Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Shetland Wool Week 18: Day 26-28 : Aberdeen to Norfolk

Thurs 4 - Sat 6 Oct

We got up, on the ferry, early even for us (5.00) so we could have a relaxed breakfast in the lounge and be ready to go down to the van and drive straight off and on our journey. We were at the front of the car deck and thought we would be first or second off the ferry. We had both slept quite well and were anticipating fairly quiet roads initially. We like to stop at Glendoick which has a large garden centre and nice cafe and is just off the A90.  The aim was to be there for opening time at 9.00 without rushing things. 
True to prediction this worked well and we had a good stop, sitting looking over the garden and noticing how much more autumnal the trees were looking compared to the journey up. I then took over driving and our next stop was to be Cairn Lodge at Harpenden. This used to be rather run down but has been taken over by the Westmorland Group that run the independent motorway services at Tebay on the M6 Northbound. This one is having a makeover and is already a huge improvement. The rest of the journey was uneventful, I tried to do the Times crossword while M drove. We were booked into Hoddam Hall, a campsite we have only just discovered. It is a nice site and is very spacious, with a bar serving food  which is OK. However we decided to cook our own  and enjoyed a nice meal of salmon brought down from Shetland. This was the longest leg of the journey. 
A view from the van at Hoddam Hall

It was a very wet night but there was no wind and it was quite mild. I had not slept well, but we were only driving down to Clumber Park so we could afford to take things slowly. The rain stayed with us all the way down the M74. Today we had our second breakfast at Rheghed and then as always looked forward to the journey over the A66, which rarely disappoints with the spectacular and varied views across. However today it was not at its best due to heavy rain, and at times it was decidedly  unpleasant with the spray from the lorries. We  decided to stop at Bowes Museum towards the east end of the A66, and as we left the rain had stopped. Again it was west side of the country wet, east side dry, something we have been very aware of having lived on the wet side in Cheshire for several years and now returned to the drier east side. 
We were glad that it was dry driving down the A1 to Clumber Park. We noticed that Fish and Chips was an option for dinner and we decided that would be good. The day had turned out to be more tiring than anticipated due to the poor weather conditions. We did well with the crossword that day doing all but two clues. 
A view from the van at Clumber Park (actually taken in April! ) 

And so onto the last leg of our journey home. We had covered about 2000 miles in all over the 28 days. We were keen to get off early, it was wet again and not at all pleasant. We had a stop at Cambridge services, a nice croissant and coffee but a silly high price. It did the job though and we then carried on in the rain and got in by 12.00. We emptied the van straight away as even heavier rain was forecast. It had been a wonderful holiday but it was nice to be home. 
As might be  predicted we slept well that night. 
It is now under a year until we hope to undertake the wonderfully memorable experience again. 

Monday, 10 December 2018

Shetland Wool Week Day 24 and 25: An Extra Day

Tues 2 Oct and Wed 3 Oct 

We were to leave on the Tuesday evening ferry however as it was forecast to be gale conditions we swapped to the Wednesday. We were surprised, the lovely lady at the ferry  terminal was so sure it would be calmer then.  It didn’t take any persuading to have an extra day in such a wonderful place. So my last minute ‘Textile’ shopping could be spread over two days.
Tuesday was windy and we decided to use the morning as part of the shopping day and for the rest of the day I read and enjoyed myself doing more fine lace knitting of the Dunella Scarf. I had hardly touched this since Wool Week proper had started and after so many days with so many activities a rest day before the drive back to Norfolk was good. 
We did manage lunch in Hay’s Dock, such a beautiful place to sit and look out to sea. This turned out to be our last lunch ever there as it was closed later in the year as unfortunately it was not making a profit. A sad loss for Lerwick and Wool Week. However, I do understand and there are now many more lovely places to eat in town than there used to be. 
It was a windy night as we went to bed and we parked the van in the lee of the building. After midnight the wind dropped considerably, so perhaps Wed  night would be much calmer. 
We do get fantastic views from our mainland ‘home’, this is a couple  of them on the day we were leaving 
 Wonderful Reflections

The skies are pretty spectacular too

On Wednesday we treated ourselves to our last second breakfast at Mackenzie’s for the year. I wondered how I would break myself of this habit once home! I completed the textile shopping in Lerwick, buying some coned machine yarn form Jamieson and Smiths and had a lovely coffee in the Dowry.
I just love this ‘knitting’ Tote from Jamieson’s shop which I also visited: 

To stop us feeling too sad we decided to go somewhere ‘new to us’. Chris Dyer had pointed out some places on mainland to M when he was on the Croft trip. We decided to investigate the Lerwick one and drove down sea road until it looked interesting.
So close to town and so different. We had lunch there and it was  a lovely way to end the holiday. The only problem was I took no photos. Once at the ferry terminal we were through to the holding yard and on the ferry fairly soon- we are often nearly the last on. We knew nobody in the lounge, which was unusual but rather nice. The crossing was calm and neither of us even heard the clanking that accompanies the stop in Kirkwall. 3 days of travelling through Scotland and England and we would be home. 

