27th May 2020
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Wilma named as Shetland Wool Week patron

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This years Shetland Wool Week patron Wilma Malcolmson.

The Shetland Wool Week patron for this year was named today as knitwear designer Wilma Malcolmson, who is internationally renowned for her skilfully blended Fair Isle knitwear.

The much-anticipated annual hat pattern, which is now synonymous with the launch of the patron, has also been released. This year’s official hat, designed by her, is called “Katie’s Kep”.

The wool week organisers said they were delighted to have Mrs Malcolmson as this year’s patron. She was a key player in the local knitting community, a wool week and Shetland Peerie Makker tutor, and also one of Shetland’s most influential and innovative designers.

She has lived in Shetland all her life and, like many others who grew up in the isles, has knitted from childhood. Originally from Garderhouse on the West Side, she later moved to Cunningsburgh where she lived with her late husband Leonard.

She established her business, Shetland Designer, in 1982 and during that time she has seen her creations reach all four corners of the world.

Mrs Malcolmson said: “I am touched and honoured to be this year’s patron. Wool week is a wonderful event that helps to bring people, not just knitters, from all around the world together.

“To me, the festival represents a time of friendship, of learning from each other and an appreciation of our islands and way of life as it celebrates old and new by putting traditional patterns and techniques on equal terms with new, innovative ones.

“The hat is the common bond for us all and I am delighted to have been asked to design it and become part of the wool week story.

“My hat ‘Katie’s Kep’ is named after my mother Katie. It includes the patterns that she taught me when I was a peerie lass because they were her favourites. She belonged to that large group of professional knitters, without whom our Shetland colour work and lace heritage might not have been as alive and vibrant as it is today. This is my tribute to all the known and unknown designer artists of Shetland throughout the centuries.”

On her love of knitting, Mrs Malcolmson said: “My mother instilled in me an interest in patterns and colours, from her I learned the importance of contrast and ‘blending’. Colour inspiration is all around us in Shetland – you only need to look at the rugged landscape, seashores the ever-changing skies to find shades that work together.”

She has created four very different colourways for the hat using yarn from Jamieson’s of Shetland, Jamieson and Smith, Uradale Yarns and Shetland Handspun.

Each company has prepared yarn kits and are available to take back orders online, but are currently unable to guarantee specific delivery dates. Customers are urged to keep an eye on the respective websites for updates.

The organisers said: “We are always thrilled to announce the new patron and hat, and perhaps even more so this year. Throughout this ongoing global crisis we have received many requests urging us to release the hat pattern and we are pleased to be able to make it available, as always, as a free download from our Shetland Wool Week website.

“We hope it will bring some welcome light relief and focus as well as a sense of connection for all our supporters.”

“Katie’s Kep” – this year’s official wool week hat.

Mrs Malcolmson added: “I really do feel that this is in the interest of knitters. Under these strange times we are living in there are so many knitters around the world taking comfort from their work and enjoying their knitting when they are self-isolating.

“Knitting has been so important to Shetland all through the years. When I grew up the knitters around me were knitting to help the economy, to put food on the table. It wasn’t a hobby at that time.”

The 11th Shetland Wool Week is due to run from 26th September and already a huge amount of effort has gone into preparing for the event. However, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the event remains under review.

• An extensive question and answer interview with Mrs Malcolmson is available to read via the Shetland Wool Week newsletter and website. A special Facebook SWWKAL (Knit-A-Long) has also been launched for Katie’s Kep and the organisers are encouraging everyone to join in and share their hat works in progress, questions and photos.

About Jim Tait

Jim Tait is news editor at The Shetland Times.

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