Fisher­men & Fair Isle: the Shetland Smookie jumper

Friday Apr 07, 2017

A hybrid of two classic garments, my Shetland smookie is a descendant of both the fisherman’s smock and the Fair Isle jumper.

Quite simply, I just love smocks.

Like many seafarers, Shetland fishermen wore smocks or ‘smookies’ made from sacking or canvas. I started wondering how that shape would translate into knit ...very well indeed, is the answer!

Shetland Smookie jumper with all-over Fair Isle pattern in navy and feather. Stand up neck and storm cuffs. Shown on vintage mannequin against blue panelled door.

This Smookie is the first in a series of garments based on traditional smocks.

I refer to this jumper as an ‘outdoor Smookie’ - but please don’t assume this implies rugged pursuits. Yours will be equally at home on the sofa, or on the terrace sipping gin and tonic!

Nielanell Shetland smookies have already travelled all over the world: whenever I get any into the studio in they just disappear, straight out of the box.

Side view of Fair Isle style jumper in navy and feather pale grey. All over pattern. Shown on a vintage mannequin against a blue wood panelled door.


Nielanell Smookies are available in one size. On smaller figures the smookie is a wee bit more tunic-like.

Although the pattern is ‘all-over’ (like traditional-style Shetland and Fair Isle sweaters), the gentle trapeze shape of the smookie gives a flattering fit.

Detail of striped cuff on a Nielanell Shetland Smookie jumper. Blues with a coral accent at cuff edge.

It's all in the detail

Part of the smookie's charm is in the detailing: storm cuffs, a stand-up neck, and a contrast colour.The pattern itself is somewhere between Nordic and Shetland knitting, hinting at the close relationship between these traditions (in fact this pattern was supposed to be a test, but became a fixture!).

Nielanell Smookies are made in our village by the skilled staff at Laurence Odie Knitwear.

In the knit room at Laurence Odie, Hoswick, Shetland. Cones of red, orange, blue, and cream yarn on top of a knitting machine, with a technician in the background

The Smookies are made here in Hoswick, just a few sheds down from the Nielanell studio, at Laurence Odie Knitwear.

Knitwear made and designed in hoswick, shetland

‘Just a simple smock...’, I said. Of course there’s more to it than that! I couldn’t have made these without Laurence’s team, who are all ultra-talented. Special thanks to Sarah and Tracy, programmer and linker.

Made in highest quality British-spun lambswool, the Smookies are knit in a reverse jacquard for extra snuggliness. They are especially lofty because of the brilliant washing and blocking by Ian, and soft Shetland water.

There is a lot of detail in the Shetland Smookies, including storm cuffs - a challenge for linkers!

Browse the colourways >>

Shetland Smookie jumper with all-over Fair Isle pattern. Shown in coral and grey, on a spinning vintage mannequin - sleeves fly out.

Design what you love

This really was a pleasure to design, although getting the details right took some time (and iteration). A good example of... design what you love, stick to a simple idea and then refine it. Finally, inject it with a secret oomph (technical term) and pay as much attention to detail as possible.

Close up of Fair Isle jumpers at the Nielanell studio, Hoswick, Shetland. One jumper in red and brown, the other in charcoal and very pale grey

100% snuggly British-spun lambswool
Tips for smock lovers

For fellow smock fans—who want a canvas layer too—here are couple of my favourites:

Tagged with: design process

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