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. 

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