The weather has definitely taken a turn to the cold days of January - so I have pulled on a nice woollie today. And it reminded me of the shetland woollies - jumpers and cardigans, berets and mits that my mother used to knit for all of us (to wear with Royal Stuart tartan kilts.) So here is a toe-curling - in more ways than one - archive photo of my two darling big sisters and me. It looks like I'm waiting for one of these super jumpers to be handed down....
So with a wave of knitting nostalgia in full flow, I went to see what there was in the Shetland Museum - and discovered a most marvellous archive of the tradition of knitting. Oh, what I would give for this wonderful jumper! It is so beautiful in my eyes.
My mother would also knit shetland lace christening shawls for anyone in the street who was expecting. Maybe you can just see in the top family photo again that I am sitting on my Shetland lace christening shawl. One of my best friends makes astonishing Shetland lace shawls - it is so comforting to pull her shawl over my shoulders when I am feeling tired.
This is a Shetland knitted lace sampler. The patterns for Fair Isle were directly influenced by embroidered sampler patterns. I am always curious about this knitting/stitching crossover as I have seen some marvellous samplers, which look just like traditional stitched samplers, but are, in fact, knitted.
Wedding veils were an extraganza of air and fine ply wool - this shawl would be so fine that you could draw it through your wedding ring. Imagine!
What is so surprising is that these precious items were knit outside - and not a curatorial glove in sight to make sure the work was not marked. I have to confess that my hero is Edward Maeder of Deerfield - with all his incredible experience of handling textiles and with his magnificent Masters Degree from the Courtauld Institute to boot, he will simply ask people to wash their hands. Which makes a whole lot more sense than some of the distinctly grubby gloves I am sometimes offered in Museums.
Makkin belts such as these are worn around the waist, with the leather pouch to the right hand side of the knitter's body. They are used by sticking the end of the right hand knitting needle into the pouch, which is filled with horsehair. This frees up the knitter's right hand to manipulate the yarn, making the process much quicker. The belt also supports some of the weight of the garment being knitted. It has been known for an experienced knitter to manage 200 stitches a minute with the help of these types of knitting belt. To see the wealth in the Shetland Museum archive just click here. Use knitting, or lace, or school as a search term and then just follow the thread of your thoughts!