a hap journey..

Hello, I’m currently working on a project and although I am in the beginning stages I thought it might be interesting to document so I can work through my process and give some background to my thinking.

I’m sure everyone who ever reads here knows or is aware of what a Hap is – a traditional Shetland shawl with a square middle, 4 trapezium borders and a lace edging. Something women in Shetland wore for centuries – often as a coat, and to wrap their babies.

haps being stretched in Lerwick
a mam and baby in their haps

So even me, a child born in Shetland in 1990, had a Hap. It was made for my sister by a lady who was friendly to my mam’s side of the family in Northmavine. Two of the same Hap (maybe many more – it might have been ‘the’ Hap she made for people) were made for us, the first one for my cousin Aileen – which was also used for her sister Nicola then another for my sister Marianne and in turn used for me.

Nicola and Marianne at they’re christening with the Hap

Anyway, lately as happens every now and then it feels Haps are very ‘in’ Gudruns Hansel hap has been redeveloped, with more colours and sizes added, The Woolly Thistle – one of J&S’ stockists in the USA is currently running a Hap Kal and I was interviewed for that which isn’t out yet. I think (initially) it is only for members of that Kal but anyway working on what I needed for that interview ignited in me to think about my hap:

me and my hap

So I decided I am going to recreate the Hap, me and my sisters one no longer exists (Mam dumped it – it was full of moth holes and mam, correctly, had no idea I would ever have an extreme interest in Shetland Textiles, its ok – we have gotten over it.. just) but Aileen/Nicolas one does and I have got it from my Auntie Nette to directly reference. Due to its patterned middle it would be considered a ‘fancy’ hap. I did try to find the centre motif in any of my books but I wasn’t successful so I have managed to chart it and recreate it myself.

my centre swatch

The border is similar to this Patons pattern (Kate Davies book of Haps contains a whole chapter on this pattern) but its slightly different (the top of the trees are different). The edging again is not the same as that pattern. It is obviously something that she (Lizzie) put together from different elements. Something Shetland knitters have been doing forever! Im going to made it in Jumper Weight (4ply) in orange (shade 1285) and I’m going to focus on making it look as much as the original while also making it as simple to make as possible.

I have charted the edging and am working on the border chart, I don’t do much lace but I can do the basic stuff and there is nothing overly complicated here. My next plan is how to construct it, I need to knit the centre first anyway so I’m going to work on that while I ruminate about the rest.

me on the Hap

I have always struggled with where I am in the timeline of Shetland Textile history, I am old enough to remember the very end of a certain way of life here and also to be part of the time which had a rejection of that ‘old fashioned’ life. It’s then all circled back again to where we value and long for that time. I have worked in the industry now for over a decade, have collected vintage Shetland textiles for just as long and studied textiles at college – but I still feel unqualified to speak or that my opinion isn’t valued. There is a great deal of cultural appropriation that happens around Shetland knitting and we are expected to be grateful. Well, I struggle with that notion.

I’m not here because I come from generations of knitters passing down patterns but actually, I come from generations of people like me who just lived their life and some happened to knit. And that’s ok – I came to Shetland Textiles because it is my vocation, not something that was forced on me – in fact, it was the opposite. At the end of the day, this is my culture, it is my history and I have a true direct link to this item so I’m going to recreate it.

Wish me luck xx

29 thoughts on “a hap journey..

  1. What a wonderful idea. I will watch your journey from the concept stage to the finish and then I will knit your hap.

  2. Hi Ella, it’s so nice to read your post this morning. You always have something interesting to say, and an interesting viewpoint. I appreciate your insight and honesty.
    I knitted Gudrun’s hap a few years ago for my granddaughter. I love the idea of the hap’s history and usefulness and although it wasn’t used for a christening it’s been both practical and beautiful not to mention a very enjoyable knit.
    I really look forward to seeing yours and hopefully a pattern, so I can make my second hap!
    All the best, Lynda (in Massachusetts)

  3. You are Shetland to me and you have a keen eye for the depth and history of knitting. You were a very cute little hap user! Go, Ella, go! We’ll all be the better for your hap project! Even far away in Colorado ❤️

  4. I always love to read your views about Shetland knitting and I love to knit your designs. I can’t wait to read about your progress on this one. I have no babies to knit for yet but might just knit a hap for future grand kids…

  5. Hi Ella!

    How do you feel about those of us from far away who have fallen in love with Shetland and are knitting traditional Shetland patterns? Are we part of the cultural appropriation you mention in your post? I don’t believe that I am, but it isn’t my culture.

    I will be in Shetland beginning next Sunday for almost a week. I want to be certain I don’t unintentionally upset anyone. Please let me know if there is anything I need to be sensitive to that I might not be aware of.

    I hope to see you when we come by J&S. Thank you.


