At Home with Hazel Tindall

In preparation for Shetland Wool Week 2014, the Shetland Textile Museum visited Hazel Tindall, one of the museum’s dedicated demonstrators as well as skillful knitter, designer and, especially, this year’s Wool Week patron.

Hazel Tindall- 2014 Patron of Shetland Wool Week
Hazel Tindall- Hand knitter, designer and 2014 Patron of Shetland Wool Week

Home for Hazel is Shetland and, more specifically, around the small village of Aith. Here, she developed her knitting skills as a very young girl, strongly  influenced by her surroundings and its knitting heritage. She knitted for an income up until the age of eighteen when she, then, continued her education at a college in Aberdeen. Before Shetland’s “oil boom”, employment was difficult and a young Hazel briefly worked at the Lerwick Hotel. Shortly thereafter, she headed for London and was employed with the Foreign Commonwealth Office, where she met her Yorkshire born husband, Trevor. Together, they moved to Yorkshire and Hazel worked for one of the directors of Haworth Scouring Company. In 1983, together with their two sons, Trevor and Hazel moved to Shetland. For many years, Hazel combined her knitting with a position as an administrator at Aith Junior High School.

Hazel said, “I didn’t feel that I entered the knitting world until sixteen years ago.” She learned to spin and became a member of the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers.

It was then, through the encouragement of a friend, Elizabeth Johnston, that Hazel consequently entered a competition for world’s fastest knitter. She has won this title twice, first in 2004 and again in 2008; still holding this title according to the U.K. Handknitting Association.

Asked what she thinks about when knitting she replied, “I try not to count when knitting…I need to get away from that…not really thinking.” Once, for a year, she put knitting aside, she only crocheted and felt that she used her left hand more than her right. She became interested in the therapeutic advantages of knitting or “brain training”, as she called it, and referred to the research that Stitchlinks does. But what about Shetland’s knitting future?

“It’s been in the doldrums for many years and still is,” Hazel answered. Shetland’s knitting future seemed doubtful to her and many just do “…small things. Not cardigans or such. Many young knitters aren’t confident about their skills. Some don’t know how to cast-on nor finish-off…”

This is the motivation for Hazel to produce a DVD on knitting. She feels it is an important educational opportunity for future reference. “There’s a need for more opportunity to experience the craft of knitting,” she ended with.

The Shetland Textile Museum gratefully thanks Hazel Tindall for allowing us to visit and chat with her.

-Tim Senften

STM and Wool Week

STM Woolweek

Having reached the end of the popular and well-visited Spinning Month of August, we can now set our sights towards the annual upcoming Shetland Wool Week and give some insight with what is happening at Shetland Textile Museum.

This year’s Shetland Wool Week, organized by ten partners in celebration, enhancement and development of Shetland wool, its industry and rural farming as a worldwide natural fibre, is held October 4-12 and is accented with a variety of open studios, workshops, classes, talks, shows and exhibitions.

The Gansey Exhibition, a traveling exhibition of traditional Scottish fisherman’s ganseys from the Moray Firth Gansey Project, will be shown, in part, at the Shetland Textile Museum as well as Shetland Museum & Archives and Unst Heritage Centre on Unst.

 Scandinavian Knitting with Shetland Wool is another exciting and inspiring activity/class being held at the textile museum. Join two experienced and accomplished Scandinavian knitters, one from Finland and the other from Sweden, as they show their traditional techniques and designs using Shetland wool.

 *Tuesday 7th at 10.00 and Thursday 9th at 17.00 at the Böd of Gremista, Lerwick. Fee: £10 Space: 10 participants Skill Level: 3 Box Office bookings are available.

 NOT TO BE MISSED: Shetland’s Future. We are immensely proud and delighted to have children from Whalsay and Scalloway bringing their knitting and demonstrating their skills! The bairns from Whalsay will be at the museum on Tuesday 7th between 2-4 pm and from Scalloway on Saturday 11th. Naturally, our skilful group of volunteer knitting and spinning demonstrators will be present during the week.

All this at the Shetland Textile Museum as well as our 2014 exhibition and collections still on display. Looking forward to meeting with you during Shetland Wool Week.

* Shetland Textile Museum is open 12 to 17 every day during wool week.



August = Spinning Month

We, at the Shetland Textile Museum, are happy to announce a whole theme month concentrated on the art of spinning wool. For those who have always wanted to dip into learning how to spin, or, for those who may need a small push and want to develop their style and technique, this month is an absolute wonderful opportunity to do just that!

August is Wool Spinning Month!
August is Wool Spinning Month!

Elisabeth Johnston, from Shetland Handspun, will be tutoring an informal spinning class starting Wednesday, August 6 between 7-9 p.m. Then, the following week on Thursday, we have Julia Downing from Just Shetland will tutor a similar class between 7-9 p.m. The charge for each class is £5 per participant.

Interesting? People can call ahead for more information and reserve a spot for one or both classes. During August, STM will try to have spinning wheels set up for visitors to practice on and, hopefully, have volunteering demonstrators every day. Everyone is welcome to give spinning a try during the museum’s opening hours. You’re allowed to bring your own wheels to the evening courses (advisable) or during opening hours throughout August.

