Friday, 6 April 2018

Ground Elder Cardigan part three of three

The knitting 

The next stage was knitting the tension sample, so I could  set the stitch and row figures so that my knitleader (primitive shaping device) would allow me to knit pieces exactly the size I planned. I was aware that there would be a lot of ends to finish afterwards and these would in total come to many metres of yarn, so I wanted to keep the wastage to the minimum. The tension sample was knitted, washed and rested overnight and the following day I could actually start knitting. 

Showing knitting in progress and the shaping device

Please don’t be under the misimpression that knitting with a knitting machine ‘just happens’ or is ‘cheating’. It is a very skilled operation entirely different from hand knitting. I was making it even more complex, juggling 8 yarns including changing the background colour over a pattern repeat of 54 rows. I knitted the sleeves one day, the fronts on the next day and the back another day. These were then washed and blocked to size. I have each pattern piece drawn out on a synthetic fine paper like  material so I know I will get the exact size I have set out to knit. (I had already done the planning to ensure the sleeves and backs and fronts lined up horizontally and where the sleeves were set in.) I am a lover of fitted sleeves and not the (to my mind) unflattering drop shoulder line and in a fair isle pattern this takes some planning. The neckband is done by a cut and sew technique, which I have also developed a variation of for hand knitting. The front bands also were knitted separately. I factor in spending as long in the making up as the actual knitting.  

However, the making up calculation was an underestimate for this project. I split each of the waste yarns at the edges of the knitting  and invisibly darned these in. I did a quick estimate of the time for this as I was doing them.... that came to 17 hours. In theory this is not needed when knitting with Shetland Wool as they are very unlikely to work loose. However, I wanted the inside to look as good as the outside. 

Lots of ends to hide

Ends hidden, seam basted and machine stitched

Being taught ‘whatever is worth doing is worth doing well’ has stuck since being told this as a child. Once the ends were fastened I basted  the edges together by overcasting to match each of the horizontal logwood lines exactly. As always I stitched the pieces together, stocking stitch areas only, with a slight stretch stitch on my normal sewing machine. Ribs were hand stitched  from the right side using a version of mattress stitch. Final steaming and pressing was done and voila the Ground Elder cardigan was complete. 

Image of me wearing the completed cardigan 

It had been a more challenging project than I had initially anticipated but I was pleased with it and best of all, I know I will never meet anyone wearing the same garment. 

Many Thanks  to Myra Ryan for introducing me to Natural Dyeing and to Helen Reynolds for managing to take a photo of me smiling! 

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

The Ground Elder Cardigan - part two of three

The natural dyeing

Now the project could start. I began with picking the Ground Elder, we had a lot in the garden so no problem with that, I used leaves and stems and would be working at 200% to dry weight of yarn. I find the dyeing is most effective if the bits of dyestuff are small and present a larger surface area, so I set about tearing up 880g of ground elder into smaller pieces. I was disappointed that I didn’t actually use much of my total crop in the garden.  I soaked the plant material for a couple of nights in rainwater. 

A neighbour had given me an old Burco boiler minus the lid. We replaced the ageing wiring and found a large dish meant for standing a large plant pot in would act as a lid. So all the soaked Ground Elder and water was added. I brought this to the boil over approximate 45 minutes  and boiled for an hour. I then left it to cool over night. 

Now all I needed was a good run of weather as I do my Natural Dyeing outside. I set about skeining the wool which was quite a job  as I needed 3 figure of 8 ties in each one. I decided to use acrylic ties in a yarn colour close to the intended version of the Ground Elder that would be their  final colour. For example I used a light and dark green as these two shades were in my plan. This turned out to be a very good idea. 

I had a lot of yarn to dye and decided to split it into two dye pots. I wanted to ensure there was free movement of the skeins to get the best possible result I could. 

Next came the scouring of the yarn (I use washing up liquid of a well known brand) and mordanting using alum and cream of tartar based on my usual recipes.

The skeining of the yarn to be dyed, the scouring and mordanting took a full day. 

I then set about dyeing all the yarn to be dyed in strained Ground Elder extract.  I had divided this between two pans to allow ample room for movement of the yarn. I heated the yarn up to boiling taking approximately 45 minutes and then left it simmering for the same time. After that I removed the yarn that was to be used as Ground Elder colour and rinsed this a couple of times.  It was hung on the line to dry with a knitting machine weight to keep it under some tension, which would keep the yarn straight. I also soaked the ground elder dyed yarn which I wished to lighten in a 4%  cold soda and exhaust ground elder solution for 20 minutes. Soda can damage wool, so I checked this every 5 minutes. 

I had two colours now:

Light yellow from the ground elder unaltered

Brighter yellow from the addition of soda 

While this was happening on dyeing day one, I scoured and mordanted the yarn that was going to be left as off-white. I did this as the yarn is quite oily and I would therefore knit with yarn that had had virtually the same treatment and would give me a better tension. 

Tomorrow I would over dye and use additives to get my other 5 colours. The weather was good and I achieved the other colours thus:

Orangey shade - 10% madder solution on to the yellowy would give me an orange shade. Remembering that when wet the yarn is a darker shade, I judged when to remove it. 

Dark greyish - 10% logwood, again I judged when to remove the yarn. 

Light green - 5% iron sulphate solution was used , this was brought to the boil for 3 minutes

Darker green -more of the 5% iron sulphate solution 

Brownish - 5% copper sulphate solution was used. 

For the above, the yarn was placed in a pan of exhaust ground elder liquid with the additive dissolved first, before adding the yarn and heating 

So including the off white yarn I now had my eight colours. The yarn needed balling ready for the knitting. 

