Shetland Museum, Lerwick

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After lunch in the Hay’s Dock Cafe, of delicious locally caught fish and chips with salad, we walked around the Shetland Museum for the first time.

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I’d forgotten my glasses so everything looked a little blurry! Even blurry, the knitwear is utterly amazing.

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It is interesting seeing the fair isle knitting in reality and not just in the photos. The fair isle knitwear is knit to a very fine tension. Probably finer than the tension I usually use. Gorgeous pattern motifs and colour combinations.

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It is interesting how similar colour choices can look very different using a different balance or ratio of colours.


It is a pleasure looking at some of the fair isle that the J&S Heritage Shetland yarn collection was based on. This beautiful range of yarn is available in our Yarn Shop here.

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I loved walking around the museum looking at the beautiful knitwear and how knitting has played such an integral part in the story of Shetland along side geology, fishing and agriculture.

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I made lots of notes and took a few photographs as I walked around the Museum. Mainly, I wanted to absorb the atmosphere and inspiration that surrounded me.

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I have my own way of working with colour so what interested me most as I looked at the knitwear in the museum wasn’t so much the colour combinations as the combinations of larger patterns with the smaller peerie motifs and the use of contrast between light, medium and dark tones. I find it a little magical how beautiful these patterns and motifs are when the knitter is normally using only 2 colours on each round. So many things interested me and I made copious notes including the narrowness of the scarves which were knit in the round, so they didn’t need to be wide to be warm.

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I’m very much looking forward to the Vintage Shetland Project book which Susan Crawford is working on at the moment.

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The projects in this book have been inspired by the beautiful knitwear in the Shetland Museum’s collection and have been photographed on the island of Vaila. Seriously, from the snippets I have seen, the scenery in the photographs will be joy to see.

“The island of Vaila is a very special place, owned by Richard Rowland and his wife Dorota, accessible only by boat and home to Shetland sheep, ponies, seals and many, many sea birds.  Richard describes Vaila as a microcosm of all that is Shetland – incredible scenery, nature, space and peace.  I’m so very fortunate to be able to use the island as the backdrop for my book.” Susan Crawford

Since giving to the crowdsourcing for this book I have followed her progress with interest both through the newsletters that arrive in my inbox and on Instagram.

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Speaking of books that I am really looking forward to reading in 2016, Janine Bajus, the Feral Knitter, is writing a book about fair isle knitting called the Joy of Color which is due to be published in September. I have been reading her blog for a long time now and love her sense and use of colour. I’m expecting this book to be a wonderful addition to my library too.

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Of course, we couldn’t resist returning to the Shetland Museum the next day (yes, the fish and chips here are that good) to look at the knitwear with my glasses on this time! So I got to see everything in glorious sharp detail.

If you can’t visit Shetland Museum in person, you could treat yourself to the wonderful book Shetland Textiles 800 BC to the Present which is available from the museum shop.

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We visited the third time on the day we were leaving, as we had several hours to wait before we could board the ferry. We treated ourselves to coffee and the best piece of shortbread I’ve ever tasted!

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About Nicolette


  1. Deborah Carver says:

    Good grief! I’ve read on. Your blog is so lovely and the photos so crisp! Indeed, I agree with you regarding the fish and chips at the museum. The fish was battered and cooked whole, such a beautiful presentation. It was so rich I remember not eating for the rest of the day.

    • Thank you. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the Knitting Squirrel’s blog. The fish and chips on Shetland were so good. I haven’t eaten as nice fish and chips since I came home! Did you attend Wool Week? I often think about Shetland. I really loved visiting. It was somewhere I’d wanted to visit for a very long time. It was every bit as wonderful as I had hoped it would be.

  2. Thank you for letting me see things vicariously through your blog. The Shetlands are on my list of “if money was no object I’d go tomorrow” trips I’d love to take.
    It seems that recently every time I google for something on one of my new knitting projects, your blog comes up in the list. I’m going to have to start following you, I think we must have similar taste in knitting. 🙂

    • I’m so pleased you’re enjoying the posts about Shetland! We did so many interesting things on Shetland, the week just flew by, and I’m still blogging about it months on!!! I’d go back in a heartbeat. I wanted to visit Shetland for a very long time. We could have flown in, but we went the long route, by car, so that I could shop for shetland wool.

      I hope you will follow the Knitting Squirrel. What projects are you planning at the moment?

      • I’ve been working on various Fair Isle projects over the winter, several different hat patterns, some mittens, a scarf. Then I started spinning up some shetland wool (just from Shetland breed sheep, not actually from Shetland) and I noticed how easy it would be to make it a really fine weight, like lace weight…. and I remembered a scarf my grandmother had, that was all cobwebby knit lace so…. I’m planning a Shetland Lace Stole, rectangular. I want to do a shawl, but Triangles elude me –or rather I am daunted by them. All those decreases while keeping the pattern straight when lace is not my strong suit just seemed like a difficult thing to tackle.

        • Sounds amazing. I’ve no experience of spinning and I love how handspun wool looks. I knit the triangular version of the Hap Shawl. The designer Gudrun has an excellent Craftsy Class that takes you through every step of the shawl for both the triangle (half version) and the square version. But, having said that, her pattern is very well explained at every step. I love fair isle and choosing colours. So much fun.

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