Published: 25 July 2013

Visitors to Shetland

It is always fascinating to meet people who have travelled to Shetland mostly because they have a passion for knitting and textile related crafts.

So far this year I have enjoyed meeting some of these enthusiasts.

First I met a group of 24 from Japan when I demonstrated at Shetland Textile Museum. There were many questions involving their translator, and they took many photographs. They clearly knew a lot about knitting, with many wearing their own work. Bess Jamieson was there too, demonstrating spinning. It was a busy visit so the only photo I took that day was the last stragglers heading for the bus - not worth posting here!

A few days later I had a visit from Barbara and Thomas, a couple from Canada. They keep a few sheep so Barbara is a spinner, dyer and knitter. Thomas is especially interested in dry stone walling so they left me to meet one of Shetland's experts. I enjoyed meeting them and we could have spoken for much longer. Barbara left me a pattern and wool for Newfoundland Thrummed mittens so I will need to start knitting those. Too late I remembered I should have asked to take their photo.

My next visitors were Carol, Daintry and Jane who had travelled from London. They were enjoying a short trip to Shetland, soaking up the scenery and enjoying some textile related visits. Carol was my contact and I think she had met her companions when they attended her workshops which look very interesting. Carol wants to return to Shetland so I hope it won't be too long before she's back.

Later the same day I had a visit from 4 ladies from USA. My contact was Kate Larsson; we had started an email correspondence when she was preparing a review of the book "A Legacy of Shetland Lace" by Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers. It was good to meet her in person. Kate and her companions, Susan, Kathy and Deb, are accomplished spinners and had enjoyed a visit to Elizabeth Johnston's studio. One of them (Susan, I think) gave me two hanks of alpaca yarn from her flock. Now I just need to decide what to knit with it.

Karin Randi Flatøy Svarstad is a Norwegian textile artist who has been coming to Shetland for many years. We first met when I took a felting class with her in Shetland. Shetlanders and Norwegians discussing textiles Shetlanders and Norwegians discussing textiles

Over the last few years she has brought a group of textile enthusiasts to Shetland each summer and always arranges a meeting with Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Dyers and Weavers. The visitors always enjoy seeing what Shetland Guild members have been doing, and I took along a selection of my knitting. some of my knitting some of my knitting

We are equally interested in what they bring to show us. shadow knitting and lace shadow knitting and lace       a selection of work by Norwegian visitors a selection of work by Norwegian visitors

intricate lace making intricate lace making Before they leave we have tea and homebakes together and they are always keen to ask for recipes, and often take photos of the plates of assorted cakes.

Another regular visitor to Shetland is Joyce James who is based in Canada and has been bringing groups to Shetland for about 15 years, and an afternoon with Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers is always part of their busy programme. This group of 24 was larger than she usually brings, with ladies from Canada, USA and Australia. Most met each other for the first time when all gathered in Glasgow at the start of the trip, and it looked like some lasting friendships would result from this special interest trip.

The Guild has members in different parts of the world, including Edna Allsopp who lives in Canada and was here for either her eighth or ninth visit. On a previous visit Edna gave all the Shetland members a gift of a small hand woven place mat. This time she brought us a much larger and beautiful, intrictate, piece of weaving which we will use to decorate the table at our Christmas lunch. It will be a lovely reminder of an enjoyable afternoon, and a very interesting lady.

Edna with her weaving Edna with her weaving Some of the group took workshops in lace and Fair Isle with Guild members and these are some of the Fair Isle pieces they knitted. pieces knitted at and following a workshop pieces knitted at and following a workshop

 Unfortunately no-one brought along the lace they had started.

While in Shetland the group visited a wide variety of attractions, including museums and an archaelogical site, and they enjoyed seeing wildlife and the scenery. After they left Shetland they spent time in Orkney then the Western Isles.

There may be more visitors over the summer. Looking ahead, I'm planning to attend an International Textile Conference in Shetland (starting on 31 July), an outdoor knitting project on 1 August, 'Meet Shetland Textiles' on 3 August, and Shetland Wool Week in October.

Now more than ever I need to look forward; meeting people who share my interest in knitting and other textiles/hand crafts is a good place to start.


To get information about Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers please email [email protected] 


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About Shetland


Shetland is the most northerly group of Scottish islands. Apart from mainland Scotland, the other near neighbours are Norway to the east and the Faroe Islands to the north west.