Final colours used:

Top row: ground elder on its own, ground elder and madder, ground elder and iron 2

Middle row: ground elder and logwood, off white yarn, ground elder and soda

Bottom row: ground elder and copper, ground elder and iron 1 

The Ground Elder Cardigan - part one of three

I designed this to wear at  Shetland Wool Week in autumn 2017. It caused quite a bit of interest and I received some lovely compliments from the local knitters whose expertise I value highly. It was suggested that this would be of wider interest  and I thought I would describe the story behind it to show that making a unique item is not too difficult and is very rewarding when complete. The yarn is Shetland jumper weight 2 ply (that knits as 4ply ) and comes from Shetland. All except the off white (original colour) is naturally dyed with ground elder from my garden in Norfolk.

Some background about me

I was an avid knitter having learnt to knit (and sew) from my mother before going to school. Attending a Girls Grammar school, I was firmly told by staff that  this was the sort of thing you kept for your spare time.  I was selected to do ‘science' for GCE as it was then, and therefore went onto a career in science involving chemistry. I did  carry  on with my textile interests in my spare time. We moved to Cheshire nearly 20 years ago and I joined Clwyd Guild. I was attracted to whole day meetings and workshops on Saturdays. It was here that I was introduced to natural dyeing and my life changed. So I became a scientific natural dyer. Since then I have increasingly used local dye plants and specialised in obtaining as many colours as I wanted from the same plant . You may have seen my apple dyed skeins in the Association National exhibition in 2016.

It was whilst  preparing to lead  a  natural dye workshop using plants from the hedgerow and garden  that I decided to do a demonstration set using ground elder  (the parts that are above the ground). Ground elder is a prolific plant in the garden we moved to when we returned to live in Norfolk in 2014. So I had a sample set of 6 colours.

Image of initial ground elder dyed skeins 

From left to right: Ground Elder on its own, plus copper, plus soda, plus iron, plus madder, plus indigo 


I had already designed and knitted a black and white fair isle Cardigan that  I wore at a previous Shetland wool week. This was machine knitted as I am rather a perfectionist and like a very professional finish. At the time I told the many people who commented that this was just a practice piece. I intended to knit another using a range of natural dyes and did this to get the fit and the pattern to my liking.  The motifs  are traditional Shetland fair isle patterns -many taken from Fair Isle Knitting Patterns by Mary Macgregor  (1) but other motifs were included too, including my initials! 

Image of my black and white cardigan. 

This cardigan was the pattern that I would use for the 'Ground Elder Cardigan'. However, I did not realise at the start how complex a task l had set myself. I needed to know how much yarn of each colour way I would need to dye. All the colours would be dyed initially with  Ground Elder, and all except the main colour would then be modified to get the remaining colours. Once I had my yarn initially dyed with Ground Elder there was no room for errors.

Initially I knitted a sample in some similar colours from my vast 'stash'. I intended to miss out the horizontal lines as I assumed they would be too dominant and not use the indigo dyed ground elder as I found this did not ‘go’ as well. In designing being able to be selective can  be very important. 

However, from the first sample I discovered that the horizontal lines were necessary in the design,  so what colour would I make them? More sampling and then tweaking of aspects of the design took several days until I had colour ways I was happy with. I was going to use 3 background colours: off white, ground elder and a lightened version of ground elder. In all I would be knitting with 8 different colour yarns. 

Image of samples 

Top row: initial sample with no horizontal demarcations, draft sample in ground elder colours, two further samples testing modifications

Bottom row: tension sample of the chosen motifs 

Now I only had 2  problems left :

  • dyeing these colours from ground elder
  • calculating how much of each colour I would need

I didn’t see the knitting or getting the fit right as problems as I already had the black and white cardigan.

I decided to work on the calculation. Initially I calculated how many stitches of each colour were in the sample of one repeat of the pattern - 24 stitches and 54 rows.  I then knitted a sample in one colour and worked out how much yarn that  took. So in a sample I thought I knew how much yarn would be needed of each colour - I was working in length and weight as a double check. Then reality struck, this was a completely flawed calculation. In fair isle a lot of yarn is carried between stitches and I had to allow for that.Many of the rows were single rows and so yarn would be left at the start and end of the rows. 

So I  knitted another sample using the same yarn but in different colours and thus this was more exact. By weighing the yarn at the end for each colour I would know the mass of each colour used in the sample. I could then estimate the number of small sample sized pieces  needed for the jacket and I would be there. I also took the weight of the sample-I was weighing and measuring everything I could!

My years as a scientist were not wasted, I knew I needed a double check.  I weighed the black and white cardigan which included 10 glass buttons which were quite heavy but which did not include so many ‘ends’ as I was only dealing with two colours. I estimated the proportion of the final weight of the sample that was each colour. I decided to add 20% to all final figures as I thought that would be ample but my husband said he didn’t want any last minute panics so I added 30% and  was confident I would also have enough over to knit the tension  square which was needed to set the  sizing for my 40 year old punchcard knitting machine, the Wool Week hat (2) and some other accessories.


1.There are several sources of fair Isle motifs that can be put together to make patterns. The height of the motif and the width are important considerations in planning. 

See for example: A Shetland Knitters Notebook Mary Smith, Chris Bunyan; Fair Isle Knitting Handbook Alice Starmore; Fair Isle Knitting Patterns Mary MacGregor, A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers

2. Wool Week takes place for a week at the end of September each year in Shetland. It is a wonderful collection of events and draws people from around the world. Each year the SWW Patron devises a pattern which attendees are encouraged to wear and although there might be 400-600 people there, it is rare to see two hats that are identical. Look at to see the pattern for 2018 devised by Elizabeth Johnston (the wonderful lady who taught me to spin).

Friday, 2 March 2018

Houlland Shawl

As soon as I saw this shawl in Kate Davies Book of Haps(1) I knew I wanted to knit it. 

I loved the pattern for a number of reasons. I am attracted to the tree motif and found the use of this over the whole shawl was very pleasing on the eye. The shawl was to be knitted outside in and I like this method. I had also just knitted Donna (Smith’s) pattern for the Sanik Shawl from the 2016 Shetland Wool Week Annual and do like her designs a lot.( More about this at post of 1Jan17). However, I was taken up with other knitting which included the Ground Elder cardigan project (which I will add here soon) and didn’t feel I could start this shawl until that was completely finished. 

I had some lilac 2 ply lace weight yarn which I had bought many years ago from Many a Mickle in Mytholmroyd so it is over 20 years old. I had knitted it into a shawl  but this was before I knew about Shetland Shawl construction and I didn’t like the method for adding the edge in the previous pattern so pulled it all out, skeined and washed the yarn and re-balled it. 

So I decided I would start the edging before we went Wool Week 2017 and hope to get it done before we returned. This more or less happened but mainly because we stayed for three extra days due to the gales. I attended Donna’s workshop on ‘Traditional Haps’ at  Wool Week which was a real treat. It doesn’t matter how much I read or see on you tube, there is nothing like being taught in person, and preferably by the author of the pattern or similar. I also double checked on the picking up stitches techniques (notice the ‘s’ on this word) from ‘50 tips from Shetland Knitters by Hazel Tindall and Elizabeth Johnston’ (2)

Yarns were joined by a method taught by Ann Eunson in a workshop run with her sister Kathleen Anderson on ‘The perfect finish  for lace’ also taken during Shetland Wool Week, my best description of this is a sort of splicing. This is great and gives an invisible join. If you are an avid reader of this blog you will know  that I am a big fan of being taught by Shetland experts during Wool Week, practising detailed techniques like this are just priceless to me. 

I then got distracted and knitted Elizabeth Johnston’s Shoomal Shawl (which I will write about later) and recovered an Ercol Suite in Harris Tweed....again more here later. 

The Shoormal  Shawl - the edging is naturally dyed with quince leaves from my garden

I mainly only knit in the evenings while watching/ being aware of what is on the TV and knitting the rest of the Houlland Shawl has been a real pleasure. 

I did use a number of stitch markers, I either use split rings or my own hand made yarn loops. I also use a metal board and magnetic strips (bought years ago to aid following embroidery designs) to mark rows and write on a photocopy of the pattern. These aids have been a huge help. 

This shawl was also knitted entirely by using double pointed needles and a knitting belt. This is is the only way I hand knit now. 

Awaiting blocking

I then washed the shawl in lukewarm soapy water, rinsed well and rolled in a towel. It was then pinned to my large blocking board and left to dry. 

This shawl has a wingspan of 144cm and depth of 69cm and weighs 52g. 

What a beauty it is. I really love it and thanks to Donna Smith for designing such contemporary designs with a Shetland history.

(1) The Book of Haps by Kate Davies. This like Kate’s other books is a masterpiece. Not only are there knitting patterns, but there is well researched  explanation and history, in this case about Haps. The books themselves are sheer joy to have. This book contains a large variety of glorious Haps from different designers. You can find out more about Kate’s contribution to ‘knitting’ in its widest sense at and

(2) 50 tips from Shetland Knitters is a fantastic set consisting of 2 DVDs and lasts for over 3 hours. I have discussed this before. 

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 24-26: Travelling Home:/Fri- Sun: 6-8 Oct

Surprisingly  despite the movement we slept well on the ferry, in fact better than when travelling over. We had breakfast early and were ready to start driving home at 7.30. Usually it is easy for M to get the motorhome off the ferry and come back for a leisurely breakfast, today was rather different. There was a larger boat waiting for the brith and whilst you could return for breakfast you would be treated to a little trip out of the harbour for a couple of hours or so. We were quite keen to start the journey home. 

We had a good start and knew we were aiming for Glendoick garden centre. We stopped there on the way up and as we arrived they were just opening. This has a nice cafe and we enjoyed a very nice second breakfast. (We find the route to Aberdeen rather sparse in terms of good stops, so if anyone has any other good ones we will be pleased to hear about them). Lunch was at Cairn Lodge where again you can leave the road completely, although we got our own lunch. Traffic was good, we wondered how it would be on a Friday, and we aimed for Ecclesfechan where we had booked a stop for the night. This was OK, lots of static caravans and without the quality of facilities we enjoy at a Caravan and Motorhome Club  site but perfectly fine for a night. I started to loose the feeling in my left side, so took the pills and went to bed. 

Saturday was even quieter on the road and we were only driving down to Vale Royal in Cheshire. We actually enjoyed stopping at Tebay which is a great independent motorway stop on the M6. We stocked up with great food at the farm shop and were down to our home for the night  by early afternoon. We were going to be picked up by friends and would enjoy dinner at the Bells of Peover. It was lovely to catch up with them and we enjoyed the meal, another bonus for this campsite is that the gastropub is just a short drive (or could be a walk over the fields) away. 

We set out on Sunday early, even less traffic, very few lorries but the roadworks were still there in Cheshire. We arrived home at 13.10. 

What a wonderful trip we had had. We love Shetland. We plan to go back, but will we wait a whole 11 months before we set off again....maybe not. 

I can’t choose my best two images, but these two give a range.
Unst - our view, one way, from the Motorhome.

