Sunday, 23 October 2016

Shetland 2016 Day Ten : First Wool Week Class

24th Sept
Well, the day had finally arrived for wool week to start. My first class was on Yokes and started at 10 in Lerwick. We were staying about 6 miles south at Aithsvoe Marina and it was very nice indeed - more about that later. I was very excited as I had knitted a yoked jumper pattern using machine and hand knitting that I had designed to fit me and fit the yoke section  I was trying out. However, I know you can always learn more from an expert- and Hazel is certainly that. We had been given homework to do so that we maximised the time in the half day class. 
As I was taking my coat off, one of the ladies was extremely complimentary about my black and white 'fair isle' cardigan (1) and wanted to buy a pattern for it from me.  I think I am missing something here! 
At the start of the class we must have seen the world's best collection of yokes, including some machine knit jumper bodies which were very interesting to me. We were given verbal and written instructions including calculations etc for a yoked jumper and more. We were to either knit in a circle with a steek  or forwards continuously. I opted for the former and learnt so much from doing this. Hazel and many Shetland knitters use 3 not 4 needles when working ' circular' so I was keen to have a go at that. 
So here is what I produced  during the session. 
And in this one I cut the steek and  blocked the sample
If you enlarge this you can see where I finally 'got' how to hold the needles properly. It's in the middle at where the grey background turns into a mauve background. 

Great class where I learned far more than yokes. Great to meet other wool week attendees. Excellent all round. 

I then walked to Hay's Dock as it had been nearly a week since we ate there, Michael had booked a table - which was essential. After lunch I visited the Hub ( in the museum this year) and picked up my goodie bag. I also collected my Shetland Wool Week annual as I had arranged to pick this up. I liked last year's, but I think this one is excellent. I decided to leave looking at it until later. 
View of the Hub(2)  

In the afternoon I decided it was my opportunity to go to the Bod ( Shetland Textile Museum) which always has lovely volunteers to talk too and superb exhibits including items  made by Shetland Guild members. Amongst my special likes were: weaving from Global Yell,  entries  from the neckwear competition, finest lace and Fair Isle knitting from Fair  Isle - which brought back strong memories as there were knitted egg cosies which I had  knitted at junior school in knitting lessons. ( I could see no use for them now or then, but realise they are excellent training in fine manipulation in knitting). 
I talked at length to the volunteer upstairs - about the exhibits and my natural dyeing. I also bought a ball of Shetland Organics lace weight yarn in grey, thinking it would be the background for a cockleshell scarf with my dyed colours as additions. 

Then back to the marina before it got dark, we had been joined by a caravan. On talking to the couple, they were down from Unst and believe it or not the lady was sister in law to a knitter lady I know on Unst. 
What a great first day of wool week this had been. 

(1) Looks like this has not been the subject of a post here, will add one sometime but it can be found on my website under 'machine knitting')
(2)  The Hub was open every day, well into the evening. You could go and chat, knit or rest. Drinks were available too. 

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Shetland 2016 Day Nine: Unst Heritage Centre

23rd Sept
This is the day I had been waiting for. Each week over the summer the ladies spin and knit and talk to visitors on an afternoon ( Friday this year)  at the Heritage Centre. When we are in Shetland I have managed to visit them and spin, knit and talk and have a lovely time. I guessed this Friday might be different as wool week was the following week and there would be classes at the Museum and an open day but I was told the afternoon would happen ! 
After another lovely lunch at Victoria's Tea Rooms ( warmed cheese scone with Orkney Cheese and Ham) I went to the Heritage Centre and Michael had his last trip to look at the birds further north on the island. I was having to leave before the end as we had two ferries to take and quite a bit of a drive down to Cunningburgh where we would be based for the next ten nights. 
Norwick (Norik) beach where M would be based while looking for birds
How can you fit everything in to less than two hours? The time flew by. I did get a chance  to look again at the collection of historical knitwear and marvel at the fine yarn used to knit it. It doesn't matter how many times I look at it, I still 'see' more and marvel at the beauty of it all. The 'knitting' room had been re-arranged ... well it had been two years since I was last there. I was glad there seemed room for fine knitted items by the Unst knitting ladies for sale. I recognised Old Shale, cockleshell, cockleshell with colours, bird's eye amongst the patterns. 
I spent most of the afternoon talking to Anne about her knitting, some of my knitting, my Ashford Double Treadle Joy compared to a Shetland Wheel.  I took the opportunity to look at the lace and fair isle books there too.( At these afternoons there is an additional display of knitwear belonging to the ladies and books). 
As I was wearing my meadowsweet jumper this led to an extended conversation about my natural dyeing and I wished I had more examples with me. Technology helped me out as I did manage to locate photos on my iPad - but never as good as the real thing. 
However, lace knitting formed a good part of the conversation and I showed Anne the Norfolk Horn fleece that I had with me and also some recycled plastic bottle yarn I had spun as lace weight - couldn't find the photo of the bag I knitted from that though. 

