Saturday, 3 December 2016

Shetland 2016: Day Twenty two: Arriving Home


Thurs Oct 6
The journey from Knaresborough to home seemed short and there were no hold ups. In fact I didn't write a thing in my journal! 
We were home about 15.30 and then of course it was unpacking,sorting through the mound of post that had built up and finding a home for our purchases. 
We had had a great time and although initially we planned to return in two years we are now wondering about another trip next year. How can we miss the great scenery, wool week activities, camaraderie and birds? 
But before then we need to complete the decorating. I am not sure we are refreshed as we feel pretty exhausted but we have a large lounge & dining room to decorate and hopefully have finished before Christmas. But of course there are other priorities too-like the order for extra long double pointed needles so I can knit the Makin Shawl by Donna  Smith from the Wool Week Annual.  I have the wool and want to practise my developing skill of using a knitting belt!  Then of course there is the Shetland lace knitting, the jumper for M, more dyeing, teaching a Nuno felt class and so on..... It all keeps the brain going. 

I hope this has inspired  you to take a look at Shetland and maybe visit. The landscape is special and the people are very special too. Thank you all for making our visit, once again, special. 

The fingerless meadowsweet gloves finally get finished- shown on my new gloves boards
 

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Shetland 2016 : Day Twenty one - Rheged and Bowes Museum


Wed Oct 5
Today was a short travel day so we treated ourselves to a visit to Rheged. So often we are just passing and don't feel we have time to stop. Today we had a second breakfast in the cafe which was very nice indeed. There was an exhibition of Cumbrian Artists ( being defined as artists with links to Cumbria), some nice shops including an excellent extensive toy shop. It was so nice to see actual toys, rather than rely on online shopping. 
An interesting piece - thought it was great when I saw it in the exhibition but now I am home I 'm not so sure. ( Fortunately, it stayed in the exhibition!) 
 

We then drove on to Barnard Castle along the A66, a journey which has lovely scenery. We determined that we would come and stay in the area for at least a week in the spring. We like to park at Bowes Castle and eat in the cafe. We were lucky to get a seat by the window and had a nice lunch. I like to do clothes ' observing' when in the cafe- usually there are one or two lovely pieces and today was no exception giving me ideas for a modification to my normal shawl cardigan pattern (clever use of lace placement!) 
We arrived at The Caravan Club Knaresborough  site at about 15.30. One of the bonuses to staying here is the Bistro. We had booked dinner which was enjoyable. So our last meal out before  driving home tomorrow
As I have mentioned our motorhome is a Wildax and we were interested to find that another was in the spot next to us. On talking to these neighbours we found that there were another two on the site. We have never seen so many together before. 

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Shetland 2016: Day Twenty Aberdeen to Troutbeck, Cumbria


Tues 4 Oct : 

We have 526 miles to drive to get home. Rather that knock ourselves up we have decided to take it relatively easy and enjoy the journey- one of the pluses of being retired! 
We are very lucky that we are in the motorhome which is a pleasure to drive and can be self sufficient. We do like to stay on recognised camp sites and have booked in to the Caravan Club site in Troutbeck. We have stayed there before and although a long drive we will get an early start, the roads are good and the traffic is likely to be quite light. 
I didn't have my best night on the ferry- I think my head was too full of plans based on what I had learnt and bought during wool week. I must remember to load my iPad with podcasts as there is no radio reception! M took the motorhome of the ferry and then returned to finish his breakfast. We had done this before and it worked well, it is much better than rushing at the start of the day. 
The downside is that the route is not well provided with service stations. Stirling was our stop for coffee and then the spacious Happenden for lunch. We were at Troutbeck for 16.00 and had arranged to have a meal from our freezer for dinner - although it was a day when the Fish and Chip cart visited the site. 
We had seen some great sunsets in Shetland but the one from the site was good too. 
 
We began to wish we had planned to stay another night or two! 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Shetland 2016: Day nineteen visiting Wilma Malcolmson and Jamieson and Smith


Mon 3 Oct 
Well, our last day in Shetland had arrived, we were catching the evening ferry back to Aberdeen. 
We had really enjoyed our stay at Aithsvoe  Marina. Today the weather was good and as everyone else was taking photos of me I thought I would have one for myself. So wearing my hat and holding my covered notebook M took photos in the lovely morning light. I am not a fan of having my photo taken but think this one is OK! Unfortunately despite my best efforts the fingerless gloves were not finished so they are missing from the set! 
 

I had promised Wilma that I would visit her studio before we left. We were very close as she is situated on the main road in Cunningsburgh. What a feast for a knitter's eyes it is inside. Wilma also showed me her box of samples from designing with her latest set of colours. She has an amazing eye for colour and her fair isle knitwear is lovely.(1) M was 'eyeing' the jumpers but wanted to think about them, so this is first on the list for him in terms of a purchase next year. It was good also to see a thank you photo from Jimmy Perez who also appreciates Wilma's skill. It was good to hear that a granddaughter is keen on working with Wilma. I think I have a good knitting space but this was even more desirable! We were glad we managed to fit in the visit and highly recommend it! 

