The Vintage Shetland Project
The Vintage Shetland Project is the culmination of the several years I have spent researching early 20th Century knitting in Shetland. With the help and support of Carol Christiansen, textile curator at the Shetland Museum, I have studied hand-knitted garments and accessories from the 1920s to 1960s, which are held in the Museum’s archives. I chose 25 pieces, recording their construction stitch for stitch then recreated them for the Vintage Shetland Project. These pieces – all with their own unique story to tell – have been developed into comprehensive multi-sized knitting patterns, complete with instructions, technical advice and illustrated with colour photography shot on Shetland.
With an essay reflecting on the story of each hand-knit item this book is a treasury of Shetland knitting patterns and an insight into Shetland’s rich textile traditions.
For many knitters the Shetland Isles are the spiritual home of knitting. For many more people mention ‘Fair Isle’ jumpers to them and they immediately think of Shetland too. Hand knitting is interwoven with Shetland history and as such, it is a place that many knitters long to visit. I first got the opportunity to travel there several years ago and almost instantly fell in love with the islands, the people, the landscape, the heritage, the textiles, the sheep, the knitting and even the weather. I made many friends who I have kept in touch with and who have supported and encouraged me throughout the process of writing this book. Shetland is a very special place that I love very much and I hope this book will reflect that.
For the past four years I have been traveling to Shetland twice a year to carry out research for the Vintage Shetland Project and take the chosen items through an often painstaking process to enable me to recreate 25 hand-knit pieces from the Shetland Museum textile collection. These items have been donated to the museum over the years and are largely the products of creative knitting minds, rather than from commercial patterns.
Each piece has gone through a process of transcribing each and every stitch, taking comprehensive measurements and numerous images. In addition to this I have worked to recreate the garments as close to the original yarns and colours as possible. It was even necessary to create an entire yarn range – Fenella, in 25 colours which have been colour matched to the museum garments – to ensure a number of the designs could actually be recreated successfully.
In order to transcribe the stitch patterns used into charts, Gavin, my husband who is a computer programmer, has written a programme to enable colour charts to be created from each shade’s unique single digit code. The creation of this programme in itself has been a huge project but one which has allowed me to create clear, concise and correct charts throughout the book.
The carefully chosen pieces offer a selection of items with different styles, time periods and construction methods, including lace, menswear, accessories and, of course, Fair Isle techniques. Most importantly these items have stories to tell about the people who made them, or wore them, or about Shetland, its knitwear industry and the cultural heritage too.
The next stage of the Vintage Shetland Journey
Now that the research is nearly over, the patterns are being written and the pieces knit in yarns and colours closely matching the originals, the project is ready for the next part of the process.
With the final photography shoots happening in Shetland this summer and autumn, the project is nearing completion and I am preparing to self publish the book of the Vintage Shetland Project.
The funding of my Pubslush campaign will enable the publishing of the book. By donating to the project supporters of the campaign will directly contribute to bringing this very special book into being.
The Vintage Shetland Project will be A4 in size with a hard cover, 100gm FSC paper, with approximately 250 pages featuring full colour images throughout. 25 hand knits will be featured each with a comprehensive professional pattern, multi-sized where appropriate, technically edited and checked accompanied by an essay about the piece. There is also a fascinating chapter about the book’s creation, the history of the Shetland Museum and a foreword by the Museum’s Curator, Carol Christiansen. The book will be published in November of this year.