Saturday, September 23, 2023

Shetland Wool Week Annual 2023

Every year I tell myself I'm not really interested in going to wool week, and every year I mean it in that I'm not especially interested in spending money on classes when I could be spending it on yarn (wirset to use a dialect word). Every year when the annual drops into my far-from-Shetland letterbox and my social feeds fill with images of the cool stuff going on I wish like anything I was there. 

Lerwick's shop windows are looking fantastic, one has a display of vintage knitwear I'd love to see in person; squinting over fuzzily blown-up facebook images is not good enough. There are the interesting yarns being produced by individual crofts, the pop-up shops and displays all over that beckon, and the excellent knitwear appearing for sale in various village hall events. There are related crafts and exhibitions being teased, a really lovely looking range of bits and bobs featuring local wildflowers being sold through the museum inspired by this year's hat, acquaintances from all over who I know are there - and altogether the sense of missing out. Maybe next year the planets and holiday allowance will align...

I do still have the annual to enjoy and this year it's focus on the design elements of knitting is particularly interesting. One thing I've always really enjoyed about the annual is that there's a pattern for more or less every ability. If you can knit at all you'll find something in here - the beanie hat which has become a tradition is always a good introduction to Fair Isle techniques, and Jenny Jamieson's Foogry cowl is a simple but very effective lace piece. The Old Shale pattern is as simple as Shetland lace gets, it's also a really lovely one for blending colours which is the hard part to get right.

Jenny Jamieson is 16, was very active in the Peerie Makkers group at primary school, and with the help of her biology teacher has come up with a beautiful design based on the colours of a mackerel. The result is a suitable for beginner's project that's beautiful and easy to wear - something anybody might want to knit. 

Donna Smith's Muckle leaf Beret has also caught my eye - a very pleasing two-tone beret in shades of blue definitely proving that less can be more. Donna is brilliant at hitting the sweat point between traditional and contemporary style and this design really exemplifies that. 

Patron, Alison Rendall's Buggiflooer beanie is a charming pattern as well - she's another designer I really like - and this is almost my favourite wool week hat (I still really love Gudrun Johnston's Bousta beanie - again for its elegant simplicity). The Buggiflooer beanie definitely looks more Fair Isle though and again, is a great starting point to learn all the associated skills of knitting in the round, decreasing, and working with colour.

Ella Gordon's Hattie Yoke is a lovely garment even if I'm ambivalent about a button band, but her design journey for it is really something to read. She took inspiration from an historic garment that's charming in its own right and eventually worked around to something that's completely her own whilst still honouring where it comes from. 

I also love Hazel Tindell's Tak Six Kloos mitts. I do like a fingerless mitt - very useful things they are, and they make excellent presents. Here Hazel has taken 6 balls of yarn and turned them into 4 pairs of mitts (she got 5 knitting shorter cuffs and lays down the challenge to see how many we can make from those 6 balls) This is a great opportunity to see how differently the same colours will behave when mixed together in various ways and a useful way to avoid lots of half used balls of yarn in your stash. For someone who finds it hard not to buy All The Yarn when I'm let loose in Jamieson's or The Woolbrokers I really appreciate the discipline of this project as well. 

Those are my highlights from the Wool Week Annual this year - I'd love to hear anybody else's?


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