The Fine Detail of Fine Knitted Lace

Our project team for the Lace Assessment Project is myself as Project Leader, Tracey Hawkins, our trusted and dynamic Collections Assistant and Kathleen Anderson and Anne Eunson as Craft Specialists. Tracey and I will be recording, assessing, and photographing up to 400 objects made in the Shetland knitted lace tradition. Anne and Kathleen will be studying individual pieces in-depth and advising on pattern motifs to be looked at in more detail. These motifs will be charted by Anne and samples knitted by Kathleen.

We are focusing on unusual and unique motifs to start with, to gain a better understanding of the scope of the craft. Some patterns have not been seen before and are not part of the usual repertoire of lace designs. We are intrigued by these motifs and hope to understand them through careful study.

We also plan to chart variations in standard patterns. So far we have identified several variations of Da Print o’ Da Wave pattern. Charting them will tell us how they really differ from each other, stitch-by-stitch. They may also suggest a progression of how the basic motif changed over time. This will provide insights into how the craft evolved, and how different knitters contributed to that evolution.

Above image shows Kathleen (left) and Anne (right) investigating the centre of a diamond motif on an early fine lace scarf.

The story of the Shetland knitted lace industry is a complex one. We are fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in partnership with the University of Glasgow, Department of Humanities on a PhD studentship funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Roslyn Chapman was the chosen candidate and for four years she worked diligently in private and public archives to uncover the story of this industry. It was not easy – most knitters were anonymous and left few traces in archival records. But we now have a much broader understanding of how this cottage industry developed into an international trade and sustained itself through the 19th and 20th centuries. I’m very pleased to report that Dr Chapman’s The History of the Fine Lace Knitting Industry in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Shetland, is now available for download. For anyone interested in how Shetland spinners, knitters and merchants contributed to this amazing craft, it is a must-read.

Related Posts

Shining a light on Ann Harriet Pottinger this International Women's Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2024 we shine a light on Ann Harriet Pottinger, née Hunter, one of many unsung, hard-working ...

Read more

New book of Shetland Fine Lace Knitting launched

A new publication, ‘Shetland Fine Lace Knitting – Recreating patterns from the past’ by Shetland Museum’s textiles curator, ...

Read more

A Fragment of Viking-Norse Life

One of the results of years of peat-cutting in Shetland is that occasionally interesting objects are revealed. So it was the case in ...

Read more

Gunnister Man Coins

Over 70 years after his discovery in a Northmavine peat bog, Gunnister Man continues to intrigue. Last week Shetland Museum curator, ...

Read more

Highlights from two centuries of Shetland fine knitted lace on display

A new awe-inspiring display of Shetland fine knitted lace spanning two centuries is now available to view at the Shetland Museum and ...

Read more

Tears of joy and appreciation for peerie hansels

Shetland students on the mainland will be receiving a ‘Peerie Hansel fae Hame’ this week as part of the Shetland Amenity Trust’s ...

Read more

Inspired by Shetland's Historical Textiles

We are delighted to see the launch of this beautiful Fair Isle Shetland jumper as part of clothing company TOAST new autumn ...

Read more

Face Veils: a Victorian Fashion Accessory for the New Norm?

Women, and sometimes children and men, have been covering their heads and faces in public since ancient times. Not so very long ago ...

Read more

The Seductiveness of Fine Knitted Lace Blouses

It’s a sad fact that after working with hundreds of examples of Shetland fine knitted lace over the years, it takes something very ...

Read more

A Rose by Any Other Name

According to Shakespeare “that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet” but can the same be said for knitted ...

Read more

Oh So Fine and Simple : the Crepe Shawls

Lace shawls with the largest number of complex designs get the most admiration, but there is another class of Shetland lace that is ...

Read more

The Burnous

One of the most dramatic pieces of lace knitting in our collection is an oddly-shaped red and white striped flat textile (TEX 7780). ...

Read more

From this Day Forward – Wedding Exhibition

Shetland Museum and Archives is proud to present our latest exhibition, ‘From This Day Forward’ a celebration of Shetland Weddings ...

Read more

What's in a name?

An important part of the Lace Assessment Project is to catalogue each object to a level where its description will distinguish it from ...

Read more