Friday, 6 March 2015

The last posting about Shetland 2014

Today for the last posting from Shetland it is time for Michael to have a say…

Well, I was promised a paragraph on our Shetland blog before it finally finished. What was I doing while all the textile stuff happened?  Well I was involved in a lot of the eating, driving, sight seeing etc.  However, Shetland during the Autumn migration period is a wonderful place to be for anyone interested in birds.  I have to admit I somehow missed the Siberian Rubythroat that was just down the road but did do a good deal of pottering around keeping my eyes on what was about.  It did culminate in a couple of wonderful days on Unst when there had just been a big landfall of birds.  On the beach were redshank, turnstone, common sandpiper, a possible curlew sandpiper and a red breasted merganser at sea.  Walking down the road away from the beach at Norwick it was great to see lots of pied wagtail, brambling, twite, wheatear and meadow pipit.  There was also a blackcap, a lesser whitethroat and a few swallows as well as the expected robin, wren and starling, house sparrow, chaffinch and wood pigeon.
This is Norwick beach - one of our favourite beaches.


Following a tip off I continued down the road and up the hill and there sitting looking out of a large bush was the most wonderful long eared owl.  Now I am a novice in many ways when it comes to birding and it was my first long eared owl but to have such a close, clear view of such a magnificent bird was amazing.  I eventually tore myself away to go and pick up Janet but there it was.  It is this sort of experience that keeps me birding!  (This is not a picture of the owl I saw!)


The following day I grabbed a bit of time to  myself again on Unst and headed back to Norwick.  Was the owl still there?  Well no, but a bit of exploration through the passage to the back of the farm and out onto the fellside and I was rewarded with a good sight of the owl roosting in one of the fir trees behind the buildings.  Not as good a view as the previous day but clear enough for another great view of a long eared owl!  What a way to end the holiday as we were soon back to Mainland and onto the ferry for Aberdeen.

 Our previous two visits to Shetland were both early summer when you are guaranteed fantastic views of all the sea birds.  Trips round Noss for the gannets and to Mousa to see the storm petrels are not to be missed but nothing quite as impressive as standing a few yards from a full front on view of a long eared owl!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Monday 13 th October Our Last Day in Shetland

It was a glorious bright day and we had to go and say goodbye to Tesco before the trip to Jamieson and Smith to collect the stash of wool. However as we going home to move house and move back to Norfolk we were not going to 'go overboard' in terms of buying wool. After all there was the Internet and I do have a shade card and I wouldn't be spinning or knitting - just packing for some weeks!
So I bought:
2 fine fleece (one for a friend)
Kilo of jumper weight yarn undyed - for dyeing & knitting ( ? Fair Isle cochineal based jumper)
Jumper weight yarn –  a holly red- for Michael - this will be the first jumper off the knitting machine when we have moved I have got it set up
Shetland Supreme - 2 balls - for a fine Unst scarf

Then as it was our last day it had to be lunch in Hay's Dock Restaurant, I had the wonderful Seafood Chowder.
A quick look at the sea encouraged us that it looked calm - this is encouraging for the crossing  as our bed tonight will be on the North Sea!
A view from the restaurant with the ferry for tonight in the background.

Then as it was our last time in the wonderful Shetland Museum we had to visit the Museum shop and were delighted to 'bump into' Michael's birdwatching friend from the Gardiesfauld hostel on Unst. Some nice bits were chosen as Christmas presents from the shop mainly for me, including a super folder and glasses cleaner (see below)  and goodbyes made and then it was onto the ferry terminal and we got on the boat at 4.45pm.
'Goodies' from Shetland Museum Gift Shop

Soon after arriving on board we met Eve again and chatted for most of the evening. The journey was made more interesting as we were accompanied for part of the journey by the coastguard helicopter carrying out an exercise for about an hour. So we had a meal on board and as usual good nights sleep and were well rested for the next day and the beginning of the journey home.

What a superb experience this has been!

Sunday 12th October the last 'official' day of Wool Week

It was a lovely morning but cold as we drove to Hoswick where Elizabeth Johnson and Nella ( were having an 'At Peace' lunch. Lots of people were having a really leisurely time using all sorts of equipment. I had just popped in to have a chat as I was actually on my way to another event and had not booked to spend the day there - not enough time to do everything one wants in Wool Week! It was great to meet Lucy (of broken boat fame) again and talk to Jock(?) who was spinning on a Turkish spindle like mine. Elizabeth and I duly 'caught up' on news and all too soon it was time to leave.
A view of the ‘At Peace Day’

This is Lucy’s hat – it shows her journey to Shetland in Fair Isle- it is so clever.

We found a nice spot for lunch and then it was on to Whiteness and Weisdale Hall where Shetland Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers were having an exhibition and doing their famous Shetland teas. I took my wheel and sat with members of the Guild, who welcomed me to spin with them. I was spinning very finely. My wheel ( Ashford Joy double treadle) was of much interest being very different from  the usual Shetland wheels. These have much smaller wheels said to because wood was so scarce on Shetland. The afternoon was very busy and the ladies did an amazing service with the cakes and teas. If you are interested in this sort of fine lace then do look out for this book containing 21 projects designed by members of this Guild: A Legacy of Shetland Lace available from The Shetland Times.

A view of the hall showing some of the stunning exhibits.

The work in the exhibition was stunning and was the perfect end of a perfect week.
We then drove back down to Levenwick for our last night on Shetland - for 2014 anyway!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Saturday 11 th October A pottery day

What a glorious sunrise! I was outside with the camera at 6.22 am  taking photos and then would you believe it I decided to get out my Jamieson and Smith shade card and my Jamieson shade card too so I  could match the colours. I am already planning a peach and blue tam. No wonder the colours in Fair Isle 'go' so well -living in this sort of environment is a real help.