Lerwick Harbour was the next spot and the last visit to the Shetland Times bookshop, the 'excuse' being to find something for the grandchildren but I just had to go through their knitting books again! 
A treat to see ! 
 
Purchases made we made our last visit to the Peerie cafe and bade 'safe journey' to fellow wool weekers from some of my classes who were travelling back to America. It looked like the ferry would have quite a wool week contingent. More purchases at the Shetland Museum and a last look at the 19th century pattern books project  exhibition in the foyer which I had not had time to study previously. There really is so much to do in Wool Week. 
From the pattern books project
 

Unfortunately Hay's Dock cafe was closed for staff training on the new menu so we couldn't enjoy our usual view from the first floor over the  Harbour- instead managing with the view from the motorhome in the car park there as we had lunch. 
Then onto Jamieson and Smith and a conversation with Oliver about fleece and the purchase of cones of Shetland Jumper Yarn  for machine knitting- a cone for a jumper for M and natural coloured wool for dyeing before knitting for myself.
All too soon it was time to go to the ferry, once on board we made for the lounge, which wasn't quite full of wool weekers but there were several. We had a nice meal with Eve and chatted to a couple from Whalsay. It turns out the husband makes knitting boards ( glove boards, jumpers boards)  so I have his phone number - what a lucky meeting that was! 
Exhausted from a restful day I tumbled into bed. Once again we were stopping at Kirkwall and it looked to me as if it was not a flat calm crossing! Tomorrow we would wake up close to Aberdeen. 
(1) see Wilma's work at www.shetlanddesigner.co.uk 

Monday, 21 November 2016

Shetland 2016 : Day Eighteen- - Shetland Guild of Weavers, Spinners, Dyers and Knitters Guild Sunday Tea


Sunday 2 Oct wool week day 9 

I guess it was inevitable that after 2 completely full days I would get a migraine. ( for those that are lucky not to suffer from this 'challenge', it seems for many of us that 'doing a lot' is fine but taking the foot off the body accelerator allows a chink for the migraine to creep in. ) Fortunately nothing much was planned for the morning so I took the medication, kept eating and drinking and hoped I would come round for the afternoon. It sort of worked! 
So we were at Tingwall early and while waiting showed a German Wool Week attendee around out Motorhome. ( I lost count of the number of tours we did while we were away!) so then into Tingwall Hall and as expected it was busy and already people had full plates for their 'tea'. We happened across Ruth Gough from Wingham Wools. Suffice it to say we have quite a history together  - M and I enjoyed many residential courses run by Ruth & her husband Alan in Borrowdale . Until Wool week it had been a while since we met!
It was a glorious afternoon of eating (£5 for a plate and choose from an extensive buffet), drinks brought to the tables non stop; catching up with friends; viewing the stunning knitwear and talking to members of the Guild who were demonstrating spinning and knitting - many of whom I had chatted to during the week. 
 Many thanks to Sarah Moran (1) for taking this photo 
 

It was lovely to see items from the Guilds's challenge for the year - which was an item inspired by the Guild's first book A legacy of Shetland Lace 
Just a small sample of this:
 
Individual members of the Guild were displaying their own items and there were  rosettes  for prizes awarded for the beautiful knitwear from many shows. An afternoon not to be missed in terms of stunning knitwear. 
I was also rather overwhelmed by the number of people asking to take photos of my meadowsweet yoked jumper - the ones I know about are going to places as far away as the west coast of America and Australia! 

Even Michael didn't escape the photographing, he writes: 'While having a quick look round I was quite surprised to be stopped by a charming American lady who asked for a photograph of my chest!  Well actually the fair isle sweater I was wearing on it.  I was of course happy to oblige but also  felt I had to admit that it had been bought for a few pounds from a vintage second hand shop in Beccles, Norfolk. Janet has knitted me a rather special fair isle jumper but not one to wear when messing around on holiday in the van!' 
The colours and design of M's fair isle jumper are superb and as it gets closer to it's end I need to chart it so I can get close to replicating it. 

What a wonderful penultimate day in Shetland - so much skill on display and so many items at the very top of the stunning scale! 
 
(1) Take a look at Sarah's blog - she was lucky enough to get to Fair Isle for a day during wool week, and lots of other great stuff too! www.didyoumakeityourself.com 

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Shetland 2016: Day seventeen Flock sale, Photography class and Anne Cleeves


Sat 1 Oct : Wool Week Day Eight

A glorious morning, very very still with wonderful colours from the sunrise.
 

