Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Shetland Wool Week: Day 10: Last Day in Unst: Fri 22 Sept

We woke to a stunning sky, spectacular bands of light moved over the sea to the shore and then there was the most glorious sunrise, so lovely to see today which was tinged with leaving sadness. I tried to capture it.

We left as soon as we could pack up and headed for Norwick beach where Michael walked up the road to a favourite bird watching spot and I took the camera and pottered on the beach - sheer bliss. It is ungrateful to complain but it was really too bright for photography. However, I did take lots of pictures and its difficult to choose a few for here.
 I can already visualise some textured weaving with some of my naturally dyed yarn

I spent some time knitting, can there be a better place for knitting? (Prep for my grafting class later in the week) 

I rarely take a selfie, but this was tempting. I know I am only supposed to include what is the frame, but what is outside is better!

We had treated ourselves to Victoria’s tea rooms for lunch as it was our last day here for a while. It did not disappoint and we treated ourselves to a porcelain dish to put the spoons in from the breakfast cup of tea so we can see it each day. Then Michael was back to Norwick and I went into the Heritage Centre to sit and spin and chat to the lovely knowledgeable knitters and spinners who meet there on Friday afternoon’s for much of the year. I so enjoy this as I like to see what they are doing and they are interested in what I have been doing too. This year I took my Ground Elder cardigan (more about that later), some fine lace spinning and gifted them some Norfolk Horn fleece. One of the ladies had fallen and broken a bone in her hand. Currently her spinning was halted but she was still able to knit- a fair isle tam at that. Some more visitors arrived including a lady from Melbourne who was a spinner of mainly merino and a knitter also from England. (I noticed this year that more people were coming up to wool week earlier and using the time to visit beyond Mainland which is good) I have knitted the Ground Elder cardigan, naturally dyed and using the knitting machine and am very proud of that. Being told ‘machine knitting is cheating’ was embarrassing for me to hear from a visitor. Everyone who knits using a knitting machine - and this includes a lot of people in Shetland - appreciates the skill that goes into that.
All too soon for me it was time to clear my things away for another year and catch the ferry back to Yell and then Mainland. I just had a short time to chat to Minnie who had come in to see my medieval spindles and chat about historical sheep breeds. More envy (and delight) that she was planning to go to the North Atlantic Sheep Conference in the Isle of Man after wool week.
I had eaten my delicious lemon tart from Victoria’s tea rooms on one of the ferries, but we did stop to make a cup of tea once we made Mainland. Another treat was in store - fish and chips from Brae, an award winning place. Before we collected these we drove round the corner to book in to Delting Marina where we would be spending a couple of nights. It had been a great day and tomorrow I had my first Wool Week class in Walsay. However, I did have uncomfortable memories of the ferry journeys last year and I noticed the wind was getting up a bit.......

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Shetland Wool Week: Day 9: Mainly a technology day - Frustrations and learning new things: Thurs 21 Sept

It had rained hard in the night but it seemed amazingly warm when we woke up and the wind had dropped substantially. Even when dull, Uyeasound is still beautiful and we pottered and just enjoyed it. My plan this year was to publish my blog about our trip slightly retrospectively  but while we were still away. This day reminded me why that does not happen. Download speed is reasonable but upload speed is too slow. I had several attempts and then realised there were far better things to do when in Shetland. Leaving it until I got back home meant I could relive the experience again. However, I did not know I was to encounter a real technology bonus in the hostel. 

One of the cyclists, Laura of the yellow bike and I got chatting. She had been travelling with a tent and her bike since Sept 2015 and visited many countries, she wasn’t planning to get back home (Switzerland) until the spring 2018. She takes amazing photos and introduced me to Lightroom! It is now on my Christmas list- but that might have to be Christmas 2018 as  I intend to pack this years list with Shetland and Textile related goodies. If you know any German or even if you don’t but love great  photos take a look at Laura’s blog - 

I have been asked about the actual Viking longhouse in Unst, so here is a bit more information.  It is thought that Unst was the first place the Vikings landed in the North Atlantic and remains of 60, yes 60, longhouses have been found, which gives the highest rural density known including in Scandinavia. Three of these longhouses have been excavated in Unst and the replica longship in Haroldswick has made use of the knowledge and skills developed due to these. 

