The making of our scarves

Joan Fraser.  Photograph by Alan Lindsay.

Our scarves are knitted at the excellent Textile Facilitation Unit based in the Shetland College in Lerwick. The Unit is a working partnership between the Shetland College and the local knitwear industry.  It is manned by skilled technicians who work with designers and businesses from Shetland and the UK mainland.

CAD and CAM (Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Manufacturing) are central to the design and making of our scarves.  We develop our designs on a handframe knitting machine linked to a computer.  This allows many pattern combinations and versions to be tried out and adapted like multiple knitted sketches.

Joan Fraser working out a design on the handframe machine.

This dice pattern is inspired by a 1930s man's slipover.

The final design must then be programmed for production, and this is done by technician Roisin McAtamney.  Roisin is a skilled design and production specialist who oversees the Unit and works on the development and prototyping of knitwear.

Roisin McAtamney

A number of quality considerations are addressed during programming. One such is ensuring a smooth and secure finish at the edges of the fabric: for example, in certain two-colour patterns in which long threads are carried vertically, the pattern is programmed to integrate the yarn uniformly into the fabric at each row end.  

When the programming is complete the file is transferred to the knitting machine.  The model used for our scarves is a beautifully engineered 12 gauge Shima Seiki.

Roisin setting up the Shima knitting machine to knit the prototype.


 Joan Fraser checking a design under development.  Photo: Alan Lindsay.

When the scarves have been knitted, they need to have the final row of stitches closed off. This process is called linking. The stitches are individually hooked over the teeth of a special linking machine, which then finishes the stitches with a row of neat chain stitch. Linking is a skilled operation and creates a beautifully smooth end to the scarf.

Here Sandra Williamson, an experienced linker, is linking one of our scarves.  Sandra has 25 years of experience across the Shetland textile industry and runs her own textile finishing business on the island of Yell.

The linking chain stitch being checked.

We then hand finish the scarves and perform a further full quality check before washing them by hand and smoothing them flat to dry.

We wash all our scarves by hand in soft Shetland water. This brings out the luxurious softness of the wool.

We label the scarves and check each one yet again before careful packing and shipping to our stockists, or to individual website customers.   Quality is a theme that runs through all processes, from sourcing of yarn, design and development, to production and finishing, washing and packaging.   In this way you can be sure that your Fraser scarf will be of the highest possible quality.

The finished, hand washed and labelled scarf, ready for a final quality check before packing.

Dice Birdseye lambswool scarf in charcoal, zinc & lilac

Our Sea and the Stars Tube Scarf in Black & White

  Photo: Alan Lindsay.

 Eric Stewart

Thank you to Eric

I would like to thank industry expert Eric Stewart, who was head technician at the TFU during the first years of Fraser.  

With his background in the great Scottish borders textile business, a breadth of experience across the production process, and a lifelong skill in fine wool and cashmere manufacture, Eric was a key influence in the development of our business.

From our earliest dealings he was a pleasure to work with and we wish him a happy and productive retirement.

Joan Fraser

Open days at the Textile Facilitation Unit

If you’re visiting Shetland during the annual Wool Week you will have the opportunity to tour the Textile Facilitation Unit, when it is open to individual visitors and groups.

We are very proud to have our scarves made here, and we're sure you will be impressed with the place too.


The Shetland Wool Week website, which lists a truly impressive range of events:

The Textile Facilitation Unit: