While visiting Shetland, we were lucky enough to get a tour of the Shetland Museum and Archives textile collection with the curator, Carol Christiansen. The Shetland Museum and Archives has a beautiful and informative collection on display of Shetland knitwear including fair isle, lace, and
Shetland has a long history of knitting. Like most Nordic locations, it is a cold, wet and windy climate that makes wool the ideal fabric for warmth and weather protection. The native Shetland sheep were brought to the island by Vikings and quickly adapted to Shetland's unique climate.
Shetland's most famous knitting legacy is that of Fair-Isle colorwork. Stranded colorwork was a way to make garments even warmer (with the multiple strands carried in the back) and to produce interesting patterns. This was made popular in the 1920's by the Prince of Wales. There are countless jumpers and vests on display in the museum.
Shetland also has a long history of lace knitting. In the 1800's the Shetland Hap shawl - a square lace shawl that is quite large - was popularized. Women of Shetland were able to supplement income by knitting and selling these gorgeous shawls to buyers around Europe. These were knit usually using white,
Spencers are simple knit undergarments that were knit in garter stitch and made for both men and women. The craftsmanship on these was amazing and they were never seen as they were worn under clothing for warmth - almost always out of the plain, undyed white Shetland wool.
In addition to knitting, we also learned about my new obsession,
We were able to examine the right and wrong side of pieces as well as ask questions about possible methods of construction. Some pieces had holes or compromised parts that made them extremely delicate. Carol Christiansen was a wealth of knowledge and it was such a treat to have her talk to us about the collection.