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. http://www.nielanell.com/
(2) More  about the spindle here http://imagejem.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/spindle
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. 

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Shetland Wool Week 13 : Taatit Rugs : Mon 25 Sept

I had been looking forward to finding out more about Taatit Rugs for at least a year and hadn’t been able to fit it in with my other classes, so before booking began I decided that this year it would be a priority. The problem is when I see the programme I have too many priorities, but I stuck to my aims and so today I had booked the talk on Taatit Rugs in the morning and a workshop on making them in the afternoon. 

However, first I was going to try and get the elusive DVD : Shetland Knitting Tips and Tricks by Hazel Tindall and Elizabeth Johnston. We had parked at the Quay by 9.20 and I headed to the Shetland Times Bookshop.(1) They HAD a copy so I immediately picked that up and then, as always, looked at the shelves and wondered what else I ‘needed’. I spotted a useful looking weaving book (2) and  suggested to Michael that this would be a useful Christmas present, left him to pay and thought I still had time to pop into Jamieson’s before going to the Bod, where the talk was to be. 

However, as always I got chatting in the street to a lady who commented on my hat - my version of the Bousta Beanie. (I made it much smaller, knitted the main part of it on the knitting machine and used some of my Ground Elder dyed yarns left over from the cardigan.) Needless  to say this led to a conversation about natural dyeing. 
 My Bousta Beanie (3)

The lady was from Yugoslavia but had lived in this country, near Oxford, for the last 26 years. She said when talking to me that she was suddenly reminded of Yugoslavia when she was young and was surrounded by this sort of thing. She had come to Shetland with her husband as they just wanted to come. She had no idea that Wool Week was on. She thought she might have an even better few days here than she had thought and was pleased that they had not yet booked the return ferry. I walked with her to Tourist information and sent her in with some words on a scrap of paper - including Unst, Bod, Shetland Museum. I just managed to pop into Jamieson’s but more time was needed there.

Michael took me to the Bod and as the weather was not the best said he would pick me up so that we could get to Hay’s Dock for our booked lunch without a rush.... he knows I usually get chatting after a class. I had a two hour gap between Taatit Rug activities. 

Taat Chat at Da Bod - Carol Christiansen
A Taatit Rug is a Shetland Pile Bedcover. The bedcover is woven and thick threads (taats) are then added to this. The rug is made in wool and any colours, not from the natural colours of fleece, are due to natural dyes. Carol (Curator and Community Museums Officer at the Museum and Archives) carried out an extensive study of those available in Shetland, and their stories wherever possible. This was mainly due to a grant from the Esme Fairbairn  Collection Fund in 2013. It was lovely to hear Carol talk about the construction of the rugs, the symbolism in their design and the place of these in Shetland Heritage from the late 1700s. She brought examples with her from the museum  collection and we were able to examine how they were made and get some idea of how important they were. Needless to say the talk was too short for me,  for I could have examined each rug for much longer. Fortunately I was going to make a mini one in the afternoon and there is a wonderful book with more detail which also includes a comprehensive catalogue of the 87 in the Museum Collection. If  you ever get a chance to hear this ‘chat’ I would recommend it and also the book. (4)

So I was late to leave and we were glad we had booked lunch, otherwise we would have been unlucky. We both had fish and chips and that was delicious. I did manage a quick walk round the Hub which this year again was held in the  Museum. There was a brilliant photography  exhibition of some of those connected with wool in the Hub room. It was lovely to realise  that I knew the majority of the people that had been photographed. 

Making a mini Taatit Rug - Kathy Coull 
I then walked along to the Lodberries (which will mean something if you are a Jimmy Perrez fan) and was the last of the 4 to arrive at Kathy Coull’s small but beautiful Studio where we were doing the workshop. Kathy had been at the talk in the morning so she knew exactly what we had been told and so did not repeat this. However, she was more than willing to answer our questions that had arisen over lunch. Kathy lives mainly on Fair Isle where she runs a  B and B and courses, eg in spinning. She also has this workshop space in Lerwick. Again we had a package prepared for the workshop- of possible designs to use and also a square to do a sample on (which we would return) and an approx 12” square of ‘Grund’ for the base fabric for the rug. A suitable tapestry type needle was included and as much yarn as we needed in a choice of colours. The ‘grund’ had been a serious investment of Kathy’s time. The yarn was from her own Fair Isle Sheep, which I believe she has mill spun, then she had woven the square as they would have been woven traditionally. I hoped to do the grund justice by my insertion of the taats. This insertion is done entirely with a needle, no hook of any kind is involved. It took a bit to get my head round the insertion of the taats- this of course was what the small trial piece was for. It is a labour intensive process- especially when you think of the total process that was involved traditionally starting with fleece. 
This is an image of the group. Kathy is working on a Taatit Rug on the right middle of the photo. On the wall in front of her you can see one of her contemporary Taatit pieces as a wall hanging. 

Whilst some of the group did their own creative weaving, I decided to work to one of the patterns. I hoped to be able to translate from pattern to Taatit  Rug. I know in future this is how I work ie from a pattern to the item, whereas it is possible to just gather the threads and go. It was a very nice workshop and I will definitely be continuing with this technique, including weaving my own grund. 

This shows the front and back of where I was up to at the end of the workshop. What another great day this had been. 

(1) The DVD - actually two DVDs (50 tips from Shetland Knitters) - are a superb set. I learnt things I didn’t even know that I didn’t know...and I have been knitting since before going to school. Highly recommended from this very experienced pair of knitters and designers who really understand knitting and have a wealth of experience in their genes. I am so enjoying my set. 
(2) The Book was ‘Next steps in weaving : Pattie Graver’  and it is a great book for me. I think I am going to discipline myself to work through it as the author suggests. 
(3) Personally  I preferred the Croft house and Shwook hats- I think because I like the extra detail in the crown and the profusion of colours. Next time I knit a wool week hat I will reflect on how I can adapt it to take my preferences into account. It is always so lovely to see hundreds of variations of the hat during the week.
(4) Taatit Rugs by Carol Christiansen : Shetland Heritage Publications