sheep

What an amazing week I had in Shetland! It was a complete privilege to see and talk to so many amazing knitters, who generously shared their work and thoughts with me.

marykay

Mary Kay, at the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers, shows us an incredibly fine lace shawl, knitted in Unst around 1930.

joan

Joan Roberston with a pattern and what was knit from it.

wilmap

Wilma Pottinger’s innovative use of cables.

EGfancyhap

Ella Gordon with an intriguing piece from her collection, whose pattern and provenance has an interesting story to tell.

EG

Ella again! Hap-py on a fancy hap, like so many Shetland babies.

Sue

Sue Arthur’s completely beautiful hap knitted in yarn she spun from her own sheep. Sue used Zena Thomson’s pattern from the guild’s important and timely book, A Legacy of Shetland Lace, adding a few cats paws to the centre “riggies.”

INA

Lovely Ina Irvine – world-class fine lace knitting with hand-spun yarn from a very special fleece.

laurenandanne

Anne Eunson (right) with her grand-niece Lauren Anderson. Together with Anne’s sister (lace-knitting legend Kathleen Anderson), they keep fine knitting in the family!

EJ

I learned so much from knowledgeable Elizabeth Johnston, whose work is full of thought and meaning.

I have come away with some fantastic material, intriguing leads, new stories, and beautiful images which will all shape the first part of our new Haps book.

So thankyou to Carol Christiansen at the Shetland Museum, the staff at Shetland archives, Cushla Bretton at the Textile Museum, everyone at the Guild and Burra knitting night, and a huge thanks especially to Ella Gordon, Donna Smith and Hazel Tindall, for all your help last week.

As well as being busy with my own research, I found myself repeatedly reflecting and musing on other people’s work as well. I suppose I think of Shetland as an inherently creative place: a place where knitterly skill truly lives and thrives, and whose history (and future) should be explored and celebrated in many different contexts. It is one of the world’s few great knitting destinations: the value of Shetland’s textile heritage, and the unique nature of the talent it has fostered really speaks for itself. Except sometimes it doesn’t. On a few different occasions last week, I had separate conversations with wonderful women, all of whom have innovative and individual ideas for projects and books that the world needs to engage with – to read, enjoy, and knit from — books that should be published. These women are the face, and the future of creative Shetland. To them I say: please pursue these projects, please make these books, please publish.
YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

56 thoughts on “generosity

  1. What a beautiful post, Kate. Very interesting and inspiring. I´ve read this several days ago and can´t take the picture of Mary Kay and company in the Guild “reading” the shawl out of my mind. I add my voice to those encouraging these women to publish. You have so much to say. Lots of us are avid to read those books. You all play a very important role in keeping all these wonderful talents and traditions alive and thriving.

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  2. Just rereading a 1910 ‘Aunt Kate’s Home Knitter’ which gives the patterns for a 1903 and 1910 winning Shetland lace Christening shawls. Beautiful work, which I could never aspire to, just imagine dropping a stitch! And the patterns of that time are difficult to read. But lovely to look at. Hope you are well again, Kate.

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  3. Fascinating. I have a moorit hap knitted in about 1920 in handspun NR wool, like the photo, also a white handspun shawl from earlier, the wool is not so soft as Shetland but I did use the white for a christening shawl. Love knitting shawls.

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  4. Your latest post was lovely my late mother-in-law came from Unst in the Shetland Isles and use to knit “Wedding ring”shawls which being so delicate could be passed through a wedding ring I only wished I knew her when she was still making them.

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  5. What absolutely astonishing work. I don’t have the feel for lace knitting, it is out of my league. These women and their work are truly amazing. Thank you for this, Kate.

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  6. Dear Kate
    Thankyou for sharing this post, I love lace! I hope to travel to the Shetland Isles and see the sheep and
    the guild! I knit and sew every day…..retirement is fabulous!

