Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Shetland Museum in Lerwick on Mainland, Shetland is quite a wonderful place.  In 2005 when we visited the islands, the museum was closed for renovation.  Luckily for us, they had loaned out a number of the textiles in their collection to several smaller museums throughout the islands that make up Shetland.

I discovered when we returned home that the museum has a remarkable photo archive that is accessible to the public on line.  The collective can be searched easily by topics.  Some topics that I have searched for include Fair Isle knitting, lace knitting, and sheep.  The photos are a great record of the role of knitting in the lives of people in the 19th and early 20th century, much like Frank Sutcliffe's photo documentation of the ganseys in the eastern part if Britain. 

Photo T00124 - Shetland Museum Archives
This photo shows two women carrying kishies (a type of basket) filled with peat in the early 1900's.  If you look close, both are knitting as they walk.  It's an interesting reminder of the role that knitting played in the lives of women a century ago. I have purchased several of these photos from the museum over the years.  They hang in my studio as a reminder of where we all have come from.

Elizabeth Johnston grew up in this tradition on Shetland and is still today a professional knitter.  Martha Owen, while visiting Elizabeth a few years ago made a stop at the Shetland Museum.  Martha's husband David took this photo of the two of them together. 

If you look closely at the table they are sitting at in the museum, you can see a clear box imbedded into the center of the table with knitting on needles and handspun yarn.  This box contains Elizabeth's work.  Unlike some traditional crafts, knitting on Shetland is still a living art form.

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