So this is the new project we are working on which has (until today) been very much under wraps!

It has been on our minds for some time now for Tom to pursue a project exploring the documentary photography he particularly enjoys. . . and what better subject than a place we dearly love, and the field we currently work in? OO! “Oo” (if you didn’t know already), is the Shetland dialect word for wool. While for many people the words “Shetland wool” might simply suggest ideas of tradition and heritage, today Shetland “oo” is something much more diverse and vibrant, innovatory and entrepreneurial than you might ever imagine.

oopromofinalweb

Tom has long been interested in people and processes, in the many different kinds of Shetland work that contribute to a contemporary culture of design and textile production that is quite unlike anywhere else in the world. From a crofter determined to improve his wool-producing sheep stock, to the labours of a prize-winning sheep dog; from a ninety-six year old veteran lace expert, knitting beautiful cardigans, to a lass of ten selecting shades for her first Fair Isle yoke, we’ve been exploring the many different ways that humans and animals work together in this industry. And through meeting, talking to, and photographing folk who work with Shetland wool and textiles, Tom and I have both found this an incredibly inspiring project. I’ve been particularly blown away by the often unexpected directions creative Shetlanders have taken into their own routes of making: from an energetic businesswoman who, seeing part of an animal routinely wasted, simply taught herself the skills she needed to transform that waste into a useful and beautiful product, to a talented college student whose stunning textiles combine her own familial memories with modern digital printing in deeply evocative ways. Lives in Oo is a celebration of the difficult, rewarding, and often surprising work of making Shetland textiles, and it will be published as a book before the year is out. Over the next few months I’ll be bringing you interviews with many of the people featured in the book, and I hope you enjoy finding out about their stories just as much as I have!

The hands at the top of this post are those of Elizabeth Johnston, and the yarn is a skein of her wonderful Shetland handspun. Many of you will know Elizabeth from taking a class with her on spinning or lace knitting; others will have read her erudite words about the history of Shetland’s early textiles in this book. To describe Elizabeth as “talented” simply does not capture the unparalleled and superlative nature of her knowledge and skills. I suppose I think of her as an embodiment of the Shetland wool industry in miniature. What she doesn’t know about Shetland fleece and fibre is proabably not worth knowing, and from her spinning through her hand-dyeing to beautiful finished knitted garments, everything she makes just takes my breath away. Read about Elizabeth’s work and travels on her blog of find out more about her hand-spun Shetland yarns and other fabulous products by contacting her here.

48 thoughts on “Lives in oo

  1. I cannot wait for this book! A wonderful project – please publish a limited edition hardback copy – would be such a beautiful book to have. Would pre-order now if I could :)

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  2. This looks wonderful! It has suddenly dawned on my that this may be why my friend from Wooldale, near Holmfirth, always pronounced it ‘Oodle.
    Could it stretch as far as Yorkshire?

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  3. Now I know what I want for christmas!- I took a three day class (dyeing, spinning, knitting) with Elizabeth and Martha Owen a few years back and it was so amazing and inspiring. so looking forward to seeing this book :)

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  4. So looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of ‘Oo’ later in the ŷear. Well done to you both for coming up with such an excellent project.

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  5. Of course I saw and read it :) Problem is I cannot log onto or get an email fix on her……..

    While there is tea there is hope!

    ________________________________

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  6. I always love to read about the history and culture that influence your designs so this project sounds fascinating and I can’t wait to read it. I hope Tom has added some of his amazing photography too!

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  7. Kate you are amazing!
    Do you anticipate some kind of Scottish knitting tourism offering?
    I’d love to hear and learn from you. I went to Craft Camp in Estonia this summer and loved it. So great to meet people who love knitting as much as I do.
    Kathy from Canada

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  8. Can’t wait!!! I am sure that I will nearly die in anticipation of receiving this one, as I nearly did with Book of Haps. Oh how i adored the Tom photos in the teaser emails leading up to preorder day for Book of Haps. I loved seeing the Scottish landscape. I live in Northern California. Can’t wait!

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  9. My Mum, who taught Domestic Science in Hawick in the Scottish Borders in the 1940s, used to tell us this:-
    Customer: “Oo?” (Wool?)
    Shopkeeper: “Aye, oo.” (Yes, wool.)
    C: “A’ oo?” (100% wool?)
    S: “Aye, a’ oo.”
    C: “A’ ae oo?” (All one kind of wool?)
    S: “Aye, a’ ae oo.”

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  10. Oo, and far oot! That is just the best news and as has been said…wonderful you can work together like this! Great, a Christmas present for meself!!! all the best.

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  11. This is going to be a very special book, Kate (and Tom!). Your creative energy is amazing. Hopefully one of the interviews you have in the coming months is with Tom. I would love to hear about his transition from the world of academics into that of photography.

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  12. Dear Kate and Tom,
    The secret to a happy life is to be able to find joy in what you do. The magic is to discover it with those you love. Congratulations on the journey the two of you are on. How lucky are we to be able to share it with your words and pictures. Looking forward to holding the book in my hands and diving in.
    Karen

    Liked by 3 people

  13. What wonderful news! You better prepare your team for another huge mailing effort. Your van will burst at the seams on the way to the post office. Can’t wait!

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  14. What a wonderful collaboration of passions you and Tom share. You two must have such a grand time! I so enjoy your blog and latest adventures. I greatly look forward to this next book. You and Tom shed light and bring such dignity to all the rich talent that resides in Shetland. They so deserve it! Thank you both!!

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  15. How lovely to reinvent your lives together through such a shared and beautiful passion of wool, photography and the influences of our beautiful natural environment here in Scotland. You must be so glad that you have chosen this path after your quandry last year. Congratulations to you both!

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  16. I recognized her hands! The minute I saw the picture it made me think of Elizabeth! I took an all day class dying with bugs and bark at wool week 2015 and absolutely loved her. What a wonderful book idea.

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  17. Strangely enough I was thinking earlier this year that you should both do a book on the folks of Shetland wool. On our way up to Scotland we stopped for lunch at the Rheged Centre and saw an exhibition of weavings wools and photos from and of the Hebrides. http://rheged.com/harris-tweed-land The photos were by Ian Lawson in conjunction with Harris Tweed. It was all beautiful, but the books were extremely expensive without having the meat of interesting text in them. I thought to myself that you and Tom would have made a wondrous and covetable book of it all – and now you are. Even more diverse and fascinating in the subject of Shetland, its folks and their doings. I have something delightful to anticipate. Oo great!

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  18. Not surprised that “oo” means wool as so often now when I’m handling really sheepy yarn I can’t help but go “oo”……This sounds like such an amazing and interesting book, another one for my ever growing book list…..I loved the pictures I’ve seen recently of you with the young “peerie makkers” and hope to be able to read more about them in the book.

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  19. Isn’t it wonderful, Kate, magical almost, that you and Tom have such complementary interests and can work together with such pleasure and ease. I think this is fairly rare and should be treasured! Can’t wait to see the product of your joint erudition and expertise…

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  20. So exciting, another great book to look forward to! I love to photograph craftspeople at work and think it’s important to acknowledge their supreme skills.

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