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. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. Pingback: 2015 | ella gordon

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