Posted 7th Oct 2014
It's Shetland Wool Week (4th to 12th October) and we've delved into the history of the Shetland Islands and its most famous export, wool
Known worldwide as a producer of quality, natural fibres, Shetland has always been at the forefront of the modern textile industry. Associated with strength and excellence, Shetland wool comes from Britain's most northernly native sheep and in honour of its fame, Shetland Wool Week was established.
Brought to the remote islands of Shetland in the 9th Century by Norse settlers, Shetland sheep have become intertwined with its culture, enabling it to become a heavy presence in the economy of the islands. With crofting and knitting having been an almost permanent fixture in Shetland's history, most people take up craft.
Best suited to knitting, the wool is grown, processed, knitted and sold in Shetland and is one of the few places that can claim they have made wool continuously and grown its popularity to include a worldwide audience. Something achieved by the dedicated women of Shetland, who are believed to have run the crofts while the men were out at sea, then, during any free time, they would have knitted and created beautiful lace. Though these traditions are now hundreds of years old, they still take place today and gave birth to the idea of Shetland Wool Week.
Now in its fifth year, Shetland Wool Week celebrates the fibre that has spawned world class knitters, as well as clothing produced by native crofters and experienced Shetland woman, who design and create with this warm and soft material. With hundreds of crofters and farmers living in Shetland, the week was originally started by Jamieson & Smith as part of Campaign for Wool, an initiative set up to educate people about the benefits of incorporating wool into our everyday lives, including fashion and furniture, with its patron, HRH The Prince of Wales.
Starting with just The Shetland Wool Week committee, set up by Jamieson & Smith's and Promote Shetland, Shetland Wool week has grown to include workshops, talks, exhibitions, tours and other events and is set to host over 100 events in total.
For 2104, Shetland Wool Week has patron Hazel Tindall representing the event. Having grown up in Shetland, around the rural farming communities, Hazel has been the focal point of books and articles surrounding Shetland Wool, having developed her skills with it and as a result has won the World's Fastest Knitter title, twice. Her patterns are wanted by knitters around the world and she has an unrivaled passion for knitting.
As such a versatile fibre it can be manipulated to produce more than just a simple jumper or hat and with the developments in dyeing and spinning, the wool has taken shape and become a colourful and unique attraction in its own right.
There are over 100 events taking place within Wool Week this year, there is a huge variety of things to choose from. With fine lace classes in Unst, Fair Isle classes in Whalsay, Hap knitting with Gudrun Johnston and a visit from Kate Davies promoting her new book, the 2014 Shetland Wool Week is sure to continue the success of previous years.
Full event listings can be found at www.shetlandwoolweek.com
by Lauren Morton
Images courtesy of Shetland Wool Week