Ollaberry Exhibition, before it officially opened

Look carefully to see the number of items just in this one view and each one you can ‘get up close’ too and each one is worth of hours of study. Tremendous

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day21-23: Our three bonus days: Tues-Thurs 3-5 Oct

Monday night had been very blustery, we moved the motor home to a more sheltered spot, but it still wobbled during the night. This is unsettling, but rare. We were very glad we had changed the ferry booking (although friends were on it and said it was not too bad). Even stronger gales were forecast for Tuesday so we were even more pleased we couldn’t be accommodated until Thursday. There were some knock on effects to our change of plans, we were missing a theatre trip on Friday and I was giving a talk on Tuesday so I would have to turn my mind to that as soon as I got in- how would the new laptop ‘like’ the projector? I also needed to visit the venue to check there was a suitable projecting area. However, our son and family were going to cook for us on Sunday the day we would arrive home. 
We had  a real rest day  the Tuesday. I realised that I could get in the Museum archives and not be clock watching all the time. Each year I was reading a bit more of Knitting by the Fireside and on the Hillside by Linda Fryer. (At some expense I have now managed to buy this book, so can use my archive time for other things on my list!). We also took time to look at the non textile exhibits in the museum. The Museum is excellent and we always enjoy being there. All is well displayed and labelled. 
Tuesday night was calmer for us, not sure about at sea! We decided to a drive round and thought  we would get to Scalloway Museum as we had not made it that far in Wool Week. Unfortunately we had chosen the day it was closed for a conference. We decided to drive further on and look at Hamnavoe as we had not been there before. The weather was beginning to come in and get exciting. On the way back we thought we would look at Meal beach, one of our favourites (1) and today the waves were exciting and even for Shetland it was very wet. 
A view from Meal beach car park ...including a glimpse of our ‘home from home’ 

So down to Hoswick as there was talk of another bird.  The weather was much calmer and I enjoyed looking at the beach and knitting, now up to 30 of the 60 repeats on the edging of the Houlland Shawl. 

Thursday was going to be our last day, so we treated ourselves to coffee again at Mackenzie’s and got tempted by some artwork for the lounge to remind us of the week. 
On the side of a bookcase

It was a dull day but very calm, we pottered in Lerwick and had a pleasant last day. The ferry was to leave at the normal time (always a good sign). However,  as we got on the ferry, the motor home was chained down, in all our trips this had not happened so at this point I took the travel sickness medication! Anti slip mats were everywhere in the lounge and the captain announced that we needed to use the rails and be cautious as ‘large movement’ was expected. There were still other wool weekers going home, it was nice to chat to Carol and Peter Leonard (who I bought my tiny James Bosworth spindle from many years ago) in the lounge. We still had dinner then got our heads down soon after. Local advice was to get horizontal as soon as possible on a rough crossing. 

(1) see post of Fri 2 Nov 2012 for a view from Meal beach in the summer. 

Monday, 12 February 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 20: A change of plan: Mon 2 Oct

I was awake early and heard the shipping forecast. This was unsettling as the gales forecast for Monday evening were even stronger than they were last night. We had friends on the boat and heard  that the ferry journey was rough. We made a fairly quick decision that we need not travel on the ferry tonight, we could stay over until Tuesday and hope the storm would have settled. I contacted the ferry team once they were available and although we could travel on Tuesday, the van could not be accommodated until Thursday. Fortunately there was also a cabin for us then so we changed the booking, hoping that by Thursday  there would not be another storm with the resultant  gale force winds. So we now had another 3 days and looked forwards to winding down as the past 24 days had been pretty intense. (Even though we had been only 20 days, the time leading up to us being away in the van for that long needed careful planning and then there is the added stuff I need /want to bring to Wool Week.)

I had arranged to see Elizabeth Johnston briefly on the Monday morning to have a detailed discussion about some machine knitting processes and I knew she had people to take to the airport. Elizabeth not only understood the questions I was asking but could also give me more than one answer. I am very grateful to her both for her expertise and willingness to see me after what must have been an exhausting week. We enjoyed the trip down to Scousburgh and reminded ourselves of how wonderful that south western coast of mainland is. 

I was rather envious as both Minnie and Elizabeth were off to the North Atlantic Native Sheep  and Wool Conference in the Isle of Man. Perhaps one year soon I will be able to attend this conference too. 
Well, it had to be Mackenzie’s for coffee as we passed by to return to Lerwick, this time I had sticky fruit cake. As expected this was delicious. Today we decided to have lunch in Mareel. Their bacon and cheese croissant was as delicious as the morning cake. 
Now a leisurely trip to Jamieson and Smith. My aim was to choose some yarn to dye and then knit the Lunklet Jacket pattern. I spotted another Christmas present - the Jamieson and Smith story, which also contained some lovely patterns and I was also tempted by some individual patterns too. 

By now the weather had turned, it was very wet and very windy and we decided to go back to the campsite and hunker down. I would have time to knit, such a treat. I decided to work on the edging for the Houlland  Shawl (Donna Smith)and noticed just how much easier lace knitting  is with a knitting belt and rapein string. 

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 19: Tingwall Teas: Sun 1 Oct

The Sunday at the end of Wool Week is always a special day as it is the exhibition of amazing work from Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers - this is accompanied by spinning and knitting demonstrations  and of course the Sunday Tea. If you ever get a chance to experience a Shetland Sunday Tea, don’t hesitate. It is also a chance to thank my tutors and to say goodbyes until another year. I have to say I think this year was the best Wool Week I had experienced, but perhaps I always feel like that at the end of the week. 
We had not got to Fjara before so decided to go there for morning coffee, it is sort of opposite Tesco but overlooking the sea. It was very busy, but we really appreciated the lovely sea views and will return when it is quieter. Our favourite coffee spot remains as Hay’s Dock. 
There are still plenty of ‘wool’ things to do in Shetland:

After coffee we drove on to Tingwall and parked by the hall and got ourselves cheese and biscuit, we would have a second lunch with cake when the exhibition and teas opened at 2.30. It was interesting to ponder just how busy the hall might get, there were more visitors to Shetland Wool Week than in previous years but how many would still be around on this Sunday afternoon? I wondered how my home guilds in East Anglia would manage if not only 300 visitors turned up to see an exhibition but if they also expected an extensive tea as well. The ladies - and their helpers- of Shetland Guild of SKW and D do a phenomenal job. Just before the door opened 2 full  mini buses turned up so it looked like it would be busy. 
We joined the queue and got seats, M collected some food for himself and I left him as I was keen to see the exhibition of work and talk to members of the Guild, eating would wait. I so enjoy looking at the work of other spinners, knitters and weavers and where possible I like to talk to the makers. I talked to Kathleen Anderson who with her sister had been my tutor on Friday and I am in awe of her amazing lace knitting. I was not surprised by the number of accumulated rosettes from shows, including best overall exhibit at the Royal Highland Show, where the standard of entry is extremely high. 

