Friday, 2 March 2018

Houlland Shawl

As soon as I saw this shawl in Kate Davies Book of Haps(1) I knew I wanted to knit it. 

I loved the pattern for a number of reasons. I am attracted to the tree motif and found the use of this over the whole shawl was very pleasing on the eye. The shawl was to be knitted outside in and I like this method. I had also just knitted Donna (Smith’s) pattern for the Sanik Shawl from the 2016 Shetland Wool Week Annual and do like her designs a lot.( More about this at post of 1Jan17). However, I was taken up with other knitting which included the Ground Elder cardigan project (which I will add here soon) and didn’t feel I could start this shawl until that was completely finished. 

I had some lilac 2 ply lace weight yarn which I had bought many years ago from Many a Mickle in Mytholmroyd so it is over 20 years old. I had knitted it into a shawl  but this was before I knew about Shetland Shawl construction and I didn’t like the method for adding the edge in the previous pattern so pulled it all out, skeined and washed the yarn and re-balled it. 

So I decided I would start the edging before we went Wool Week 2017 and hope to get it done before we returned. This more or less happened but mainly because we stayed for three extra days due to the gales. I attended Donna’s workshop on ‘Traditional Haps’ at  Wool Week which was a real treat. It doesn’t matter how much I read or see on you tube, there is nothing like being taught in person, and preferably by the author of the pattern or similar. I also double checked on the picking up stitches techniques (notice the ‘s’ on this word) from ‘50 tips from Shetland Knitters by Hazel Tindall and Elizabeth Johnston’ (2)

Yarns were joined by a method taught by Ann Eunson in a workshop run with her sister Kathleen Anderson on ‘The perfect finish  for lace’ also taken during Shetland Wool Week, my best description of this is a sort of splicing. This is great and gives an invisible join. If you are an avid reader of this blog you will know  that I am a big fan of being taught by Shetland experts during Wool Week, practising detailed techniques like this are just priceless to me. 

I then got distracted and knitted Elizabeth Johnston’s Shoomal Shawl (which I will write about later) and recovered an Ercol Suite in Harris Tweed....again more here later. 

The Shoormal  Shawl - the edging is naturally dyed with quince leaves from my garden

I mainly only knit in the evenings while watching/ being aware of what is on the TV and knitting the rest of the Houlland Shawl has been a real pleasure. 

I did use a number of stitch markers, I either use split rings or my own hand made yarn loops. I also use a metal board and magnetic strips (bought years ago to aid following embroidery designs) to mark rows and write on a photocopy of the pattern. These aids have been a huge help. 

This shawl was also knitted entirely by using double pointed needles and a knitting belt. This is is the only way I hand knit now. 

Awaiting blocking

I then washed the shawl in lukewarm soapy water, rinsed well and rolled in a towel. It was then pinned to my large blocking board and left to dry. 

This shawl has a wingspan of 144cm and depth of 69cm and weighs 52g. 

What a beauty it is. I really love it and thanks to Donna Smith for designing such contemporary designs with a Shetland history.

(1) The Book of Haps by Kate Davies. This like Kate’s other books is a masterpiece. Not only are there knitting patterns, but there is well researched  explanation and history, in this case about Haps. The books themselves are sheer joy to have. This book contains a large variety of glorious Haps from different designers. You can find out more about Kate’s contribution to ‘knitting’ in its widest sense at and

(2) 50 tips from Shetland Knitters is a fantastic set consisting of 2 DVDs and lasts for over 3 hours. I have discussed this before. 

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 24-26: Travelling Home:/Fri- Sun: 6-8 Oct

Surprisingly  despite the movement we slept well on the ferry, in fact better than when travelling over. We had breakfast early and were ready to start driving home at 7.30. Usually it is easy for M to get the motorhome off the ferry and come back for a leisurely breakfast, today was rather different. There was a larger boat waiting for the brith and whilst you could return for breakfast you would be treated to a little trip out of the harbour for a couple of hours or so. We were quite keen to start the journey home. 

We had a good start and knew we were aiming for Glendoick garden centre. We stopped there on the way up and as we arrived they were just opening. This has a nice cafe and we enjoyed a very nice second breakfast. (We find the route to Aberdeen rather sparse in terms of good stops, so if anyone has any other good ones we will be pleased to hear about them). Lunch was at Cairn Lodge where again you can leave the road completely, although we got our own lunch. Traffic was good, we wondered how it would be on a Friday, and we aimed for Ecclesfechan where we had booked a stop for the night. This was OK, lots of static caravans and without the quality of facilities we enjoy at a Caravan and Motorhome Club  site but perfectly fine for a night. I started to loose the feeling in my left side, so took the pills and went to bed. 

