Saturday 6 February 2016

Vintage Shetland

I don't know how other bloggers manage to write about things on the day they happen.  I can't write posts fast enough, and they  always seem to lag behind events.  So here I am writing this, and I want to write about something that happened today, but I haven't written about yesterday yet.  So today will have to wait until tomorrow....

Yesterday.  Susan Crawford visited the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection with her husband Gavin to do some final research for The Vintage Shetland Project.   (I pre-ordered a copy of the book before Christmas, and she tells me that I should get it in April.)   She hadn't visited the collection before - it was wonderful to show it to someone so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about knitting history.   We showed her some of the Shetland lace, and I got out some lace patterns from the 1940s and 1950s - here are a few of them.

Bestway 2548
Bestway 2548 claims to be 'designed in the Shetland Isles', but is in pineapple stitch, which I have not heard of before.  It looks a pretty stitch - I might knit a swatch to try it.

Bestway 2559
On the other hand Bestway 2559 does not claim any link with the Shetlands at all, although it uses feather-and-fan,  a very well-known Shetland lace stitch.  (And we have a Shetland scarf in the collection similar to the one shown in the pattern.)

These two Bestway patterns date from the early 1950s.   We looked at two Copley's patterns from the 1940s that use Shetland lace stitches, or very similar ones.  Lacy knitwear was popular in the 1940s when clothes rationing meant that women wanted to knit jumpers using a minimal amount of yarn.  Copley's 1440 uses only 3 ounces of wool (although it is so see-through that you would definitely need to wear a vest under it, I think).

Copley's 1440

Although it doesn't mention any Shetland inspiration for the design, at least Copley's 1440 uses Shetland wool.  The jumpers in Copley's 1271 are knitted in cotton bouclé (4 ounces, or approx. 100g., for each), so quite remote from any Shetland original.

Copley's 1271
(The woman on the bottom left is wearing a completely ridiculous hat.   She looks like she's got a flue brush on her head.   I don't know why that's the comparison that comes to mind, or how I know what a flue brush looks like, but I feel strongly that that is what my mother would have said, and she would have used one back then in the 1940s.  To brush flues, of course.)      

So we had a great afternoon with Susan and Gavin showing them things from the collection.  And talking a lot.  I'm sure Susan would have been quite happy for us to leave her locked in with the collection overnight, but eventually she had to go home.  They have a farm to run and animals to feed.  And she has a book to finish!  (I am so looking forward to getting my copy in April.)  


  1. I don't know how people blog so often either. I haven't posted on mine for ages and when I do, I seem to write an enormous amount. In the meantime, I just don't get round to it because there is so much else to do. I guess, to a degree, it is the way an individual prioritises things 'To Do'. It is good that the Archive and Collections are being used for research, generally but when people like Susan Crawford also use it and hopefully credit their usage, it is especially good because such folk have a big following. It must also be interesting and rewarding for the LM staff too, to have very knowledgeable visitors.

    1. Hi Anthea - yes, having enthusiastic visitors to the collection is really invigorating. We (the volunteers) know how special it is, but it's great when other people recognise that too.

  2. Lovely to see you yesterday. It sounds like a very interesting day with Susan. I like the selection of patterns. Looking forward to getting my copy of the book too!

  3. Oh I do like the Bestway Feather and Fan twinset very much. Katie, could we have a Susan Crawford book preview party in April? I could bring sherry! If she is taking any inspiration from the selection above, it will be a treat.

    1. Great idea! Can I come too? I've pre-ordered the book.... The patterns in the book are from items in the Shetland Museum - she was doing some additional research when she came to see us.


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