Today there was some sadness as I had my last class but one I was really looking forward to - Photography  ( The Perfect Picture) with well known Shetland photographer Austin Taylor.(1)  But before that we were off to to the flock sale. Last time I went to the Maker's Market on Saturday but this year I wanted to experience the flock sale. This is held at the auction market to the North of Lerwick and Michael had already been to see where it was. On the way to the ring where the judging was taking place we passed  some fleece with their rosettes. Walking in the ring area brought back memories of going to Norwich  market with my father. Lots of wool week hats were visible. We sat and watched some judging, very little was said but lots of observation and movement of sheep took place to get the final order. 
 
The fleece had been judged the previous evening and these  were the ones in the adjacent room. How could I not buy one? What would I feel like if I went home having had the chance to buy a first class fleece as judged at the flock sale? The one I really liked even came from Aithsvoe where we had stayed all week. So after a discussion with Margaret who was managing the selling of  the fleece and I had chatted to earlier in the week,  I decided on a white one with superb crimp. This would be great for spinning fine lace yarn and / or dyeing.  So lovely to get a copy of the judging criteria for the fleece and a photo of the Trophy  accompanying it too. This felt very special. 
 

Then on to Hay's Dock for a leisurely coffee and to give in my square for the blanket. Mona and her helper were still stitching  them together and I had a lovely chat to them. Mona  liked the 'crofthooses'  that I had incorporated into the square and I loved seeing the blankets that were already made up.... such a variety of squares. (Post of 16 Oct 16 shows my square. ) 

So back down to Hoswick and the last class of the week. I was surprised there were only 4 of us, but Austin had  run the  same class in the morning! It was also interesting that I was the only visitor to Shetland attending. I am keen on photography and when we lived in Alsager I had attended a U3A group on Photoshop that had taken my photography to a new level. I still had lots of questions, realising that photography involving textiles is specialist - trying to show the texture and colours accurately in particular. Once again  this was a well prepared course and Austin was very generous in sharing his extensive expertise. Even though I have had my camera several years I am still learning how to get more from it! We looked at and tried out a simple studio setup and it was interesting how minor adjustments could make a lot of difference. Again more to work on when I got home! Another great course. 
Image
Sara, also on the course, contributed her hand knit shawl for us to photograph
 

But the day had not ended. We had noticed that Anne Cleeves was launching  her latest book, Cold Earth, at Mareel in the evening, so we set off to Hay's Dock Restaurant and for our last meal there. Fortunately we had booked  as they were completely booked! 

Lots of wool weekers were in the audience at Mareel and many going home tomorrow so fond farewells were said. The evening was brilliant, hearing not only from Anne, but also from the Emeritus Professor of Forensic Pathology , Dr James Grieve and Davie Gardner - commonly called Shetland's Mr Fixit for the TV series Shetland based on the books. Another special event. 
Lerwick Harbour  as we left Mareel
 

So I went to bed exhausted  and hoping for a bit of a rest in the morning before the Shetland Guild of Weavers, Spinners, Dyers and Knitters Sunday Tea which I was really looking forward to, there would be stunning work on display. 

1 See more of Austin's work at http://www.austintaylorphotography.com
 

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Shetland 2016: Day sixteen - Design at Hoswick and Lace Knitting


Friday  Sept 30 : Wool Week Day Seven

I was really looking forward to today. I had two workshops planned. 
Design - The Difficult Part with Neila Nell at Hoswick
I have done several design courses over the years and all too often I have found that whatever they are called, they revolve around a photo and  mainly involve colour. This is fine if you have not done this before but I wanted to go beyond this. 
When I saw this advertised I knew I had to attend. It sounded interesting and Niela produces such amazing knitwear I knew I would be learning from an expert.
I was not disappointed and her approach took me way out of my comfort zone - all that I had hoped for and more. It was mentally challenging which was great and the morning flew by. Neila  kindly offered anyone interested to go to her shop after the workshop and find out more about the design of her camouflage range of knitwear. This was difficult as I only had an hour to the next workshop, but I did go for a bit. Once again we were offered the option of keeping in contact as we developed the design thinking that we started in the workshop. There was much to think about from this workshop as I realised this was just the tip of a lovely iceberg that I would later explore. 

Then there was a drive up to Lerwick and the 'Lace knitting with Monique Boonstra' class  in Jamieson and Smith's shop and I had to try and switch my brain to a completely different sort of thing. I decided I would use my knitting belt. Monique was extremely well prepared, we had useful and extensive handouts and it was so good to be able to see her fine lacework in the flesh so to speak. 
Superb pieces! 
 
After a demonstration/ talk we set about our  lace sampler using J and S supreme yarn. 
Image 
 

What I hadn't realised was that my eyes would not cope well without excellent light ( I was awaiting an eye procedure and couldn't have new glasses until it was done). I started well but then struggled a bit but kept going. Once home I was able to start again with the added bonus of using my own fine spun yarn. I virtually always use wool but decided to try with some high quality alpaca from my stash ( from a farm in Cartmel Fell Cumbria). I have noted that this is 72 wraps per inch- fine but not my finest! 
I am more than delighted with the result. 
 

Following this workshop I am designing some seasonal bookmarks with my own motifs before doing a whole shawl. 

Another great day of workshops. 

See more about these people: 
 Neila at www.neilanell.com and if you can get to her shop in person  it is sheer delight. 

Monique's work and her superb patterns at:

Austin Taylor's work can be found at austintaylorphotography.com 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Shetland 2016 Day Fifteen : Making a Fair Isle Pattern Book

Day Six Wool Week : Thurs Sept 29 

I was really looking forward to this class, I had heard how good it was. In fact it was the only whole day class I was doing. I was early for the class ( as always) but I wasn't expecting to be one of the last - other people were keen to get started too. 
Mary turned out to be a great tutor and started off by telling us we were going to make 2 books not just one - wow! I enjoy making removable book covers but was really interested to find out how to make the actual book and an attached cover. Everything we needed was provided and we started swiftly. Instructions were clear and Mary continually gave us tips from her experience. We soon had sections of folded pages sewn together. 
 
 

Next it was glueing, even including  professionally looking 'headbands'. By this stage we had chosen our covers and so could colour coordinate this process - this appealed to my attention to detail. As soon as we got the glue on and it was resting we could start the second book. Clear demonstrations and the fact that we could do this twice certainly helped to fix the process in the brain. We were given, and talked through,  the process for making the cover. Mary did all these in advance - necessary so they could be 'dry' and be ready for us to use on the day. At the end of the day we all had a Fair Isle pattern book with squared paper and one with  plain. As with other workshops we were given information about suppliers and details of how to contact Mary if we felt we needed additional information. I was so glad I had chosen this workshop and was now keen to make my own book entirely from scratch. 
The class set being weighted down
 

I have decided that one of my books will be used to record my fleece and the other to record my dyeing  stocks ( mainly natural), state of the dyes etc. My dyes and fleece are stored in my fleece shed so I will use the books often for information. Currently I have to go and search and rely on my memory!! 
I was so taken with the class that I hadn't really noticed the weather. It had been very wet and windy during the night but dried up as we drove to Lerwick. The plan was for Michael to have a full day birdwatching, but he decided to have a leisurely coffee, pop into town and then noticed  that  the latest Bridget Jones film was on at Mareel. This seemed better than being out in the wind and rain and the film was quite enjoyable. 

As Margaret Parker  (online Guild convener) and I were going through how pleased we both were with the Book Making class over a cup of tea first her husband and then M turned up to join us. The weather wasn't  the best for either cycling or birdwatching! As we got back to the Marina, we saw lots of seals very close to us. I was in collapse mode and needed to rest as I had two classes tomorrow involving a quick lunch taken while being driven between Hoswick and Lerwick. In fact Saturday was a full day too so I just had to pace myself! 

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Shetland 2016 Day Fourteen: Weaving in Hoswick


Wed 27 Sept

Yesterday was quite an epic day so we planned definitely to have a rest day today. It was a lovely sunny morning and the wind had dropped and it hardly seemed possible that we had  the weather we did yesterday.  We planned to stay at the marina in the morning and take it very leisurely and I did some knitting. However, I am not very good at just resting and worked out that this was the only lunchtime I could hear Cecil Duncan's tour and talk on weaving in Hoswick visitor centre, which used to be the weaving shed where he worked.  I failed to fit it in last time and this seemed a good opportunity as we were only staying about 6 miles away. 
We were there before 12.30 the listed starting time. Nothing happened and after a phone call it turned out Cecil was coming but was running late so we took the opportunity to have soup and a sandwich ( which was very good). We were told not to rush as Cecil would wait if we were still eating. Hoswick Visitor Centre is a very special place during Wool Week. There were about 8/9 of us waiting for the talk, one being Katherine (from Kentucky and in the online Guild) and 3 from Suffolk who knew Sarah Butters- who I am in contact with via Facebook. They had flown from Norwich to Aberdeen - a useful fact knowing you can fly to Aberdeen ..... But where would I put the spinning wheel, how would I get my purchases back and how would I manage without the hotel on wheels???
I managed to catch a few words with Elizabeth Johnson who I will be eternally grateful to - she taught me to spin with a drop spindle and opened the door on the weaving, spinning, dyeing and Shetland Wool part of my life. Also of great interest was a machine knitting class ( tutor Anne Eunson)  where 4 learners were each knitting a cowl - having not done any machine knitting before. These looked very impressive. 
The weaving talk started with a brief introduction to Hoswick and the visitor centre,  before Cecil got in to describe his life in weaving there. A couple of looms were still there- including the warp on the loom(s) and other interesting weaving items on display. Shetland Tweed was woven here. (1)  
A Dobby loom, I believe from 1890 which could use 6 shuttles and therefore 6 colours. It was last used in the 1980's. 
 
