A few weeks ago, the postman delivered a book from Shetland. Jen remarked, "The Wool Week Annual is bigger this year - that's a bit of a surprise," then opened the package. It wasn't the Shetland Wool Week Annual, but something a little different (the Wool Week Annual arrived a couple of days later and more on that another time!).
A Shetlander's Fair Isle Graph Book in Colour consists of reproductions of two notebooks from the second quarter of the 20th Century. These originally belonged to Bill Henry who was in charge of the Hosiery (Knitwear) Department at Anderson & Co. of Lerwick through the middle of the last century.
Carole Christiansen's introduction gives a great insight into the knitting industry in Shetland and really sets the scene for why what follows is a little special. Usually, if charts were drawn, their purpose was to give the knitter an idea of how the colours should change, rather than which colours to use. What sets these notebooks apart is that they have been fully coloured in, that is directing the knitter to colour choice as well as pattern.
What fascinates me about this book is the air of mystery over who actually drew the charts and what the purpose of the charts was. Is this a record of Fair Isle motifs that Bill had seen coming in from the local knitters, or were they produced by him, or someone for him, to direct knitters to a particular pattern, or a combination of both? Whatever the truth this is an important record of how external influences affected design through the period of the books, from the inclusion in the earliest pages, and thereafter absence, of swastikas to the appearance of Norwegian styles through the 1940s.
The big draw of this book is obviously the huge number of Shetland colourwork patterns to use within your own knitwear, but I think it is more than just that, so if you have an interest in the development of knitting, or are looking for a reference for colourwork, then this is a must-have book.
A Shetland's Fair Isle Graph Book was produced by the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers and is published by The Shetland times. It is available from The Shetland Times bookshop and is priced at £20.
Disclaimer: We received a review copy of the Shetlander's Fair Isle Graph Book free of charge from The Shetland Times. We have not received any other payment for this review, and are sharing it because we think it's a great book!