The roof is sealed with turf and the interior of the roof has all wood joints, the pattern at the end took my eye. 

I was particularly interested in the door, no metal was used, the hinge was very clever! 

The longhouse is a large building and events are staged there in the summer and sometime I hope to partake in some of these. It is a glorious building and I wonder what the Viking buildings in Norfolk were like. 
This site is well worth a visit and it is in sight of Victoria’s tea rooms and a very short distance from the Heritage Centre and that wonderful lace knitting. 

*** I didn’t mention in the last post the size of the Viking ship- 24m in length and 5m wide and made of oak. It is called the Skidbladner and is a full size replica.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Shetland Wool Week :day 8: wonderful people, Wool and archeology : Wed 20 Sept

This was going to be another restful day where we played at being tourists. It ended up packed full of things that form wonderful memories. One of the great things about coming to Shetland Wool Week over the years is that you meet 'spin off' craftspeople. This morning we were off to meet Cheryl from Glansin Glass ( which is in Uyeasound where we are staying - her products are beautiful. We had a hard job choosing what to bring back - delightful pieces for the newly decorated lounge that we will enjoy each day. 

We hadn't previously stopped at the Viking Ship and Longhouse but made time this morning. 
 It was a real treat, I loved this detail from the ship. 
The rope was integral to the ship, it felt wrong to ‘remove it’ and just look at the colours in it! 

We decided we would not have liked to row the ship, for one thing the oar was very heavy but it was lovely to sense what it might have been like. 
Lunch was in Victoria's tea room where we had  trouble choosing, the food was all so tempting- we booked to return for lunch on Friday. Then it was on to the Heritage Centre for me, to get a fill of the glorious lace again. It doesn't matter how many times I look at this lace, it is never enough. But today I was in for a treat, I started talking to a lady ( obviously up for SWW by her cardigan). We got chatting and introduced ourselves, she was Hadewych van der Werf ( look her up she does wonderful colourwork knitting) and we noted we had a common friend Monique Boonstra  (such a wonderful lace designer and knitter, look her up too) both  from The Netherlands. I guess Monique’s  ears might have been burning. Another treat was managing to buy the Whalsay Fair Isle book, beautiful pictures of the knitwear in the exhibition - which I will see again on Saturday. The book is worth getting (try Whalsay Heritage and Community Centre). It is a sheer delight with fair isle knitwear from the 1920’s to 2010’s from the island. Every page is worthy of detailed study. 

Having bought a few other items we went   to Lund Church where it is always atmospheric ( windy) but is a place like no other. I decided it was a great place to catch up on my knitting, I am still trying to do my prep  for Friday and Tuesday classes. I couldn't not walk there, so I rugged up and was delighted that I managed to find the Viking crosses in the Church yard. There are another couple behind this and one was in front of the one you see here. 

Back 'home' ( I wish - I mean the hostel where we park the motorhome) there are 3 ladies each on their own- 2 cyclists and a lady in a small tent but with a car  lots of interesting conversation for all as we prepare and cook dinner. 3 more people now know about Shetland Wool Week! 
Another night when I will have no trouble sleeping. 

Monday, 23 October 2017

Shetland Wool Week day 7: An idyllic day in Unst: Tuesday 19 September

We got up to a brilliant sunny but windy day. I decided that some washing was in order. Pegging this on the line was challenging, needing 3 pegs forced down on each item and as I left the line it was all horizontal. It would be a good drying day.
I had received emails from two local people, Cheryl who I had met in a photography workshop last year and Minnie whom I had known from spinning etc for several years. We hoped to meet both during our time in Unst. 
We managed to get to Victoria’s Vintage Tea Rooms for coffee. The cakes as always were delicious, do fit in a trip there if you are ever that far north and below is just a quick snap as we arrived. As a treat we bought an Unst Calendar for next year, the added bonus being that I will not make our own and they are all pictures of Unst - that will be a real delight for 2018.

We were, of course, off to Norwick beach - one of our favourite beaches in Unst. Michael walked up the road to look for birds and I went on the beach to take pictures of seaweed. After a break for lunch, made in the camper van there was time for more of the same! 

