The seventh Shetland Wool Week opened in fine style with a wine and nibbles reception at Clickimin last night.
Enthusiasts of all things woolly from all over the world were there, many sporting the croft hoose hat designed by wool week patron Ella Gordon.
She welcomed the visitors, and said she was delighted that the design which had come out of her head was now “on your heads”.
She paid tribute to all the knitters who had gone before, those who had scraped a living but kept the tradition alive, making Shetland the Mecca for knitters it had become.
Organiser Misa Hay of Promote Shetland thanked the guests for coming – a sea of hands shot up when she asked if anyone was from abroad – and thanked all the sponsors.
Museum curator Carol Christiansen then paid tribute to the volunteers who would be manning events from Fair Isle to Unst all week.
The evening ceremony is much bigger than last year. It moved from Mareel to accommodate growing numbers and ticket sales were up again this year. A snapshot of Shetland culture was provided for the 100-plus guests.
Chaired by Claire White, it opened with musical items from members of Hjaltibonhoga and also included Lerwick Jarl’s Squad and later a talk on Shetland food from Marian Armitage.
New this year was a fashion show, showcasing the best of Shetland design including a frock coat from Shetland Organics to a top from Hoswick-based producer Nielanell that could be worn upside down.
The fashion parade also featured the Anderson High School Maakin and Yakkin group who modelled their work. These girls are so keen on textiles they have been given the day off school on Wednesday to attend a spinning workshop at Hoswick.
Also new was merchandising, with wool week T-shirts selling briskly.
The visitors certainly appreciated the buzz of the occasion. Wendy Toye of Canada had organised a group visit – a venture
that was a year in the planning.
“It’s my first time here but it won’t be the last”, she said. “I love it [Shetland], it’s beautiful. I’d always heard about it and decided this was time to come.”
Vancouver-based designer Bonnie Lefevre, who imports wool from Jamieson & Smith Shetland Wool Brokers, said Shetland knitting was “enriched by heritage and culture”.
She added: “People are interested in ethical knitwear, they like to know who made it.”
Cindy Brown, also from Vancouver, was bringing a Shetland shawl back to its homeland to have it made into four BurraBears to be given to the people who had worn it at their christenings.
Margaret Parker from Leeds said she had always wanted to come back to the isles after visiting 34 years ago, and made her croft house hat with the pale green, orange and moorit yarn bought then: “I found it in my stash.”
And Janet Major from Norfolk had made her hat with wool dyed with meadowsweet and madder plants.
Shetland College textile student Marcia Galvin said: “It’s really exciting being surrounded by people who are so passionate about all aspects of knitting, weaving and dyeing, everyone just wants to mix and share [their ideas].”
Oliver Henry of Jamieson & Smith Shetland Wool Brokers, who started the first wool week under the instruction of Bradford-based parent company Curtis Wool Direct, said the expansion for wool week from its relatively small beginnings was “quite humbling”.
He added: “It’s like a big ball of wool gathering momentum, it’s great for the isles.”