For us at the museum, this is an exciting theme for August, exciting that we have two wonderful and experienced wool spinners tutoring evening classes and grateful for our dedicated team of volunteer demonstrators.

Remember: August 6 and August 14 for spinning classes! Evenings 7-9 p.m.

All we can say for now is, A WARM AND HEARTY WELCOME TO ALL!


Try: The LOOM

STM's working loom
STM’s working loom

Weaving cloth on a loom has been a fundamental process and provided people with fine and fashionable garments though hundreds of years. Shetland Textile Museum’s loom has probably seen hundreds of meters, or yards, of cloth woven out on it with just as many patterns being produced.

Originating from the late 19th century, little is known about our working loom. What we do know is it has been producing woven textiles and tweeds from Adies of Voe and this production has most likely been delivered to many parts of the world. When standing next to it, it is a mechanical wonder for those with, not only a textile interest, but even an engineering curiosity.

According to reports, perhaps that’s why there has been a distinctive number of men at the museum001 wanting to try weaving and understand the workings of a loom and how it can produce such fine textiles.

So, during August and September everyone is invited to come to the museum, sit down at this wonder of textile heritage and, with some simple instructions, give the loom a go and weave on it. It will give a deeper understanding of weaving, the work process and possibly entice a few to consider a new hobby.

Just drop in or make arrangements for a personal introduction during opening times!


Lecturer from Poland

The Shetland Textile Museum has the privilege to have a European textile artist visit July 3 and present herself and her work. Living and working in Poznań, Poland, Alicja Tyburska will lecture in traditional fiber handcrafts and the growing interest of traditional fiber handcraft in her native country.

Weaving artist, Alicja Tyburska
Weaving artist, Alicja Tyburska
Weaving artist, Alicja Tyburska at work
Weaving artist, Alicja Tyburska at work

Wool enthusiast, spinner and weaver, she strives to bring spinning and weaving techniques back to life.

The museum certainly welcomes Alicja Tyburska and looks forward to her thoughts and experiences. Equally important, the museum heartily welcomes everyone to Alicja’s lecture on Thursday, July 3 at 7:30 p.m.

The Shetland Textile Museum has opened!

After diligent work on the part of trustees and volunteers, the Shetland Textile Museum has finally opened for the 2014 season. The flag flew from top mast. The exhibitions were in place. Cleaning was finished. Reception area was ready and everyone was quite pleased, both the helpful museum staff and the over 100 visitors.

The Shetland College students’ exhibition created a buzz of excitement for everyone who found room in the smaller exhibition room. The students quickly became busy with answering questions and showing their individual designs to wide-eyed spectators.

The “Oil/knittin” exhibition, examples of knitting during the so-called oil boom years of 1970’s and 1980’s, brought thoughts and reflections from the visitors. It is an exhibition that will do well in visiting several times to consume its message to the fullest.

It was an immensely fine day for everyone and, as people left the museum at closing time, everyone was in contented spirits and with a smile on their faces.

Shetland Wool & Knitting- a Legacy

Flung out between the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea are the Shetland Islands. A remote, chilly, cloudy and wind whipped gathering of open, peat-clad, rocky scattering of islands. For centuries, the inhabitants learned to carve out a livelihood through fishing, crofting and wool. Knitting developed through either domestic needs or to barter and exchange with.

Evidence points to the islands having a stock of primitive Soay sheep during the Neolithic era some 4500 years ago. Later, during the 9th century, Norse settlers came to Shetland with their native breed of sheep; inter-breeding with the Soay and developing a hearty native sheep having a low protein diet and living off grasses and seaweed. The wool was first woven, then, kneaded into a cloth called Wadmal. However, being soft, light and warm, it was soon recognized that this exceptional wool was most suitable for knitting. Knitting developed and soon became a key handcraft of Shetland and a significant part of its economy.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Hanseatic merchants from Germany and Dutch fisherman established a trade in stockings with Shetland. Debts were once paid in knitted stockings to the Bishop Holar of Iceland and this practice matured into a Shetland hosiery trade.

When their men were battling the sea as fisherman, the women stayed behind to take charge of the home and family, the croft and enhancing the family’s income by knitting. It was commonplace that a woman would be seen trudging from the peat beds with a “kishie” full of peat, a knitting belt around her waist and her hands busily knitting while on her way back to the croft house.

Fine Shetland lace shawls and stockings were world-renowned and products that Victorian high society ladies jealously wanted to own. Among many was Queen Victoria, herself wearing lace stockings or a lace shawl made in Shetland. Another traditional form of Shetland knitting, which developed and became popular during this time, was Fair Isle knitting and famous for their brightly colored patterned knitwear, having  been dyed with local plants and lichens to produce rich and lasting natural colors.

One seldom known fact, which propelled Shetland knitting to high peaks, is that of Edmund Hillary, together with Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay, was clothed in specially ordered handmade knitwear from Shetland in his successful pursuit in conquering Mount Everest in 1953.

 Through thousands of years, Shetland wool and Shetland knitting skills have been handed from one generation to another creating a unique knitting and textile heritage identifying Shetland for true quality.

-Tim Senften