Suddenly I looked at my watch and knew I had to be speedy as I wanted to add a few rows to the Unst Wool Week ' piece'. I decided to knit a Norik  Drummie Bee in the middle if it, as a memory ( and thank you) to Hazel for translating this pattern (1) and teaching me in the spinning class two years ago. I needed full concentration but wanted to chat too! Never mind it worked and I had just about cleared up ready to rush to the ferry when Michael arrived. The next day we would be on mainland and it would be my first class at Wool Week. 

No time for photos but this is a string of Norik Drummie Bees in a bookmark. 

(1) The pattern with many Drummie Bee is from Recreating Vintage Shetland Lace available from Unst Heritage Centre. 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Shetland 2016 Day Eight : The power of the Shetland Wool week hat and birds

Shetland 2016 Day Eight: The  power of the Shetland Wool Week Hat and Birds
22nd Sept

Our last full day on Unst, no glorious sunrise today, just damp. So I deemed it to be knitting first thing this morning, and then lunch at Victoria's Tea Rooms. I still had some way to go on finishing my Norfolk Horn Bookmark. 

Victoria had decided to have a winter special on the menu and we couldn't help treating ourselves to it - shepherd's pie. It was delicious but we probably should have shared a portion! While we enjoying this treat a group of 4 American ladies arrived wearing wool week hats. These were very similar but with a different coloured yarn in each. The weather had bucked up considerably and the ladies were taking photos in front of the picture window ( and glorious sea behind). I decided I could go over, mention the hats, chat to them and take a phot so they could all be on it. They mentioned my yoked jumper- again I was wearing the practice one but this led to a discussion on natural dyeing. The wool week hat is such a great thing as it does enable people to connect. I talked about dyeing with meadowsweet and one of the ladies had a dye garden and talked about plants in that in California. She regarded meadowsweet as rather precious as a herb to dye with. She mentioned dyeing with Great Mullein and copper sulphate in the same pot to give a good green. This is another plant a bit like ground elder to me, it tries to shoot up everywhere in my garden, but can grow 6 feet tall... At least the ground elder doesn't reach those heights. So something else to try dyeing  with, care of wool week. From the conversation I think this same lady had knitted the 4 hats and put a different coloured naturally dyed row in each one- so a matching set of four for them. It was lovely to chat. 
Then on to Norwick beach, by now it was much brighter - sun in fact and I wanted to take seaweed photos with the macro lens whilst Michael walked up the road to his bird watching spot. See below for a report of this! 

 The day continued to get better, the wind dropped and the sea was very calm - I was hoping for good sunset photos back at Uyeasound. 
This is not quite sunset but taken at 17.51 and a lovely photo of the view we have had from our home for our time in Unst