I did tear myself away to finish a little textile project, lacing my boots with their new inkle woven laces in black and gold cotton to match the original stitching on the boots.  I am very pleased with them and in fact they got many favourable comments later in the holiday. It was a surprise to be stopped in the street and someone pointing to my feet and then after some more pointing and attempt at speaking a common language the lady and I managed to have a conversation about the laces. She knows they are woven but the ‘inkle weaving’ might have been a step too far!

The day got better, we stopped in Skiboull Stores for some provisions - pear tart, 2 delightful fair isles mugs for morning coffee when we get home etc and who should come in too, but Minnie. We missed each other in Shetland last year so we had a bit of catching up to do but things soon turned to spinning and natural dyeing. We hoped to meet up on Friday at the Heritage Centre when I would go along in the afternoon to meet local spinners and knitters who meet there in the summer at that time. 

What a super day it had been, great scenery, great seaweed, great cake and catching up with friends. We slept well. 

Monday, 9 October 2017

Shetland Wool Week day 6: A rest day in Unst : Monday 18 September

We had been travelling for 5 days so deemed today a rest day. We were not tempted to do otherwise as it was a bit wet outside first thing. We did not move the van all day. 
I decided that complete rest could well result in a migraine so set to on getting to the final draft stage with a month's long online textile workshop  ( on getting a professional finish to garments) that I am working on to be delivered in November. 
Image of section of workshop 

This is my first venture into this sort of thing, although in the past I have written stand alone teach yourself units - but that was in A level Chemistry and not a textile based subject. It will be interesting to see how this goes. 
By lunchtime it has stopped raining and brightened up. However, I was determined to get the new laptop talking to the wi fi in the hostel. Eventually  it worked, failure at first was operator failure and lack of familiarity with the newish laptop. 
It was very nice to walk round the sound to the north east and surprised to see a loch behind the shore. I just stretched my legs and took photos of sea based things, seaweed and fishermen's bits for the colour and texture- part of today's textile interest. I took a couple of other photos unique to Uyeasound, more on one in a later post. Michael walked much further looking at birds and was surprised and delighted by an otter that ran across the road from the sea to the loch. When he looked it obviously has a well worn track from the beach. He watched it for a couple of minutes while it swam away into the loch. 
We can fully understand how important this area was in the past due to the long area of sheltered sea. It is good to see there is still fish based industry of a sizeable nature still here.(1) 
In the previous post this can be seen  towards the right of the photo showing the sound. In the past herring were a big catch in this part of Unst and herring girls followed the shoals, some going down to Gt Yarmouth and Lowestoft - what a small world it is. 

I couldn't resist this photo of the bus stop - how useful to have a pair of wellies to use! 
Uyeasound bus stop

(1) It seems that in 2007 when a new pier was built, 30 people were employed by two fish farms in Uyeasound.  More recently one of the farms has been sold by the family that have been running it 24/7 for 47 years! They were raising about 275,000 fish which equated to approx 1000 tons of salmon a year. Today, business seems mainly to be raising the salmon and the area is good for this as the farms seem to avoid the detrimental 'sea lice'. I will wonder when I next buy my Shetland salmon whether it was alive and well when we were looking out at the sound. Scotland is the third biggest world producer of salmon and quite a lot of this comes from Shetland and the other islands. 

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Travelling to Unst- day one to five of the 2017 Textile Experience

I am going to try and keep up with this textile journal of our time in Shetland rather than write it weeks or even months later. I will therefore summarise the last 5 days in one post. As in previous years I will concentrate on textile items but also describe non textile things that are 'special'. 
We arrived at 17.30 this afternoon having travelled 820 miles which includes 3 sea journeys, the longest being 200 miles on the Aberdeen to Lerwick ferry last night. We decided this year to come up from home the west of England route involving the M6 so that we could meet friends in Cheshire for some catching up. The M6 was so busy,  so was local traffic in Cheshire, and we had forgotten what that was like. It is bliss to live in rural Norfolk. 
We are sitting having a cup of tea overlooking a very calm and peaceful sea, the sun is out and the light is wonderful. It is a superb evening. 
Image of uyeasound looking west

