Join Fiona Duthie for a creative exploration of the unique culture and textiles of the Shetland Islands, through the lens of feltmaking
I was born in Lerwick, and all of my family, on my mother’s side, still live there-other than one cousin! My family has a long history here, spanning generations.
I grew up in Canada, visiting Shetland every two or three years whenever my parents could afford it. The memories of those visits are filled with vivid images of the raw and beautiful landscape, the ancient history built in stone, and the warmth and generosity of the people who made their lives there. I will always be grateful to my parents for making these trips happen and securing my ties with my heritage; people, place and traditions.
It was on one of these trips that my Grandmother taught me to knit. I remember sitting by her peat fire, as she guided me through the process of making a pair of Fair Isle Mittens. My very first knitting project. I’m sure I was a terrible student. I’m certain I needed constant correcting and encouragement to keep going. But this experience marked the beginning of a lifelong connection between my hands and fibre.
My Grandmother, like many in Shetland, knitted to help support her family. Like her, I now live on a small island, on the edge of a great big sea, and support my family through working with wool. My day-to-day life is much easier than my grandmother’s. I do this work by choice rather than necessity. This is my vocation and even on the hardest day I can find pleasure in this material we share, wool.
Long ago, sitting beside that peat fire, I could never have imagined that I would one day return to Shetland on an artist residency or to teach this retreat. I’m deeply moved to have an opportunity to return to this place and share my passion with you for it’s spectacular people, textile traditions, and iconic wool.
I have long admired my Grandmother’s artistry and skill. The knitwear featured here was made by her, Helen Tait and my Aunt, Joyce Park.