Birds ( by Michael) 
Occasionally people ask what I am doing while Janet gets on with Wool Week.  Well the answer is usually 'birds' though I did sneak off to the cinema at Mareel one very wet and windy day.   Anyway we are not up to that yet. Shetland is one of THE  places to be in Autumn for all sorts of different migrating birds.  Here we were at Norwick, one of our favourite places, with Janet happily occupied with her photography.  I walked down the lane heading away from the beech to Valyie.  This is the place I had a close encounter with a Long Eared Owl two years ago.   There had been nothing about on Tuesday but I was encouraged to find several Blackcaps as I walked up the hill.  At the top by the house I stopped to watch a male and a female on the wire of the fence.  Suddenly they were joined by a little brown bird with black and white in its tail. It proceeded to act exactly like a flycatcher.  Now I am quite familiar with the two fairly common UK flycatchers (well common if you know where to look). In fact a Spotted Flycatcher lived in our garden near Diss for several weeks one summer choosing the rotary washing line as its favourite perch and while living in Cheshire Pied Flycatchers were easy to see in the woods near Leek and in N Wales.  After the three  birds flew off I walked on up the lane and, meeting some other birdwatchers, was delighted to confirm I had been watching a Red Breasted Flycatcher. A new bird for me as I am really not much more than a novice and I certainly don't get enough time for this hobby.  They also assured me there were three Yellow Browed Warblers about.  Having located two of them (another first) and a Whitethroat I headed back to the van to get the kettle on and drag Janet away from the beach to hear of my discoveries!

So all in all a great last full day in Unst, but we still had 3/4 of a day left tomorrow. 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Shetland 2016 Day Seven: More of Unst

Shetland 2016 Day Seven: More of Unst
21 Sept

I was up and out of the motorhome early, 6.40am, as the sunrise was even better than yesterday, there was a glorious pink hue. I couldn't miss more photography. 


We had even less plans for the day, other than to visit the wonderful village shop in Baltasound. By 10.30 that pink sky had been true to form: 'pink in the morning shepherd's warning'. It got very dull and the wind was getting up. By coffee time we had rain, but went out. We needed to visit Skiboull Stores the wonderful Unst shop in Baltasound. We were glad they were still selling the lovely Porcelain mugs - These have an Unst outline and say Unst Shetland the island above all others . Very clever indeed and a real pick me up on a bad day. Close by is the most northerly Post Office so we had a card to send home to be stamped. 

We decided to try the west of the island, so after lunch went to Lund beach - another favourite. By this time it was very windy, but as I was photographing rocks and seaweed the wind did not matter much. By now it was dry but just overcast and due to the earlier rain the images were good. 

I was keen to get my 6" square knitted for Mona's charity. I didn't think I would finish it in time if I left it to wool week itself. I had been mulling over ideas for my ideal square. I very much wanted it not to be completely one sided, to have some colour, to be textured and not to curl at the edges as it would make stitching up more challenging. 
I had been thinking about this for some time and decided the colour bit could be based on 'crofthooses' and as this would be a wool week venture this would be good. Given my other rules for myself I decided to work mainly in garter stitch with a horizontal 'crofthoose' border somewhere near the middle and a garden stitch edge to this to stop the curl. After some swatching in Shetland jumper weight yarn,  I came up with a tension I was happy with, a suitable placement of the 'crofthooses' to fit in whole houses and I was ready to start. 
I didn't quite knit it non stop but I did enjoy doing it. I then washed it and blocked it just as I do for all my knitwear so it was a perfect 6" square when finished. This also settled the threads on the back of the houses. I wished I had squeezed in my custom made sample blocking board covered in gingham as it would have made the pinning out easier but there are some things you can't bring with you when you are living in a motorhome for 3 weeks! 
Image The 'crofthoose ' square for the Lesotho blanket. ( Not the best photo but you will get the idea!) 
Another great day despite the change in the weather. 

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Shetland 2016 Day Six: A glorious leisurely day in Unst

A beautiful light to wake up to, saw me along the beach in my pyjamas taking photos- just magical. 