Having the talk brought the whole process to life. 

After the talk we took the opportunity to walk to the beach - M took his telescope and I took mainly rock photos and noticed that many of the stones were very thin and flat, but of course I was drawn to the seaweed too.
Look at the textures here- fantastic. 
 
Unfortunately I began to feel migrainous and it started raining heavily, strong winds were forecast for tomorrow. So I dosed myself up and went to bed as I had a full day's workshop I was looking forward to. 

(1) See my earlier post 14 Oct 16) about weaving at Global Yell where Andy and team are researching Shetland Tweed. There are examples of Shetland Tweed in the Museum at Hay's Dock  and the Textile museum at the Bod. Adie's of Voe is another name associated with weaving Shetland Tweed. 

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Shetland 2016 Day Thirteen: Whalsay and Fish and Chips


Tues Sept 25th 

It was a dull morning but we had a leisurely start as we had booked the ferry to Whalsay for 10.30 and only had to drive up to Laxo. We had thought long and hard about whether we would just go over on foot and walk to the Heritage Museum or  take the  motorhome over and possibly travel round the whole island. We decided on the latter and little did we know how glad we would be of the decision. 
As we sat in the little queue for the ferry we realised how very wet and very windy it had become. We were first on as being higher than a car we needed to be in the middle of the ferry, so we were right at the front, which turned out to be right at the back as the ferry turned round!  I decided to knit - as a distraction, making more progress on the meadowsweet old shale fingerless gloves. But it got VERY choppy, it got so bad I could not knit. I was scared! Wow, how suddenly had that happened? Apparently it was just about a gale- only 45mph ( gale or fresh gale Beaufort scale!)  My first thought was that we might spend the night on Whalsay as there was no way I was going back in those conditions. One of the ferrymen told us that they would be using the calmer crossing to Vidlin on mainland for the rest of the day. We were both glad to be off the ferry but it was still very wet and windy, hence glad not be on foot! Coffee was needed so it was a good job we had the van. 
We were keen to visit the Hanseatic  Bod at Symbister as these are relics of sea trading linking Shetland, Baltic counties as well as some ports in Norfolk many years ago (1). 
The Hanseatic Bod - in the rain
 
The local shop, which was an amazing place appearing to sell absolutely everything, held the key and after paying a donation of £1 per key - there were 2 - we braved the weather to walk over the road to the Bod. The lower large door defeated us ( swollen in the rain?) but we managed to open the other which was full of very helpful interpretive panels. Despite the relative darkness I was able to photograph these for future study. 
Showing the extent of the Hanseatic League 
 

Then on to find some shelter - we abandoned all thoughts of going round the island (unfortunately) and parked behind the heritage museum where we made ourselves a hot lunch and by 2pm the wind had settled a bit  and the rain had stopped. 
But wow was I delighted that we had got to the Fair Isle exhibition. Just going into the room and seeing the amount of knitwear, the useful catalogue and the supplementary materials on the central table meant that I would be spending some time studying all this. We were very lucky as we had the exhibition to ourselves for most of the afternoon and a lady involved with the exhibition gave just the right amount of extra information. She spoke from the heart telling me , for example, what it really meant to knit a  jumper for the first time for the man you hoped to marry and she also pointed  out  an unusual pattern that she had not seen before the exhibition. Tea  and 3 cakes each then arrived! I had read the post that Kate Davies had written about the exhibition (2) but nothing is quite like seeing these pieces for real. 

I didn't take a 'wow' overall view, this is one I particularly liked:
 
There was a good variety from 1920 through to the present day, including work from the Peerie Knitters from the island. Machine knitwear was included as well as hand, which particularly appealed to me. As in Ollaberry it was the stories behind many of the pieces that were very special. 
A sample from one of the many files available to consult
 
We had an added treat in that  about 20 Peerie knitters from the local school were busy in one of the rooms. Several were knitting using belts. We chatted to them about their knitting and I also talked to them about natural dyeing so they could make even more unique items. All too soon it was time to get the ferry back to mainland. My heart sank as we saw it was going to Laxo after all, but the wind had dropped and it wasn't then raining. However out in the channel it was still very blustery and although we were on the second row waves came over 3 or 4 times with the spray missing the cars in front and breaking on the windscreen, another epic trip. 
We had decided to go to Frankies renowned fish and chip shop at Brae as it was not much further north. Excellent was the verdict and we were glad we made the detour. 
However on the way back to Aithsvoe the wind got up and the rain got heavier so much so that when I walked  20 yards from the building to the motorhome my jeans got so wet I had to change them. We changed the position of the van so that the wind was not on the back where we were sleeping as this weather was forecast to last until at least 1.00am. 
A day we will not forget for the weather and again for the opportunity to see such amazing knitwear such as was on show here, where it was made by local people. 


