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
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 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

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

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