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  under Sheila McGregor Collection 
(3) If you would like to buy some single flock ( Doulton) Border Leicester yarn take a look at 
(4) The Shetland Dye Book ( by Jenni Simmons) gives Meadowsweet 'in Shetland dialect' as Jölgirse or Blacknin girse! The former might just be Christmas Grass... I have found out that girse is grass but can't get any further.....

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