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Shetland Knitwear for 100 Fiddlers

The costumes worn by Hjaltibonhoga at both the 2014 and 2015 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoos were designed by Nielanell and produced by Laurence Odie Knitwear Ltd in Hoswick, Shetland. For each year the costumes had to reflect Shetland as well as the theme for the Tattoo. 

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo 2014

The theme for the 2014 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo was 'Our Home, Friends and Family' and Hjaltibonhoga were to portray Homecoming as their part of the show. The Mirrie Dancers - the Shetland name for the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis - proved to be the main source of inspiration for the costumes and conveyed the idea that wherever Shetlanders and Scots had travelled to in the northern hemisphere, the sight of the Mirrie Dancers across the sky was a link to their homeland. 


The female fiddlers wore a stylish wrap over cardigan which incorporated a floaty sleeve while the men were dressed in smart reversible waistcoats featuring a traditional Fair Isle star pattern which provided another visual link with the night sky. The Shetland yarn used in the garments was proveded by Jamieson's of Shetland, Sandness, and dark purples and blues were used to represent the night sky. Flashes of bright red, shimmering metallic silver and green fluorescent yarns were incorporated into the lace pattern and the floaty sleeve attached to the fiddlers' bowing arm allowed the fabric to 'dance' just like the lights in the sky. The green fluorescent yarn lit up under the UV lights on the castle esplanade making the costumes extremely effective and eyecatching even from a distance. 

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo 2015

The theme for the 2015 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo was 'East Meets West.'  In contrast to the previous year the costumes were lighter in both colour and design. Both men and women wore the same outfit which complemented the specially written music demonstrating Shetlands link with Scandinavia to the east and America to the west. 


Again a Shetland lace pattern was used but the garment itself was created from a single piece of material which was in keeping with international styles such as a kilt, cape, poncho or sari. The costumes were draped in such a way as to encorporate the floaty sleeve, which has become a signature part of the Hjaltibonhoga costumes, and a plaid effect over one shoulder. White was used as the main colour with flashes of blue and stripes of gold metallic yarn running through it to give a bit of shimmer and sparkle. 



The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and Tattoo on Tour 2016

Heading into 2016, new challenges were brought to the group - designing a costume that could be worn both in Edinburgh and during the shows in Australia and New Zealand and still showcase Shetland's fantastic history of knitwear.


It was decided to produce jackets that would form the base of the new uniform with knitwear providing the decoration.  In January 2016, fifty jackets were hand produced by a team of Hjaltibonhoga volunteers before the trip down under. The 2015 'East Meets West' lace was adapted to fasten again as a plaid over one shoulder and give the signature floaty sleeve under the bow arm. The blue material chosen stood out brilliantly against the green sports fields that hosted The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo on Tour.


About Nielanell

Niela Kalra is the owner of Nielanell. Previously a lawyer, Niela moved to Shetland in 2004 to study for a degree in Textile Design at the Shetland College UHI in Lerwick. She graduated in 2008 and set up the Nielanell knitwear label and a studio shop in Hoswick later that year. Since then she has been combining "artistic inspiration with inventive knit to create distinctive designs that invite commentto create "the alternative Shetland knitwear" brand. Her use of colour, texture, knitted structures and shape result in a range of garments that can be worn in multiple different ways and adapt to any situation. 


To find out more visit her website

About Laurence Odie Knitwear Ltd

Laurence Odie Knitwear Ltd is a knitwear manufacturer based a stones throw from Nielanell's studio in Hoswick, Shetland. It is owned by Laurence Odie who, as a former employee of Laurence J. Smith Ltd - the previous owner of the knitwear manufacturing business, has over 40 years experience in the knitwear industry. They produce high quality Shetland knitwear which is exported all over the world.


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