Saturday was even quieter on the road and we were only driving down to Vale Royal in Cheshire. We actually enjoyed stopping at Tebay which is a great independent motorway stop on the M6. We stocked up with great food at the farm shop and were down to our home for the night  by early afternoon. We were going to be picked up by friends and would enjoy dinner at the Bells of Peover. It was lovely to catch up with them and we enjoyed the meal, another bonus for this campsite is that the gastropub is just a short drive (or could be a walk over the fields) away. 

We set out on Sunday early, even less traffic, very few lorries but the roadworks were still there in Cheshire. We arrived home at 13.10. 

What a wonderful trip we had had. We love Shetland. We plan to go back, but will we wait a whole 11 months before we set off again....maybe not. 

I can’t choose my best two images, but these two give a range.
Unst - our view, one way, from the Motorhome.

Ollaberry Exhibition, before it officially opened

Look carefully to see the number of items just in this one view and each one you can ‘get up close’ too and each one is worth of hours of study. Tremendous

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day21-23: Our three bonus days: Tues-Thurs 3-5 Oct

Monday night had been very blustery, we moved the motor home to a more sheltered spot, but it still wobbled during the night. This is unsettling, but rare. We were very glad we had changed the ferry booking (although friends were on it and said it was not too bad). Even stronger gales were forecast for Tuesday so we were even more pleased we couldn’t be accommodated until Thursday. There were some knock on effects to our change of plans, we were missing a theatre trip on Friday and I was giving a talk on Tuesday so I would have to turn my mind to that as soon as I got in- how would the new laptop ‘like’ the projector? I also needed to visit the venue to check there was a suitable projecting area. However, our son and family were going to cook for us on Sunday the day we would arrive home. 
We had  a real rest day  the Tuesday. I realised that I could get in the Museum archives and not be clock watching all the time. Each year I was reading a bit more of Knitting by the Fireside and on the Hillside by Linda Fryer. (At some expense I have now managed to buy this book, so can use my archive time for other things on my list!). We also took time to look at the non textile exhibits in the museum. The Museum is excellent and we always enjoy being there. All is well displayed and labelled. 
Tuesday night was calmer for us, not sure about at sea! We decided to a drive round and thought  we would get to Scalloway Museum as we had not made it that far in Wool Week. Unfortunately we had chosen the day it was closed for a conference. We decided to drive further on and look at Hamnavoe as we had not been there before. The weather was beginning to come in and get exciting. On the way back we thought we would look at Meal beach, one of our favourites (1) and today the waves were exciting and even for Shetland it was very wet. 
A view from Meal beach car park ...including a glimpse of our ‘home from home’ 

So down to Hoswick as there was talk of another bird.  The weather was much calmer and I enjoyed looking at the beach and knitting, now up to 30 of the 60 repeats on the edging of the Houlland Shawl. 

Thursday was going to be our last day, so we treated ourselves to coffee again at Mackenzie’s and got tempted by some artwork for the lounge to remind us of the week. 
On the side of a bookcase

It was a dull day but very calm, we pottered in Lerwick and had a pleasant last day. The ferry was to leave at the normal time (always a good sign). However,  as we got on the ferry, the motor home was chained down, in all our trips this had not happened so at this point I took the travel sickness medication! Anti slip mats were everywhere in the lounge and the captain announced that we needed to use the rails and be cautious as ‘large movement’ was expected. There were still other wool weekers going home, it was nice to chat to Carol and Peter Leonard (who I bought my tiny James Bosworth spindle from many years ago) in the lounge. We still had dinner then got our heads down soon after. Local advice was to get horizontal as soon as possible on a rough crossing. 

(1) see post of Fri 2 Nov 2012 for a view from Meal beach in the summer. 

Monday, 12 February 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 20: A change of plan: Mon 2 Oct

I was awake early and heard the shipping forecast. This was unsettling as the gales forecast for Monday evening were even stronger than they were last night. We had friends on the boat and heard  that the ferry journey was rough. We made a fairly quick decision that we need not travel on the ferry tonight, we could stay over until Tuesday and hope the storm would have settled. I contacted the ferry team once they were available and although we could travel on Tuesday, the van could not be accommodated until Thursday. Fortunately there was also a cabin for us then so we changed the booking, hoping that by Thursday  there would not be another storm with the resultant  gale force winds. So we now had another 3 days and looked forwards to winding down as the past 24 days had been pretty intense. (Even though we had been only 20 days, the time leading up to us being away in the van for that long needed careful planning and then there is the added stuff I need /want to bring to Wool Week.)

I had arranged to see Elizabeth Johnston briefly on the Monday morning to have a detailed discussion about some machine knitting processes and I knew she had people to take to the airport. Elizabeth not only understood the questions I was asking but could also give me more than one answer. I am very grateful to her both for her expertise and willingness to see me after what must have been an exhausting week. We enjoyed the trip down to Scousburgh and reminded ourselves of how wonderful that south western coast of mainland is. 

I was rather envious as both Minnie and Elizabeth were off to the North Atlantic Native Sheep  and Wool Conference in the Isle of Man. Perhaps one year soon I will be able to attend this conference too. 
Well, it had to be Mackenzie’s for coffee as we passed by to return to Lerwick, this time I had sticky fruit cake. As expected this was delicious. Today we decided to have lunch in Mareel. Their bacon and cheese croissant was as delicious as the morning cake. 
Now a leisurely trip to Jamieson and Smith. My aim was to choose some yarn to dye and then knit the Lunklet Jacket pattern. I spotted another Christmas present - the Jamieson and Smith story, which also contained some lovely patterns and I was also tempted by some individual patterns too. 

By now the weather had turned, it was very wet and very windy and we decided to go back to the campsite and hunker down. I would have time to knit, such a treat. I decided to work on the edging for the Houlland  Shawl (Donna Smith)and noticed just how much easier lace knitting  is with a knitting belt and rapein string. 

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 19: Tingwall Teas: Sun 1 Oct

The Sunday at the end of Wool Week is always a special day as it is the exhibition of amazing work from Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers - this is accompanied by spinning and knitting demonstrations  and of course the Sunday Tea. If you ever get a chance to experience a Shetland Sunday Tea, don’t hesitate. It is also a chance to thank my tutors and to say goodbyes until another year. I have to say I think this year was the best Wool Week I had experienced, but perhaps I always feel like that at the end of the week. 
We had not got to Fjara before so decided to go there for morning coffee, it is sort of opposite Tesco but overlooking the sea. It was very busy, but we really appreciated the lovely sea views and will return when it is quieter. Our favourite coffee spot remains as Hay’s Dock. 
There are still plenty of ‘wool’ things to do in Shetland:

After coffee we drove on to Tingwall and parked by the hall and got ourselves cheese and biscuit, we would have a second lunch with cake when the exhibition and teas opened at 2.30. It was interesting to ponder just how busy the hall might get, there were more visitors to Shetland Wool Week than in previous years but how many would still be around on this Sunday afternoon? I wondered how my home guilds in East Anglia would manage if not only 300 visitors turned up to see an exhibition but if they also expected an extensive tea as well. The ladies - and their helpers- of Shetland Guild of SKW and D do a phenomenal job. Just before the door opened 2 full  mini buses turned up so it looked like it would be busy. 
We joined the queue and got seats, M collected some food for himself and I left him as I was keen to see the exhibition of work and talk to members of the Guild, eating would wait. I so enjoy looking at the work of other spinners, knitters and weavers and where possible I like to talk to the makers. I talked to Kathleen Anderson who with her sister had been my tutor on Friday and I am in awe of her amazing lace knitting. I was not surprised by the number of accumulated rosettes from shows, including best overall exhibit at the Royal Highland Show, where the standard of entry is extremely high. 

I noticed a Sumburgh Bonnet ( similar to ones I had seen in the Museum) and sought out Ina  Irvine who was demonstrating spinning. This year the spinners were in a separate room..... I arranged to buy a hand spun, knitted hat from Ina and made an arrangement to get a pattern after Wool Week. I understand there is going to be a pattern in the Guild book (which will be published in the Spring). This will be a great book of Shetland Knitting by Shetland Knitters.(1) I have their lace book and it is exceptional. I am sure their skills have been passed down in the genes. Just talking to a Shetland Knitter and watching them knit one can learn so much, even if you have been knitting for many many years like me.
By the time I got back to the table where M was sitting, he had been joined by other friends and it was good to see that Elizabeth Johnston  and Anne Eunson had got up after the ‘Sharing Sherry, Cheese and Shortbread Sunday morning playtime’ they had been helping to host in Hoswick. This provided me with the opportunity to tap into Elizabeth’s drop spinning expertise and ask advice on using the medieval spindle I had brought up from home. Elizabeth suggested using it as a supported spindle would work well and would also be better for my wrist than using it as a twist with the fingers type. (I had already noticed my wrist complaining with my continued practice with this method). I decided I would talk to the spindle maker about the possibility of a support dish. 
Anne got asking about my machine knitting, and Val my machine knitting  friend was there too. It was really great to swap ideas, and discuss items and techniques without the ‘dismissive attitude’ of some hand knitters who assume machine knitting  involves no skill or thought.  (Of course they could not be further from reality in thinking this). 
We chatted and chatted and did not notice that it had long gone 17.00 and we were virtually the only table still there. 
Another great day and so wonderful to talk to Shetland Knitters about spinning, hand knitting and machine knitting. Tomorrow I would be stocking up on yarn and we would be catching the evening ferry back to Aberdeen. 

