PieceWork Recommends: 50 Tips from Shetland Knitters
Envision inviting your favorite knitters over for a relaxing afternoon of refreshments and conversation about, what else, knitting. Now, imagine that your guests are master Shetland knitters Hazel Tindall and Elizabeth Johnston—that would be a delightful time, indeed! Slip a copy of 50 Tips from Shetland Knitters, the new two-disc DVD set, into your DVD player and sit back with a cup of tea and your knitting, as you enjoy an active exchange between two expert knitters about timeless Shetland knitting techniques.
Hazel and Elizabeth met as children in Shetland. Later, Hazel moved away, then returned to the Scottish islands; Elizabeth never left and has spent her whole life there. Hazel’s expertise in traditional Fair Isle knitting is recognized far and wide. Elizabeth is well-known for her handspun yarns, dyeing techniques, and Shetland lace and Fair Isle knitting. Together, they hold a vast wealth of Shetland knitting knowledge, and they are passionate about sharing their bounty. (For more on Shetland knitting, see Hazel’s article, “Kempin Like Mad: Diary of a Shetland Knitter” in the Spring 2014 issue of Knitting Traditions, a special publication from PieceWork.)
Sitting comfortably on a sofa, as if just across the coffee table from you, Hazel and Elizabeth answer common knitting questions that members of their popular classes have asked. Although books can be helpful, some techniques just can’t be fully explained through the written word; someone needs to show you, explains Hazel. The two then proceed to divulge nugget after golden nugget of wisdom.
The video’s pace and mood are relaxed. Using plain, easy-to-understand language to describe what they do, Hazel and Elizabeth take turns demonstrating various techniques. Their methods blend time-honored Shetland traditions with practicality. They both profess a preference for knitting belts and long double-pointed needles over circulars. Their reasoning: double-pointed needles are faster and more comfortable. With a needle anchored in the belt, their hands are free to manipulate the yarn and fabric. The pragmatic nature of the knitting belt and long double-pointed needles may have you rethinking your knitting tools, but don’t ditch your beloved circulars just yet. Most of the duo’s method work well on circular and straight needles, too.
The how-to glossary-style format of the DVDs begins with the basics and is infused with Hazel and Elizabeth’s breadth of experience. The knitters show several cast-ons: long tail, knitted, cable, and provisional. Next, the knit and purl stitches are examined. Then, they cover picking up stitches, joining pieces, two-color knitting, blocking, choosing colors, plus much more. There are morsels of insight for beginner and expert knitters alike. Clear examples show the benefits of Hazel and Elizabeth’s techniques. For example, you can see how double decreases in a Fair Isle stitch pattern become a decorative-design element in the crown of a cap.
Whether your goal is to knit an authentic Shetland-style shawl or jumper or just to expand your skill set, 50 Tips from Shetland Knitters offers common-sense knitting advice moored in tradition. Within this two-disc DVD set resides not only the expertise of two master Shetland knitters, but the history of a craft handed down through the generations. Hazel Tindall and Elizabeth Johnston will be welcome guests that you’ll want to invite back to knit in your living room again and again.
50 Tips from Shetland Knitters. Shetland, Scotland: Produced by Dave Donaldson and J.J. Jamieson, 2017. DVD, 3 hours 34 minutes. £25. www.hazeltindall.com.
This DVD review is excerpted from PieceWork’s January/February 2018 issue, our annual historical knitting issue. This year’s issue is devoted to socks and stockings from around the world.
Find more traditional knitting techniques in these PieceWork special issues of Knitting Traditions!