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Community / Linda takes on wool week patron role

WHALSAY knitter Linda Shearer has been named as the patron for this year’s Shetland Wool Week.

Meanwhile this year’s wool week toorie, designed by Shearer, is called the Bonnie Isle Hat.

Linda Shearer. Photo: Shetland Wool Week

The news was announced at a launch event held at the Shetland Museum and Archives this evening (Thursday).

Shearer is an experienced Fair Isle knitting tutor, and shares her skills year-round via Shetland Adult Learning, ShetlandPeerieMakkers and annually during Shetland Wool Week.

She joined the Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers in 2013 and just completed six years as chairperson.

Shearer has lived in Whalsay all her life. Her father was a fisherman, and her mother, Ina, knitted private commissions to supplement the family income and was also a keen spinner and knitter.

“It was my mother who taught me to knit; I can’t say at exactly what age I began knitting Fair Isle but I designed and knitted myself a Fair Isle jumper at the age of 14,” she said.

“I do remember knitting children’s mittens with a small Fair Isle pattern when I was quite young; I even got to sell some of them.

“Knitting has always been a passion of mine – I cannot remember ever not doing knitting, I’m always planning the next project in my head while doing other things.”

Speaking about her hat design, Shearer said that the sea is ever present in island life.

“All the men in my family have worked on or near the sea,” she added.

“But although the ‘Bonnie Isle’ hat has a nautical theme, the patterns mean much more.

“The chain in the rib represents the link between us all during Shetland Wool Week; and the anchor, a common motif in Fair Isle knitting, symbolises a sense of keeping grounded, connected to what matters most, and able to cope with life’s challenges.

“The crown, a circle, is to me a spinning wheel and a tribute to my mother Ina Irvine. A prolific spinner and knitter, she was my inspiration.”

Shearer has created five very different colourways for the hat using yarn from Jamieson’s of Shetland, Jamieson and Smith, Uradale Yarns, and new yarn producers Laxdale Yarns and Aister Oo, and kits are available from each company’s respective shops and websites.

The organisers of Shetland Wool Week said: “We are delighted to have been able to announce the news this year in person and are thrilled that Linda Shearer will be the ambassador for Shetland Wool Week 2022 and will put knitting from Whalsay on the global map.”

“Despite two years of Covid the event is as popular as ever, helped in part by our virtual offerings but also the annual hat pattern release.

“Wilma Malcolmson’s last two hats have proven incredibly popular and I’m sure Linda’s will this year.

“The Bonnie Isle Hat features very distinctive motifs and we’re really looking forward to seeing visitors and folk from around the world share their knitted hats online and in person later in the year.”

The hat patterns will be available from the museum or the shops, and are also available to download for free from the Shetland Wool Week website.

The 13th Shetland Wool Week is due to take place from 24 September.