(1) the Hanseatic League was an organisation of merchant guilds and ports operated along the coasts of Northern Europe between the 15th and 19th centuries. Kings Lynn, Great Yarmouth and Norwich were part of this in Norfolk. When we stayed in Unst at Uyeasound the week prior to wool week we were next to the relics of the Hanseatic bod there. This shows us how much the sea was a great means of transport in the past. 

(2) Kate's detailed account is here: https://katedaviesdesigns.com/2016/08/31/why-whalsay-beats-missoni/

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Shetland 2016 Day Twelve part two : Ella Gordon Talk and Birds


Mon 26 Sept 
So catching up with Michael about his afternoon, it turned out it was a good one. Here is what he writes:

More Birds
One of the great things about Shetland is the variety of birds you may come across. The magnificent bird polishing off the remains of a sandwich a couple of yards from the van, as I waited for Diesel at the garage near the Bod, was a raven. Driving to the Museum one morning, the field next to the Sports Centre was full of Oystercatcher.  Arriving back at Aithsvoe one evening from the tarmac near the van I counted  4 ringed plover, 4 turnstone, 20 redshank, 10 snipe and several curlew all feeding on the mud nearby. Anyway, back to day 12....
Having left Janet to do her class with Hazel I decided to head for Quarff. This is just off the main road a few miles South of Lerwick but had figured in recent bird posts on the internet.  Turning right from the main road I head up the hill towards Wester Quarff. Passing a group of about four birders I stop in the big lay by and walk back down to meet them. On asking if there is anything about one of them mutters 'Hoopoe'.  These are fantastic birds with their black and white wings and distinctive crest.  A few do visit the UK each year but I have never seen one.  No messing about here with what colour are its legs or how many wing bars does it have, Hoopoes are absolutely distinctive.  I joined the birders and continued with them up the hill. Absolutely nothing happens. Then suddenly it flies, completely obvious with its patterned wings it heads back down the hill.  We all set off quickly after it with some of the group rushing off to ask permission at a house to look from the back garden. I and one of the group who is obviously into photography head on down the hill.  Suddenly it comes into view.  It is on the grass to one side of the road searching with its long beak in the mud and soil.  We were able to stand and watch for several minutes with a brilliant view before it moved again to another piece of ground. This photograph appeared on the internet the next day of the actual bird!  How fantastic was that!
Apologies I have no idea who took this but what a great photo.
 

So then off to the lecture room early to get a good seat and I sat next to a delightful lady Betty a sprightly lady who had been knitting for longer than me, who tried to persuade me to go to the Isleburgh Knitting Group ( of which she is a regular attendee) the following evening. It is so great to feel  welcomed like this by local knitters. I also managed to talk  to Carol Christiansen herself about the use of Natural Dyes, particularly historically  in Shetland. 
I am not including my photos of Ella's knits, see the end of this for a link to many on her blog. So instead a view of the peaceful place we are staying at for our 10 nights on mainland. 
 

Ella, Shetland Wool Week Patron 2016, graduated with a Contemporary Textiles degree (with distinction) from Shetland College and started  her blog in 2012. She is well know due to the blog, writing about knitting, Ravelry and working in Jamieson and Smiths. Besides other things she is a Shetland Knitwear collector and had a number of her pieces on display for the talk. Her 'signature' design is 'crofthooses' and hence the pattern for the hat this year. 
Ella's talk entitled ' Being a knitter in Shetland in 2016' was fascinating and wide ranging covering the areas of: 
History/ Culture
Location/Isolation
Sharing/ Keeping
The Future

Ella is going to 'blog' about her talk (1) so here I will highlight areas that were particularly poignant to me and also include some personal  thoughts : 
The number of people and many years that people knitted to supplement their household income - to some ( many) knitting was a chore! 
The oil industry and its knock on effect of decreasing knitting
Patterns not being written down and individual's motif pattern books 
The ( welcome)  return of knitting as a culture being valued more now

The closeness of Shetland to Scandinavian  countries ( Lerwick 768 miles to London and 228 miles to Bergen) and the influence of this on knitting patterns
The hardiness of Shetland Sheep - their diet making their fine yarn wool what it is - this confirms what I read in the archives earlier in the day 
The rainfall in Shetland( at least 2mm on more than 250 days a year (?!) ; the long nights in winter - the bright colours of some fair isle in response possibly 

The fact that the Shetland Wool Industry is now strong but also fragile 
Recent books published by Shetland Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers - 
The Internet and the possibility of worldwide recognition ( shown up by the number of countries represented at wool week) 
Ravelry noted by Ella as 'facebook for knitters', the importance of other Social Media to talk to people around the world. Norfolk may not be that far from Shetland but I do value Facebook as a way to keep in touch with what is going on in Shetland - between trips there. 
Words used about Shetland Knitting- local, traditional, real, sincere, indigenous, hand made.... 
The dark side of the coin - A quote from Tullock many years ago ' Shetland ' is the most profitable term in the woollen  trade. (3) Some yarn is still wrongly called Shetland Wool when it has nothing Shetland about it! (I witnessed this myself when asking a seller about Shetland Wool on a stand at an event in England, to be told no it was not from Shetland nor from Shetland sheep but a kind of spinning! To me this is using the term Shetland wrongly to make money.) 

