Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Legacy of Shetland Lace - Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers,and Dyers

After (mostly) finishing off a project that had been sitting around for nearly a year I've found it hard to stop knitting (not that I've really tried to stop). Maybe the current cold weather is spurring me on, or it could be that my Instagram feed is full of knitwear designers all doing inspiring things, but whatever the reason the bug has bitten. Dad offering to courier some yarn down for me is another temptation...

It will come as no surprise that there's been some book buying as well. This time it's 'A Legacy of Shetland Lace'. I was somewhat intimidated by it when I last looked at it on a visit home last year, but  after seeing it recommended by Ella Gordon I decided to get it anyway and I'm glad I did.

I was taught to knit at primary school by a lovely woman, and gifted knitter, called Zena Thompson, there are 5 of her designs in this book which would have been enough to make me buy it anyway. We didn't learn anything quite as advanced as the lace designs in here, but even after a gap of 30 years what she did teach us has left me with the confidence to have a go. This is because I know, thanks to Zena, that at a basic level both Fair Isle and lacework are easy enough to tackle, and there are plenty of basic patterns to build skills on. I have no idea if I'll ever build those skills enough to take on any of the more complex designs, they're a different story, but for now I'm happy dabbling at the shallow end.

When I was growing up it would have been rare to find a woman who couldn't knit, or who hadn't knitted to supplement the household income. Since then knitting lessons in schools have been cut, job opportunities have expanded (knitting was all to often very badly paid), and more people have made homes there who don't share this tradition. I think it's fair to say that a decade or so ago the future for traditional knitting skills was looking a bit grim. Since then a general fashion for crafting, and a new generation of talented designers and practitioners has breathed new life into something that is as much art form as industry.

Still 'A Legacy of Shetland Lace' is timely (and hopefully only volume 1 of what would make an excellent series). Legacy is the key word, with the emphasis firmly on traditional items (with some exceptions), and as such it does an excellent job of preserving an important part of Shetland's heritage  as well as sharing it with a wider audience of knitters. Whether the knitter then chooses to work faithfully within that tradition, borrow from it, add to it, or turn their back on it, is down to the individual but having it documented is important.

This book has 21 projects, chapters on technique, and little bits of personal history. If you want
authenticity I guess this is as good as it gets, it makes interesting reading as well as being a practical
guide, but I particularly like it for celebrating the work of so many gifted women, all of whom deserve the recognition. Buying it is the best way I can think of to encourage the better documentation of their skills and achievements.

'A Legacy of Shetland Lace' is available from The Shetland Times bookshop and amazon. Waterstones can order it within 2 weeks, and although I couldn't find it on hive any independent bookshop could also order it.

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