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Community / ‘Come and immerse yourself in our lifestyle and heritage’: Wool Week launches

Three visitors to wool week, from left to right: Amy Elis, Lisa Ellis, Christine Cox. Photo: Dave Donaldson

HUNDREDS of people were entertained at the Clickimin on Sunday night for the opening of Shetland Wool Week’s (SWW) 14th year – kicking off the event’s packed programme.

Tourists have travelled from all over the world to attend the highly anticipated week, with a busy programme of workshops, displays and tutor sessions taking place across the isles.

Chief executive of organiser Shetland Amenity Trust Hazel Sutherland opened the evening by welcoming all first-time and returning visitors, adding that she was “proud to play a part” in bringing Shetland Wool Week 2023 together.

She finished up by saying: “We love that you come here and take a peerie bit of Shetland with you when you go home.” 

Donna Smith, curator of Wool Week, followed and said: “Shetland Wool Week is an event particularly close to my heart.”

She explained that being patron of SWW in 2015 acted as a springboard to her career in knitting, and added: “If it wasn’t for Shetland Wool Week, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.”

There was a buzz around the sponsors stalls at the opening event. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Attendees were treated to music from local band Kansa, and listened to a reading of knitting related poems from the Shetland Museum and Archives by archivist Mark Smith.

This is the first post-pandemic Wool Week, which has returned to its full programme after 2022’s scaled back version.

Compere Claire White showed off a lace stole created by her mother before she was born with Unst patterns that is currently being used by her five-week-old son, with her family joining her on the stage.

She was also offered a knitted newborn hat by this year’s patron Alison Rendall.

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Rendall also took to the stage to showcase this years ‘buggiflooer’ hat pattern – which many in the audience were wearing and said: “Shetland Wool Week has been invaluable at promoting Shetland wool and our way of life.”

She finished up by adding: “If it can keep the sheep warm in a Shetland winter then it’s the obvious choice for me too.”

In the crowd was Christine Cox, from Atlanta in America, who has attended Wool Week three times and was delighted to be in Shetland for her fourth visit with two friends.

“I first heard about it through an American designer in Boston who runs a blog called Baby Cocktails,” she said.

“She came to Shetland for Wool Week and that was around 2016 or 2017. I heard about it more and more and Shetland captured my interest and imagination.”

This year’s patron Alison Rendall. Photo:Dave Donaldson

While Cox loves coming to Shetland for the Wool Week events she said she was “hooked” by the “generosity Shetland people”, adding: “What I really enjoy is going to the teas, and the classes, people are so warm and friendly.”

This year she is visiting with friends Amy and Lisa Ellis, who are both sisters and were originally booked to come in 2020 but had to reschedule due to the pandemic.

Lisa goes to a knitting group with Cox and after hearing about her stories of Wool Week she had to come.

Compere Claire White (left) with daughter Solfrid and husband Michael Johnson, holding baby Magnar. Photo: Dave Donaldson

“We’ve been cancelling and planning, then cancelling and planning the trip. So when we came this year we couldn’t believe it was real!”

The first port of call for the trio was St Ninian’s beach, where Lisa said they were “dancing with happiness” at finally making it to Shetland to explore the island.

Lisa’s sister Amy was making it a birthday trip. “I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to come and be with all these beautiful people and places,” she said. “I’m taking a couple of courses for beginners, and looking forward to seeing the scenery and ponies.”

The speeches and music were followed by a Wool Week quiz with tea and cupcakes, and a ‘hatwalk’ displaying the various Wool Week hat patterns.

Photo: Dave Donaldson

Designer Mandy Moore was also enjoying the evening after visiting and volunteering at Wool Week previously. This is her first year running a workshop.

She said: “Being here as a visitor you don’t see all the work that goes on behind the scenes, and being involved you see the entire year of preparation that goes into Wool Week.”

Moore added: “Wool Week has opened Shetland up, it’s amazing to see all these people coming such a distance and travelling so far to come to this little island and see what’s going on.

“They can introduce us to different technique’s as well. I was teaching today and there were people from America, England, Germany, and you get a mix from everyone.”

Moore is running a recycling workshop throughout the week, showing how people can recycle old or spoiled knitwear and teaching people how to take apart old jumpers to reuse the wool.

Shetland Wool Week is on until 1 October.

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