    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Hi Deb, no i have no issue with any of that – I mean I see people everyday my work that are like you. There’s many layers to it – people who write stuff about Shetland and Shetlanders, people who call stuff after Shetland place names without ever stepping foot in the place.. if people are respectful it’s totally fine. I think because I am a ‘younger’ designer sometimes people think I don’t know what I’m talking about so I seem to see more of it or be on the receiving end of it. Some of the posts those groups on Facebook enrage me. Someone once linked to me a blog post that I wrote for J&S as an explanation for something, I was like ‘yes I know, I wrote that!’ 🤣🤣

  6. Good luck and enjoy the process. My first hap was, I think called a baby shawl. The pattern and wool came from the local Scotch Wool shop sixty years ago, later I made others for friends from a simpler Patons Behive pattern. Recently the ones I’ve made from The Traditional Sweater Book by Madeline Weston, used to wrap around my shoulders are much simpler. Best wishes, Pam

  7. I always look forward to your posts. I really enjoyed hearing the story of your Hap and look forward to following it’s recreation! You are one of the voices of Shetland knitting to me. I would also like more information on the cultural appropriation you mention. My assumption is by commercial designers and the misuse of the terminology? But if I am wrong I would appreciate being corrected. I do enjoy knitting Shetland patterns with Shetland yarns. I have plans to attend Wool Week this year but will also be in Shetland for several weeks in June. I always look forward to a visit to the woolbrokers and hope to meet you. I am a huge fan of your work–both written and knitting–as well as your awesome collection of vintage knitwear! Have a wonderful day! Angela

  8. Loved reading this. I am just finishing my 2nd Half Hansel Hap by Gudrun and I just don’t want to stop. I’m already thinking about the next one. The pattern has a wonderful rhythm to it. I’ve also had a lot of pleasure over the years from Shetland stranded colour work. All the women in my Yorkshire family knitted, made clothes, made curtains etc. I am so grateful to people like you for keeping the knitting traditions alive and working on patterns for people everywhere to enjoy. As far as I am concerned we are both in our different ways part of knitting’s heritage.

  9. So good to know more about you and your traditions! You have peaked my interest to know more about both. Nice to meet you Ella!!

  10. Ella, thanks so much for sharing this. A really interesting project and also your thoughts about cultural appropriation. I visited Shetland a few years ago and was very lucky to be able to see the exhibition at Whalsay. We were made really welcome and the context of the continuity of the knitted garments in the lives of the people of Whalsay was a tremendous part of it. Look forward to seeing what happens next!

  11. Hey, weren’t you just the most beautiful ‘BABE’ ! Great pictures and I agree with your annoyance when people appropriate names/patterns from Shetland and call them their own. Bloody cheek to say the least!! Looking foreward to your hap journey :)

  12. Sounds like a fun adventure and also a chance to recreate a part of your history. Enjoy the journey and I shall look forward to sharing the progress as you go along the path.

  13. You ate extremely qualified to speak! You are a Shetlander and a knitter. You are the authentic voice of these traditional patterns. Good luck with the hap! Love it!

  14. This was really interesting to read. As I write about the work of Betty Lindsay and Ron Schweitzer (Yarns International) and with the designs they created, the questions of appropriation is in my mind. It has left me going down a path of trying to find words to talk about “influenced by”, “inspiration” and putting it in a context of how Americans in the 20th century thought about Shetland, its knitting, and its wool.

  15. Hello Ella..look forward to seeing your Hap design come to life..I agree with the other comments, that you are well qualified to speak about Shetland design and traditions…will wait with excitement…patricia

  16. I will follow with interest and I am excited to see the finished pattern. I would definitely be interested in knitting it. Best of luck Ella👍

  17. I look forward to seeing your Hap design. I have been thinking about knitting a Hap and I may wait to see how you work out the pattern. Thank you for sharing.

  18. lovely hap and baby photos and project. And thoughts… I don’t know why you couldn’t speak authentically about Shetland and knitting, since it is your heritage and your interest, and your life and your work. I am also quite sure that what some people feel is genuine interest, and find the work inspiring. But then unfortunately there are those who feel that co-opting a culture is OK…

    It is my dream to visit your beautiful islands someday, and to see and experience all that I am allowed to of the history and culture, but I do hope that I will do so in an appropriate manner, with respect for all that I find there. Having two Scots-heritage grandmothers does not give me the right to claim the land as my own, I know. :-)

  19. Good on you!! 👏👏👏😍 I look forward to seeing, reading and hopefully knitting your hap when you have finished it. P.S. Love your gorgeous baby photos. Cheers Robyn Runge 🍷

  20. Greetings

    I am currently doing TWT Hap KAL with J&S lace weight among my yarns. I love that you are going to document your hap “journey.” The stories and pictures (you guys were beautiful babies) are a great intro.

    I have been gathering yarns for your Sandvoe (hopefully to go on my needles soon) but I also have your Roosty. So I’ve plenty to knit while I follow yiur jou ey. So much to knit so little time. Oh well I knit.

    Until the next leg of your journey….

    Take care, stay well/safe Vera VanSlyke

    Inspire along the way.


  21. That was very interesting and I think you are right in wanting to put a new perspective on traditional crafts out there. You are after all, part of the next generation who are going to take those crafts forward and your input and opinion should certainly be valued. I wish you luck and will watch with interest, all stages of your journey.

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