This shawl or cape would have been a luxury item of women’s clothing in the 19th century. From the 1830s knitters on the Shetland Islands adopted the then fashionable technique of lace knitting. This style quickly became identified with the shawls and veils knitted by Shetlanders from yarn spun into very fine thread on the Isle of Unst. The tradition developed of passing the finished object through a wedding ring to show how light and delicate it was.
The knitters produced these items on steel wires. They invented the patterns of the shawls, many of which have names taken from local features, such as 'Ears o' Grain', 'Fir Cone' and 'Print o' the Wave'.
Although these shawls were bought by wealthy women, the knitters earned little in return for the amount of work that went into creating the thousands of stitches that made up one garment.