Happy tenth birthday Shetland Wool Week

To mark Shetland Wool Week reaching its tenth birthday, and to celebrate the continued partnership of Shetland College UHI in this super event, we invited alumni and staff taking part to share some of their fun wool facts and favourite yarns.

Shetland College UHI is the most northern partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands and prides itself on being the UK’s most northern textile course.

Where better to start than with Faye Hackers, her energy and passion for the craft and the array of creative opportunities it provides is contagious. She is the programme leader at the university’s Contemporary Textiles degree and one of the committee members of this year’s internationally recognised wool week held annually on Shetland. The university’s courses equip students with the technical skills and the practical knowledge to produce innovative textiles, and the business skills to market them globally.

  • Faye Hackers

Wooly Info: Before working at the University, I was a knitwear designer predominantly based in Shanghai working for UK brands. You can still find my designs in a few UK high street stores today!

Some of my work (12 scarves) is currently on show at the Museum and Archives over Shetland wool week (see photo) and is up for Charity Auction, so please head along and bid to raise money for some great causes!

Fav Yarn: I can’t pick only one…Shetland’s Jamieson and Smith 2ply heritage undyed, all the beautiful natural colours of Shetland- cosy and weather resistant (a must in Shetland!). But, my overall favourite yarns to knit with are silks or merinos on a 8 or 10 gauge Vbed, the perfect quality of knit in my eye; great drape, not too fine, not too thick- perfect!

  • Roisin Alexandra McAtamney
    Textile Technician at the textile facilitation unit, Shetland College UHI and owner of R.A.M Knitwear. Teaching a workshop at Shetland Wool Week 2019

Wooly Info: You can turn almost any fibre into a yarn, then garment. During my studies on the Design for Textiles BA Hons at Heriot Watt university, our knitwear technician showed us a lovely knitted pullover. His wife had saved the fur from grooming their Alsatian to make it! Needless to say, it was kept wrapped up tight as the smell was rather pungent!  

Fav yarn or textile: Did you know that there is a woman in Sardinia who dives underwater to collect fibers from an endangered clam and spins it into a yarn known as byssus, or sea silk, it’s one of the rarest and most coveted materials in the world! The secrets of this technique have been in her family for 24 generations and she is the last with this knowledge!

  •         Helen Whitham
    Textile Technician at the textile facilitation unit, Shetland College UHI. Teaching the ‘machine knit a cushion Cover’ class at Shetland Wool Week 2019.

Wooly Info: Born and bred in Shetland I have had a keen interest in knitting my whole life. I first learned to knit at primary school, studied textile design and specialised in knitting at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design at the University of Dundee. I moved home to work for a local knitwear designer before taking up a job at Shetland College UHI where I now work as a technician and programmer on Shima Seiki knitting machines.

Fav yarn or textile: I love experimenting with hand tooled techniques on V-Bed and Domestic knitting machines, especially creating my own hand tooled lace patterns. I also enjoy playing with colour; the huge number of shades of yarn that Jamieson’s of Shetland spin allow countless options for combining and blending colours.

  •          Dr Simon Clarke
    Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, Head of Creative and Cultural Industries Shetland College UHI

Wooly Info: In 1921 well preserved remains of a young woman were found from the Danish Bronze Age at Egtved, in South Jutland. The body and grave goods lay in an oak log coffin in waterlogged conditions that had allowed woven woollen textiles to survive. Danish society was scandalised by the outfit which included a string miniskirt and a theory that she was a southern European courtesan was quickly popularised without any real evidential basis. However, in 2015 isotope analysis of the woman’s bones and hair and of the wool in her textiles suggest that she was indeed an immigrant, probably from the Black Forest region of Germany. The honour of Danish womanhood preserved!

Egtved Girl’s grave, Denmark, 1370 BC.
Credit: The National Museum of Denmark

  • Niela Nell Kalra
    University of the Highlands and Islands 2007 graduate, Contemporary Art and Textiles Degree Distinction and self employed knitwear designer.

Wooly Info: Despite having a successful little knitwear business, Nielanell, I can hardly even knit! My favourite textile activity is spinning and dyeing wool.

Image credit: Byre Cape by Nielanell, photographer Austin Taylor Photography

Fav yarn or textile: Nothing in the world compares to a beautiful fine Shetland fleece to prepare and spin.

  •  Elaine Nicolson
    University of the Highlands and Islands 2017 graduate, BA Contemporary Textiles. Self employed knit wear designer.

Wooly Info: This is one of my favourite textiles which was part of my degree work. This design was inspired from a hand knit heritage piece. It was knitted on a 12 gauge machine in white merino wool and silk in the colours of beach pebbles.

Fav yarn or textile: Wool, blended with silk for a great fibre combination.

  • Edina Szeles
    Lecturer of Contemporary Textiles, Art and Woven Structures at Shetland College UHI, Programme Leader of the portfolio course. In her third year of teaching a weaving workshop during Shetland Wool Week

Wooly Info: My first wool experience was at 16. I had to weave a rug in the art high school I studied in Budapest, Hungary. My first wool experience on Shetland was in 2012, using Jamieson & Smith heritage yarns to create woven fabrics for the GlobalYell weave studio. I worked in the textile industry for over 10 years, designing both for printed and woven textiles before moving into teaching art in 2006. I also maintain an independent art practice creating contemporary art and design pieces.

Fav yarn or textile: Love all!  I enjoy finding different ways to use them, primarily for weaving but also for hand-dying, spinning, knitting, felting and embroidery. In recent years I have been working mainly with wool – what else if you live in Shetland!  

Share your favourites.  Leave a comment!

Watch out next for… Loch Ness Knit, 17- 20 October


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