Brough Lodge: a remarkable site on the Shetland island of Fetlar Brough Lodge

Children’s knitting tuition to be expanded

11th May 2017

After operating as a pilot project, over almost three years, in a total of eight primary schools, the tuition provided by the ShetlandPeerieMakkers group is to be made available across Shetland.

 Following the recent award of a grant of £27,480 from LEADER and a gift of £20,100 from a private donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, a phased extension of the scheme to 28 primary schools is now being planned.  Further funding of £8,000 will be needed but it is hoped to raise that amount through further donations.  The available funding will enable the scheme to run for three years.  Yarn for the scheme is sponsored by Jamiesons of Shetland.

 Brough Lodge Trust, which oversees the ShetlandPeerieMakkers initiative, was originally established to restore the historic Brough Lodge on the island of Fetlar, the plan being to open a centre offering courses relevant to Shetland’s heritage, including textiles and music, in comfortable surroundings.  Substantial progress was made with the restoration, including re-roofing. 

 Although that’s still the intention, the Trust concluded three years ago that the nurturing of Shetland’s hand-knitting tradition was an urgent priority.  A steering group involving a number of people connected with hand-knitting was formed.  The pilot projects covered schools in Unst, Whalsay, Ollaberry, Skeld, Lerwick, Burra, Cunningsburgh and Dunrossness.  Many lessons have been learned from the pilots about the best way to organise such a programme and the most effective teaching methods.  A toolkit– called the ShetlandPeerieMakkers Sockbox – is being developed to ensure that children joining ShetlandPeerieMakkers groups will learn Shetland knitting with Shetland yarns in a child-centred way, encouraging individuality in their knitting.

 The hand-knitting tuition is provided by volunteer tutors, but the greatly increased scale of the project means that more project co-ordination will be needed.  Tenders will be invited soon for the provision of that service.

 Funding for the pilot projects was raised through crowd-funding, with more than £7,000 being pledged by donors in Shetland, Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the USA and Canada, Norway, France and other countries.  However, larger

 sums were needed to expand the scheme.  Brough Lodge Trust Chairman, Pierre Cambillard, said that the new financial support was critical to the success of ShetlandPeerieMakkers and all involved in the group were very grateful for it.  He

also thanked everyone else who has been involved in the project so far, including all the volunteer tutors, the steering group, Head Teachers, the Council’s Education Department , Jamiesons of Shetland and Shetland Arts.

 ShetlandPeerieMakkers has attracted considerable interest in academic circles, too, with a number of enquiries received from universities and colleges and a linked research project under way.  It has also won praise from the Royal College of Art. 

 Pierre Cambillard said:  “The project is ground-breaking.  It provides the missing link that was needed to secure the future of the hand-knitting culture, which is so fundamental to Shetland’s identity.  Nor can there be any doubt of the value placed on Shetland’s hand-knitting tradition around the world.  That was clear from the response to our crowd-funding and the success of Shetland Wool Week underlines it.  Hand-knitting isn’t just a valuable tradition from the past; it’s a continuing part of the islands’ culture.  It’s also one of the foundations of Shetland’s reputation, both as   a destination and as an origin of fine things; so there’s an economic dimension.”

 It’s intended that the first of the new ShetlandPeerieMakkers knitting groups will operate from September 2017.

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