So all this creativity made for a leisurely start but that was fine as we planned to park on the Quay by the 'Migraine hotel' ( see blog post of 23rd October) and I would walk up to the Makers ’ Market in the Town Hall for 11.00. I was particularly hoping for a quick word with Elizabeth Johnson to try and arrange to see her Sunday morning - my remaining 'free slot'. After a steep uphill walked I joined the queue and met Eve again! What a tremendous building this in.
Once the door opened it was a bit manic! All good news for the stall holders. I could hardly get near Elizabeth (Johnston) but no wonder she does have the most wonderful handspun and naturally dyed yarn (, but the arrangements were made. The stalls were all beautifully arranged and so typically of Shetland there was lots of stunning food.

I made some purchases and left to have lunch and then go to Vala Fine Art to meet Jane (Ennis) who was finishing the 'Lace Knitting with Organic Wool' workshop, taught by Sheila Fowlie there. It was a nice opportunity for me to look round the shop and see the organic lace knitting,  particularly as I had to miss out on the croft visit on Tuesday due to the Migraine. This was much thicker than the lace knitting that I do but interesting to see so much lace again. Organic fleece appeared to be £10/kilo to be ordered. As Jane and I were ready to leave we were interviewed by Radio Shetland. My interview was later used on the Radio Scotland Programme which came out in February 2014 on Radio Scotland, another nice memento of my time at Shetland Wool Week.

After taking Jane to Tesco so she could buy food for the journey back to London on the train on Sunday (emergency rations ) we went to Hay's Dock Restaurant so she could have lunch then I gave her a quick tour of the lace knitting and other textiles at the Shetland Museum as she was returning on the ferry that evening. Unfortunately she wouldn't have time to fit in a visit to the Shetland Textile Museum at the Bod, but like me she had enjoyed her time and was already wondering if returning next year was a possibility. ( answer is yes and accommodation is booked!). It had been great to meet up.

So after that we went to the Hub where I left Jane in the capable hands of fellow Wool Weekers. Needless to say I bumped into other colleagues from the week, a lady from the Lace Class from Monday evening so we shared horror stories about the weather, and Lucy (of broken boat fame). Lucy is knitting THE most amazing hat of her journey to Shetland from Kent, it is SO clever.

So it was off to find M, a nice spot for afternoon tea and a rest, I was running out of steam ......

Friday October 10 th Another Leisurely Day

This is my second attempt at having a leisurely day. We were very late back last night but unfortunately my body doesn't 'do' lie ins! Without food in the system I have a migraine which is not good news for anybody.
The plan for today was to look round the Textile Unit at the college in the morning and go to Oliver's talk on Fleece Grading in the afternoon at Jamieson and Smith. Wool and fleece buying will take place on Monday not today.
So after as leisurely start as we dared we stopped at Tesco and what a surprise I am on the front page of the Shetland Times (small photo) and inside ( bigger photo) going into the opening ceremony for Wool Week. What a treat!

You can just spot my hat - right in the middle - see my blog post of Sept 24th 2014 to see the completed hat and earlier posts  to see the story of the hat from the spinning, through the dyeing!

So on to the textile unit (actually called the Textile Facilitation Unit).  Wow this is something special. I had a detailed tour by Eric Stewart the technician who runs it showing me the different gauge machines ( 5,7 and 12 gauge Shima Seiki) and the linkers. Even washing and drying can be performed. He explained how the service is used by students, by graduates as they leave and also by many knitters on the islands and how when space permits by machine knitters elsewhere. I met the new assistant ( Roisin Mcatamney) and there is now a Facebook page for the unit. It was very interesting. I was also able to have a tour of the facilities available to students at the college, imagine  having your own knitting machine and looms during your degree, complexity depending on the year of your course- in such an amazing setting on such an amazing island...... envy! I was so glad I got to  I get to look round this unit.

Then it was back to the Hub and a chance to work out exactly where the Sunday tea & exhibition with Shetland Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers was on Sunday and then onto to Hay's Dock Restaurant and a bowl of delightful soup for lunch.

Jane (Ennis) was travelling up from London, we'd not met but been in touch via fb for some time over coming to Wool Week. She'd had a number of misfortunes and was only able to make a flying visit, spending more time travelling then being here virtually! We will try and meet while she is at Wool Week! She was now on her journey.

So off to Oliver's grading and sorting fleece talk. This talk is worthy of a post of its own! If you are into fleece then this talk should be on your must do list! It has to be experienced and can't really be described. It was a brilliant way to spend an afternoon and Oliver is a true professional and at the very top of his game. I count myself very fortunate as I was one of the 'artisans' who has also been round the plant and spent a day listening to Martin Curtis and his passion for wool in Bradford. I am a Real Shetland person! The talk was well attended and there was much buying of wool and fleece to be taken home around the world which was great, my treat will come on Monday when M and I return to stock up before we catch the ferry back. It was very hard not to join in the buying though.
Oliver grading the fleece, in one of the 'sheds', the one nearer to me is the better grade fleece.

Then we felt we needed a cup of tea before returning back to our base and we just happened to bump into Barbara Ridland again which was super as we wanted a real chat before leaving Shetland. So we managed a second cup of tea and more cake at Mareel the fantastic home of film on the waterfront and were able to have a leisurely catch up with Barbara who hinted that Elizabeth would like a similar chat before I left too. That would be nice as Monday's workshop was too intense for a real chat, so thinking caps were put on of how to achieve this in the remaining days! I am beginning to feel sad all this talk about last meetings reminds us that we will soon be leaving this beautiful place. However, we hope to return possibly for longer in 2015.