I know that many people find NPR All Things Considered to be just about cultural fluff, but for those of us who love the fluff of fiber their resent article and interview with Scottish knitters and spinners was some awesome fluff. In fact you can see that fluff being spun into lovely Shetland lace weight yarn on their page!
Ari Shapiro interviews people on the Shetland Isles that are involved in one of the oldest cultural industries. The Isles are power houses on the oil and gas industry but before that they made some of the finest knitted wool lace in the world. Shetland knitted lace became extremely popular in Victorian England when Queen Victoria became a Shetland lace enthusiast. Want to know more about Shetland Lace patterns check out Sharon Miller on Ravelry or Heirloom Knitting. The Isles are still a destination vacation for textile themed vacations for their current industry and for their unique history.
Ingrid Eunson showcases her spinning Moorit wool into yarn. She clarifies that moorit is brown. On an island where sheep out number people 20-1 it is no surprise that the industry is part of everyday life.
Shapiro claims that in the Shetland Isles knitting is a way of life, “not a hobby reserved for grannies or hipsters. It’s something people just do because they’ve always done it.” I personally found this to be a disservice to the strong fiber community found in the United States. I don’t consider myself to be as hipster, but I have a farm and a strong connect to the fiber community and the history that my sheep come from. Personally I am a registered Shetland owner with Moorit sheep and I don’t like being boxed in with hipster knitters because it is not just a hobby but a huge part of my life.
However I will agree that a history of isolation creates patterns and traditions unique in a culture and creates knitting skills that transcend time. This article proves that in today’s world of the internet these skills and knowledge can transcend location as well.
One local notes that they have a strong tradition of knitting with “teenagers and young people walking around with Fair Isle hoodies” but they fail to take into account their greatest virtue. If they have a strong tradition it is because they took the time to teach it to their youth and loved ones which is really how heritage and traditions live on.
A question for you: how would you pass on your love of heritage craft skills?