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/