I am extremely hap-py, because I am about to leave for a research trip to Shetland to do some work for a very exciting book that we will be publishing later this year. Do you want to hear a little more about it?
The subject of the book is haps – the beautiful everyday shawls that were knitted, sold, and worn by women in Shetland (and elsewhere in Scotland), particularly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The hap has seen something of a renaissance in recent years. Contemporary knitters love making and wearing shawls, and haps are both infinitely knittable and eminently wearable in many different contexts: haps are not heirloom lace, but garments to be worn every day. Haps can be wrapped about ones shoulders or knees; knitted for a new baby, for oneself, or as a gift for a dear friend. The word hap means to “wrap” or “cover” and shawls of that name are always simple and beautiful in design: a canvas for our yarn or colour preferences, a project that relaxes as well as inspires.
Working together with my good friend Jen Arnall-Culliford, and with these ideas of the wearable and the everyday in mind, we commissioned haps from 13 esteemed colleagues, who also happen to be among the world’s most exciting designers of hand-knit shawls. The haps that have been created for our collection are incredibly beautiful, and incredibly varied: as varied as the designers’ aesthetics, inspiration, and locales, from Shetland to Finland, from Edinburgh to Nevada. To accompany these designs, I’m now writing and editing a group of essays and conversations, which will explore the history of haps, hap knitting, and hap wearing, and form the first half of the book.
So I’m off to Shetland to happily think more about haps.
If you have a hap or shawl-related story or anecdote you think might be of interest, I would really love to hear from you! Please leave me a wee note in the comments here, or email me at the address below and I’ll get back to you when I return from Shetland.
See you soon!
All images in this post are from the Shetland Museum and Archives Photographic Collection.