Monday, March 12, 2018

The Vintage Shetland Project - Susan Crawford

Back in August 2015 I subscribed to the crowdfunding for this Book. Back then I'd not long re learnt to knit, and was becoming increasingly interested in the history of knitting in Shetland, I'd also discovered Instagram. The eventual publication of the book was delayed, not least because Crawford had to deal with breast cancer. Happily she dealt with it successfully and the book is now here. I only got it this morning so this is very much an overview- but it totally exceeds my expectations and hopes for it.

It is still the case that although knitwear is one of the first things most people will associate with Shetland (it's got to be up there with ponies), and despite an ever growing interest and appreciation for Shetlands knitting heritage, it's still an under told story. This book is another step towards changing that.

There are 27 patterns that recreate garments from the museum collection, most are Fair Isle, but lace is also represented, and there's a pleading variety of patterns to choose from (for men, for women, and hopefully for the not overly confident knitter). What makes them really interesting though is that these garments are based on one off creations; these are the things the knitters created for themselves and their families rather than for export.

This one s significant because it gives free reign to the creativity of the original knitters, and let's us appreciate just how good they were. If there's one thing I've learnt, especially about Fair Isle, it's that the process of successfully putting colours and motifs together is infinitely harder than you might think. These knitters were expert craftswomen, they were also artists.

But that's not all that makes this book special. It also puts these garments into context, exploring personalities, materials, history, and fashion, with a series of essays that I'm thoroughly enjoying.

I hope this isn't the end of Crawford's work on Shetland knitwear, and also that others will follow up some of the questions this book raises. It would be fascinating to further explore the differences between garments knitted for sale and those knitted for personal use. To have a really good database that showed what was being knitted when would be great too - I thought I was getting an idea of how colour and motif use changed in Fair Isle Knitting until I saw the Whalsay heritage centre exhibition last year. There are personalities here that deserve to be better known too.

It's a wonderful book, a labour of love with an absolute ton of stuff in it to be inspired by, and I am so excited at the prospect of spending more time with it.


  1. I shall investigate, thank you.

  2. I'll write more about it when I've had longer to read and appreciate it, but it's a tremendous book so far.