without hand knitting the whole thing. As a general rule the bodies and sleeves are machine knitted using a v-bed or double bed machine and then the yoke is picked up and hand knitted. Of course that is all a lot easier said than done (I’m currently knitting one and I can confirm this) but it made a quicker and effective yet traditional Shetland item to sell.

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I spent two hours tonight sewing those yokes onto that backdrop. That’s dedication!!

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Of course Colour played a huge part in my choices, colours of the ground, and nature combined with more industrial and bright colours. I sourced vintage fabrics and wallpaper from the 1970s and 80s which we used as a backdrop in the cabinets.

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I wouldn’t have been able to even know where to start without Cushlas’ help. She has no social media that I can link to to show you her, but just take my word for it. She’s amazing. I would wonder about seeing something.. up the stairs she would run and within 5 minutes we’d have another thing to add to the exhibition. The space available isn’t the largest so you have to be very clever with what you put in and how you lay it out. Im really pleased with how we came to the final layout. If you are able to visit it I would love to hear what you think.

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The Textile Museum has a great shop filled with textiles made by Shetlanders and the other exhibition opening tomorrow is by 5 Contemporary Textiles students from the Shetland College (where I studied) which makes it one of the places you must visit.. if you are a visitor or a Shetlander.

Its been a busy few weeks but I’m so pleased and proud of my first curated exhibition (harhar)

xxx