Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Vintage Shetland Project

Or another knitting themed post... Like the story of the herring girls, I don't think Shetland yet makes enough of its knitting and textile heritage. As wool week and wool week holidays become more of a thing I hope this changes, but for now the facilities for displaying a really excellent collection are quite limited and it's a collection which deserves a large, purpose built, environment in which to shine.

My own interest in knitting is as much academic as it is practical. When I look at some of those historic pieces, and then at people still making and wearing equally beautiful things it's all quite exciting. Partly because this is also a visible history of mostly working class female creativity (not exclusively female by any means, but traditionally knitting was one way that women and children bought money into the household) and what they did with colour and pattern is inspiring. It's an interest that's also coincided with finally exploring Instagram which in turn has led to a whole new world (to me) of knitting blogs, including that of Susan Crawford.

Susan Crawford is, I gather, a big name in knitting circles - especially if you have an interest in vintage patterns. I'm new to this, but even I've spotted some of her earlier books and coveted them - long before this current bout of enthusiasm. The next one is a project that's been 4 years in the making, and is based on items in the Shetland Museum collection. What Crawfird has done is take 25 garments and worked out how modern knitters can recreate them. To do this properly she's also developed a yarn range - an impressive commitment to quality as well as smart marketing.

From a book lovers point of view there's something else that interests me about this project. It's going to be self published with funds raised via pubslush. There's nothing new about this but it's the first time I've come across a book I want to buy that's been published in precisely this way. As the initial target was exceeded within days I'm clearly not alone, but I'm curious as to where the decision to self publish comes from. I'm guessing from the number of subscribers as well as success from previous books that finding a traditional publisher would have been doable, so I assume this is as much about maintaining complete artistic control as anything else. Not a new idea either, but it's good to see it done so well.

Why I really want this book though is for the history of each garment - and with luck plenty about the knitters as well. It certainly sounds like it's going to offer more than just patterns which will be far beyond my current skills, and quite possibly beyond any level of skill, or patience, I ever do achieve. Never mind, it's good to dream. Now that somebody's actually engaged on this project it also sounds blindingly obvious as a way to preserve and share a bit of history as well as ensuring that particular skills or techniques are passed on. It also helps this particular bit of history and tradition continue to evolve and that's exciting too.

There are links to Susan Crawford's blog Here and to the latest (at time of writing) instalment of the accompanying blog tour Here which has all sorts of interesting links attached.


  1. I like the idea of supporting a project in this way - it adds something personal. I recently supported a crowd-funded very locally-based vintage fashion book, and I know I will get extra enjoyment when it finally (I hope!) drops into the letterbox.

  2. I love the idea, more for this craft based kind of thing perhaps then anything else I can think of. Looking forward to the finished article.