We then had a slow breakfast chatting with a Swedish lady also over early for wool week too and an Australian girl who was volunteering at the wildlife centre in Hillswick. I was very much looking forward to our first stop as I had been following Victoria's Tea Rooms since our visit in 2014. Things had changed for Victoria, then she had a pop up cafe in the village hall in Haroldswick and now she had her own place overlooking the sea. Definitely a place to visit, coffee and cake both being superb, lunch booked for Friday. We couldn't resist a wonderful solid oak chopping board from the gift part of the shop.  The chopping board will enable us to have Haroldswick  memories  when we are back home! I couldn't resist popping in to the Heritage Centre briefly. (My plan was to spin and chat to the knitting and spinning ladies on Friday afternoon before getting the ferry back to mainland).
Laurie was on desk duty and what a lovely life she leads. Her ancestors are from Unst so she spends one year in Unst and the next in Australia. I noticed a 'Recreating vintage Shetland lace'  pattern that I didn't have - so treated myself.  It is called Norik fine lace scarf and takes 30g of Jamieson and  Smith Shetland supreme and by the talented Hazel Laurenson. I can spin as fine as Shetland supreme, perhaps this could be a project I could attempt. Spinning, even just 30 g , takes awhile when it is very fine yarn. Lovely cobweb scarves for sale too, knit by the Unst ladies. If you haven't been up to Unst, do try and get there sometime, the lace in the collection is superb and the ladies are very helpful and knowledgeable. 
We had promised ourselves lunch at Norwick beach, another favourite of ours. Michael walked up the road to do a bit of bird watching and I took the camera onto the beach for seaweed photos. I can't possibly complain, so this is a statement of fact: the sun was too bright for really good photos. 
We couldn't come up to this part of the island without a trip to Skaw where the north road ends in a beach. I took photos of more inspirational seaweed and sheep that were probably the most northerly in the UK. 

We had had both beaches to ourselves, but when on Skaw beach a group of 4 arrived and one of the gentlemen was determined to swim in the sea there! His wife was rather anxious it might bring on a heart attack. No need to panic though, he got really wet, had his swim and was out. It was good to see and much more brave than my  spinning on the beach in 2012 ( blogpost of 30 August 12). 
So having had afternoon tea in our motorhome in this great spot with glorious weather we went back to our base, but knowing we were so fortunate to have another 3 days on Unst. 

Friday, 14 October 2016

Shetland 2016 Day Five: Arriving in Shetland

Michael was called to move the motorhome while I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on board, he later joined me to finish his breakfast and I think we must have been some of the last to leave the Ferry - we were putting in time to be sure Tesco was open! We made a swift visit to Tesco- to fill up with a few essentials. Later on we would be travelling up to Unst to stay for 4  nights. ( Unst is one of our favourite places! ) 

However it was nearly coffee time so a visit to the Peerie Cafe on the front was needed. I thought I recognised the voice behind Michael - it was Hazel Tindall also enjoying coffee and cake with a friend - Susannah from the States, also here to take in wool week. We chatted before we left- Hazel noticed my yoked jumper! But, imagine how I felt - it was my practise for the meadowsweet jumper, not even my best yoked jumper  to greet one of the real experts in yoked knitting?!?! Then it got funnier still as Michael was wearing a fair isle jumper which was also praised and he admitted it came from a Vintage shop in Beccles ( Suffolk)!  As we walked down the stairs we were greeted by another Shetland friend..... and this was within an hour of leaving the ferry! It was lovely. 

The next brief stop had to be the Information centre, just because we always visit there first, then on to the Shetland Times Bookshop! I knew what I was buying and that took a few seconds but of course I had to take the opportunity of having a good browse at the other knitting books. 
The books from The Shetland Times Book Shop - would they be the last for the holiday? 

 Then unfortunately(?!) I had to visit a wool shop. I very much wanted  to contribute a square to the blankets being made during wool week for an orphanage( 1)  but the call came after I had left home! It was quite nice to have to buy yarn and I  decided on two colours to complement some I had brought with me. My plan was to incorporate 'crofthooses' from the wool week hat into the square. Lovely to soak up the colours in Jamiesons. 

Then onto the museum, as the Wool Week sign was being erected- to see where the Hub would be and to take  in the lovely atmosphere and then to the cafe for lunch. This is such a great place with a wonderful view over 'Hay's Dock' , textile work inset into the tables and lace wire knit lampshades - where else would you want lunch on your first day back in Shetland? Service and food was spot on....just as we had remembered from the last visit two years ago. 

