Hello everyone, long time no see! I don’t know how many of you are extreme procrastinators like myself but this week it has seemed that I had a mountain of things to do so instead I decided to take a day trip up to Whalsay! I wanted to visit the Shoard Charity shop (#lifetimeambition) and also the Heritage Centre to see the new additions to their Fair Isle through the decades exhibition – you might remember last year me and Mam went to see it and this year due to how successful it was they have added new items and rearranged the exhibition. So after a lovely bowl of soup at my cousins Joan’s I headed to the Shoard shop (two fair isle ganseys purchased – result) and then onto the Heritage Centre, I think the exhibition is so brilliant because this is all real peoples real knitwear – hardly anything is behind glass and those that are, are still easily visible.

early 1930’s knitwear, on the left a jumper made in Wool and Rayon – yes i checked the neckline, it was steeked! On the right two items made by Helen Hughson for her to be husband and her brother, each has 19 different motif’s.
Interesting ‘Yoke’ style jumper on the left, machine knit with Fair Isle collar, knit by a man – Magnie Irvine. Although many men knit at this time some didn’t like to be seen but Magnie didn’t mind.
Beautiful Jumper, knit for Peter Stewart by his aunt in the 1940’s, the yarn is extremely fine and it is knit at a very small gauge.

Scarf on the left was knit for Andrew aa Creads by his sister Betty for him going to Sea in approx. 1928. Vest on the right was knit by Margaret Simpson for her Husband Arthur before they married. I love the use of shading, often seen in Whalsay knitwear.
This Jumper was knit for Ian Anderson by his mother, he and his 4 brothers all had similar ones made for them by their mam. The style was very popular at the time and sees the move to include modern fastenings in knitwear like zips.
On the left a childs jumper from 1975 with a photo of the jumper being worn, on the right a very traditional shaded jumper of the time -a ‘peerie allover’
Another example of a garment with a photo of it being worn, John Arthur Irvines Mam, Mary made this for her sons.

an overview of some of the amazing knitwear on show, this section is mainly 1950’s – 1970’s.
I loved the collar on the jumper on the left – although it was knit in the 1980’s by Alice Pottinger I find it extremely modern, similarly with the cardigan on the right which was knit by Janet Irvine for her daughter Catherine, knit in the 1990’s I would wear it today!

This is just a small selection of the photos I took at the Heritage Centre – you could spend hours and hours there going through all the things on display. Thank you to Amanda for sending me the handout which goes with the exhibition explaining what they know about each piece, I often think Whalsay knitters are some of the best and most ingenious knitters in Shetland so it’s no surprise how great it is.

I decided to catch a later ferry (Whalsay is about a half hour ferry journey from the mainland of Shetland) as it was such a beautiful day, I went for a peerie drive around and saw lots of very cute lambs and even some coo’s!

Thank you Joan and Amanda for feeding me and welcoming me as always on my trip up to Whalsay! If you get a chance to visit the exhibition I would highly encourage you, its worth the trip and is really inspiring.

I hope you enjoyed these pictures, I’m sorry I have been so lacklustre on the blog this year BUT If you have seen my Instagram today come back on Monday for a new pattern release.. til then, Happy Knitting! x

23 thoughts on “whalsay

  1. We were lucky enough to see this a few weeks ago on our visit to Shetland thanks to the kindness of Marina Irvine who opened up specially. It really is impressive and only sorry we did not have longer there. I hope the centre might record interviews with Whalsay knitters as an accompaniment to the photos – a really valuable record of Whalsay heritage. Thanks for your brilliant blog on it.

  2. I live way over in Idaho USA and hope to visit your lovely isle someday. Until then I feel like I am on vacation every time I read your blog. Your crofthoose hat was my first multi color work and I really enjoyed it. since then I have done more fair isle, maybe moving closer to a sweater or vest someday.

  3. How wonderful to be able to see such wonderful knitting and views, including lambs and coos. I did not get as far as Whalsay when we had a holiday in Shetland but it looks fabulous.

  4. Thank you very much for all the photo’s and info.
    I’m astounded at how intricate these knits are and dream of being able to produce something like these one day. Is there any history behind the choices of colour or is it purely personal. I wondered if certain colours represented a certain meaning?
    Hoping to be able to see this history personally one day. It seems a long way from Australia.

  5. Would love to see that exhibition. How long is it on for? Is it an annual thing? Will they do it next year, too? I live in New Zealand so impulse travel/do-it-today is not really on the cards for me but that’s a destination worth planning for

  6. I trust the sheep and cattle have right of way on those roads!
    The knitting is magnificent. I really must design myself another FI – it has been far too long but those photos inspire me

  7. Very interesting and as a knitter inspiring too. The skill is evident and as you say Ella, each piece has a personal history making them extra special. Now working out how to visit Shetland again which must of course include a visit to Whaley and The Herirage Centre. Thank you for all the lovely photographs and for sharing.

  8. Gorgeous pictures Ella, really inspirational. I love that brightly coloured cardigan in the second to last exhibition picture – the one you love too. I also like the idea of a ‘peerie allover’ I think that’s what I need rot knit right now.

  9. What a wonderful post Ella, thank you so much for sharing all of this! Is the exhibition going to be a permanent one?

  10. Unbelievable ! Beautiful 😍 knits, I have never seen anything like this before. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Thanks for these photos. I was lucky enough to visit the Whalsay exhibit last summer — this post brings back fabulous memories! I didn’t see the fair-isle collared sweater — many years ago I worked for a man who knit & definitely didn’t want anyone to know. I had to sneak a project into his office once so he could help me over a knitting obstacle — another fun memory. I also really like the yellow yoked sweater next to the collared one — it’s an unusual design I think.

  12. Ella, I love these photos and the account of your trip! One question: in the final few images of the sweaters, there is what looks to be a sampler? Is that what it would be called? Any other info about that piece? Thanks! -Melissa

    1. Hi Melissa, it was just a board of swatches as you came in the door, I don’t think there was any information about it! They have a knitting group at the heritage centre in Whalsay so it may be swatches made by them, thanks! xx

  13. Wow! What amazing knitwear. Makes you wish you had several lifetimes to knit instead of just the one. Are they all knit at the same guage? The scenery is spectacular on such a lovely day. Who wouldn’t be tempted to have a day out instead of catching up.

  14. Thanks Ella. Great knitwear . So nice to see the photos of the garments on the people. Makes it so much more personal.
    Your drive around afterward looks fabulous. You were so lucky to enjoy such beautiful weather.
    Thanks once for sharing.

  15. Thank you for taking the trouble to include us in your journey to Whalsay. The lovely photos and the commentary alongside made me feel as if I were there. I do hope to make the journey someday. Thanks again.

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