Continuing from today’s WOVEMBER WORDS, this evening we have a wonderful piece by Ella Gordon on the joys of using a traditional Shetland jumper board. This piece was originally published here on Ella’s blog. If WOVEMBER readers do not already read Ella’s blog it is really an amazing treasure trove of woolly lore. She writes beautifully about the textiles of Shetland as well as her own work with wool and her work during Shetland Wool Week. She also has an amazing, high-wool-content knitwear collection and curated a beautiful exhibition about knitwear during the oil boom earlier this year, for the Shetland Textiles Museum. We love this post about blocking a sweater using a jumper board because of the pleasure which Ella clearly takes in the process and because it seems like a wondrous way to whip woolly sweaters into shape!

So the other day I wore the sleeveless Fair Isle I showed in my last blog. I may have been slightly optimistic to say it fit me fine. It’s definitely a little on the short side. I got lots of compliments on it (the joys of working in a wool shop) but I kept finding myself pulling it down – It needed to be longer. So on this Friday night I’m going to go wild, go crazy and… show you how I dress jumpers on my Jumper Board.

Rock and Roll.


your days of being too short in the torso are numbered my friend…

When I accidentally began collecting Shetland knitting, I started boarding my jumpers. If you want to know a bit more about jumper boards Hazel Tindall has a great blog about them. There are also some great pictures of boards in use on the museum photo archive. So I’m not a pro at this, but I’ve boarded a few so I thought someone might like to see.

My set up is not fancy. I have a small storage tub I keep under the sink.


I fill it with warm water, and add one key ingredient…


Hair conditioner! It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but I like this stuff because it smells good and I still think its funny that I buy Horse haircare.


Dunk in the gansie and smush it about for a while, I don’t think leaving it in a certain amount of time makes much difference if you’re just washing it. In this case and most cases, I’m not washing it because it’s dirty but just to reshape it so as long as it gets soaking that’s all it needs. If it’s something you’ve just finished knitting, I’d soak it for about half an hour to let the stitches settle.


One thing is when you take it out don’t lift it by the top or the bottom because the weight of the jumper and the water can stretch it in ways you don’t want so you lift it out together in one go and try and squeeze out as much water as you can but don’t twist it! Lay it out on a towel and roll it up.


Then stomp and squeeze as much as you want!


Its crazy how much water comes out, when you unroll it it will feel barely damp. Ive discovered the only thing more awkward than putting something on a jumper board is trying to take pictures while you do it..boarding

As wrong as it feels to be rough with something hand knitted and wet (read vulnerable) you kinda have to be to get it on a jumper board, mine’s the kind that’s hinged in the middle so you slide the jumper up a put the arms through the arms, then open it out.



Then the key thing to streching it out is to pull down the knitting; can you see the board has these holes?


Well you stick in the metal pole about where you want to stretch it down to (I’m not exact in my measuring…)


make a slip knot on a piece of waste yarn and thread the other end through a needle…


slide it onto the pole and start sewing through the gansie, down and around the pole…


like so… you can really make it stretch a lot and since the rest of the board is keeping the jumper at the right size you don’t have to worry about the gansie loosing width.


That middle bit gets a bit awkward with the wood in the way and every time I do it it comes out different but when you finish it looks like this…


Now I’ll get even more wear out of this gansie. There’s something I love about boarding jumpers (I told you I was rock and roll?!) It’s such a traditional thing that to me can’t be bettered. I’d love to know if there is anything similar in other knitting cultures? I’ve only ever seen them in books about Shetland knitting… sometimes with the name ‘Woolly Horse’… who came up with that?!

All content © Ella Gordon and reproduced here with kind permission