A new initiative to help secure the future of hand-knitting in Shetland is seeking support through crowd-funding.
Shetland Peerie Makkers is a one-year pilot project which has been set up by the Fetlar-based Brough Lodge Trust.
Those involved in the project share a concern that, since knitting is no longer part of the school curriculum, the islands’ hand-knitting culture will be diluted or even lost.
The project will involve skilled volunteers in providing free hand-knitting tuition to children in five local communities in Shetland.
The programme has been developed by a working group, which will review the lessons learned from the pilots and apply them to developing a sustainable model for the future.
One of those involved in the working group was Hazel Tindall, who currently holds the title of the world’s fastest knitter.
She said: “Although the volunteers’ time will be given freely, and yarns are sponsored, we’ll need to find some money to meet basic costs.
“The yarns are already sponsored and while we hope to receive some donations of materials and equipment, and of spaces to hold knitting groups, we’ll need to buy some things, for example, knitting belts and needles.
“If a tutor has to travel to give tuition, or take a ferry crossing between islands, there will be travelling expenses. We don’t want our volunteers to be out of pocket.”
The Brough Lodge Trust was originally established to restore the historic Brough Lodge in Fetlar.
The trust’s long-term intention is to offer courses in Fetlar on various aspects of Shetland’s heritage (including textiles) to paying guests in very comfortable surroundings. The profits will be devoted to supporting Shetland’s heritage in the wider Shetland community, including textiles and music.
However, trust chairman Pierre Cambillard said the trustees realised that supporting the hand-knitting culture must become a priority.
Mr Cambillard said: “Restoration of the house has begun but it will take time. We came to the view that, if we didn’t support hand-knitting now, there was a real risk that it would become steadily weaker.
“In August 2014 we invited interested folk to meet in Fetlar and the project grew out of that. Everyone recognised that there was some urgency to this.”
After discussion it was agreed that the money needed to make the pilot projects a reality could be raised through crowd-funding, which would engage not only people in Shetland but also knitters – and lovers of knitting – worldwide.
The appeal has now been launched on the Crowdfunders UK website and there is also a Facebook page which it is hoped people will share widely.
Mr Cambillard said: “Shetland knitting means so much to people in Shetland and around the world.
We’re hoping to raise £4,500, which, after some crowdfunding costs, is
enough to run all five pilot projects for a year.
“We’ll be very grateful for whatever donation people feel able to make and we’re offering some very attractive rewards as an incentive.”
Those who visit the site will also be able to view the appeal video, by well-known Shetland film-maker JJ Jamieson, which explains the approach in more detail.
Mr Cambillard said the trust was very grateful to all those who had helped create the project and make the video, and above all to the volunteers who had come forward to offer tuition.
He added: “In the long term we hope that money to support hand-knitting, music and other aspects of Shetland’s heritage will come from the income raised by Brough Lodge once the building has been restored.
“There’s more about our plans elsewhere on our main website www.broughlodge.org and, if there are any organisations or individuals out there who’d like to support the building project, we’d obviously be delighted to hear from them.
“But, right now, hand-knitting needs support, and I hope people will back the pilot projects.”