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Shetland Wool Week 18: Day 23: Machine Knitting and the Scalloway Hotel

Mon 1 Oct 

When I was in Shetland in the summer, I visited Anne Eunson so that we could have a ‘play day with knitting machines’. I have had one of my knitting machines, a Brother 830,  24 stitch  punchcard with 850 ribber, for many years. It was bought new  in, I think 1974, and has been used ever since. (It has also been joined by many accessories and some other machines but that is a long story for another time). Anne is currently using 2 electronic Brother machines, but has at least one other and also first used knitting machines some time ago! I believe she did have a period of knitting as a  paid job. 

So we have a love of machine knitting in common and we both have Brother knitting machines. We had a great day together in the summer learning from each other but a day went too quickly and so the Monday after wool week was to be another ‘play day’. However, I was quite tired from the week and Anne must have been more tired as she had run several workshops, I had only attended workshops. 

We only had 2 possible days left to have our wonderful second breakfast at Mackenzies, so this was our first stop. Anne was coming into Lerwick early so it seemed a good opportunity to meet up at the Dowry for a coffee.  M joined us and was then planning a free day which was to include visiting some of his favourite spots and looking at birds I guessed. We would then all meet up at the Scalloway Hotel for dinner.  

All went to plan and we stretched our minds getting our heads around the different types of double jacquard and investigating the best yarns to use to get the finishes we desired. (1) We did stop for a quick lunch but kept thinking of other things to try. By the end of the day Ann had started experimenting with  yarns for a skirt and I was working out alternative stitch combinations  for another jacket. 
Some of my samples

Anne’s knitting machine

All too soon it was time to pack up and head for Scalloway. It was wet and the wind was getting up. As we met M he wondered why I had not picked up the endless texts and emails he had sent. I had only used my iPad for taking photos of stages in our machine knitting and I had left my phone in the hall. It turned out M had made contact with NorthLink  about  our ferry booking to mainland the following evening as they predicted it was going to be very stormy. Due to lack of any communication with me he had provisionally booked us onto the ferry on Wednesday as they were able to take the van as well. So we were to get an extra day in Shetland again. (We had had 3 extra days last October as the van could not be fitted on when we had also changed the booking due to bad weather). We would need to go to NorthLink in the morning and make a decision about what to do. 
The meal at the Scalloway Hotel was very good indeed. We had not eaten there before but decided this would definitely be a place to add to the 2019 visit. Besides enjoying the food it was good to talk about ‘things Shetland’ in general. It was lovely to have a quick word with the Fruity Knitting team of Andrea and Andrew who were also eating there although none of us got our knitting out. (Well if anyone did I was obviously talking too much to notice! ) 

By the time we left, it was very wet and by the time we got to bed the wind was getting very strong too. 

(1) By some people Fair Isle Knitting is referred to as Jacquard Knitting. In machine knitting there are two types of Jacquard Knititng, neither of which is Fair Isle Knitting. In both cases two rows are knitted in one colour and then two rows in another colour. A colour changer additional fitment  is not essential but is the sensible practical way to do this if knitting more than a sample. There are no floats on the back of the knitting. The pattern is selected by the punchcard  or electronically. 
Single Bed Jacquard is the equivalent of mosaic or maze knitting in hand knitting. It gives a lovely finish.
The pink jacket that I wore at SWW this year was completed with this technique. I will write more about it when this Shetland Journal is complete. 
This is a sample 
Front                                                                  Back 
Double Bed Jacquard uses the ribber  as well as the main bed of the knitting machine. Essentially any floats are trapped between the two layers of knitting. There are a number of choices for the back of the knitting, some depending on the machine used. Choosing the correct, quite fine fibre is a major key to the success of the overall finish. 
It is not surprising that many ‘home knitters’ do not use this technique. Done well it is lovely but there can be a number of pitfalls. It is quite difficult and time consuming but worth the effort, in my opinion. 

This is a sample of embossed jacquard  using any yarns I could find, but I love the design as it is. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Shetland Wool Week 2018: Day 22: Sunday Teas and Eshaness

Sunday 30 Sept 
The last Sunday of wool week is always one of my favourites, as the Shetland Guild of Weavers, Spinners, Knitters and Dyers put on a Sunday Tea. 
However, I was distracted this morning as I had got something in my eye and was unable to concentrate on thinking about anything other than my eye.
I tried having a shower, washing out my eye and using eye drops but nothing was going to work.  M had told me there was quite a large spike that looked like grass in my eye but he had been unable to remove it. So after breakfast we decided that A and E was the place to go, but wondered what our son (an A and E consultant in England) would say!  
We parked easily at the hospital and noticed there was no ambulance queue, which is normal in England. M took another look at my eye and said the spike was near the corner and he thought he could get it, which he did. Hurrah, no A and E needed and no need to tell my son I had  been to A and E in Lerwick. We then picked up a few provisions in Tesco as we were driving past and went to Mareel  for a congratulatory coffee and croissant. 
We decided we would drive on to Brae slowly and be there in time to get ourselves some lunch in the van before the Tea and Exhibition opened.
It was a good day for Rainbows as we were driving over to Brae

There were two other events close by so we thought parking might be at a premium. 
We got one of the remaining parking spots at the Hall. I chatted to Eve as she had arrived well before us and at 14.00 we went in. 
It is a lovely that there is a display of members work and the chances are the makers  will be there so you can talk to them, or watch them demonstrating spinning or knitting and even possibly buy one of their items.  