I noticed a Sumburgh Bonnet ( similar to ones I had seen in the Museum) and sought out Ina  Irvine who was demonstrating spinning. This year the spinners were in a separate room..... I arranged to buy a hand spun, knitted hat from Ina and made an arrangement to get a pattern after Wool Week. I understand there is going to be a pattern in the Guild book (which will be published in the Spring). This will be a great book of Shetland Knitting by Shetland Knitters.(1) I have their lace book and it is exceptional. I am sure their skills have been passed down in the genes. Just talking to a Shetland Knitter and watching them knit one can learn so much, even if you have been knitting for many many years like me.
By the time I got back to the table where M was sitting, he had been joined by other friends and it was good to see that Elizabeth Johnston  and Anne Eunson had got up after the ‘Sharing Sherry, Cheese and Shortbread Sunday morning playtime’ they had been helping to host in Hoswick. This provided me with the opportunity to tap into Elizabeth’s drop spinning expertise and ask advice on using the medieval spindle I had brought up from home. Elizabeth suggested using it as a supported spindle would work well and would also be better for my wrist than using it as a twist with the fingers type. (I had already noticed my wrist complaining with my continued practice with this method). I decided I would talk to the spindle maker about the possibility of a support dish. 
Anne got asking about my machine knitting, and Val my machine knitting  friend was there too. It was really great to swap ideas, and discuss items and techniques without the ‘dismissive attitude’ of some hand knitters who assume machine knitting  involves no skill or thought.  (Of course they could not be further from reality in thinking this). 
We chatted and chatted and did not notice that it had long gone 17.00 and we were virtually the only table still there. 
Another great day and so wonderful to talk to Shetland Knitters about spinning, hand knitting and machine knitting. Tomorrow I would be stocking up on yarn and we would be catching the evening ferry back to Aberdeen. 

(1) The book is Fair Isle Designs from Shetland Knitters volume 1 - predicted publication date March 2018 

Friday, 9 February 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 18: a quiet day planned: Sat 30 Sept

We planned a nice quiet morning in Lerwick, so decided to park for a full day on the quay. It was a glorious day and the light was fantastic. It was one of those days when you were filled with joy at being in such a beautiful place. 
Image from early morning
We hadn’t been in the tourist information for a few days and I needed to check on an address so we popped in to get that sorted. As so often happens I found a friend to chat to, this time it was Minnie from Unst. She was down with her daughter who was wearing a superb lace jumper which I understand she had knitted. I had in fact  been in some classes with Minnie’s daughter but not realised the link. Then it was on to Jamieson’s, I was on the hunt for Elizabeth Johnston’s Lunklet Lace Jacket pattern. It seemed to be sold out everywhere and Elizabeth didn’t have any more herself. I was in luck, there was a copy of the pattern for sale. I had designs on naturally dyeing yarn for this and would buy the yarn on Monday. 
 Elizabeth’s pattern. 

This pattern has taken some writing...... I am in awe! 

Saturday morning at the end of Wool Week is special as there is a Maker’s Market. In previous years  I have been to the market in a wonderful panelled room in The Town Hall. This year the venue had changed as the Town Hall was being renovated, it was in Isleburgh where I had attended  some of my workshops. We were keen to get a coffee, but it was like a scrum inside and it seemed that the whole population of Lerwick must be in there. We got separated and I had no idea even which room Michael was in. We eventually found each other at the cafe and managed to sit at a table - by chance with Minnie and her daughter again. I was also able to talk to Marta and Hildur and thank them for such a great evening hearing about the Warp Weighted Loom. I kept my hand firmly on my credit card as I had a spending spree planned for Monday  but couldn’t resist these..... more buttons (with lace imprint) and fair isle wooden pegs. These would brighten up my desk.

It was so great to see so many people at the market and it was clearly good for the local economy. 
We decided to stop at Tesco for a mini shop and it was actually busy, but then of course half term had started here as the children go back to school earlier than in England. We decided that THE place for lunch would be Mackenzie’s Farm Shop and we were not disappointed. We both had steak and kidney pudding with lots of steak and kidney and a tiny puff of pastry unlike too many others where the puff pastry is the predominate item. We decided we had made an excellent choice in choosing  here again. Unfortunately I realised that I was getting a migraine attack. Fortunately this was the first in a month minus a day and for me to go so long was quite a record. The bad news for me is that if I get a bad attack it is now ‘hemiplegic’ meaning I get pins and needles in my left leg ( the warning sign) and in fact can feel as if I have no left side. Since the migraine turned this way, I am only allowed large doses of aspirin.... no more tryptans. (1) We drove down to Hoswick, so I could  lie down and Michael could go in search of an elusive migrant bird.(2)  Tomorrow would be another day. 

(1) I write this not for sympathy, but to raise the profile of Migraine. It is an awful condition and one which can be quite disabling. It is not a normal headache and rarely do I actually have a head ‘ache’, although my hair can hurt when touched. My consultant told me I have always suffered (my early ‘sinus’ problems were likely to be migraine) and he believes it is genetic. I do know that it was  much worse after I had an accident to my head in my first year of teaching many moons ago. Over the years, the nature of the migraine has changed, including a dark spell when every day was a migraine day as it had gone ‘chronic’. That is now past. Migraine is something I (and many others) live with and I try not to beat myself up too much these days when I ‘miss a day of life’ or more to the condition. I have to tell myself that it is a warning, I am doing too much, something I am prone to!
(2) The bird stayed elusive or had decided to move place, it was a hawfinch. 

