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