DURING this year’s wool week, Commercial Street’s Vaila Fine Art Gallery is home to a treasure trove of highly covetable items in Shetland organic wool, writes our wool week reporter Genevieve White.
Community interest company Shetland Organics is showcasing a range of yarn and garments in an exhibition that runs until Sunday 12 October.
The gallery is decked out in the softest shades of natural wool: earthy shades of cream, brown and grey create a mellow and cosy ambience throughout.
On arriving in the gallery, visitors are greeted with a large screen projecting images of photogenic Shetland sheep, whose highly contented demeanours are testament to organic farming methods that put the welfare of the animals and the environment before economic gain.
The carefree existence of the sheep and their owners’ preventive approach to disease results in a wool free from chemicals and particularly suitable for those with allergies or sensitive skin.
Apart from all its green credentials the organic wool garments on display are, quite simply, beautiful.
Beside a selection of stunning Fair Isle hats and accessories their creator, Belle Gregson is sitting knitting. Belle learned to hand knit Fair Isle “as a child on her mother’s knee”, but had moved on to machine knitting until her husband’s gift of a knitting kit (bought at the 2012 Shetland Wool Week) inspired her to return to her childhood pastime.
“My arthritis had been really bad. You’re supposed to keep your hands moving, and Brian (my husband) thought that hand knitting would help me. It has done – it’s made a big difference,” she said.
Belle knits her hats, headbands, scarves and gloves with Shetland wool and is particularly fond of the wool from Shetland Organics.
“This wool has a lovely soft finish – it’s really nice to work with.”
Elsewhere in the gallery, a range of exhibits made from organic wool can be admired: from Burra Bears knitted in organic wool and finished with antique buttons through to gorgeous ganseys.
The work of two Polish weavers also feature: Alicja Tyburska’s woven woollen shawls and Karolina Radulska’s woven depiction of the island of Vaila are well worth looking out for.