(1) The book is Fair Isle Designs from Shetland Knitters volume 1 - predicted publication date March 2018 

Friday, 9 February 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 18: a quiet day planned: Sat 30 Sept

We planned a nice quiet morning in Lerwick, so decided to park for a full day on the quay. It was a glorious day and the light was fantastic. It was one of those days when you were filled with joy at being in such a beautiful place. 
Image from early morning
We hadn’t been in the tourist information for a few days and I needed to check on an address so we popped in to get that sorted. As so often happens I found a friend to chat to, this time it was Minnie from Unst. She was down with her daughter who was wearing a superb lace jumper which I understand she had knitted. I had in fact  been in some classes with Minnie’s daughter but not realised the link. Then it was on to Jamieson’s, I was on the hunt for Elizabeth Johnston’s Lunklet Lace Jacket pattern. It seemed to be sold out everywhere and Elizabeth didn’t have any more herself. I was in luck, there was a copy of the pattern for sale. I had designs on naturally dyeing yarn for this and would buy the yarn on Monday. 
 Elizabeth’s pattern. 

This pattern has taken some writing...... I am in awe! 

Saturday morning at the end of Wool Week is special as there is a Maker’s Market. In previous years  I have been to the market in a wonderful panelled room in The Town Hall. This year the venue had changed as the Town Hall was being renovated, it was in Isleburgh where I had attended  some of my workshops. We were keen to get a coffee, but it was like a scrum inside and it seemed that the whole population of Lerwick must be in there. We got separated and I had no idea even which room Michael was in. We eventually found each other at the cafe and managed to sit at a table - by chance with Minnie and her daughter again. I was also able to talk to Marta and Hildur and thank them for such a great evening hearing about the Warp Weighted Loom. I kept my hand firmly on my credit card as I had a spending spree planned for Monday  but couldn’t resist these..... more buttons (with lace imprint) and fair isle wooden pegs. These would brighten up my desk.

It was so great to see so many people at the market and it was clearly good for the local economy. 
We decided to stop at Tesco for a mini shop and it was actually busy, but then of course half term had started here as the children go back to school earlier than in England. We decided that THE place for lunch would be Mackenzie’s Farm Shop and we were not disappointed. We both had steak and kidney pudding with lots of steak and kidney and a tiny puff of pastry unlike too many others where the puff pastry is the predominate item. We decided we had made an excellent choice in choosing  here again. Unfortunately I realised that I was getting a migraine attack. Fortunately this was the first in a month minus a day and for me to go so long was quite a record. The bad news for me is that if I get a bad attack it is now ‘hemiplegic’ meaning I get pins and needles in my left leg ( the warning sign) and in fact can feel as if I have no left side. Since the migraine turned this way, I am only allowed large doses of aspirin.... no more tryptans. (1) We drove down to Hoswick, so I could  lie down and Michael could go in search of an elusive migrant bird.(2)  Tomorrow would be another day. 

(1) I write this not for sympathy, but to raise the profile of Migraine. It is an awful condition and one which can be quite disabling. It is not a normal headache and rarely do I actually have a head ‘ache’, although my hair can hurt when touched. My consultant told me I have always suffered (my early ‘sinus’ problems were likely to be migraine) and he believes it is genetic. I do know that it was  much worse after I had an accident to my head in my first year of teaching many moons ago. Over the years, the nature of the migraine has changed, including a dark spell when every day was a migraine day as it had gone ‘chronic’. That is now past. Migraine is something I (and many others) live with and I try not to beat myself up too much these days when I ‘miss a day of life’ or more to the condition. I have to tell myself that it is a warning, I am doing too much, something I am prone to!
(2) The bird stayed elusive or had decided to move place, it was a hawfinch. 