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  7. What incredible work. They are all beautiful, but I am particularly partial to that huge multi-sheep hued hap knitted by Sue Arthur. Amazing. I want to knit one!

    Your instagram photos from your trip were very beautiful, by the way. I must make a trip up to Shetland one day. My family are all in Forres, so but even so it’s a long old way!

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  8. I am enjoying see this journey unfold and I am secretly saving up for your fabulous books. The history and the essence of these skills makes the idea of crafting them so much more special. Thank you so much for sharing this world with us.

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  9. Gosh, what a wonderful journey you are on!. Huge gratitude for your sharing. I look forward to your book. I enjoyed seeing the younger generation knitting in the pictures and everyone’s wonderful Fair Isle jumpers.
    I have a question…Where does the name ‘Hap’ come from? I know of Haapsalu Shawls (Estonian).
    If the answer is bigger than one sentence, I’ll wait ;)

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  10. Ella Gordon’s gorgeous smile has been there right from the beginning! Thanks for sharing that. I am avidly awaiting the hap book, and also would love to see the results of others’ work that you so tantalisingly hinted at. Encouragement all around.

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  11. Thank you Kate for sharing another of your adventures. I wonder have you considered producing a video following one of your study trips to the Shetlands. It would be wonderful to hear these women speak about their lives and their knitting and to see them in their
    landscape as you have.

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  12. Lovely post with remarkable knitters and their beautiful pieces. Just wanted you to know I started knitting with the Buachaille yarn yesterday. It’s so sensuous in the hand, I can’t put it down. I just want to keep running it through my fingers! Do you think you might do another special of multiple skeins for a good price. The original special was such an amazing and irresistible deal!

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  13. Dear Kate,
    Thank you for sharing your adventure. We all carry stories within us. Sometimes we need help to get them out to share them. I echo the thoughts of Carroll Davis-Johnson in your helping these stories to become words and images on the page. Think on it. Thank you for helping to open the door to all of us who cannot travel to where all of these lovely people and their work reside.
    Best wishes from a snowy snowy day in Ontario, Canada.

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  14. Oh, please, everyone, write those books. I’ll never have enough money to travel all the way to Shetland and I’m so interested in all you do.

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  15. Thank you for being a “world” ambassador to the Shetland women. It’s important to keep the history for this special knitting to be published. We love the stories, the history, the patterns, the sheep, and everything in between. Cheers!

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  16. What a wonderful post. I share everyone’s joy and excitement for the upcoming book. I know there are only so many hours in the day, but I wonder if you’ve ever considered providing an avenue for others to publish their works. You’ve made a commitment to presenting patterns and history your way and not partner with a big publishing firm. Imagine if you paved the way for others to do the same. You could guide and mentor those voices, you could help these artists share their talent and help create the books that should be published. We want so much to read them. Your books are fabulous and you could be a conduit for others to share their stories. Please think about it!

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  17. Lovely pictures. Thank you for sharing. I was particularly interested and thrilled to see Sue Arthur. I knew her when she lived in Coventry and was a member of Coventry Guild. Her mother and daughter were also both members and did some lovely fine Shetland knitting, which was usually from their handspun yarn.

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  18. You have stunned me again! And before breakfast! A wonderful post, kind of makes me want to go to Shetland soon….I might be in England in the spring and it would not be far to go. I am thinking. The wheels are turning. Such beautiful work. You are absolutely right, keep poking them! They must publish it before all the good information is lost forever. Please?

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  19. Well, that gave me ‘shivers’!! I have a lovely shawl given to me when my son was born, knitted in Inverness and I love it. Yes, set up a pre order page and charge us when it is ready…NO pressure :)
    Thank you for the tour of shawls.

