Shetland Wool Week

I feel honoured to have been invited to Shetland Wool Week 2013 along with the amazingly talented Tom van Deijnin, AKA tomofholland, and Di Gilpin, who was awarded The Balvenie Master of Craft award for the Textiles Category for 2012. Tom and I worked together on WOVEMBER last year, however I’ve not yet met Di Gilpin and am really looking forward to doing so at Shetland Wool Week! My involvement with WOVEMBER has made me much more aware of the need for fashion businesses precisely like Di Gilpin Ltd. and I cannot wait to learn more about this endeavor and Di Gilpin’s design work.


Shetland Wool Week, image © Dave Wheeler and used with kind permission

I am also really excited to see that some of my favourite people from WOOLWERLD will be there, including Deb Robson, (who is my hero for her amazing work with wool from different sheep breeds) and Susan Crawford, (who is my hero for her amazing work with Vintage Knitwear). I can’t wait to see you all there!

Anyone who has followed this blog for a while won’t be surprised to discover that one of my presentations at Shetland Wool Week focuses on Listening to Shetland Wool.


Hûrd – A KNITSONIK™ PRODUKTION – Listening to Cumbrian Wool

Everyone is invited to bring knitting projects along to work on during this event, which celebrates the role that sounds can play in our understandings and celebration of regional woollen textiles, and which will feature a selection of Oral Histories from the Shetland Museum Archives plus field recordings yet to be made by me, in Shetland.

You would think that all spinning wheels sound like spinning wheels and that all sheep sound like sheep, but this is not at all the case. In Estonia, shepherds are inclined to use huge Maremma guard dogs to protect their flocks from the wolves that roam in the forests. In the UK we do not have wolves, and all the shepherds I met in Cumbria use border collies to round up their sheep. These breeds of dogs make completely different sounds. Another example: the sturdy legs of Cumbrian Herdwick sheep produce a thunderous sound when a flock move en masse, whereas small, primitive breeds are somehow lighter on their feet and tend to scatter rather than consolidate when a dog tries to get round them. In Estonia – since there are no longwool sheep – there is no tradition of combing or worsted spinning and so the sounds of that technology (so prevalent in the history of British Wool…) cannot be heard in Estonia. And these sonic differences exist before you even get into regional dialects, and words for wool in different languages! Wherever you go, wool sounds distinctive…

Here are some of the recordings I created in Estonia while exploring Estonian wool in sound:

I am deeply looking forward to listening to wool specifically in Shetland. As a non-Shetlander whose principal focus is on sound, listening will play an essential part in helping me to discover and learn about this place.


As well as “Listening to Shetland Wool”, I am offering two knitting workshops during Shetland Wool Week. One of these is themed around utilising the different sheepy shades of Jamieson & Smith Supreme Jumper Weight to knit a baby-sized version of Layter;


Layter – the adult size; a babysized version is on the way!

…the other workshop is called “Quotidian Colourwork” and in this, knitters are invited to bring objects of personal significance and worth, and/or photos, books etc. in order to develop colourwork charts based on things that are meaningful to them.

This theme has preoccupied me for several years, and I am very glad for an opportunity to focus on it for Shetland Wool Week!


I looked back through my archives and found references to making knitted things based on sloes; tree bark; and beautiful Reading Brickwork; now I am galvanized to complete all the charts for these various ideas! I know I am not a very prolific publisher of knitting patterns, but I have many swatches and colourwork ideas charted out, and would very much like to share the pleasure of turning familiar, everyday things into personalised colourwork charts… to produce beautiful knitted versions of sloes, bark, and bricks.


2007 – ‘the bluish/purplish bloom on all wild plum-style things’


2009 – ‘Is it just me or does that just seem like the most perfect readymade Fair Isle inspiration for something?’


2011 – ‘Yesterday started out with an installment of Reading brick-watching and knit-dreaming. (Don’t all these brickwork patterns just scream “FAIRISLE” at you?)’

Happily as well as the Quotidian/Fair Isle swatch-fest that is about to begin, there has been some actual garment knitting taking place around here:


I have been combining sonic and knitterly themes for me in the form of a pair of legwarmers for soundwalks, and churning out baby things for a new Nephew in the family (say hello to my tiny nephew, Tom). Actually, in Brussels after delivering the Tuned City field recording workshop with Valeria Merlini, I found a wonderful shop selling baby things; I went in and listened to every single rattle there, and picked out the one that sounded best to me… so perhaps sonic and knitterly themes were combined there, too.


Finally, Tom and I are about to embark on a KNITSONIK/tomofholland collaborative experiment which mixes up the worlds of sound and knitting; full details to be revealed in time! I am looking forward to this immensely and feel I shall learn much in the process from Tom. It will be lovely to be able to share THE SOUNDS and THE KNITTING together in a joint project!


Tom, making Sonic Wallpaper

I am really happy to be involved with Shetland Wool Week, and feel honoured to have been asked. THANK YOU! I really hope to see some of you there, Fx

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