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Shetland Wool Week 2014 / Celebrating cultural richness and diversity

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There would be no prizes for guessing the location of Shetland Wool Week’s opening ceremony on Sunday afternoon: the sea of knitted toories flowing down Brown’s Road was a bit of a giveaway.

On arrival at Mareel the wave of wirsited heads flooded into the auditorium, to the strains of fiddle and guitar music by local duo Trig Band.

What followed must have been a delight for any makker – a convivial afternoon which celebrated the Shetland textile industry and looked forward to a week-long programme of exciting and educational events set to take place in venues all over Shetland.

Chairman of Shetland Amenity Trust, Brian Gregson, donned a fetching Fair Isle toorie to open the fifth wool week in a speech which celebrated the “richness and diversity of culture” in Shetland.

His sentiments were echoed by Oliver Henry of Jamieson & Smith who praised the festival for its ability to do something “no other organisation has done – bring together crofters and textile makers.”

Wool Week attracts guests from far and wide, as was revealed when patron Hazel Tindall (also known as the fastest knitter in the world) asked visitors for a show of hands.

Lynne Hunt and Gillian Narraway had travelled from Kent with their knitting group: a pilgrimage, which had been a year in the planning. They were “excited and delighted” at the prospect of making friends with wool enthusiasts and had already bonded with fellow knitter Victoria Wickham of Iowa, a return visitor to Shetland’s Wool Week.

From the earthy shades of Foula Wool to the intricacy of Kathleen Anderson’s lace knitting, the exhibition offered a remarkable range of colours and textures.

A striking display of short garments showcased the work of Shetland College’s BA Honours Contemporary Textiles students. The stunningly inventive pieces were created for a competition supported by Shetland wool brokers Jamieson & Smith.

Lynne McCormack’s prize winning entry was a sculptural garment which used two different shades of one ply heritage yarn knitted together on a v-bed knitting machine. Her textured yet lightweight top was offset by a thick collar of knitted tubes stuffed with wadding.

BA student Malin Robert’s garment was equally eye catching in its combination of knitting, felting and cutting and has a distinctively quirky feel which is influenced by her Swedish background: “I used the loops to imitate a sheep’s coat. I wanted to make something fun.”

Angela Irvine’s ethereal dresses and skirts attracted an admiring crowd. In her juxtaposition of traditional hand knitted lace with digitally engineered prints she has created something truly unique and beautiful yet also wearable.

When asked about her inspiration Angela said: “I’ve always loved twilight, especially the twilight we get here in Shetland.

“I’m from Whalsay and the colours in my work reflect the beauty of the island.”

The artwork on the garments is further enhanced by the dialect poetry of her Angela’s 15 year old daughter Chloe. This poetry is superimposed onto Angela’s paintings of butterflies, flowers and dusky skies.

In among all the woollen exhibits the incongruous sight of woollen hatted cyclists pedalling furiously on indoor bikes could be enjoyed.

This was an exercise (quite literally) in solidarity with the Campaign for Wool Bike Ride,which was taking place in London the same day.

The woollen hatted cyclists were a fun addition to an upbeat and welcoming event, which will surely have whetted guests’ appetites for the many makking attractions coming up this week.

Genevieve White