Shetland Knitwear’s Future
A few weeks ago we had a special visit from a group that is very important to the future of Shetland Knitwear: some of Shetland’s next generation of knitters. They came from the island of Whalsay to the east of Shetland’s mainland to spend a few hours knitting in the shop with a little guidance and amazement from Sandra and Ella.
Whalsay is the quintessential ‘Shetland’ community with a strong fishing industry, traditional crofting and an abundance of knitting talent. It is therefore not surprising that a knitting group was set up in the school there, allowing school age bairns the chance to learn how to knit. From what we saw they have been doing really well and will hopefully progress even after they leave school.
Groups such as this are vital as knitting amongst young people in Shetland is far less common than it once was. Not too long ago every child in Shetland was taught to knit at primary school, but this was scrapped by the Shetland Islands Council in a round of funding cuts. This was a very unpopular move as knitwear is part of Shetland’s culture and identity and has contributed towards its economy for centuries. Hopefully Whalsay’s knitting group will inspire more around the islands and keep this tradition alive.
They knit with the colours we selected for a competition at the Voe & District Agricultural Show in Shetland and can enter their finished pieces to that if they wish. They will be back at J&S knitting during Shetland Wool week; the programme for which is very close to being finalised so more information will become available soon. If you happen to be around you could see for yourselves how great they are. The future of Shetland Knitwear is in safe hands!
lovely to see, I remeber having my knitting lessons each week at Brae Primary and being so jealous of the boys when they went out to play football while we girls sat in the hall and did our knitting. Glad they taught it to us though, doubt any football skills I may have learnt back then would be bringing me in a few pounds now!!
Brilliant! I think there is also a group running in Unst as well (heard this last year so I may be out of date 🙂
I had knitting lessons at the Ollaberry Primary School and the boys were taught along with us girls and dare I say it one of the older boys was by far and away the best knitter. I didn’t learn any Fair Isle at school, though I know that in some areas Fair Isle was learnt – but it was an aunt who learnt me to do Fair Isle one memorable Easter holiday which I spent with her in Lerwick, My own sons did knitting classes also in Ollaberry and Urafirth Primary schools up until recently – though the skills have not been used in their careers/hobbies I think that they found the class interesting to an extent. Perhaps though making and mending creels and general net mending skills are also dying arts which are skills that are also being lost to an extent as well for the male population of Shetland.
The girls used to learn to knit in our school too – and my mum used to teach the boys to knit when they were in Primary 3 – 30 mins every Wednesday afternoon after her Primary 1 class went home. I always remember watching her turn all their knitted squares into a variety of things. It’s a talent that shouldn’t be lost!
No boys in pic as far as I can see! One of my student friends came from Shetland and I remember he was a knitter. He used to return after holidays with amazing patterned waistcoats he’d made for himself 🙂
All children should learn to knit and sew in school and surely volunteers could do the teaching so it wouldn’t cost a penny. Knitting is very relaxing and would be good for them. And it would be an alternative to using mobile phones and computers.