1. Ella's blog is always a great read with lovely pictures - see http://www.ellagordon.wordpress.com you can also see much of her knitwear collection there. 
2. The two books from Shetland Guild of Knitters, Weavers and Spinners are:
A legacy of Shetland  Lace 
A Shetlander's Fair Isle Graph Book 
Both valuable books in my collection! 
3. If you are interested in ' Authenticiy ' and Shetland Knitwear there was a conference based at the Shetland Museum earlier in 2016. It was streamed live and I attended virtually. It was a great way to spend a Saturday. This it the link to the streaming http://www.shetlandmuseumandarchives.org.uk/collections/museum/textiles

What a Monday! We now had 2 'rest days' - well that was the original plan but of course 'textiles' took over! 









Sunday, 30 October 2016

Shetland Day Twelve (part one) : Archives and Knitting Belt

Mon Sept 26th 
Seeing  I had a free morning I thought I would spend it in Shetland Museum. I hoped to get into the hub and possibly spin and also look at the new Sheila McGregor  display (1). After coffee at Hay's Dock restaurant I went into the Museum and enjoyed looking at this exhibit, as I remembered the book when it was first out. I understand there are as many additional fair isle  charts in the archive as there are in the book. (2)  Of course I just had to look at the other knit  exhibits once again and as always was drawn to the fine lace and naturally dyed yarns in the fair isle garments. 

A small section of the Sheila McGregor exhibit - I have used this book for years, it is still great. 
 

As I was walking down the stairs I noticed that the archives were open and decided I could squeeze in time to try and do a bit of research. I talked to the helpful assistant and set about tracking down references to the use of indigo in Shetland. I got side tracked rather by looking at the information in Carol Christiansen's wonderful book on Taatit Rugs. I made some progress which I will tie up with information I have for indigo introduction in Norfolk. 
I was determined to get into the Hub and spotted a lady that I had met in one of Elizabeth Johnson's Lace Knitting classes previously. We got chatting about her wonderful textured jacket and about her cousin's Border Leicester flock and wool (3). A member of Shetland Guild was spinning nearby and she became involved in the natural dyeing conversation and thought the translation of meadowsweet ( Filipendula ulmaria) from the Shetland dialect was ' Christmas Grass'. We wondered if this was because of the scent it gives off when dried or stewn - another thing to find out more about. 

My class was at Isleburgh at 1.30 so Michael and I had decided to meet up for lunch there. Very good too - we both decided on Fish and Chips and enjoyed it, although we were intending to have a light lunch! 

Then on to 'Try a Knitting belt'  taught by Hazel Tindall. There were 11 or 12 of us, I sat between a couple from Milwaukee  and a couple from Iceland which for a class at Shetland Wool Week it is far  from unusual. This class was excellent for me. I couldn't believe the improvement  with the knitting belt, using the additional firm thread and holding my yarn differently made to my tension. I didn't expect to be good at this straight away as I have knitted differently for more years than I am going to say publicly - it is well over 50 - but I am so glad I have had this opportunity to improve. 

 
On the left Garter  stitch  my previous way and this has also been steamed and blocked. 
On the right is My new improved method which is still on the needles here.
 (In real life the difference is striking.) 

The next stop was an Early Bird dinner at Hay's Dock and a chance to catch up with Michael before Ella's talk 'Being a Knitter in Shetland 2016' and more about all that later. 

(1) Sheila MacGregor published The Complete Book of Fair Isle Knitting in 1981. A large part of her research has been donated to Shetland Museum and it was the first time some of this material, including knitwear, was on display. 
(2) More information at www.shetlandmuseumarchives.co.uk  under Sheila McGregor Collection 
(3) If you would like to buy some single flock ( Doulton) Border Leicester yarn take a look at  www.borderleicester.com 
(4) The Shetland Dye Book ( by Jenni Simmons) gives Meadowsweet 'in Shetland dialect' as J├Âlgirse or Blacknin girse! The former might just be Christmas Grass... I have found out that girse is grass but can't get any further.....