Kathleen Anderson’s lovely fine lace shaped shawl

I think this is a Pearl Johnson’s, just look at that rib.

There is a short video on my Facebook page taken at the Tea,  you can see me wearing my ‘wool week’ jacket and of course talking about knitting.(1)

It was a lovely afternoon and I did lots of close looking, talking to Wool Week friends and to members of the Guild which is very special.   Providing the food for the tea and managing the giving out of the tea is a serious undertaking and both the drinks and food were constantly being refreshed. It is an amazing extra burden on the Guild, many of whom would have been involved in classes during the week. It is a wonderful end to the week. As always we were some of the last to leave - too much talking M would say! 

It was getting very blustery. We decided we would treat ourselves to Frankie's Fish and chips for an early supper. First we thought we would take the opportunity to drive over to Eshaness and see what the sea was looking like there. It is a beautiful drive  over  and as soon as we could see the sea, it was clear it would be a dramatic experience. I took lots of photos, firstly with the iPad and then with my ‘real‘ camera, but all from the comfort of the van. 
Very atmospheric

As we turned to begin the journey back to Frankie's, we were so pleased that we had decided to visit Eshaness and saw one or two more couples from wool week who had decided to ‘take a look’ too. 
What a wonderful end to Wool Week this was.  However, we had two more days left and I had a special day planned for Monday. 

(1) I can’t copy the link due to my lack of technical skills, but I posted it on my Facebook  page on 1 Oct  18 

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 21: Maker’s Market and Removing the Weaving from the Warp Weighted Loom

Sat 29 Sept 

Last night had been very wet and windy and we were glad to be snug in our little abode, but did spare some thoughts for those travelling back on the ferry. It was likely to have been a little choppy. 
Mackenzie’s did not open until 9.00 as it was Saturday but we were there and waiting for our second breakfast,  before travelling into Lerwick for some provisions. Then it was on to the High School, which was the venue for the Maker’s Market. This seemed  a good choice as there was ample room for parking and the market was more spacious and thus less crowded than last year, which had felt a bit like a scrum. 
It was nice to meet up and say goodbye to some wool week friends who were returning home tonight. I had not planned on any large purchases this year, but was tempted  by a few items as always. I particularly liked these buttons, which are about an inch in diameter: 

It was great to talk to Bunchy who runs the Natural Dye business Spindrift Crafts. I ‘follow’ her on Facebook and we have fairly frequent chats so it was especially good to put a name to a face and have a real conversation. 
This is some of her blue dyed yarn, indigo plus lady’s mantle and marigold, and such a lovely colour. She dyes Shetland jumper weight yarn and also lace weight yarn so her colours can be used in many projects. 

The parents were serving refreshments and again  it was good to see more of the school. 
Somebody on high was keeping watch! 

It was also impressive to see the list of activities supported by the parents through such fund raising activities as this.

We decided that lunch in Hoswick would be a great idea. Lunch in Hoswick is always a good idea in Wool Week and we guessed today would be our last chance. There were still classes going on and I quietly removed my weaving from the loom and hope I did not disturb Austin’s class too much.(1) 
We were having another quiet night, I still had two more days of activity left  before the journey home began. 

(1) Austin is a great photographer and I have attended one of his workshops in Wool Week. Well worth doing if you are are interested in taking photographs of your work or the landscape. You can see more of his work at http://www.austintaylorphotography.com/

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 20: Advanced Taatit Rug Workshop

Fri 28 Sept 

Last year I took the Taat chat at the Bod with Carol Christiansen (1) and a Taatit Rug workshop with Kathy Coull and Father Christmas remembered  where I had put the Taatit book I purchased.(2) I really like looking at the book and rereading it and enjoyed finishing my sample at home. However, as I was finishing it I was wondering how the correct way of finishing this would be for a larger piece. So, when I saw that Kathy was running an advanced course this year I was keen to sign up. I was even more interested when I saw that a large Taatit Rug was entered for the National Exhibition for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers in Glasgow this summer. Unfortunately I did not get to see the exhibition so I couldn’t examine this piece in person. I thought the back looked rather different to my sample but perhaps that was due to the angle of display. 

I had some thoughts about design and what would be possible for me in terms of completing a much larger piece. I was keen to weave my own background this time. I thought a wall hanging would be more realistic that a bed cover, just in terms of getting it finished in my lifetime as I know I have other textile interests and it will never be my only project on the go - although I do find it addictive. I had also thought about a colour range and had a stimulus photo of a midsummer sunset at Westing beach which I took a few years ago. I had  also collected some  photos of architecture from elsewhere as well as I hoped I could make the rug  a contemporary look but to include traditional elements of symbolism as well. The other question for me is that I like the pile and the woven side equally so how could  I best display it to show both- or whether this was in fact possible. 