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 17: My last workshop and a lecture

The aim was to go down to Hoswick for morning coffee, it was a wild and windy morning and already spectacular photos of the sea were appearing on Facebook. We parked at the Heritage Centre and walked back to Neila’s (1) where I was going to treat myself to another of her fantastic garments. I had decided that I would buy a poncho style in the same ‘camouflage’ range that I had the green ‘ cardigan’ in that I so loved. What I hadn’t decided on was the colour... in the end I chose a red/purple mix out of the 20 or so on offer. Another garment to love and cherish. I don’t buy many garments but prefer to make my own so a garment has to be really special for me to buy it. 

Then it was the Heritage Centre for coffee and a scone where I got chatting, this time to Peter Leonard. He was knitting and we talked about the James Bosworth canary wood top whorl spindle that I bought from them many moons ago at an early Woolfest.(2) I just love this spindle and am currently spinning Norfolk Horn fleece with it. I showed him the lace bookmarks which are the result of this. Neila was running her design class, which I had so enjoyed and benefitted  from last year. It was definitely way out of my comfort zone at the time but was good for me. Embarrassingly she interrupted her class to tell them about my Ground Elder Dyed cardigan. I hope the class have benefitted from the Design class as much as I have. It was so good as it went deeper than any design workshop I had done before. 

We then drove back to Lerwick to have lunch in Mareel and then I decided to walk to Isleburgh for my afternoon class ‘to get a breathe of air’.  It was a stupid decision, keeping dry gave me a new slant on the term ‘refreshing’. The workshop was ‘The Perfect Finish for Lace’. The two tutors (Anne  Eunson and Kathleen Anderson)  were brilliant, extremely knowledgeable and so patient. I learnt things that I did not know even existed in terms of grafting lace. I liked that a lot. The afternoon was full of tips and practise and endless checking and encouragement until we had got each technique correct  on our practice pieces. A local lady had brought a shawl for advice on grafting the borders in a particular way, so we got a bonus as Anne worked it out and we were all able to see that too.(3)  Again my Ground Elder cardigan was discussed and Ann being a machine knitter was interested in my matching orange lace cowl. It was nice to have a machine knit discussion with someone who actually does machine knitting and appreciates what is involved. 
Learning to graft holes

While I was having my mind blown by grafting lace M had taken himself to see Victoria and Abdul in one of the screens at Mareel. I understand there were knitted items of note  in the film, but I got no other details about them. I hope to see the film soon. 
We had booked an early dinner at Hay’s Dock which had a pop up fish restaurant in the evenings for Wool Week. A great meal in a fully booked restaurant. I left Michael having coffee as I walked down for the lecture. 

I was really looking forward to this talk  as Elizabeth Johnston (one of the speakers) initially taught me to spin back in 2000 which was our first visit to Shetland, something I am SO grateful for as it was life changing for me.   As I walked down Elizabeth  was outside the lecture theatre discussing using her large Steiny Loom.  This was an added bonus. It is a big and truly beautiful looking loom and I understand takes apart to smaller pieces that just about fitted in Elizabeth’s car around her and two passengers. 

I happened to be sitting next to a lady researching Viking weaving, so we were deep in conversation until the talks started. 
The lecture theatre was nicely full and the talks were brilliant. Each of the authors, Hilda, Marta and Elizabeth spoke about a different aspect of the topic. It was all very well organised and quite academic which was good. There were lots of pictures and real samples of the weaving, which we could examine in detail. The book, ‘The Warp Weighted Loom’ is a beautiful book in its construction and the content is superb. There are details for making a warp weighted loom and using it. The social history behind this makes up a large part of the book. For anyone interested in this it is a must have book.(4) It is this sort of lecture, gathering such experts  from 3 countries, that makes Wool Week so special. What a wonderful last ‘booked event’ for me. 

(1) Do visit the shop if you get a chance, I guess you will just stand there initially and say ‘wow’. If that is not possible, look online. Her garments are brilliant and do read her story.
(2) More  about the spindle here
Sadly these are now unobtainable from suppliers although I understand James Bosworth is still making a few. 
(3)  You can see some of Kathleen’s  Patterns in the brilliant book by Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers called ‘A Legacy of Shetland Lace’. There will be another book from these experts out in early 2018. 
(4)  The book is The Warp-Weighted Loom by Hildur Hakonardottir, Elizabeth Johnston, Marta Klove  Juuhl. 

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 16: A wet and windy day: Thursday 28 Sept

I had nothing booked for today in Wool Week terms. However, it was not the day for the beach or a long, or even short, walk! The weather had been more iffy this Wool Week than we could remember in previous weeks, even given it was the end of Sept, beginning of October. A low was forecast, it was unseasonably mild (13C outside) but was  windy and felt much colder. Even on a dull damp day there would be interesting ‘wool’ things to do and see I was sure. Michael thought that any self respecting bird would have gone into hiding. 

The first stop pencilled in was to Wilma (Malcolmson’s)  near where we were staying. Michael’s passing words to Wilma last year was that he would be back to buy a jumper this year and so this is what we set out to do. In the shop last year there was a signed picture of Jimmy Perez (Ann Cleeves, Shetland fame)wearing one of Wilma’s jumpers.  The film crew had been back to record another ‘Shetland’ series and I understand this year 6 jumpers were bought so will watch the programmes more closely to try and spot them... but perhaps the actors just wanted their personal jumpers.
Irene, whom I had met at the workshop on Tuesday evening, was looking after the workshop/shop. M looked at jumpers and I chatted to Eileen who knew from previous conversations that I was interested in machine knitting. She talked about the machines Wilma used and what she used them for. I noted that the basic machine set up was very much like mine, however the output was different. Wilma had a shop full of wonderful garments for sale and I just knit mainly for myself. I was congratulated on my meadowsweet yoked jumper ( that I had worn to Tuesday’s workshop ) and I explained how I got a range of colours from one initial dyepot. I really appreciated this comment coming from someone working with Fair Isle colours all the time. By this time Michael had chosen his jumper.  

