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  • Place of origin:

    Shetland Islands (made)

  • Date:

    19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hand-knitted silk

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs J. Drummond

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This shawl or cape would have been a luxury item of women’s clothing in the 19th century. From the 1830s knitters on the Shetland Islands adopted the then fashionable technique of lace knitting. This style quickly became identified with the shawls and veils knitted by Shetlanders from yarn spun into very fine thread on the Isle of Unst. The tradition developed of passing the finished object through a wedding ring to show how light and delicate it was.

The knitters produced these items on steel wires. They invented the patterns of the shawls, many of which have names taken from local features, such as 'Ears o' Grain', 'Fir Cone' and 'Print o' the Wave'.

Although these shawls were bought by wealthy women, the knitters earned little in return for the amount of work that went into creating the thousands of stitches that made up one garment.

Physical description

Hand-knitted silk cape with an openwork lace design. Large and semi-circular with a small hood attached to the centre of the straight side. The draw strings are decorated with two large silk tassels. In the centre is a large triangular panel patterned with lines of inter-locking diamond shapes. A deep border running round two sides of the triangle contains flattened diamonds, each row having a different type of filling stitch. The whole cape is edged with a narrow vandyked border.

Place of Origin

Shetland Islands (made)


19th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Hand-knitted silk


Height: 126.5 cm neck to hem, Width: 243 cm top edge, Width: 150 in at hem, Length: 141 cm neck to hem flat on table, Width: 170 cm top edge flat on table

Object history note

Typical of Shetlands knitting.

Descriptive line

Hand knitted silk cape, Shetland Islands, Scotland, 19th century




Hand knitting


Fashion; Accessories; Women's clothes; Textiles; Scotland; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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