So I had lots I wanted to discuss with Kathy. I knew the workshop would be small as we were meeting in Kathy’s bijou space in the Lodberries. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was when due to unfortunate circumstances I would be the only one at the workshop. How good would that be? 
Needless to say I had a great time, I looked In detail at the large piece based on Fair Isle and it’s lighthouse that Kathy is completing, which took us into design and practical modifications of the pattern. We also discussed edgings etc and all the other questions I had from completing my sample piece last year. We worked through ways  of forming a circle that would appear as a circle and getting sloping lines to ‘work’ as planned. 
A sloping line sounded easy but still needed full concentration

Kathy  had woven me a large sample piece for the background from her own sheep on Fair Isle. Time went fast and even though there were only the two of us we still ran over! (3) 

I had arranged to meet M for lunch in the Dowry, our first lunch here. This (Thai soaked salmon and mini noodles) was very tasty. We then drove back down to Hoswick and today was the day I would finish weaving my sample  on the Warp Weighted Loom. I would delay taking it off the loom until tomorrow. 
Weaving on the loom just before it was cut off

Ruth Gough was finishing a class and it was good to catch up with her. The class took me back several years (15 or so) when we lived in Cheshire and I did several spinning classes  with Ruth and know that my spinning is so ‘scientific’ due to her methods. (4) 
Anne Eunson who was also finishing a class so there was another opportunity for a catch up. I was not going out tonight so could spare the time to look at the delightful weaving of some of the college students that was being displayed in the upper room of the workspace at Hoswick . 
BA student’s weaving 

Then it was time to go back to base and collapse.
This is the Suffolk ram which has been in the field  through all weathers each time we have stayed at the campsite. 

Today marked the end of the 2018 Shetland Wool Week workshops for me and I already had a list of ones I am hoping to sign up for in 2019. 

1.  Carol Christiansen has been interviewed discussing  Taatit Rugs for a Fruity Knitting Podcast - number 66
2. I have written about Taatit rugs on posts of 2Jan2018 and 23July2018
3. Kathy Coull has a website at www.kathycoull.com 
4. I smiled recently when I watched a tutor teaching fancy spinning. I asked about how the tutor ensured that the yarn was balanced, only to be told that fancy spinning yarns could not be balanced. It is things like this that make me smile with gratitude that I was taught to spin by Ruth. Another recent nonsense (imo) is the need to ‘thwack’ some yarn after spinning. It is possible to be taught to spin yarn without the need for this if you have a teacher who really understands how spinning works. 

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 19: Walls, Bonhoga and Bressay

Thursday 26 Sept

This was an official rest day, but again with an evening event. We started the day by having a lovely drive to Walls, we couldn’t remember visiting there before. 
Walls from the Club car park 

There was a Wool Week event ‘Cafe, Knitwear, Fleeces, Sheep and Ponies’ in the Walls Regatta Club - for the Thursday and Friday. As always there was coffee and cake and  textile related stalls by some local folk and lots of fleece for sale.

Tea and cakes, with some of the knitwear in the background

I resisted the fleece (and this continued for the whole trip!) but did treat the grandchildren to notebooks covered in fabric from Jamieson’s mill. I chose for each to have a Viking on the front! 
We had not visited Bonhoga on this visit so decided to drive back there for lunch and enjoyed this very much. It is a lovely place to have a meal and cabinets with work on display in the cafe. Today much of this was weaving so that was great. 
We did have a rest in the afternoon and an early meal as I was meeting Alison at the Bressay ferry terminal and we were going over to meet Roisin McAtamney and look round her studio. She runs R.A.M knitwear (1) which is machine knit based. Both Alison and I machine knit and are proud of that. It was a blowy and wet evening so we were very pleased to be met at the ferry terminal. It would have been too far to walk to the schoolroom where Roisin is based. We had a great time, including a glass of wine, looking at and discussing her samples and resulting knitwear. 

The tie I bought for M

We were both really pleased to have visited Roisin, although both of us seemed exhausted already by the week and it’s great activities. 
M met me at the quay, we had supper and tumbled into bed. Tomorrow I would have nothing in the evening. What a great week this had turned into. 

1. Roisin, works at the Shetland College as the Textile Technician. She is responsible for programming and running the electronic knitting machines and finishing equipment for both students and local businesses that use these facilities. Her knitwear can be found at R.A.M Knitwear, and you can find out more about the wonderful things she knits on facebook. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 18: Fine Lace and other precious Shetland Textiles

Day 18 Wednesday 25 Sept 
Fine Lace and other precious Shetland Textiles.

