an afternoon with Hazel Tindall

I think that the most enjoyable few hours knitting I’ve ever had was the afternoon I spent last Wednesday with Hazel Tindall at the Braewick Cafe. Since 2008, Hazel has held the title of the world’s fastest knitter, working an unbelievable 262 stitches in 3 minutes. She is also an incredibly talented designer – Jamieson & Smith carry many of her patterns, and you’ll find her Peat Hill Waistcoat in their new Knit Real Shetland book. And last but definitely not least, Hazel is a patient and generous teacher, sharing her skills, ideas, and expertise with groups who want to learn more about traditional Fairisle knitting. I had been looking forward to taking a workshop with Hazel, as I was sure it was going to be a treat. And it really was.

Hazel began by telling us about the qualities of Shetland wool, and spoke of her particular affection for the natural sheep shades with their unique warmth and durability. She showed us swatches she had knitted of the same lozenge pattern in different natural colours, revealing the wide variety of aesthetic effects that can be created with this subtle palette of greys, browns and fawns.

The knitterly potential of the natural palette was perfectly illustrated by this fabulous hoodie which Hazel had designed.

Here’s a close-up.

Then it was time for us to experiment with the natural sheep shades. A hush descended . . .

The tea kept flowing, and we kept working under Hazel’s guidance.

This is what we could see outside the windows.

. . . all too easy to get distracted.

Later, Hazel treated us to a demonstration of her working methods. I particularly liked her emphasis on keeping the knitting under control – excess fabric is tied down and tethered, loose strands are kept far away from each other, the project knows who is the boss — no tangles are going to occur here!

Like other Shetland knitters I’ve met, and perhaps contrary to popular conception, Hazel finishes garments with knotting.

Mary Jane mentioned some beautiful knots the other day; and I’ve seen many garments in museum collections that are finished in a like manner. Personally, I never say not to a knot . . .

Would you like a peek of Hazel knitting?

Early in the clip, Hazel is slowly demonstrating how she makes stitches and shifts the work around the wires, and you can see that by the end she is beginning to build up a mind-boggling speed . . .

After the demonstration, Hazel reached behind her into a basket and brought out several of her amazing finished creations. Hold your breath, folks!





There are so many impressive things here, but I particularly like the way that some of Hazel’s designs establish a strong sense of vertical continuity through combinations of pattern and colour. I also felt, when looking at Hazel’s work, that you could really feel the pleasure she’d taken in the knitting. These are garments that really speak of their maker’s distinctive creative curiosity.

Later, over a slice of home-baked cake (nom) and another cup of tea (joy), Hazel treated us to a reading of Stella Sutherland’s beautiful poem about Fairisle knitting — “The Allover”.

Please turn up your audio, and ignore the white noise and clinking tea-cups in the background — it is worth hearing.

The first stanza in the clip reads:

Your mind haes a joy o creation
laek writin a rhyme — hit’s nae lee —
whin your fingers an wires in relation
maks da colours an patterns agree.

All I can say is that these lines absolutely perfectly express what I feel about Fairisle knitting.

Outside, the clouds moved across Eshaness’s golden hills and grand open sky.

Nowhere in the world to match this.

Thankyou, Hazel.

62 responses

  1. I am so envious, it looks a lovely place, looks like all had a brilliant day. Would love to go to something and somewhere like this – shame we live almost at the other end of the country!

  2. Wow what a workshop!
    Awesome knitting, the naturals are so gorgeous
    beautiful patterns
    knots? do you just make a knot and cut it with a bit of a tail left? Do knots not (!) bother the wearer?

    excellent post, wish I could have been there with you

    Donna

  3. This post has left me both breathless, and totally in awe. From the landscape, to the wonderful opportunity to study with Hazel, to the knitterly companionship in a sun-filled room. Green with envy am I. Hazel’s passion for the medium does shine through her work. The patterning is so subtle and harmonious when rendered in her colour choices. Thanks so much for sharing this marvellous afternoon with us.

  4. This is so inspiring. I just came back from a smocking convention in California. It’s just so wonderful to be with artisans, learning these crafts. It solidifies everything I believe in, and I come back so invigorated, don’t you?

  5. Thanks for this post – I am in awe of Hazel’s knitting skills. In my current colour work project, my knitting is definitely the boss of me, I’m afraid!

  6. oh I wish I was there.
    Everything about Shetland, the natural wools, knitting, poems, landscape and way of speaking is so very unique.
    thanks so much for sharing this Kate

  7. Along with everyone else thanks so much Kate for sharing the sites & sounds of the Shetland experience with us international folk – any news on kits for the Sheep Heid pattern – fingers crossed – love the natural shades !

  8. Oh, thank you so much for once again sharing a terrific day with us all. I can only dream of such a day – shetland yarn, fairisle knitting, wonderful teacher, happy companions, mystical scenery, neverending tea and cakes – I am overwhelmed at the mere thought of it all. Would I be able to cope!!! I love the knitting samples in natural yarn – this is definitely something I am going to try, I have long admired the soft browns and subtle shading – just like magic…..

  9. I have relatively recently begun reading your blog and it is always inspiring and an absolute joy to read, but this…this left me all agog. Dang, that Hazel is magic. And so is Shetland (the yarn, country, style). And so are you, Kate. Brain explosion.