 I bought some lace weight skeins (for dyeing) and some cards. It was good to see some wool colour packs for sale, Wilma is so good at selecting colours that work together. If you get a chance to go to Wilma’s do take the opportunity. It is inspiring and a real working workshop. Wilma has all her samples still (as do I) and it is great to follow her process through from the initial stimulus for the colour and pattern and the range of samples she does before deciding on final patterns for garments. Even better try and get on one of her workshops. 

Coffee at Mackenzie’s Farm shop beckoned and today I had goey plum and ginger cake which was really great. We then took a drive to Weisdale where the Bonhoga Gallery(1)  is situated. There was a cloud burst as we arrived and just getting into the gallery from our vehicle in the wind and rain was a real challenge.  We started  with lunch, both our meals were very nice indeed. The cafe had a display of work and art work on the walls as well as interesting magazines such as the Wool  report - a trade magazine. We had come to see Barbara’s exhibition and it did not disappoint. The work of the three artists (2) was quite different as they portrayed their individual responses to the theme : Behind the North Wind (Nordic Art and Spirituality). It was a pity that there was no documentation available with it but I did get some when I asked at the desk. 
Taken from Bonhoga spring/summer 2017 brochure 

We returned  to our campsite, the heavy rain had stopped and I noted how wonderful the colours in the verges were after such a wet day. 

Many pluses from a day that looked initially to be a wet, windy and miserable. 

(1) Bonhoga Gallery is owned and run by Shetland Arts Development Agency. There is a space for exhibitions for local, national and international contemporary visual art and craft. Exhibitions from artists  and craftsmakers (from Shetland and the UK) working on a smaller scale can be seen downstairs- some of this is in the cafe area! The shop has a wide range of really nice art and craft. The gallery in Weisdale Mill is in an area worth going to,  there are trees in the valley and very few trees elsewhere in Shetland.  The only downside is that the car park is rather small. 
Mareel by the Shetland Museum at Hay’s dock is also part of Shetland Arts and is a Theatre/Cinema complex. It also has a shop which is ‘design led’ selling gifts, stationery, cards and books which are so tempting. There is also a nice cafe overlooking Hay’s Dock, which has longer opening hours than the cafe in the Museum next door. It has a larger car park than Bonhoga. Both are well worth a visit. 

(2) the three artists were: Barbara Ridland (Shetland), Kristin Reynisdottir(Iceland), Malfridur Adalsteindottir (Norway)

Friday, 12 January 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 15: Wadmal: wed 27 Sept

The plan was to have a leisurely walk around Lerwick and after lunch at Hay’s Dock go to the talk by Brian Smith on Shetland Woollen Cloth 1300 -  1700. 

When visiting the town we like to park on the quay, but as we drove up to  it we realised it was not going to happen today. The quay was closed to parking as a cruise ship was depositing its passengers into one of many coaches to take them over the island. We have seen this before in the summer but not during Wool Week. It would be good for Island trade but everywhere would be busy. So a quick change of plan, we would park at the Museum and then I could look at the Theodora Coutts exhibition and possibly visit the archives before the afternoon talk and ‘do the town’ later. 

It seemed sensible to start with coffee and cake in Hay’s Dock (always a treat) and then Michael decided to walk round the harbour as I went to the knitting galleries. I really enjoyed the Theodora Coutts exhibition, she was a knitwear designer and shop owner working in Lerwick between the 1940s and 1970s. I was particularly interested in the Sumburgh Bonnett style which I had not seen before.

 I like to get into the Archives when I can and continued with my study of Lynda Fryer’s book on Shetland Knitting. It is a history of the hand knitting industry there between about 1600 to 1950. 
All too soon it was time to have lunch. We were very glad we had booked. With the cruise in there were far more people trying to have lunch than there were spaces. It was interesting to see, but not if you were staff I suspect, they looked rather frazzled. 

And so to the talk. I knew very little about Wadmal, other than it was a vital part of the economy from the Middle Ages being used for clothes as well as for paying rent and taxes. The talk was interesting in that it prompted me to find out more about Wadmal - a coarse (1) woollen  fabric. It was woven by women in their homes on upright looms in Shetland and Northern European countries for many hundreds of years. It was a crucial part of the economy. I was interested also in the weaving of the cloth and the huge part it played in the social fabric of communities. I also began to wonder if there was an equivalent back at home as East Anglia has a rich weaving heritage. My main disappointment in the talk was that it seemed very short, to me, for what was a fascinating subject. I was booked into the evening lecture on ‘The warp weighted loom’ on Friday  and hoped that would tell me more.(2) 

After a brief visit to the Hub, where it is always great to chat. Each year I chat to fellow members of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. (The Shetland Guild include knitters as well, wisely in my opinion). Members can  be found spinning and knitting in the Hub for most of the time it is open. Today I caught up with Susan  and as in previous years exchanged thoughts about projects etc. She was interested in my Medieval whorl and locally (Norfolk!) made spindle from spindle wood. I am hoping to get more help on its use during the week.(More about this spindle and whorl in blogpost of 5June17) 

As we got to  the quay the last of the cruise ship visitors were being ferried back to the cruise ship. This sat in the sound with Bressay behind. The ship seemed enormous to me. (3)
Unfortunately I didn’t get anything in this picture as a reference to its size. 