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 17: My last workshop and a lecture

The aim was to go down to Hoswick for morning coffee, it was a wild and windy morning and already spectacular photos of the sea were appearing on Facebook. We parked at the Heritage Centre and walked back to Neila’s (1) where I was going to treat myself to another of her fantastic garments. I had decided that I would buy a poncho style in the same ‘camouflage’ range that I had the green ‘ cardigan’ in that I so loved. What I hadn’t decided on was the colour... in the end I chose a red/purple mix out of the 20 or so on offer. Another garment to love and cherish. I don’t buy many garments but prefer to make my own so a garment has to be really special for me to buy it. 

Then it was the Heritage Centre for coffee and a scone where I got chatting, this time to Peter Leonard. He was knitting and we talked about the James Bosworth canary wood top whorl spindle that I bought from them many moons ago at an early Woolfest.(2) I just love this spindle and am currently spinning Norfolk Horn fleece with it. I showed him the lace bookmarks which are the result of this. Neila was running her design class, which I had so enjoyed and benefitted  from last year. It was definitely way out of my comfort zone at the time but was good for me. Embarrassingly she interrupted her class to tell them about my Ground Elder Dyed cardigan. I hope the class have benefitted from the Design class as much as I have. It was so good as it went deeper than any design workshop I had done before. 

We then drove back to Lerwick to have lunch in Mareel and then I decided to walk to Isleburgh for my afternoon class ‘to get a breathe of air’.  It was a stupid decision, keeping dry gave me a new slant on the term ‘refreshing’. The workshop was ‘The Perfect Finish for Lace’. The two tutors (Anne  Eunson and Kathleen Anderson)  were brilliant, extremely knowledgeable and so patient. I learnt things that I did not know even existed in terms of grafting lace. I liked that a lot. The afternoon was full of tips and practise and endless checking and encouragement until we had got each technique correct  on our practice pieces. A local lady had brought a shawl for advice on grafting the borders in a particular way, so we got a bonus as Anne worked it out and we were all able to see that too.(3)  Again my Ground Elder cardigan was discussed and Ann being a machine knitter was interested in my matching orange lace cowl. It was nice to have a machine knit discussion with someone who actually does machine knitting and appreciates what is involved. 
Learning to graft holes

While I was having my mind blown by grafting lace M had taken himself to see Victoria and Abdul in one of the screens at Mareel. I understand there were knitted items of note  in the film, but I got no other details about them. I hope to see the film soon. 
We had booked an early dinner at Hay’s Dock which had a pop up fish restaurant in the evenings for Wool Week. A great meal in a fully booked restaurant. I left Michael having coffee as I walked down for the lecture. 

I was really looking forward to this talk  as Elizabeth Johnston (one of the speakers) initially taught me to spin back in 2000 which was our first visit to Shetland, something I am SO grateful for as it was life changing for me.   As I walked down Elizabeth  was outside the lecture theatre discussing using her large Steiny Loom.  This was an added bonus. It is a big and truly beautiful looking loom and I understand takes apart to smaller pieces that just about fitted in Elizabeth’s car around her and two passengers. 

I happened to be sitting next to a lady researching Viking weaving, so we were deep in conversation until the talks started. 
The lecture theatre was nicely full and the talks were brilliant. Each of the authors, Hilda, Marta and Elizabeth spoke about a different aspect of the topic. It was all very well organised and quite academic which was good. There were lots of pictures and real samples of the weaving, which we could examine in detail. The book, ‘The Warp Weighted Loom’ is a beautiful book in its construction and the content is superb. There are details for making a warp weighted loom and using it. The social history behind this makes up a large part of the book. For anyone interested in this it is a must have book.(4) It is this sort of lecture, gathering such experts  from 3 countries, that makes Wool Week so special. What a wonderful last ‘booked event’ for me. 

(1) Do visit the shop if you get a chance, I guess you will just stand there initially and say ‘wow’. If that is not possible, look online. Her garments are brilliant and do read her story.
(2) More  about the spindle here
Sadly these are now unobtainable from suppliers although I understand James Bosworth is still making a few. 
(3)  You can see some of Kathleen’s  Patterns in the brilliant book by Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers called ‘A Legacy of Shetland Lace’. There will be another book from these experts out in early 2018. 
(4)  The book is The Warp-Weighted Loom by Hildur Hakonardottir, Elizabeth Johnston, Marta Klove  Juuhl.