Fishermen and Fair Isle: the Shetland Smookie

7th April 2017
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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!


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


I refer to this one as the ‘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.

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Nielanell smookies are available in one size, which fits a 14-18. 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.

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!).

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

knitwear made and designed in hoswick, shetland

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


‘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 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.

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

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.

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100% snuggly british lambswool

tips for smock lovers

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

Skye Batiks, make beautiful but practical smocks on the Isle of Skye from fabric handloomed in Sri Lanka.

Liz Wilkin and her team make classic Cornish smocks in beautiful colours. I have several!