Saturday, July 21, 2018

Shetland - Marie Wallin

This is one of the knitting books I bought home with me. It's attraction is as much in the illustrations as in any real desire to knit the garments - although they are beautiful. There's two things about the images that attract me; the first is that one of the garments backdrops is a house I used to live in, and that would have been reason to get the book. The second is the pleasure of seeing how somebody else responds to things I'm familiar with (landscape, Jamiesons spindrift yarn, traditional Fair Isle motifs) and what they produce from them.

Authenticity in traditional knitting is a topic that keeps coming up, and one I find particularly fascinating. For what it's worth I think authenticity is more or less a matter of intent. Knitting in Shetland, in any community with a similarly rich heritage to call on, is an ever evolving craft. Fashions are set, reflected, and followed. Knitters inevitably inspire and copy each other, and are just as likely to be inspired by, or copy, ideas from other sources. That's one of the things that make it so interesting.

It seems to me to be perfectly legitimate to copy a museum piece, or anything else you might see according to skill or desire - as long as you credit the original source. (And as long as it's for personal use, doing that commercially is something different).

Wallin's collection is full of familiar motifs, but combined in such a way, and in a palate of colours, that are as distinctive as a signature. I'm reasonably happy about choosing motifs, but combining colours is something that I still struggle with so looking at how she chooses to do it is fascinating to me.

I never thought I'd be someone who collected books of patterns for the pleasure of looking at them (like looking through an album of etchings or views in the manner of a nicely bought up Victorian Miss) but it seems that's exactly who I am, and this one is proving a particular treat.


  1. I got a copy of that Marie Wallin book some months ago and love it for many if not most of the reasons that you like it. The landscapes are stunning (which house?) and so are the garments. I wish that I could knit something from the book but charts have me sagging at the knees before I just totally give up. I "might" be able to work out the pattern on paper for myself but really, I just love looking at books like that. My knitting is a great deal less challenging.

  2. Good to know I'm not the only one. I've never tried knitting anything particularly big so am nervous about starting something like a jumper, and the charts aren't the simplest to follow with all the different symbols for colours... but maybe I'll try anyway. The house is the one you can see the gable end of in the Mousa picture, and is on the back cover. It's the Burrastow cottage and we spent 3 months there in 1987 inbetween moves. It didn't have mains electricity then, and I loved every moment of staying in it. Of all the houses I've lived in it's the one I'd most like to have now. Since then it's been reunited with Burrastow house (now a hotel) and can be rented whilst the hotel is open in spring and summer. It's a magical spot.