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Shetland Wool Week Looks Ahead

Published: 15 October 2013

Mary Kay with her Shetland Lace class students (Photo: Frank Bradford) ZoomThe fourth Shetland Wool Week concluded on Tuesday morning with the closing remarks of the North Atlantic Native Sheep and Wool Conference. This marked the conclusion of 11 days dedicated to the celebration of Shetland Sheep, Wool and all things textile which saw hundreds of people attending events throughout the isles.

Emma Miller, Marketing Officer for Shetland Amenity Trust, and one of the event co-ordinators said "The whole of the past week has passed in a woolly wave of enthusiasm about Shetland: our sheep, wool, textile industry and the people involved. It's fantastic to see so many folk from all around the world coming here to celebrate something we have on our doorstep. We've looked at so many different uses for wool this week and folk have left feeling really inspired by what's going on here."

Events included the usual favourites such as the Shetland Lace knitting workshop with Mary Kay, Fair Isle knitting with Hazel Tindall and Shetland Teddy Bear workshops. There were a few additions this year too, with a whole series of felting, dying and spinning events at Hoswick Visitors Centre. Tours of Laurance Odie's factory and even a chance to whittle your own shawl pin with Cecil Tait of Paparwark meant there was something for everyone. Fair Isle classes were held in Whalsay, with the Whalsay Primary School knitting group visiting Jamieson and Smith Wool Brokers and also Mareel during the week to join in the knitting sessions.

A stunning range of Fair Isle was on display (Photo: Frank Bradford) ZoomOver 40 people made the journey to Unst on Thursday for their drop-in session and over 200 passed through the Boat Hall at Shetland Museum and Archives where the Wool Week Hub hosted a range of experts through the week to offer tips on knitting and spinning, or just the chance for a chat and an opportunity to meet with some of the people who had travelled from around the world to attend Shetland Wool Week. Three hundred people attended the Makers' Market at Lerwick Town Hall on Saturday with many also attending the Marts to see the Fleece judging and Ram sale.

The reputation of the event is spreading, with this year's event attracting more people than ever. Participants from all through the UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, The Netherlands, America and even Brazil made the journey to Shetland to take part in different events. Exhibitions at Shetland College, Shetland Textile Museum, and the ShetlandOrganics display at Vaila Fine Art, along with open studios at Ninian, Burra Bears Workshop and ASF Shetland in Yell ensured there was always something available for those who were not attending workshops.

Visiting Designers, Di Gilpin, Felicity Ford and Tom Van Deijnen were impressed with the enthusiasm and dedication of the local and visiting participants in their workshops. Felicity is already planning her next trip to Shetland to immerse herself in the Shetland textile culture, having been so inspired that she penned a new tune called 'Shetland Wool'.  The You Tube video is gathering more hits every day.

The North Atlantic Native Sheep and Wool Conference opened on Friday evening, giving delegates the chance to discuss issues of sustainability in relation to North Atlantic Native Sheepbreeds. Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Shetland, Uist and St Kilda were all represented, with participants also attending from America, Canada and Australia. Over 60 people attended during the four days which included a visit to Unst and Yell and a full day of lectures in the Shetland Museum and Archives from a range of international experts.

Conference Delegates at Shetland Museum and Archives Conference Delegates at Shetland Museum and ArchivesZoomThe main themes identified during the conference were the need for increased awareness of North Atlantic breeds, and in particular that different breeds produce fleece which is better used for different purposes. The importance of knowing the quality of each type of wool plays a part in educating the wider consumer base and getting the best price possible for the product. The differences between practices in each area were explored, with many alternative methods of sheep management employed in the various locations. It was firmly agreed that the conference provided much food for thought, and that delegates would be returning home with new ideas and inspiration for their sheep farming and fleece use, but also with an enthusiastic positivity about Shetland sheep, landscapes and people.

Dates for Wool Week 2014 will be 6th to 12th October and many of this year's participants have already booked to return! The website will be updated with programme details next year.

Shetland WoolWeek is organised by a committee of public and private organisations who all have an interest in promoting Shetland sheep and textiles for the benefit of Shetland.

Shetland Amenity Trust, Promote Shetland and Jamieson and Smith (Shetland Wool Brokers) Ltd are the leading partners, with ShetlandOrganics, The Shetland Textile Museum, Shetland Livestock Marketing Group, Shetland Arts and the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers all contributing to the success of the event.

The Campaign for Wool supports Shetland Wool Week. Chairman of the Campaign, John Thorley, said, "It (Shetland Wool Week) really is superb and everyone involved is to be wholeheartedly congratulated on a magnificent outcome."