Saturday 31 March 2018

Review of Susan Crawford's The Vintage Shetland Project

Image courtesy of Susan Crawford
It has been a long wait but it felt like Christmas when my copy of The Vintage Shetland Project by Susan Crawford arrived in the post.

It was back in 2015 when Susan Crawford set up a crowdfunding campaign to publish the book, inspired by her love of knitting history and Shetland traditions. Since then she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which delayed her work on the project. Happily Crawford is now cancer free and her many years of work have come to fruition.

The Vintage Shetland Project is a very weighty hardback book with 27 patterns and essays on Shetland social and fashion history over the decades.  It's Crawford's best work yet, which is saying something considering the high publishing standards and critical acclaim of her previous books A Stitch In Time Volume 1 and A Stitch in Time Volume 2.

At £48 the book not cheap but the quality is that of an heirloom. Feel the glossy paper and waft the bookish smell under your nose. The photography, all shot on the island of Vaila off the coast of Shetland, is stunning. It's obvious the whole project has been a labour of love for Crawford.

The Patterns

Crawford first saw the garments featured in the Shetland Museum Archives, some of which were degraded and missing parts. She, with the help of her husband Gavin, a computer programmer, transcribed the designs into patterns suitable for the modern number in a range of sizes.

Rose image courtesy of Susan Crawford
Each pattern has a handy schematic and the charts are printed in colour with different charts for most sizes. This is incredibly sensible and practical for the knitter: a couple of times I've bought knitting pattern books and been put off knitting a garment due to the charts being in black and white on a small grid, almost impossible to decipher.

Most patterns use Crawford's own vintage-feel yarn Fenella, although some offer an alternative or are solely knitted in Jamieson and Smith yarns.

Here are A Woolly Yarn's top three patterns from the book:

Rose Cardigan

The charming rose motifs in red and white pink on this short-sleeved cardigan make this a standout garment.

Rose is is knitted in the round from the bottom up. There's a necessary steek at the centre front and I think this may well be the pattern that challenges me to face my fear of steaks. To me there feels something dreadfully wrong in cutting knitting, but if that's what it takes to make Rose then it's a mental hurdle I'm determined to leap over.


Jeannie image courtesy of Susan Crawford
An essay in The Vintage Shetland Project explains Crawford's investigative journey from first seeing the child-size top in Shetland Museum to finding more about its designer Jeannie Jarmson.

Jeannie is worked in the round from the bottom up and knitted in silk with tiny, delicate motifs. The tiny delicate motifs are knitted in silk. Having not seen the garment knitted up I can only imagine how soft and luxurious it must feel. Kits to make Jeannie have already sold out on Crawford's website.


When Shetland sweaters are mentioned Ralph is probably the sort of jumper that will pop up in your imagination.

Ralph image courtesy of Susan Crawford
It has standard Fair Isle patterns and is knitted in traditional grey and brown shades. Whilst it will be a labour of love to knit this unisex jumper will become an eternal classic in your wardrobe.

Best of the rest ...

Of course all the patterns in The Vintage Shetland Project are covetable, but three highly recommended by A Woolly Yarn are the lemon lacy short-sleeved sweater Dorothy; Ripple a short-sleeved sweater with a black background and ripples of pastel colours; and Paterson, the bright Fair Isle top with a found neck that's featured on the book's front cover.

Which is your favourite pattern and why? Let us know below or on our Facebook page.


  1. I was so excited when I received my copy and the 'new book' smell is lovely. You can definitely tell that it was a labour of love and I love the included essays. My favourite pattern is Vaila, though I think I might change the light brown yarn to a mossy green.

  2. I'll be running a knit-along beginning July 15, 2021 for anyone who wants to knit Jeannie from the book. The pattern is also slated to be sold separately very soon...check Susan Crawford's website. More info on the KAL will be found here:


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