This was going to be a great day, I was going to the Bod in the morning and the afternoon was the rescheduled visit to the Ollaberry Happening so a whole day of seeing the results of real expertise in knitting. 
This was the first time that Shetland Textile Museum had put on a ‘behind the scenes’ tour and handling of their exhibits. I was very excited to look more closely at the exhibits on show and to be able to see those not normally available.But, even before you enter the Bod now there is a knitters treat, the wonderful lace knitted ‘fencing’ by Anne Eunson. This was completed using ‘curtain pole’ knitting needles in twine. 

This session at the Bod did not disappoint at all, it was a wonderful experience with a very interested and appreciative audience. The staff had arranged for each of the exhibits to have their acquisition paper. 

A small section of one of the forms. 
Knowing the story made it all even more interesting. We were supplied with white cotton gloves and after a short introductory talk were able to explore the items that particularly appealed to us. I initially concentrated on the  lace and then moved onto the fair isle and then weaving. I was pleased that I had judged things well and we were given a time to return to an upstairs room where we had coffee and scones. It was a session that suited my interests well and I would do it again given a chance as there is always more to see the more you look.

There was an added bonus for me. I asked about ends for double pointed needles and was shown this: 

This was  beautiful and made from light maple wood  by Britta’s husband. 
They were just what I was looking for, so a swift purchase was made and this added some funds to the Textile Museum too.  I understand they have been a popular item during the summer. When I examined them they were similar to some vintage ones I had inherited from Michael’s mother but hers were made from metal. 

We had booked lunch at Hay’s Dock so M met me and we got there without delay  so that we could drive up to Ollaberry as soon as possible.
The journey to Ollaberry goes through some lovely scenery. Even though this is my third trip there and always different items to see, wool related items to buy and of course the ‘tea’ to enjoy as well as catch up with local ladies that I chat to each wool week. This year there was a stunning knitted dress by Betsy Williamson. Betsy played down the obvious high skill level involved in making this, when I chatted to her. The attention to detail was superb  and it is a marvellous example of truly understanding knit, fabric and drape. It was great to chat to her (and I believe it was her sister) at some length and even more special to be given a section of the fine yarn she was spinning. I thought I could spin fine yarn but this looked beyond the thinness of my yarn. (1) It feels very special to have this piece of yarn. 

Mine is on the left and Betsy’s on the right. But Betsy produced this yarn whilst talking to onlookers, very different from being on one’s own and concentrating fully. 

A photo of Betsy spinning her fine yarn ....this was not taken by me but placed on the Shetland Wool Week fb page. 

Lovely to see this from an eleven year old.... I see the surname is ‘Williamson’! (2) 

The day was not over yet, it was back to Lerwick and time for a quick snack. Tonight I was going to the Anderson High School to join their knitting group. We sat in the library  which was a lovely space. Some brave youngsters turned up and it transpired were in Anne Eunson’s Peerie Knitting group. They were virtually all using a knitting belt and very determined with their knitting. Some have their work on display in a cabinet in the Museum Foyer  at Hay’s Dock. Just seeing the Peerie Knitters was worth turning out for on a chilly night, besides the other chat and knitting. 

Another textile filled day today, tomorrow would be more leisurely - I hoped. 

1. The finest yarn I have achieved and measured gives 29.57 m to the g and I have measured the diameter of this as well as I can with a micrometer scale on a microscope, it is 0.05mm. I have yet to measure Betsy’s with the same slide. Jamieson and Smith Supreme 1 ply is 16 metres per g. The winning yarn for the Longest Thread competition in Tasmania in 2017  for plyed  yarn was 96.67 m per g and the UK entry  was 74.40 m per g. For this competition there are lots of categories. The nearest is 2 ply yarn made on a spinning wheel. The finished thread must weigh at least 10 g. 
I clearly have some way to go with my fine spinning! 

2. I am very sensitive about the work a knitter/ weaver etc puts into their made item. Often these are on show but not for sale. I would not like anyone to be taken advantage of. You may wonder why I have not included photos of everything I saw. I hope this explains it. 

Friday, 16 November 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 17: Weaving and Spinning

Day 17 Tuesday 24 Sept 

I was very keen to get going this morning as I had spotted a slot when I could add to my warp weighted loom weaving. But first of all we were off to Mackenzie’s for a second breakfast. We instantly recognised the lady from Iowa who came in. We sat next to her at the lecture the previous night. She keeps Shetland sheep and does some natural dyeing.  It is great to chat to so many lovely people from around the world who are so interested in wool. Then It was on to Hoswick. Hadewych was running a class in the room but fortunately was happy for Susan and I to weave. It was sheer chance that Susan and I turned up at the same time, but we soon got into the rhythm of moving the heddle bar that we established yesterday. We made progress and I set up a simple ‘temple substitute’ to help keep the cloth of a consistent width.  

All too soon it was time to head North as I had a workshop with Elizabeth Johnston on Spinning for Lace- Carding vs Combing. Although Elizabeth initially taught  me to spin with a drop spindle nearly 20 years ago, this was the first wheel class  I had attended with her. It was an excellent class beginning with Elizabeth talking us through selecting and sorting a fleece, then us combing and carding the fleece and spinning to produce both woollen  and worsted yarn suitable for lace. There  was some history included too. I am quite an experienced spinner and mainly concentrate on fine lace spinning but I had lots of ‘ah ha’ moments as I realised how I could make further improvements and variations to my spinning. Another excellent class. (If you look at this short video from Promote Shetland on Wool Week 18 you will see me with Sarah during this class briefly towards the beginning,  I am wearing the meadowsweet jumper.) 

