About Nielanell

At the Gospel Hall, Hoswick, Shetland - a small, old wooden building with a rusted tin roof. In front of the building a woman stands with a grey and electric blue wrap and indigo loose jeans

Nielanell was founded in 2008, in the Shetland Islands, by knitwear designer Niela Nell Kalra.

Nielanell builds on the traditions and quality of Shetland-made knitwear, but follows its own design path. Through connection with place, history and world culture—and a passion for colour—we create unusual, contemporary Shetland knitwear

Two women wear contemporary knitwear in charcoal grey and stone white, with abstract patterning

Our wearable art

The closest I’ve come to my childhood dreams of being able to walk into museum paintings and immerse myself in their abstract sensations.

Amy, Nielanell customer

Nielanell has become known and appreciated for its cornucopia of colour and texture, and our knitwear is often described as art that you can wear. Many pieces are offered in a dazzling array of colours, made in small editions.

Intriguing design narratives, from unexpected sources, invite the wearer to add their own layer of meaning or memory.

A stack of contemporary Scottish knitwear in vitamin colours. Irregular dots in two colours in each pieces. Blues, greens, berry colours and neutrals

Finely knitted in merino, and carefully finished: pieces from our Ebb-stanes collection.

Scottish knitwear crafted by the experts

Generations of  Shetlanders have worked in the knitting industry, becoming experts at making (and wearing) knitwear. Shetland weather is made for knitwear! Our collections are made by local craftspeople skilled in the art of machine knitting, using state-of-the-art equipment.

We don’t mass-produce.

Each piece of Nielanell knitwear is individually knitted and finished by hand. The luxurious yarns that we use are of exceptional quality, and carefully sourced from the best Italian and Scottish mills. 

Knitwear made in small editions

Because we knit often, and in relatively small quantities, we are also able to make a number of different shapes and styles—many more than might be expected from a small label. Some pieces are complete one-offs.

This agile approach to design and manufacture gives visitors to our Hoswick and online shops a particularly rich choice.

A multimedia maker

Always making, Niela uses print as part of her design process, and is a keen dyer and handspinner. She also works in glass: collections of her art glass are coming soon under the Nielanell banner.

Three linocut prints on glass against a window. The ink is black and shows a reversed-out curvilinear motif. One piece of glass is limey yellow-green

Using printmaking to develop a motif for the Conversation Pieces collection

Design driven by the wearer

Although Niela revels in the design and making process, the real focus of our knitwear is the wearer. Making the wearer feel good is the pinnacle of what we do. Perhaps it’s a lofty aim, but through comfort, connection to Shetland and our design stories (or just pure delight in colour or pattern), we seek to make knitwear that gives confidence and contributes to wellbeing. 

Model wears a cherry and warm beige jacket, with pin. The cardigan is textured with soft ridges and a cowl neck. She also wears a loose, black dress.

From the beginning, it has been important to Niela that you feel welcome at Nielanell, whoever you are—and that we have pieces to suit different body shapes. We are always learning and trying to improve our knitwear for the wearer, and our range of sizes.

The Nielanell studio was wonderful. I bought three pieces because they looked amazing and the experience was lovely. I was treated well even though I am not a tiny person.

Customer, 2021

We recently conducted a wide-ranging customer survey, and are genuinely interested in your thoughts on any aspect of what we do. Please do get in touch by email, on Facebook, on Instagram or on Twitter.

A woman stands against an abstract mural, wearing a cape in two rust colours. She holds her arms up to her collar bone
Artist Silvia Levenson at an exhibition of her work in Rome.

Who wears Nielanell?

Our knitwear has global appeal, and is worn by all ages. Those of you who wear Nielanell are fairly uncategorisable, often being free-thinkers…who don’t necessarily worry too much about fashion trends.

Many of you live in locations far away from Hoswick, but our customers include Shetlanders and those living in the larger (and smaller) islands of Britain and Ireland.

Wearers of our knitwear tell us that they appreciate our modern take on a traditional craft, the choice of colour, the quality, the interesting construction, the narratives behind the designs, and our not-always-serious attitude to life. However, our customers also know that we are very serious about design, standards, customer service, and the creative life: Niela’s own story and career path is often inspiring to those who come across us.

It’s a particular honour that fellow designers and accomplished hand-knitters wear Nielanell: a mark of the quality of our design, manufacturing and materials.

Lerwick, Shetland from the sea. Arriving by ferry into Shetland

Arriving into Lerwick by sea

Nielanell and contemporary Shetland

Shetland is an overnight ferry ride, or an hour’s plane journey, from mainland Scotland. A subarctic archipelago, our surroundings are a beautiful, ever-changing, coastal landscape. Navigating the weather, which can be wild in winter, is part of island living. Tradition is celebrated (including our Norse heritage—distinct from other parts of Scotland) and is part of daily life.

Today’s Shetland is also a vibrant, active, and forward-looking place, with thriving arts, culture and commerce. The down-to-earth sits comfortably alongside innovation. Our knitwear reflects—and is designed for—this modern life.

While being a proud member of the islands’ creative community, it is also so important to us that Nielanell is a contributor to the local economy, and part of a sustainable future for Shetland.

The business has worked with and been supported by Shetland Arts, Shetland Islands Council, Shetland Amenity Trust and Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Shetland knitwear shop, Nielanell Hoswick
In the Nielanell studio shop, Hoswick.

The studio and shop

Nielanell has been based in the village of Hoswick, in Shetland’s South Mainland, since its beginnings. The studio has gradually expanded and is now a cluster of buildings, including the studio shop on the village’s main street. We are a couple of hundred yards from the south-facing pebble beach, and just a few steps from Laurence Odie Knitwear, jeweller Karlin Anderson, and the Hoswick Visitor Centre & Café.

Our team

Linking and finishing of our knitwear happens in-house, and our small team now includes Katie, our studio manager, who joined the business in autumn 2019. From Hoswick we manage production, our studio and online shops, and also our trade relationships and stockists.

Visit us

Katie works alongside a wonderful group of studio staff who will be delighted to welcome you to browse, chat and try on pieces from our range. Visitors from all over the world drop by, and it is such a pleasure to hear about different perspectives on Shetland and lives elsewhere. While being ‘remote’ our studio often feels like it is the centre of the world (it’s the centre of ours!).

Nielanell knitwear itself travels widely, whether homewards in the suitcase of a visitor, in deliveries to online customers, or to stockists and galleries in the UK and beyond.

Find out how to visit us in person and virtually 

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