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By Laurie GoodladNovember 19th 2020
Laurie Goodlad

In the run up to Christmas, we focus on some of the amazing creative talent within the isles, giving you a flavour of some of the multi-talented creative businesses that help shape Shetland’s economic landscape.

In this blog, we focus on how Shetland’s rich knitwear heritage has inspired creatives to knit, purl and weave their small businesses together – and not just in the form of knitted garments. Shetland-based designers draw so much inspiration from the world around them, as well as the ever-changing landscape, wildlife and rich folklore of the isles.

Knitting has always been part of the very fabric of society here, and what began very much as a cottage industry has given rise to an industry that is recognised and respected worldwide, bringing much revenue into the islands and inspiring large-scale celebrations such as Shetland Wool Week.

Shops like Jamieson & Smith and Jamieson’s of Shetland sell high-quality Shetland yarn and designers, both large and small, use locally sourced yarn to create eye-catching, unique pieces of knitwear to supply worldwide markets.

One of my favourite yarns (if I were to find a moment to knit!) would have to be the Langsoond yarn from Donna Smith Designs. Her yarn comes from her family’s flock of Shetland sheep and is a double knit weight, woollen spun yarn in four different natural, undyed shades.

Knitwear designer Joanna Hunter, the founder of Ninian Shetland, sells much of her designs in her centrally located shop on Lerwick’s Commercial Street. Featuring a mix of her in-house designs as well as local arts and crafts, Ninian is a treasure trove for those visiting Shetland – or for locals looking for that perfect gift.

Another favourite of mine for her designs, colourways and classes is Terri Laura (whose design features in the main banner image above). Terri sells knitting kits online in her shop and has done many sell-out online classes throughout 2020. Her classes and kits cater for all knitting abilities, and her interactive Instagram stories are enough to brighten any winter's day. She has also done a fantastic series looking at the Amazing Benefits of Wool, which is well worth a read!

As well as knitting, Shetland has a long tradition of weaving, and the Shetland Tweed Company produce limited edition, bespoke cloths from the island of Yell. The cloths are all inspired by Shetland’s landscape and the colours of the seasons.

Jewellery also features in this knitwear tradition with makers such as Red Houss Shetland, Pink Fish Shetland (available at Ninian Shetland), Shetland Jewellery and Karlin Anderson incorporating knitwear designs into their pieces. Karlin Anderson has a range inspired by Shetland’s lace knitting heritage called Oppenwark, all beautifully designed and intricately hand-crafted.

If you'd like to try your hand at your own jewellery design, Red Houss Shetland holds workshops where you can create your own bespoke, one-of-a-kind pieces – the perfect keepsake from your Shetland holiday, or a fantastic gift for a loved one.

And, last but not least, I want to give a shout-out to my mam who knits me and my bairns the nicest Fair Isle jumpers. Ingrid Sutherland, a nurse who works in the Gilbert Bain Hospital, also knits and supplies Scalloway Museum with hand-knitted socks and smucks (slippers) throughout the (usually) busy summer season.

The annual Craft Fair is an event organised by the Shetland Arts & Crafts Association that showcases the best of Shetland’s creative talent. Despite the Craft Fair not being held this year, shoppers can still have the opportunity to buy many of these arts and crafts online and support local businesses. Bonhoga Gallery in Weisdale are also hosting a socially-distanced Christmas Craft Fair in the weeks running up to the festive. You can book your slot online via the Shetland Arts website.