Shetland Lace Baby Socks, c.1880s

Photograph of small baby socks lying flat on a surface, side by side. A ruler beside them shows that they are 15cm tall.
A pair of Shetland Lace baby socks, c.1880s (Private Collection)

These fine Shetland lace baby socks were found during building works at the old Westside shop in Uyeasound, Unst, and probably brought to the shop by local knitters c.1880s. Although Shetland lace could command reasonably high prices, it took a long time to knit, and knitters could wait months for payment. Consequently, many knitters who needed to supplement their income chose to gut herrings or cut peat, while others knitted garments that were quicker to produce, like haps or stockings such as these fine Shetland lace baby socks.

Photograph of the Shetland lace pattern, which is transparent in places. A ruler lying beside the socks shows that they are 7 cm wide approximately.
Detail of Shetland Lace baby socks, c.1880s (Private Collection)

Shetland is celebrated for its knitting and spinning skills and the expertise its knitters have applied to the craft over the centuries. Seventeenth-century coarse functional stockings evolved into fine knitted stockings in the eighteenth century, and then fine knitted lace in the nineteenth century. From the late 1830s, Shetland’s fine lace knitters created delicate and intricate patterns and knitted them into a variety of fashionable garments, including shawls, stoles, veils, stockings, and, in the twentieth century, blouses.

All photographs taken by a member of the F2F team.