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Shetland 2016: Day Eleven Haps and the Opening Ceremony


25th Sept

The plan was to have a restful day and then finish off with the Opening Ceremony for Wool Week that started  at 18.30. However plans changed after Hazel explained how good she expected the Haps ( and Sunday Tea) to be at Ollaberry Hall. Local haps (1) never seen before were  going to be shown. We had not been up to that part of mainland before so decided we could fit it in and still have time for a snack before I went to the opening ceremony. 

We had an early lunch and then went  to Ollaberry Hall so we're there for the opening time.  Just as we were leaving the van, a fellow Wool Weeker ( from Germany) asked if we would mind if she could talk to us about our motorhome. We love our motorhome and the layout suits us so well that we were more than happy to show it off to her. (2) Wool Week is great for finding out all sorts of stuff!

Once we got in the hall we could see there were lots and lots of haps ( I heard the number 70 being mentioned) but before I got into serious looking I noticed some wooden glove boards on the sales table. Too good to be true so I had to treat myself to such a useful item. I have to say I was very tempted to buy a jumper board and I also noticed a shawl frame on the stage of the Hall. 
 
I then started looking at the haps, there was such a variety and what was really nice was the stories by each one. It is this detail that really helps place an item and to value it even more- if that is possible. There were some local ladies spinning and  I got chatting to one of them explaining that I too was a spinner - liking best to spin very very fine. She mentioned that one of her fleece was for sale- under the table where the glove boards had been. I definitely did not need another fleece- I have a fleece shed and there are not really any spaces on the shelves. I went to look at this fleece straight away, it was the most glorious greyish and the crimp was superb? However, I had a plan for some of this so decided it was too good to miss.  I also couldn't resist a super pottery diz too. 

By this time the tables were filling up so we took a plate and tried not to choose too much food through it did look delicious and sat down to enjoy. 
General view giving. Feel for the tea and a few of the haps
 
I needed to look carefully at the remaining haps etc as I didn't want to miss any, as each is unique and there is so much to learn by studying them. But I was conscious that we needed to get back to Lerwick.

I was hoping to call in at the Bod Before it closed as I decided that if I had another ball of the Organics lace weight yarn I would be able to knit the Sanik Shawl by Donna Smith. The pattern was in this year's annual. We managed to make it before closing time. I picked up yarn with the same code as before but the observant lady on the till noticed that I had picked up cream  and she remembered I had bought light grey the day before. How lucky was that - apparently the code is something to do with the spinning, anyway I got another light grey! 

So we went and  parked in the Leisure Centre Car Park so I could have a snack and a bit of a rest before the evening. 
A few fellow members of the Online Guild of Weavers,  Spinners and Dyers had arranged to meet in the queue for the Opening Ceremony. This year Margaret Parker the convener of the group was there too. As planned several of us met (in all during the evening I think Barbro from Sweden, Maggie who has a son living in Shetland, Katherine from Kentucky and Gloria   with other friends met up ) (3)  and Margaret was organised with an Online Guild sign for the table so others could find  during the evening. I wore the Meadowsweet jumper and of course the crofthoose hat.(4) I was surprised how many people came to talk to me about my jumper and a couple even asked if they could take photos of me! 
Margaret and I going in - not sure who took this, it appeared on my FB page! 
 
 The Opening Ceremony was much changed from when I attended in 2014. There were lots of tables set out and the Hall was massive. 
   
This gives an idea of the size of the hall. 
There was entertainment throughout the evening, wine on entering food on the table with a sheet giving its local provenance and a lovely atmosphere. The evening started with the Lerwicks  Jarl's Squad and included during the evening : ; music items from members of Hjaltibonhoga; a talk on Shetland food; a fashion show from Shetland designers presentation by Garry Jamieson about the development of Jamieson's Mill in Sandness. 
I crept out during the concluding question and answer session as it was getting late.
Michael had planned to walk around Clickimin Loch but it was cold and windy and now getting dark quite early. Fortunately, he had been lent the three 'Hunger Games' Books and as an avid reader was quite happy. I am hoping to persuade him to join me at the Opening Ceremony next year which I think he will enjoy. 
My mind was buzzing as we drove back and I was glad that my class tomorrow was after lunch

(1) A hap. To give a definition can't be done in a sentence, other than to say it is a Scottish word for an everyday wrap or shawl. I would like to point you to Kate Davies beautiful book  'The book of Haps'. As always it is more than a book of glorious patterns but a book to treasure about the history of Shetland haps. 
(2) Our  motorhome is a Wildax Aurora Leisure built by a brilliant  firm in Elland : www.wildaxmotorhomes.com
(3) Apologies if I missed you out , let me know and I will correct! Jenni was on Yell weaving and Sue from Berkshire was around somewhere
(4) The Wool Week hat- each year the Patron of Wool Week designs a hat- this year it was Ella Gordon who designed the crofthoose hat ( see post of 12 Sept 16 ) and given that it was thought there were 400 people at wool week, very few of the hats would be the same! So lovely to see them all. 

 

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.