As often happens we called at the Museum, I love how the back of each loo door has a poem. This seemed apt for someone with increasingly elderly eyes: 

But the day was not over. I had plans to go to Isleburgh in the evening as it was the opportunity to knit and spin with the group that meets there regularly on a Tuesday.  In all my visits to wool week I had not managed to get to this. I had suggested that I take my Joy spinning wheel  so that  Averil would be able to try it out. 

I had carded some fleece to use with the wheel and had the rolags in a bag on top of my other stuff so they didn’t get squashed. It was a very windy evening and as we walked up the slope to enter the building, there was an almighty gust that got into the bag and 5 rolags took to the air and were then raining down on us. Fortunately Leslie and Janet from ‘across the pond’ who we meet and chat to each year were very quick thinking. They were walking towards us with friends and managed to catch 4 of them by hand and foot. It was just so funny, the 5th could not be located and I just wonder where it ended up. It was a lovely evening, very well organised and clearly the group were expecting lots of people. We sat in facing rows so we could all fit in and  went at different times for the super  ‘tea’ that was put on. Averil got on well with spinning and plying, Sarah (a friend from Staffordshire who runs ‘didyoumakeityourself.com’) and I chatted and I did more carding. I hope to be able to fit in this lovely social wool related event again. This  was my 4th evening event in a row and I was planning another on Wednesday. 

The wind was very strong all  evening and by the time we left it was a gale. It was another night where we adjusted the direction of the van (this only happens in severe wind). In weather terms this was turning out to be a wool week like no other. The wind was very noisy but not unsurprisingly I went to sleep without much trouble! 

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Shetland Wool Week: Day 16: Glass and Knitting

Monday 23 Sept  Glass and Knitting 
Initially the plan for today was to have a restful day taking in looking round the Museum at the special exhibitions and then to attend Elizabeth’s evening talk in the Shetland Museum’s lecture theatre. 

However, travelling on the way up I noticed that Cheryl of Glansin Glass was going to do a couple of workshops in turning Fair Isle designs into glass coasters on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning in Lerwick. This was too good to miss and so I booked up for the Monday afternoon class and was really looking forward to it. 

We stopped off at the wonderful Mackenzie’s Farm shop for the first bacon bap of the stay. After that we drove to the museum and first of all I looked at the main exhibition space for the textile items. However many times I look at this there is still something that takes my eye. This time I was particularly taken by how the brims were executed on the the hats designed by Theodora Coutts. 

We enjoyed a coffee and scone in Hay’s  Dock Restaurant  and had hoped to eat dinner there in the evening. However we were told that unlike previous years the restaurant would only be open for dinner at the end of the week. This seemed rather odd as it was usually nicely full with Wool Week lectures on throughout the week. (1) 

I then looked at the Spinning a Yarn: Simone Landwehr-Traxler exhibits in the Museum Foyer Corridor  which were produced in response  to a visit to Shetland in 2016 to study Fair Isle patterns. It was very difficult to get any good photos, the one below shows the transparency of the piece but the circle is showing fair isle patterning. The pieces were very large and I would have liked to have found out more background to them. 

Unfortunately phase 2 of the Nottingham-Shetland  Knitted Lace Research Project was not yet available for exhibition. This was disappointing as we had seen Phase 1 during a previous wool week but hopefully it will be on show in 2019. 

It was time for lunch and then I needed to find the Lerwick Boat Club as this is where the glass workshop was taking place. After asking a couple of local people I spotted Cheryl’s face at the door to the venue. The workshop room was a great space with wonderful views over the sound to Bressay. 

Cheryl was well prepared and described our options. She had brought several Fair Isle patterns with her and also some blank squared paper for us to use in our designs. I had begun to map out some of the patterns of my ground elder cardigan as I was hoping to make a ‘blues’ based version for a small wall plaque.

Making my  Fair Isle glass panel 

 It was great fun and demanded one’s full attention. I had time to do a small square one too with a favourite Shetland tree design, I did this in greens, but with some red added for contrast. 
Cheryl was going to take these back to Unst to be placed in the kiln after we had chosen a white or clear backing and added the hanging wires if we wished. They would be brought back down to be picked up from a shop in Lerwick  later in the week. 
This was something completely different but very enjoyable and I would do the class again. 
Completed glass panels

There was now a swift turn round as we were booked into The String for dinner and would then return to the Museum so that both of us could attend Elizabeth’s talk ‘Shetland and Fair Isle Patterns, Differences and Connections’. 
Michael wore his new fair isle jumper for today. As previously he received compliments and has been photographed in it. I plan to do a post just about this later, it involved my first use of a jumper board. 