 In terms of textile interest it has been action packed! On Thursday morning I visited Metropolitan Machine Knitting to collect 2 garments I had lent for a fashion show for Tony Bennett, a wonderful Machine Knitting designer and tutor from Australia.( One  of these items is described on my website under machine knitting- it is the Grigna Cardigan; I have yet to post about the pink jacket! )  I have been on two of Tony's  courses and learned so much- his finishing is fantastic. I was sorry not to have been  on the course he was running last week but I was able to see him and 6 colleagues from previous years who were doing this new course! I resisted the temptation to buy any yarn and instead chose 10 'old' magazines ! The old ones are far better than the newer ones and if I ration myself to one every other day I will make them last 20 days! Then it was on to Little Moreton Hall to meet a Cheshire WSD friend. We took time to go into the long gallery and reminisce about Alsager WSD exhibitions that we held there. The room is as long as a cricket pitch, if I remember correctly, and we always tried to make sure that each member of the Guild had at least one item in the exhibition, and most people had many more than that. We tried to make it an educative exhibition with information that onlookers would find interesting whatever their knowledge of WSD. Those truly were the days! We enjoyed showing our wares, demonstrating and interacting with the public and feedback was always great to read. That evening we caught up with another WSD  member from the Guild and we were able to discuss ideas for next year's National Exhibition to be held in Glasgow in July. 

As for my textile ' doings' I  have started to knit another shawl by Donna Smith, from Kate Davies' Book of Haps. It is called Houlland and after 2 trial pieces I felt I had the pattern in my head for the edging, which has 63 repeats. I am using a knitting belt for this as the pattern involves garter stitch and am very pleased with the tension. ( see blog post of 30 October 2016 where I discuss tuition with Hazel Tindall with a knitting belt last year during Wool Week) 
Image of knitting the edge

The yarn is from my stash and is Many a Mickle lambswool in laceweight. I guess it is about  30 years old but I still love the colour. As for spinning, I have not brought my wheel this year, but a selection of drop spindles including some medieval ones. On the ferry last night, being National Spin in Public Day, I decided to continue to spin with Boreray (1)as it seemed apt to do so. I am spinning it quite fine and intend to make it into a lace bookmark. A wool week participant from last year who was in the Design  class with Nielanell with me was also in the ferry lounge with us and we naturally got chatting. She was accompanied by a Canadian friend who I tried to convince to have another shot at spinning with a drop spindle. She had had a bad experience ! I hope to see more of her  during Wool Week and help her on her drop spinning journey! 
Image of drop spinning on ferry

Apologies for the quality of this photo, I only had my iPad with me and the lighting was not ideal! 

We are aiming that tomorrow is a rest day, to me that means doing Textile things. I have already been out photographing the tide line as there has been a high tide recently, great for textile inspiration. 

(1) Boreray is the most vulnerable of all the rare breeds. This fleece came from a Norfolk flock which is being kept to help maintain the breed. 

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Natural Dyeing with a plant of your choice

This was the third of three workshops that I led at Designer Makers21 this summer. This workshops is really special to me as after it the dyers are well on their Dyeing journey.
In workshop one we had learned how to scour, mordant and dye with different concentrations of a powdered dye. Then this was followed by a workshop where we used the three core dyes that were so important, historically, to local dyeing- Madder, Weld and Woad - and then got their secondary dyes too. (See previous blogs for more details and images.)
For the third workshop each of the participants arrived with scoured and mordanted yarn the along with their soaked plant material. Our aim of this workshop was to get a set of six colours from the basic dyebath using additives and over dyeing so each member went home with their unique set. There was  a choice of 7 plus  treatments for each plant dyed skein so decisions had to be made.
There was much excitement and discussion about which plants had been chosen and which ones might be used at home after the  day. 
While the plants were cooking up and yielding their colour we looked at examples I had taken ' for ideas'  and more importantly learned how to make up the additive solutions, how to use them and how to store them safely at home. 
What a busy action packed day it was. Unfortunately I only took a few photos. 
This is a plant dyed skein, complete with additive and having been heated up. From memory (?!) I think the additive was copper. 

Everyone appeared to be very conscientious taking notes and had leaned from previous sessions that adding yarn  'labels'  was a big help in identification later. 
These are the colours a member obtained from eucalyptus leaves- fantastic. 

All the dyed sets were quite different and it was a real joy for me to see how far each person had got since the start of the workshops. We are keeping in touch and more is planned later - watch this space. You can never stop learning about natural dyeing!