Textiles

In the 19th century textiles became a commercial force in Shetland, enabling women to support family incomes. Islanders developed new products and adopted imported tools, while maintaining a focus on traditional hand production and finishing.

Our collection encompasses changes in style from the early 19th century through the 20th century, with a focus on the cottage industry of hand-making fabrics and garments. In 2013, the Textile collection cared for by Shetland Museum and Archives was deemed a Recognised Collection of National Significance in Scotland.

Knitwear was the most common product made of wool in Shetland. Plain knitting used to make stockings, caps, underwear, haps (thick shawls), gloves and scarves was the mainstay of the industry. Fair Isle knitwear is the most famous product of these islands. It was worn by fishermen and sold to tourists. Our collection has examples from pre-commercial garments circa 1850 to high fashion items of the 20th century.

Fine lace was a prestigious product that made Shetland’s handspinners and knitters renowned. The Museum’s shawls and stoles are perhaps the most intricate garments you will ever see. Wealthy buyers, including the aristocracy and royalty, valued these in the 19th century.

Commercial weaving developed in Shetland by 1900. Shetland tweed was exported world-wide. The collection holds important sample books spanning a century of tweed manufacture.

Besides clothing, we hold traditional textile tools, many of which were hand-made in the islands. The collection contains spinning wheels, hand-cards and woolcombs, knitting sheaths and belts, garments boards for finishing, and looms.

Study Day Broadcast – Authenticity in Culturally-based Knitting

Download Programme

On Saturday 5th March 2016, Shetland Museum and Archives hosted a study day on the topic of Authenticity in Culturally-based Knitting. Research and exhibition materials related to the Study Day can be viewed here.

The event explored definitions of ‘traditional’ in Shetland knitwear design, the promotion, branding and marketing of ‘authentic’ Shetland knitwear, and how designers and industry are helped or hindered by a strong basis in heritage. These issues have implications for other types of craft, beyond textiles.

The event was broadcast live online, and can be viewed from the window above.  Refer to the programme for the contents of the separate broadcast parts.
 

Inside Textiles

Textiles

Sheila McGregor Collection

In the mid-1970s, Edinburgh-based Sheila McGregor visited Shetland with an aim to research its knitting heritage.

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Textiles Blog Posts

Textiles

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 ...

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Textiles

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 ...

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Textiles

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 ...

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Textiles

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 ...

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Textiles

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 ...

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Textiles

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 ...

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Textiles

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). ...

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Textiles

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 ...

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Textiles

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 ...

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Textiles

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 ...

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Textiles

Lace Project Begins

Some of the most often heard sounds in our first floor gallery are the oohs and aahs from visitors viewing Shetland fine knitted lace. ...

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Textiles

Oasis inspired by Shetland Museum Textile Collection

Clothing store, Oasis, has launched a new winter range, including knitwear inspired by Shetland Museum and Archives textile ...

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Textiles

Textiles Collection Announced as Recognised Collection of National Status

Shetland Museum & Archives’ Textiles Collection has been awarded Recognised status by Museums Galleries Scotland, under its ...

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Textiles

Shetland Museum & Archives Receives Research Grant

Shetland Museum and Archives has received a grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund to research its taatit rug collection. ...

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