As one would expect the lecture theatre was full and to me this was one of the best Patron’s lectures. We heard about Elizabeth’s Shetland knitting life but also about her spinning, dyeing and weaving. This included some of her past research, her analysis and about some of her current interests. To me it was a ‘full’ talk and was very thought provoking. 

Another brilliant day. 

(1) Hay’s Dock Restaurant ceased trading at the beginning of November 2018. This is a great pity as it it was a wonderful venue and we have enjoyed many meals there. A number of new restaurants have opened in the town and this is thought to have affected their trade. Sad News.  

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Shetland Wool Week 2018: Day 15: The warp weighted loom

Day 15 Sunday 22 Sept

I had been looking forward to this workshop for months. It was my first choice when I got the brochure in May and when I was booked on one of the 6 places I was over the moon. Now the day had finally arrived. The workshop was with Elizabeth Johnston and taking place at Hoswick. 3 of the participants were from abroad and 3 more local ....one from Shetland, one from Kent and myself. I had been to The Warp  Weighted Loom talk that Elizabeth gave last year with Hildur and Marta and read quite a bit of the book and so was keen to now have a go. (1) 
Michael was going on Chris Dyer’s Tour of his Croft on Bressay so he dropped me early and then drove up to ferry. 
We had a chat from Elizabeth to start and were able to examine her lovely fabrics woven on these looms...4 shaft equivalent is possible! 
There were 3 different looms to the same plan and we were to work two to a loom. 
After the chat we began making an individual warp to work on. This, of itself was interesting, as the Vikings as you might imagine used the loom itself as a warping frame. (I have a Kromski rigid Heddle and one of the things I really like about that is that the back flips over to provide a warping frame when needed). The other real plus for me was that a cross was essential.(2) We also learnt that a tablet woven band provided a good start. I couldn’t ‘see’ the advantage of this initially but the ‘cleverness’ of it became evident later. I have done one workshop on tablet weaving and decided it was not for me. Perhaps I needed to change my mind about this. 

Elizabeth had worked out a good ‘warps per inch’ for us, something realistic in width to allow some weaving on the day but wide enough to get a good sample. We used some of her hand spun yarn.  Calculating the length involved more maths and finally each of us used our loom in turn made a warp, secured the cross and hung the warp on the loom. It was all very exciting and ‘clever’ how it worked. Next we selected stones to tie onto the warp and chained the threads to keep them in place. It was all looking good. 

My stones

Making and attaching the heddles came next and despite one to one tuition, diagrams and  demonstration we all admitted later that this was ‘challenging’ but so important to the functioning of the loom. 

2 warps on the loom

Fortunately during all this we had tea and coffee and cakes whenever we ‘made time’ and a superb lunch which was included. 
Time was ticking on and I was wondering if I would weave anything by the end of the class. Next we were taught how to wind the weft for efficient and easy use and so weaving happened. It was a moment of great joy having spent a day of full concentration to get  this far.  The looms were being left set up and we could go in and weave in our  free time(?!) during the week. 
I chose to weave using my naturally dyed quince yarn which I had dyed to form an edging for the little shawl  that Elizabeth had designed for the Wool  Week annual 2017 and which I knitted and loved.  It seemed appropriate. 
Beginning weaving

As I wove during the week other challenges arose,  the edges started pulling in. However, we had been shown  how to solve this simply with three modern use of a temple. 
It was a wonderful workshop to start the week with and provided far more than I hoped for... and I had hoped for a lot. 

I am going to pursue Warp Weighted Loom Weaving. The first thing is to read the book again, now I have had this practical experience it means so much more. ‘Wow’ is the word to describe the day. 

I am aware that several friends want to know how to do this too. I am also aware of the words of a Professor of Education..... ‘ never try and teach anything until you know 10 times more than you will teach’. This is very wise advice which I aim to follow. (3) I have managed plain weave, the thoughts of 3 and 4 shaft are for the future. 

Another realisation came to all the workshop participants - the Viking women were very intelligent indeed. (4)  

Michael had had a great trip to Bressay too and got some stunning photos. (I kept forgetting to take photos). His report of his trip: 
We had first met Chris Dyer when we called in at Old Scatness to see the Broch and Iron Age Village on our first trip to Shetland this year in June and I was keen to see his croft. (One of his other jobs is to be an archeologist and look after the site there at times)  A party of about 12 of us picked up the minibus at the Bressay terminal for the ferry and drove down to the croft.    We arrived and after an introduction by Chris went to see his sheep, the stars of the show.  They came rushing over at the sight and sound of food being rattled in a bucket.  Feeding them was what they wanted though several were very interested in anything you might have in your pocket.  Chris and his wife breed Shetland sheep specifically for the colour of the fleece so he can sell many of them locally to spinners.  We also met his pigs, turkeys and had a tour of his polytunnel to warm us up and let us hear about the dry stone walls he is building to shelter some of his crops.  All in all it was a very interesting and informative trip and one can't but envy him for the wonderful place in which he lives with the view over to Lerwick.
Some of Chris’ sheep