  10. I’ve wanted to learn from Hazel ever since I first heard of her. Thank you for a little peek into your wonderful time!

  11. The colorwork is truly stunning and enthusiasm for all things Shetland is wonderful for you to share. But, I am fascinated by Hazel’s shirt. I was convinced it was a t-shirt because of the modern colors and stripe pattern (seemed a far cry from natural colored wool). When your knitting video zoomed in I gasped to see the old shale lace. It’s the type of garment that should be shown to anyone who says “why bother taking the time to knit your own clothes?” I enjoy wearing traditional fair isle sweaters but they don’t do much to impress the people who love to shop at H&M.

    • I noticed it too! It’s beautiful. If anyone can point me in the direction of a pattern for it, I would be grateful. I tried to look up Hazel Tindall on Ravelry by the way, which turned out nothing. Looks like that needs to be remedied!
      Thanks for a great post, there’s some beautiful knitting in there.

  12. What an incredible experience; thank you for sharing it with us.

    The pictures of Hazel’s creations are truly amazing – I am especially in the love with the fourth picture down, the greens and blues forming a deep V-shape. I don’t suppose you know if any of them (or this one especially!) are from patterns it’s possible to locate?

  13. Beautiful article, beautiful photo’s as usual. I love your blog. Hazel’s knitting so fast, I first thought that the film was rewinded forward! Very nice that you are sharing this with us.

  14. Loved this post and the atmosphere of diligence, craftsmanship, place, tea, wool and knitting. Your recollections make it easy to imagine actually being there, which is a real treat.

    Tindall’s knitting is a joy to behold and I also identify with the wonderful words of the poem, “The Allover”. I love the way curiosity and experimentation are evidenced in Hazel’s beautiful work, through the progression of colours and the development of ideas throughout each piece. Your description of vertical lines and patterns reminds me of a line in Barbara Baer Capitman’s book on art deco, where she talks about “verticality” being a definitive feature of the art deco style.

    The way that Tindall’s work develops a theme or an idea through pattern repeats and shifting colour terms reminds me too of Steve Reich.

  15. Wow…
    Thank you for sharing this and for the lovely close-ups…
    Very inspiring indeed…
    I specially like the little nups or bobbles or whatever they are on the grey moss-stitch border of the last “finished creations” close-up…does anybody know how to knit these? I know how to do “Mausezähnchen”, but those look different…

  16. I can’t imagine how she can knit complex patterns, knit them quickly and chat and drink tea all at the same time. Mind boggling, and her designs are gorgeous. Wow.

  17. Rather, I mean, I am entranced with this *series* of posts , of the Shetland Wool Week. Just amazing, I so wish to have been there.
    One day !

  18. This Hazel is amazing, her Fairisle knitting is so beautiful, what beautiful yarn she has to choose from.
    The scenery outside is so peaceful and lovely, what an amazing day you enjoyed Kate. Thank you for sharing all this.

  19. Knitting, tea, cake, views, inspiration, learning… Can there be any better things in life? The knitting photos are stunning.

  20. Hello Kate,

    living (and knitting!) in Norway I read your blog and was lucky to read about Hazel and see her beautiful work. Yes, after lots of colours and experiments the natural colours show their strength and give joy. I have seen many “selbu” mittens in different colours, but am always happy to see them in “sheep” black (which is the name of the black colour hier) and white.
    Thank you for the interesting blog!

    Ingrid Lunde

  21. Hurrah! I feel liberated to finish my FI with knots now, if the best of the best do it.

    Hazel’s speed knitting is mind-boggling; I’m quite envious. Would like to slow it down and study it frame by frame. How exactly does she secure and tether the work?

  22. I am absolutely entranced– what a glorious afternoon that must have been! Thank you so much for sharing it with us (and that poem, too! How lovely, especially in dialect!).

    This question is a bit of a shot in the dark, but, are there any good resources for learning to knit with a belt and pins, like Hazel does? I’ve seen the belt/pins for sale at J+S, but… please tell me she leads workshops on that, too!

  23. I haven’t ever seen such fast knitting. Its truly inspiring.
    I have just bought the sheep heid pattern and am trying to get the closest colors to the ones you have used. I am in NZ and thought the colors would be easy to source. But thats not the case. Such a shame, since theres supposed to be around 45 million sheep here :)
    I will persevere, nothing is going to stop me making that Tam. Its delightful.

  24. Wow, what an fascinating and beautiful post – thank you for sharing Hazel’s amazing knitting and, even though her skill is far beyond my own capabilities, I’m inspired to buy the book and invest in some beautiful J&S.

  25. In that first video, it’s hard to believe that you haven’t sped up the movie at all, she’s knitting so fast. (I imagine the sound would give it away but I don’t listen to videos with sound — messes with the head, you know?) Gorgeous, gorgeous knitting. Puts me to shame. :)

  26. I showed the video of Hazel knitting to my husband. He politely asked me to not gain that particular skill. I must of loked confused because he added that he didn’t think we could afford to keep me in yarn if I knit even close to that rate.
    I reminded him I could always spin my own yarn, as roving was a bit less expensive. LOL

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