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  20. Thank You for letting me feel as if I followed along on this wonderful trip. It is nice to see faces that go with “Names” and New Names for the Future. Because you add pictures and take the time to tell the story, I don’t feel as sad, knowing that I am unlikely to travel to these wonderful places and meet such talented Ladies. I always promised myself that I would never stop learning and that, Learning, is the real key to the World and the People in smiling Faces that share a part of it with you and from you to me and all the others gathered to Find Out, “What Adventures Has Kate Had?, and from there to Story and then Pictures, it feels like I am there, like we are All there. So here’s another Big “THANK YOU” and a wee hug as well. All of this, that you do, changes lives, shapes lives! I am Happy as a Clam, to be along for the Ride!! Y’all have a wonderful Week and Best to Tom and of Course, Bruce!

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  21. If there’s anything knitters like more than knitting itself, it’s reading about knitting. Your post has inspired me, and I can’t wait until your hap book comes out. I also have the Guild’s wonderful book and want to add my voice to encourage more books from these talented Shetland ladies. Knit on, write on, ladies, you have a world-full of knitters waiting to read your books.

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  22. Thank you for sharing the rich living history of knitting in Scotland. So much to learn from all these knitters. Yes please publish your work some of us will never get to Scotland.

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  23. It’s like a magical world I wish I were part of. Would it make sense to anyone if I said it moves me to being heartsick for a place I’ve never been? So much heritage and knowledge and tradition. I truly wish I were a part of it.

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  24. How wonderful to see the faces, that go with the names of my very famous list of knitters/designers! What eye candy you’ve shared with us and such lovely pieces. We are grateful to you for sharing and so blessed that the people of Shetland are so generous with their time and knowledge.

    Isn’t this what makes the knitting world so very great!!!!!

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  25. One of my favourite things about your photos is seeing so many talented people spread out lace and bend over it to “read”. Like a story in fiber, like a painting or a carving, these shawls hold something that can be communicated from one generation another as long as we have eyes to read it.

    And I resoundingly add to your plea – when you have something to say don’t be afraid. Share what you know with us. We need your voices and viewpoint in our crafting community!

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  26. So looking forward to this book and think it is is time to set up a preorder page for it. Charge the payment when it is ready to ship allows you to see the support and guides you in how many to print on the first run. There will be demand for this book as you are sharing history as well as the craft.

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  27. Thank you again for your wonderful photos of both scenery and these beautiful people and their work.
    Oh to have the peace, space and light of Shetland in which to be creative!

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  28. Dear Kate, How wonderful to see that you enjoyed your time in Shetland and all these lace shawls are beautiful. They are a joy to look at and I know from knitting 1 and 2 ply lace shawls in the past they bring as
    much joy to the knitter and the people who they are a gift for though any I knitted were for new babies but I know their mothers ( my friends) appreciated them although I kept the 1 ply shawl for my son. I know that I found the book ‘The Art of Shetland Lace ‘ by Sarah Don wonderful and therefore I am greatly looking forward to your book.

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  29. Fabulous pictures Kate. I’m even more excited about the book now, although I fear I will have to sneak it in to the house past my husband. :-)

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  30. Thank you for such a lovely post. When I saw the programme for the guild meeting I wanted to jump on the next plane up there but husband wouldn’t let me ;) The standard of those ladies’ knitting is just amazing and anyone who hasn’t seen it in real life should make a pilgrimage to Shetland as soon as they can. I am really looking forward to your hap book to see how you interpret their inspiration.

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  31. Thank you for this beautiful post. These shawls are fabulous and I hope one-day to be skilled enough to knit one. it’s incredible to me that a few lines on a small piece of paper can yield such beautiful results – I’m a person who likes a step by step pattern. I am so looking forward to your new book, but would also like to say to all those women, please publish your work, so many of us would learn from your experience. be thrilled to see your projects and learn from your experience.

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  32. Sounds like you had an amazing time! Oh, to be in Shetland again, sigh.

    Hope you are enjoying the current series – Shetland – on the TV, although there doesn’t seem to be as many knitted things in this series. Too bad. I loved spotting your peerie flooers in the first episode/s!

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