spencer dress

Yesterday was the first day of Wovember, a month celebrating Wool, so it thought it would be appropriate to show you my new (to me) 100% wool dress.


i bought this dress at the local saleroom (auction) There were two versions of this dress up for sale, I missed out on the first one so i went for this one, the top is in the shape of a Shetland Spencer top, an undergarment people used to wear in the chilly old days, and the bottom is the Old Shell Lace pattern, a traditional Shetland Lace motif, often seen at the edges of Haps, that detail is also reflected in the cuffs.


The wool is Jamieson & Smith 2ply Jumper Weight, handily i work there so i took the dress in and we were able to match up the shades, the main shade is 122, and considering it is about 30 years old unbelievably it matched the current dye lot.. perfectly! and fc12,1284 and a discontinued shade (128,129?) are the contrast colours.. in case you were interested..

I was sure I had seen this style of dress in one of my books, so I had a look when I got home and I found it in the Shetland Museum and Archives booklet about the Textile Collection. It was designed by Margaret Stuart who was a prolific knitwear designer in Shetland in the 1970’s and 80’s from what i can find out.


The dress was beautiful as it was but unfortunately I am pretty short so on me it was a bit of a Maxi-dress.. which is fine but i would never wear it like that. Luckily its all about who you know, and since Sandra that i work with at Jamieson & Smith is a knitting master (shes knit for royalty don’t ya know?) we decided to shorten it.. gulp. I felt bad but i knew at least another version was in the archives and what else was i going to do with it if i didn’t wear it? Sometimes with things like this, if you can make it fit.. you should!


so i watched as over one afternoon Sandra picked up stitches either side of the plain Spencer top and cut the excess off.. she then grafted the stitches together.. i had debated doing it myself the very day i bought it but i knew if i waited and had Sandra look at it with me then i could see how she did it and do it myself if i ever needed to again.



it is very cosy, you would think with all the holes in the lace it would be a bit draughty but its not. I wore it on Thursday and felt very extravagant, swishing around, haha

PicMonkey Collage


im sorry for so many pictures but its such an unusual dress that is so based on traditional Shetland knitting, in still very contemporary colours. i just love it.


75 thoughts on “spencer dress

  1. Ella, and her friends- I am astonished and delighted that you all like my knitted dress so much ! Ella has brought it to life again –I am so pleased . For years I have wondered what to do with them no one was interested and I packed them away and forgot all about them ! I am looking for the original pattern which I will have filed away somewhere. The 70’s and 80’s were heady days to be a Shetland knitwear designer and producer- “Shetlands from Shetland” rainbow shawls for the wives of the Beatles – stoles for Elizabeth Taylor – Fairisle for West end productions and TV – (I have a “celeb” scrap book somewhere ) and our rainbow knitwear the first in Britain had its own TV show ——and my best friends – our hand knitters all over Shetland — it was such a privilage calling at their homes bags of wool and collecting finished garments the cups of tea and stories I was very lucky to have had such an amazing lifestyle.during those years . My grandfather was Charles Stout chemist Medical Hall Lerwick and my Mother Margaret Stout author of the Shetland Cookery Book -Cookery for Northern Wives – (available Shet Times shop and Shet Mus) My Shetland roots. I am rambling on ! Last 3 dresses in sale room Sat 23rd — 1 pale Rainbow ! until i find the pattern -which i will .Thank you Ella ! Margaret

  2. The dress and the colours are stunning! It’s nice to read that Kate Davies also acquired one thanks to you.
    I just noticed that the skirt is done in Old Shell Lace pattern, which I was swatching just last night :) coincidence

  3. Your dress is gorgeous and has found a wonderful home. I am really pleased for Kate Davies too. Inspired by your blog, I found ” The Traditional Sweater Book ” by Madeleine Weston, published by Dorling Kindersley at least twenty years ago and available as a second hand web purchase for just a few pounds. It contains many lovely Margaret Stuart designs. It is a real treasure and feast for the eyes. I need a spencer and a shawl and an eyelet cardie!

  4. Thank you, Margaret, and Ella and Kate Davies. I live in a very warm state, Florida, nicknamed the Sunshine state, which means I have very little excuse for wool anything, but I am addicted to reading Kate’s blog and following an occasional trail, especially when I find a treasure like this at the end! I wish you luck on your hunt for the pattern! Fran

  5. I came to this post back when Kate Davis first re-blogged it early Nov. Oh my …. how I have failed to find a pattern to copy something like it since then ! This dress is SUCH an object of desire I am even toying with the idea of starting from scratch. Uh oh ….. please tell me there’s a pattern out there somewhere before I put myself thru this torture, lol ;)

  6. I came to this blog through Kate Davies’ post today of her dress. Both hers and yours, Ella, are stunning. Although I too live in a hot state, Texas, unlike the lady from Florida, I wear sweaters all year long because it’s freezing in the air conditioning. I would love to knit one of these dresses. Oh my, yes!

  7. Just .. wow. If there was ever a pattern that was ready for a revival it is this one! Such an immediate visual impact. Really, really hoping we see this pattern soon.

  8. j’ai decouvert ces robes par l’intermédiaire du blog de Kate Davies. deux splendeurs magnifiques .
    si un jour on pouvait trouver le patron pour realiser ce chef d oeuvre.
    Merci d’avoir partager.

  9. I would love to knit this beautiful dress, would have to make it shorter for the smaller woman. Margaret, you are a genius, please publish the pattern!

  10. I’m very sad because my english is not good… I can only say : WHAOU !!! fantastic, both knitter and pattern !!! I hope we can buy the pattern one day…
    Have a nice day and thank you for sharing :-)

  11. I’ll add another plea for the pattern, or a kit even! I live in New England, and would be able to wear one much of the year! It is soo beautiful, and timeless. Pleeeease?

  12. I am absolutely captivated by this dress — in all of its manifestations. I do hope that the pattern is found and made available to those of us who just love it. Planning a trip to Scotland and the Shetlands next summer and am hoping to meet you!

  13. Add me to legions of knitters who would be thrilled to knit one of these amazing dresses! I’ll keep an eye on your blog in the hopes it will be re-released…

  14. Margaret your dresses are so beautiful! I hope you will make the pattern available for purchase!

  15. Hi! I first saw this beautiful dress on Kate Davies’ blog and I thought – how beautiful! I am joining the choir of ladies, singing – Could we buy the pattern? I could imagine that knitting the must be even more pleasurable! Thank you for this beauty, thank you for sharing it!

  16. Ella, how many grams or ounces does the dress weigh? I have a book with Margaret Stuart’s Fern Spencer pattern and from there could improvise to keep knitting the skirt… but some guideline on weight would help me estimate quantities of yarn. Thanks very much.

  17. Pingback: 2015 | ella gordon

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