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Published: 05 March 2016

By Andy Ross

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Fashionable Shetland

Shetland is known for knitting and weaving, wool and yarn but did you know that there has been much more than that?

Yesterday we had visitors in the studio and during our chat, we found out that last century there was a thriving sealskin industry in the isles. Whatever we may now think of wearing animal skins for fashion, the point is that these things happened and formed part of the economy of the islands. I believe that there was a mink farm on the Mainland of Shetland, and have heard that there was also a fox farm, and both of these endeavours were part of the worldwide trade in skins. Sealskins were exported as well as used in the local market. I believe otter skins were also traded and you can still see otter traps dotted around various parts of Shetland - out of commission fortunately. Thank goodness the trade in skins has declined and we now earn our money in different ways. We now protect our wildlife and are proud of the natural heritage that surrounds us, but isn't it fascinating to hear about these things. I hope our visitors don't mind me sharing their knowledge. It was an instructive and interesting chat over coffee and I learnt a lot, so thank you. 

If you know anything about similar endeavours, please email and let us know. It will help us to build a picture for everyone about what life was like in Shetland in the past.