We never seem  to have time to call in at Global Yell on the drive up and down between Mainland and Unst so this time we had booked a later ferry in the afternoon and Andy from Global Yell confirmed they would be open and he would be there. ( I enjoy the Global Yell newsletter that drops into my mailbox early each Sunday morning, and was determined to visit if I possibly could. )  What I didn't expect was a personal tour. It was great to see the samples and fabrics that have been produced and hear about plans for the future of Shetland Tweed. I really enjoyed it and appreciated the time given up to me. My father in law was a cotton weaver- in Lancashire- and Andy and I swapped common stories and also discussed my passion ( one of my textile passions) for natural dyeing. I was very envious of all those who are near enough to benefit from and contribute to Global Yell. Andy then took me to The Shetland  Gallery next  door. Although, I was clock watching  so as not to miss the next ferry,  I enjoyed meeting the Shona Skinner and seeing the wonderful work there. This pair of studios is well worth a visit. 

We then drove up to the ferry terminal and the last lap of our journey to Unst. After driving 550 miles to Aberdeen, being transported 216 miles on the ferry and then taking another ferry from Mainland to Yell  we only had one more ferry and a few of the 52 miles from Lerwick to Uyeasound, where we would be staying in front of Gardiesdauld hostel,  left! Unst was now in sight and what we  hoped would be a glorious 5 days before Wool Week actually started. 

Unst from Yell notice the blue sea and bright sun. 

(1)  Mono McAlpine, who lives in Shetland,  has set up a charity called 'From Shetland with Love'. For  wool week we were invited to make and take a 6" square to be made into blankets during the week. Mona would then take these to an orphanage in Lesoto. These will be used by children left orphaned by the HIV/ AIDS crisis. More about Mona's amazing story here  Mona 

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Shetland 2016 Day Four : Spinning on the Ferry to Lerwick

All thoughts  were on getting to Aberdeen and then the ferry to Shetland. It was a really lovely bright sunny day and we were keen to be off. However, we only had About a hundred miles to travel and from past experience today's aim was not to get to the ferry terminal too early. 

We ambled leisurely along and eventually we deemed it time to join the ferry queue just before booking in opened so we got checked in and parked in the 'holding pen'. I had whiled the time away knitting more of the fingerless gloves. 
In the ferry queue, bot in the background

If you are thinking about going to wool week (or Shetland in summer also great) , in the future you might be interested to know a bit about the ferry. We travelled on the Hjaltland, it is a big boat ( to us anyway) being 400' long, taking 600 passengers with about 350 berths  and 140 cars - it also takes lorries and containers ! The journey by sea from Aberdeen to Lerwick is 216 miles. You leave Aberdeen at tea time and arrive in Lerwick early breakfast time the next morning. There are two boats on this route, which cross one another somewhere in the middle of the night so you always get to sleep on the boat- unless of course you choose to sit up all night! We have always enjoyed our night on the ferry and were  glad that it looked like a calm crossing again. 

Once we got on the ferry - which seemed to take an AGE - I settled into the lounge  with my knitting and spinning. I had my spinning wheel in the motorhome, as I intended spinning at Unst Heritage Centre before wool week started. Instead I had one of my favourite spindles with me, the tiny 17g  (0.6oz) James Bosworth. I love 'drop' spinning by rolling it up or down my leg ( depending on whether I am spinning or plying). I had Norfolk Horn and Boreray fleece with me but decided to use the Norfolk Horn. This was my 'offering' for National Spinning in Public Day which had been the day before.I couldn't spot anyone around who was obviously going to wool week, but then we were very fortunate to be going to have 5 days in Shetland before wool week started. 
I had lots of interested people looking at me but all were too tired, nervous of the journey on the ferry or just stunned to see me spinning to actually talk to me about it! 
I had a great time and spun the Norfolk Horn very fine. ( see Blog post 5Oct12 where I compare my fine spinning with sewing thread and a hair! ) 

The sea was calm, the dinner was good, but it would be even better when we reached Shetland the next morning.