Inside: This knit lace shawl pattern is neither a Shetland Lace Shawl nor a Mosaic Shawl, so why did I name it Shetland Mosaic Shawl. Read on to find out!

Imagine pulling a whole shawl through an average woman’s wedding ring. Imagine intricate lace unfurling as the shawl is released from the constriction of the ring. The buffeting winds off the ocean and rocky cliffs catch it, open it and flutter it in front of you. Now wrap it around yourself and feel the luxury of this fine lace knit in delicate Shetland yarn.

This is why I love the fine lace knitting of the Shetland Islands.

In this post:

Close-up of a little bit of a knitted lace shawl. A sneak peek.

Shetland Lace: An Obsession

I have long been fascinated by Shetland and the beautiful, intricate lace from this remote, wind-whipped cluster of islands at the meeting of the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea.  

I spend many happy hours poring over my Shetland Lace books. They have lead to several designs (in progress).

These are the Shetland lace knitting books on my shelves (click to continue without perusing the books):

Heirloom Knitting: A Shetland Lace Pattern & Workbook. By Sharon Miller. With a painting of a noblewoman examining a large lace shawl surrounded by other people.

Heirloom Knitting: A Shetland Lace Pattern & Workbook by Sharon Miller. 

The front cover Fine Shetland Lace Magazine, Issue 1. Shows a lace shawl. Headings: Fall 2018 No 1 The Knitter: MoniqueB. The yarn: Jamieson & Smith The pattern: The Second One Shetland Woolweek patron: Elizabeth Johnston

Fine Shetland Lace Magazine

A Legacy of Shetland Lace Paperback by Shetland Guild of Spinners Cover shows a section of a Shetland lace stapler scarf.

A Legacy of Shetland Lace by the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers

The Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting: Stitches, Techniques, and Projects for Lighter-than-Air Shawls & More Paperback by Elizabeth Lovick Cover shows 5 mini stole samplers

The Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting by Elizabeth Lovick

Magical Shetland Lace Shawls to Knit by Elizabeth Lovick. Cover shows a model wearing a blue knitted lace shawl

Magical Shetland Lace Shawls to Knit by Elizabeth Lovick

So Many Ideas, So Little Time

When Knit Picks put out a call for patterns for intricate lace shawls and stoles, including those inspired by Shetland Lace, my mind started whirling with a profusion of ideas. I started swatching like a mad woman: needles flying, yarn rolling across the floor, cat cowering in fear (and rightly so). 

Very quickly, I narrowed my choices down to 40 or 45 ideas. 

You see, when I am inspired, the issue is rarely that I don’t have enough ideas.

Rather the issue is that I have so many ideas that it’s impossible to narrow them down to one or maybe two to develop further. Often this plethora of ideas is so overwhelming, that I don’t submit anything at all. I get bogged down in the inspiration and never move on to the execution of the design process, let alone the execution of the envisioned project. 

As I write this very post, I am coming to terms with the fact that the ideas I had for an upcoming submission deadline will never be realized in time to actually submit.

Sad, but true. 

So, I get pretty darned excited when I am able to narrow down all ideas to one or two and then do all the further swatching, sketching and calculating that lead to creating a design submission.  I get even more excited when that design submission is accepted as was the Shetland Mosaic Shawl.

But, I digress.

Knitting Traditions of Shetland

Knitting has been an important part of Shetland both from an economic perspective and a cultural one. There are two major knitting traditions from the region: colourwork and lace knitting.

Fair Isle Stranded Knitting

Fair Isle stranded knitting is so well known around the world that many people erroneously refer to any stranded knitting as Fair Isle. Yet, it’s distinct style and features make it rather recognizable once you know what to look for.

Fine and Hap Lace Knitting

Right now I am obsessed, not with stranded knitting, but with lace. There are many regions in the world with rich, fine knitting traditions, techniques and patterns. I am not sure any of them surpass the beauty of the Shetland Islands’ fine lace.

Shetland fine lace was originally knitted by Shetland woman for sale to the wealthy. This is in contrast to the more hardy hap shawls, knitted and worn by Shetland women, used as baby shawls and also made for sale. They too were beautiful, with garter centres and lacey edges, but were plainer, knit in heavier yarns and worn for warmth. The very word “hap” means “to cover up; wrap up warmly” according to the Collins Dictionary.

The amazing skill, beauty and delicacy of the fine lace shawls are astounding. Especially in contrast to the remote and rugged landscape of the Shetland Islands.

Who would expect finding such delicate, intricate lace originating in a remote archipelago right on the 60th parallel.

The Shetland Islands

One of the great regrets of my recent amazing trip to Scotland was that we never got to the Shetland Islands. In reality, I think that a trip to the Shetlands deserves more time. We would not have been able to do the Islands justice if we had tried to tack the trip onto our tour of Scotland. But DH and I both want to go so we will plan our trip for some time in the future. 

The Shetland Islands are on the dividing line between the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, hundreds of miles from the Scottish mainland and even further from the mainland of its next closest large land mass, Norway.  As such, the culture is a mix of Scottish and Norse.

There are over 100 islands in the Shetland Archipelago. Only 16 of them are inhabited. Lerwick, the capital is on Mainland, the largest of the Islands.

The temperature range in Shetland is small, with the year-round temperatures range between 3ºC to 15ºC (37ºF to 59ºF). According to Wikipedia, the highest ever recorded temperature was 23.4ºC (74.1ºF) and the lowest ever was -8.9ºC (16ºF).

The climate is very rainy, windy and cloudy, despite the small range of fairly mild temperatures. At least these temperatures seem mild to me, who lives in Ottawa, Canada. Our annual temperature range is -30ºC to 30ºC (-22ºF to 86ºF) with an extremes range of −38.9 °C to 37.8ºC (−38 °F to 100ºF).

The landscape is filled with rolling hills dotted with sheep and wildflowers, rocky outcrops, sand bars, crashing waves, reeling birds and rich marine life. You won’t see many trees on the islands but they are dotted with ancient Norse ruins and picturesque fishing villages.

Not surprisingly, Shetland has been named one of the 10 best destinations in Europe in 2019 by Lonely Planet! And no wonder. Take a look at this video to get a glimpse.

A Knitter’s Paradise

It is a beautiful place with fabulous knitting. A true paradise for any knitter.

Now, picture yourself, sitting beside a peat fire, drinking tea, chatting with the locals and knitting a shawl. Perhaps not one that will fit through a wedding ring, but one that will be a treasured heirloom. If you glance to your right, you will see me, right there beside you, knitting my own treasured heirloom.

This entry was posted in General, Kitting General, Lace, Shawls.