I grew up in Shetland and started knitting before I could read and write, and have been knitting ever since.

My first love is knitting Fair Isle; with so many colours and patterns to combine into unique pieces I will never run out of ideas. I see knitting as a wearable art – mostly I like knitting to be functional rather than decorative. Fair Isle cushion covers, a lace tablecloth and a lace bedspread are, so far, the only decorative items I’ve knitted. When learning to crochet I made quite a few table mats but soon got bored and started on functional things – hats and jumpers.

A chance conversation in 1997 led to a trip in 1998 to Atlanta and North Carolina. I travelled with two other Shetlanders, Elizabeth Johnston (spinner) and Ann Williamson (lace knitter), and I was concentrating on Fair Isle knitting. We demonstrated at various places in Atlanta and North Carolina. To end our trip we jointly led a three day workshop at the Handweavers Guild of America’s biannual Convergence in Atlanta. I attended Convergence again in 2002, in Vancouver, a beautiful city. This time I led a three day workshop on knitting a traditional Shetland shawl, and made a short presentation featuring lace knitting.

Another conversation with Susan Johnson, a member of Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Dyers and Weavers, led me to take part in a competition in London in 2004 to find the world’s fastest knitter. I won that competition and was invited to represent the United Kingdom at the next competition in 2008 in Minneapolis, USA and I won that competition too.

Taking part in these competitions led to some interesting invitations. I appeared on Paul O’Grady’s television show in 2004, aiming to knit him a hat in an hour. I almost finished it – I forgot to tell the researchers that I’d need a needle to join the seam. Derek Reay chose to feature me when he produced the book “Significant Figures in Art and Craft Today” in 2011. I was invited to appear on “Weakest Link”, along with some other ‘alternative champions’ – that was an interesting experience! I’m glad I declined the invite to appear on “Britain’s Got Talent”!

I’ve led knitting workshops for Shetland Wool Week, John C Campbell Folk School (USA), and Dornoch Fibre Fest (Scotland). I demonstrate at Shetland Textile Museum and for Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers. My main wish is to encourage knitters to adopt an efficient knitting method.

I began writing instructions for other knitters to follow only a few years ago, encouraged by Connie Smith when she worked for Jamieson & Smith in Lerwick, Shetland. Two of my Fair Isle patterns were bought by Jamieson & Smith – Eid Top is sold as a kit and Peat Hill Waistcoat is included in their book “Knit Real Shetland”. I donated two lace patterns to Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers for inclusion in their book “A Legacy of Shetland Lace”, published in 2012 – Hesta Scarf and Gairdins, which is a lacy, short sleeved top. Since redundancy in 2010, I have devoted more time to designing and writing knitting patterns and now sell these on my own website, www.hazeltindall.com.

Had it not been for the conversation in 1997, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the experiences described above.

Posted by: Hazel Tindall