• Shetland had a thriving weaving industry in the 20th century. These tailors tools date to around 1950.
  • A gig driver could keep his forearms warm by rolling up the tops of these unusual gloves.
  • Shetland lace was an exclusive product bought by aristocrats. It is seldom made today, but our collection is the best in the world.

Textiles

In the 19th century textiles became a commercial force in Shetland, enabling women to support family incomes. Because of this, islanders developed new products, and adopted imported tools and techniques to do the job. Our collection encompasses changes in style through the 20th century and beyond.

Fine lace was a prestigious product that made Shetland’s knitters renowned. The museum’s shawls and stoles are perhaps the most intricate garments you will ever see. Wealthy buyers in Britain valued these in the 19th century, including the aristocracy and royalty.

Fair Isle knitwear is the most famous product of these islands. However, many people might not know what “real” Fair Isle is. Our collection has examples, from pre-commercial garments c.1870, to the ever-changing fashion item of the 20th century. The museum has samples from knitwear’s sudden popularity in the 1920s, through later style changes, to machine-made items from the 1960s. Besides clothing, we hold textile tools, like equipment for dyeing, knitting and finishing.

Commercial weaving developed in Shetland by 1900. We have equipment from all stages of commercial weaving – washing, carding, weaving, quality control, record-keeping, marketing, export. Largest are two weaving looms, and most cosmopolitan are trade labels from all over the world.