However the day was not over. It was Sunday and the evening of the opening ceremony. We drove to the new High School car park where we made a light supper and then into the school. As retired teachers we were impressed by the design, a feeling of openness and space  but would have loved to have seen in the labs! 
We were a little concerned that there would not be much seating for the ceremony but there seemed ample and the speeches were reduced in length. Elizabeth (as the Patron) had a short and very memorable speech about the way  the weather inspires Shetland Textile Folk....and all who experience it I think!(5) Afterwards there was a drink and mingle session, where we met past wool week friends and then there was the group photo of the Mirrie Dancers hats done in hundreds of variations...quite a sight.  
This photo was taken by the Shetland  Wool Week team 
If you go just to the front of centre and then look right you can probably find me in a pink and black jacket and M in a red fair isle jumper.

1. See blog post of 16Jan 18 for a description of this. The book is: The Warp Weighted Loom by Hildur Hákonardóttir, Elizabeth Johnston and Mart Kløve Juuhl 

2. I am not a believer in any warping method that involves a single peg, as my scientific background tells me that is not going to help the tension of the warp. The warp threads made this way are not going to be all the same length and you have given yourself a disadvantage before you start. 

3. It always brings a smile to my face when I occasionally notice, for example, a non dyer  who from attending a single natural dyeing workshop is suddenly a natural dyer teaching workshops and selling dyed yarn. To me there is no surprise that in the past the apprenticeship for any of these disciplines was many years. (I could substitute other textile disciplines here eg spinning, weaving, sewing, etc. ) 

4. Making and using the heddles was just one such example. The knowledge and skill would have been passed on down the generations. To me there are parallels with attending classes on knitting with Shetland knitters, one is so fortunate to be able to benefit from the knitting expertise passed on through their families. 

5. If you would like to hear this then go to Fruity Knitting Podcast number 63 where you can hear (and see) this and much more about Wool Week. 

Monday, 5 November 2018

Shetland Wool Week 2018: Day 14: The start of wool week

Sat 21 Sept 

The severe wind had died down in the night and we had slept well.
The plan had been to get the 9.45 Ferry from Unst, go to Frankie's Fish and Chip shop in Brae for lunch, then on to Ollaberry for the opening day of their ‘
happening’. We would then have a light supper and on to Terri Laura’s Creative Crew fb Group who were going to meet up in Teamore. Finally we would go down to Cunningsburgh where we would spend the rest of the time in Shetland. 

However, we realised that this seemed a bit like a recipe for disaster as I had a full day workshop booked for the next day. So we rescheduled Ollaberry for later in the week and this would allow me to stop at the Hub and pick up this year’s annual.

It was still quite breezy but a lovely  bright day.

A view from the ferry from Unst to Yell, just after the first ‘sea wash’ of the van on the crossing

I was glad we had gone for a less eventful journey as I was feeling like I might get a bad migraine, so I tried my first line of defence which is eating more and have found that if that ‘more’ is cake it helps a lot so we made coffee at Gutcher. 

After arriving at Toft we took the west road with the good views of Sullum  Voe to Brae where the famous Frankie’s is.(1) As always the fish and chips did not disappoint and we wondered if we could fit in another visit later in the week when we were going on to Ollaberry. This journey takes me back to my science text book writing days in the early 1990’s. I always tried to site the science in context and decided the part of GCSE concerned with oil had to be linked to Shetland. I must have had Shetland knitting  ‘in my blood’ even then as I included  a full page about life in Shetland including an image of a spinner! 
Part of the page! 

The next stop was Hay’s Dock and the Hub. The Hub  was very busy and I wondered just how many people might be coming to Wool Week. It was  great to catch up with Avril,  who we had met on the ferry up from Aberdeen. She told me, with some excitement, she was now officially a ‘spinner’ having had classes during the proceeding  week. I collected the annual and it looks another superb publication. It is great to see the work of a young designer Alyssa Malcolmson on the cover.

Then down to the  campsite where we would be based for 11 nights and a quick snack before going to find a parking spot near Teamore and to meet up with Terri Laura who I chatted to at her Gran’s in the summer. Also it would be good to meet others whom I only recognised names of and possibly their knitting! It was a lovely evening, a great start to Wool Week and a lovely idea of Terri’s. Also why can’t all bus station cafes be like this one, Teamore would certainly win on ambience and friendly staff if there was a competition. No other cafe at a bus station I know comes anywhere near this one. 

Thanks to Terri for taking this image, which gives you the idea of what it was like, I am in pink on the right.

1. Frankie’s win National awards for their fish and chips. There is a small sit in restaurant but they do a well insulated take away version too. Lots of choice. Deserves the praise.
You can phone up and order a time when you will collect your meal. 
2. Alyssa is one of the young talented designers in Shetland. She is now 17 and started going to the ‘Makkin’ an’ Yaakin’ group at the school in Lerwick. She is now studying mechanical engineering at college in Shetland. She has a Ravelry and Instagram presence if you wish to look up more of her designs. she is Wilma Malcolmson’s niece.