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Community / Wool week proves a hit – with 2023 event already in the pipeline

The official SWW hat, the Bonnie Isle hat by Linda Shearer, in the different colourways. Photo: SAT

MORE THAN 500 visitors came to the scaled back Wool Week 2022, and people have already booked to return next year.

Shetland’s 13th Wool Week finished on Sunday (2 October) after a busy nine days of events held all over the islands. It was the first time the event ran in person since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite being a scaled back version of the popular knitting festival, there were over 250 events across the nine days.

Cultural heritage manager from organiser Shetland Amenity Trust Jacqui Birnie said: “We announced the dates for 2023, and people have already booked their travel and accommodation for next year.

“Some people rolled the dice and booked before we even announced the dates, so we will definitely have Wool Week 2023 as we can’t let these people down!”

Birnie stated the highlight of Wool Week was the sense of community in Shetland across the nine days.

She said: “Although it’s been a scaled back version this year, it has been lovely to see the sense of community with the event.

“I think Shetland has such a strong community, and the knitting traditions that we have here, the skills and tutoring available, we take for granted.

“But when you see all these fantastic enthusiastic people coming from all over the world to learn about our heritage, it’s impossible not to feel a peerie bit proud.”

This year’s Wool Week saw many textile and design studios across Shetland opening their doors for tourists and visitors to come, browse, and find out more information about the background of Shetland’s rich heritage in knitting and textile design.

Visitors also had the chance to book tickets to Fair Isle ‘makkin’ classes, and loom and weaving tasters. 

Saturday saw a busy craft fair of local makers set up in Mareel, and a Wool Week market at the Anderson High School. The Shetland PeerieMakkers set themselves up and spent a few hours knitting, taking questions from onlookers and getting support from their tutors. 

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Volunteer tutor for the Shetland PeerieMakkers, Anne Eunson, said: “This year’s Wool Week has been fantastic, to see everyone back in Shetland and feeling the buzz, even though it’s a pared back event. It’s been lovely to see friends coming back from previous years.”

She added: “Seeing just how passionate people are about Shetland knitting from all over the world is incredible. We just do it as a way of life, and we really can’t quite grasp why people come just for Shetland Wool Week, but it’s great.”

A PeerieMakkers session in the Anderson at the weekend. Photo: Shetland News

Meanwhile Birnie said: “It’s been a week where I’ve felt really proud of Shetland and our heritage, and proud of everyone who throws themselves into this week to make it such a unique and special event.” 

The Shetland Museum was set up with an impressive exhibition in the Gadderie called Casting on Wool Week. It was prepared by Karen Clubb, featuring the designs of 12 makers and their inspiration. It will continue on until the end of October.

During Wool Week, knitting groups sat in the various chairs set up in the museum space, bringing the entire exhibition to life. 

However, Wool Week 2022 did not come without logistical concerns when the amenity trust decided to host the event in the wake of the pandemic.

Birnie added that there were concerns around attendance, tourist accommodation, and limited transport options, getting to and from Shetland.

She said: “You’re organising an event to attract people to Shetland, extend the tourist season and boost the local hospitality sector.

“The scaled back approach was the right thing to do this year, but I think going forward we can work out how to get around those logistical issues. Shetland only has so many tourist accommodation places, there’s no getting away from it.”

Wool Week 2023 will take place from 23 September to 1 October next year.

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