Last week I received my Shetland Wool Week Annual 2016 through the post. I had been anticipating its arrival ever since I ordered it. Shetland Wool Week is one of the knitting events I am dreaming of attending. But for now the Annual will have to do!
Leaving through it for the first time the amazing photos stood out immediately. They show places on Shetland and if they do one thing, it is making you want to go there.
However, the Annual has more to offer than pretty pictures. It includes 10 patterns for hats, a shawl, leg warmers, a cardigan and display a variety of Shetland knitting techniques often with a modern twist. I think my favourites are Donna Smith’s Sanik Shawl and Marian B. Leslie’s Sleeveless Spencer.
The patterns are well written and include charts for colour work that are easy to follow. However, what I personally like best are the little interview with each designer that precede the patterns. I think it is a great idea to get to know the designers a little and include questions on when they learned to knit as well as questions about their design process. It is really interesting to find out when designers learned to knit and who taught them. It seems that most of them learned to knit as children. Which I find really interesting as someone who learned knitting in their twenties.
Besides knitting patterns, you can also find a number of essays in the book. As someone who is interested in different knitting techniques, I really enjoyed reading Donna Smith’s essay ‘The Maakin Belt’. It explains the use of knitting belts. A tool that has been used by knitters in Shetland for generations. It is used with DPNs and allows knitters to knit faster, really important if your income is derived from knitting.
I had heard of knitting belts before but never really understood what they were for or why they were used. Donna Smith explains it really well and has made me want to try it. I am curious if it also works for continental knitting. Does anyone know?
The other essay I found really interesting was written by Roslyn Chapman and is entitled ‘Truck and Barter: Knitting for Nothing but Goods’. She investigates the system of payment, in some place used as late as the 1930s, of paying knitters with goods rather than cash.
First, of all the article really made me think about what it means to live off your knitting. I knit and design because I enjoy it. Yes, I am trying to make a little money form it but I am in no way dependent on. This was completely different for the people on Shetland and did for a while result in an unfair power of shopkeepers over knitters. Even though Roslyn discusses historical events I believe that similar situations of dependency and uneven distribution exist today which is why, for me at least, this is a very relevant article which also displays how, through advocating and spreading knowledge, these things can be changed, however slow this process might be.
The annual finishes off with a review of Shetland Textile Books and I have to admit I am very tempted by a few of them including ‘The Book of Haps‘ by Kate Davies Design.
Overall, I thought the Annual is very well done and has a great selection of patterns and essays. I good read that I am sure I will pick up again for inspiration and dreaming about Shetland.