I popped along to Jamieson’s to see Barbara R. Jamieson’s Shop window was  particularly stunning this year. There are a number of large photos of landscapes with a palette of wool chosen for each one.... really inspirational. 

The shop had been very busy, there had been a book launch (Marie Wallin ‘Shetland’), ship visitors and it was Wool Week too. If you ever get a chance to go in the shop, do visit it. The wall of colours is just tremendous and you can buy garments as well as wool in many different thicknesses. Of course there are also needles and patterns. It was good to chat with Barbara about what creative things we have been and are each  doing - she mentioned that she had work in an exhibition (with two friends) at the Bonghoga Gallery called  ‘ Behind the North Wind’. I had already pencilled this in as a ‘would like to see this’ item, it is a nice gallery to visit and the cafe is great too. 

Michael had gone ahead to the Peerie cafe and was talking to a lady who had recently retired to Shetland and awaiting a house being built. We talked about the wonderful light and of course the knitting. 

So eventually we drove back to our Shetland base for the week. I assembled the jumper board that I bought on Sunday and I had a lovely evening talking ‘woolly’ things with my friend Val and her husband and two ladies from Switzerland who were also over for Wool Week. 

I have no workshops booked for tomorrow so looking forward to a day pottering about. 

(1) The Wadmal that was used for taxes and rents was coarse, but it seems the fabric was not always of the same quality and finer fabric is likely to have been produced when it was destined for trade. 
(2) I have since collated more information about Wadmal and will be devoting a post to this after this travel journal is complete.
(3) The cruise ship was the Norwegian Jade on a cruise from Southampton  destined for Reykjavik and the last visiting cruise ship of the year. It can take 2402 passengers and has a crew of 1037. It seems to be one of the bigger cruise ships to visit Lerwick with a length of 249m. In 2017 there were 70 cruise ship visits to Lerwick between April and September. 

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 14 : Traditional Hap and Painting with Wool workshops also Fae Oota Cloo: Tues 26 Sept

Today’s two workshops were with real experts in their field. There was a gap between when we planned to fit in lunch and visit the Fae Oota Cloo exhibition. I expected it to be a stunning day. 

Traditional Hap
The first workshop was on Traditional Haps with Donna Smith. I heard such good reports of this workshop last year from friends that it was high on my priority list for this year and I was delighted when I managed to book a place. Again we had a pack of materials to start with which included extensive instructions  from Donna and a ball of Jamieson’s Ultra. I had not knitted with this previously so was particularly looking forward to using it. Donna started by talking about differences between a hap and shawl ( a hap is an ‘everyday’ piece to her way of thinking ) and describing the different methods of constructing hap and shawls. There were several haps and shawls to look at, some being knitted by Donna’s aunt who is her 90s and still knits these ‘from what is in her head’. We were going to construct a full mini hap, the traditional way, from the outside in. 

We started by knitting some of the outside border, I then opted to pick up and knit the inside border and by the end of the class had two sections completed in this way. It was great to refine my techniques and see how a real expert does it. To me this is the best part of Wool Week, learning from those who are very very good at what they do. There is always a reason for a particular way and this is based on several generations of knitting. It is all so thoughtful and I have found the tutors are so willing to share. 
This is what we were aiming for

Again it was a lovely group of people from around the world who love knitting and it was  nice to share our experiences and continue to do so when we chanced  upon each other later in the week. 

While I was at Isleburgh at Donna’s workshop Michael headed off to West  and East Quarff to check on any autumn migrants. 

A new farm shop and cafe had opened on the main road between Lerwick and Sumburgh at Cunningsburgh and we planned to have lunch there today. The food was very good, it was spacious and there was a good range of things to eat  and nice craft items. After this first trip we became regulars for the week. 

After lunch and more catching up with fellow ‘Wool weekers’ we parked at the History hut and looked round the exhibition Fae Oota Cloo which concentrated on an exhibition of wool and knitwear  in the Cunningsburgh  area. There was plenty to see and it was such a nice idea for a village to take part in Wool Week like this. I seem to find myself in setting up exhibitions back in Norfolk so it is always good to see how others do it and get new ideas. 
I was particularly taken by this:

So then we had a short gap for a rest as my workshop with Wilma was down at Hoswick in the evening. It would be busy as I think there were  4 workshops on at the same time. We arrived early (the class was starting at 6.30) and enjoyed looking at the displays in the visitors centre and of course sharing experiences of the week with people I met earlier this  week or in previous Wool weeks (this is what makes Wool Week extra special). 

Painting with colour
Wilma and her helper (Irene?) started by producing a huge range of yarn butterflies of just about every conceivable colour in the centre of our table. On other tables around the workshop were displays of Wilma’s Fair Isle showing her initial stimulus, her vast sampling (which she regards as very  important) and the completed  items.  Some of these were small such as phone cases and fingerless mitts and also including tams and jumpers which are so characteristic of Wilma. It was such a feast for the eyes and I could have spent many hours looking at the samples and seeing how subtle changes perhaps of just one yarn in the palette of colours had such a profound effect on the finished piece. Attending this workshop had already been worth it for me before the actual workshop started. 2 young  knitters from one of Wilma’s knitting classes were joining us. Wilma  is very committed to encouraging and helping the next generation  of Shetland Knitters. 

We had an initial talk about colour and it’s relation to pattern in Fair Isle. Fortunately much of this was in the notes as I always like to reflect on this when I am back home. 
Then given a couple of designs prepared in graphical form to choose from, we were encouraged to select colours without looking at any Fair isle designs. We then discussed our colours and pattern with Wilma or Irene before we got going on making a sample phone cover. We had started this before the class so we could maximise our Fair Isle knitting during the workshop.
some of our knitting at the end of the session

 It was a brilliant workshop, again accompanied by useful notes to aid us later. 

Then home to bed and another night when I would have no trouble sleeping.