Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Shetland Wool Week 19: 9, The Heritage Centre

Fri Sept  27 Day 12 

This day is always a bittersweet day for me. The ‘bitter’  bit being that this is our last full day in Unst for the year and the ‘sweet’ bit being it is the ‘Have a go day’ at the Heritage Centre. This is when at least one of the knitting and spinning group will be there with an additional display of items and encouraging visitors to have a go with a spinning wheel and with a knitting belt. 

We were up early, it was unnervingly calm and still, so unlike yesterday. We were at the Health Centre for 9.00 for the latest INR test for M. I opted to not go into the Health Centre. It was what I would call and an atmospheric day and I wanted to explore a bit with the camera. 

M was back quickly, the news being he needed to phone our home surgery to have his medication confirmed and to book another test when we were back on Shetland mainland next week! He got through to the surgery and we now need to phone later to get the dosage! He decided he would take the binoculars into the garden at the back of the Health  Centre and was delighted to see a Red-breasted Flycatcher. We drove to Baltasound and I decided to have a wool session whilst he walked to Haligarth Wood from there. We were booked into a window seat for 12.00 at Victoria’s Tea Room and were back there in good time. Although the table was reserved,with a big sign on it, it took some negotiating from the staff for the couple to move! 

Wool week attendees were obviously arriving on mainland and the adventurous had travelled up to Unst - the wool week hat is a wonderful introduction to a conversation. There was a group over from America and they were planning to go to the Heritage  Centre to take in the ‘Have a go session’ too. 

Once I got there, it was great to see a Hazel  Laurenson (1) was going to organise the session for the afternoon. She was happy that I had my wheel with me to spin as well and it was great to see Kate, from East Anglia, who was back with her wheel too. 

Hazel produced books, her file of recent lace knitting samples and other examples of what she (and possibly others) had been knitting recently. 

Before we started I took the opportunity to go into the room where the majority of the historical lace knitting is on display. I was particularly interested in the mitre of any shawls on display. It was the mitres that I was homing in on this year.(2) I showed my embarrassing little sample to Hazel and was keen to get her expertise on ‘mitres’, having tried different versions of the ‘knitting on’ type in my sample. It was a useful discussion, although in Unst the traditional shawls  they knitted avoided a mitre completely. I had avoided the mitre in my cobweb shawl mentioned in the previous post. 

It was a great afternoon, spinning and chatting. One of the American ladies, Inga, who actually lives in London, had a tiny nano wheel (3)  in her bag and it was great to see this in operation. What was even more surprising was that she had got some extra bits and refinements for the wheel from a spinning friend from back home  in Norfolk. Wool, spinning and knitting are international and it is joyous to have such friendships. 

A general view of the room where we did the dyeing a couple of days ago

The afternoon ended all too soon and 16.00 saw M there ready to pick me up and for us to return to base for our last night. 

We had treated ourselves to a Lasagne meal from the Final Checkout, made in Scalloway. It was excellent, full of meat and much better than ‘bought’ meals back home. 

There was good news to end the week, the Youth Hostel had won one of the Community Grants for £500 so could have new flooring in the conservatory and I hoped I played some small part in this happening.  New people had arrived at the Hostel for bird watching and it seems that the following week there were to be to even more arriving which is all good for keeping the hostel going. 

Fortunately there would be very little packing up, one of the big advantages of the camper van. We were booked on the 9.45 ferry in the morning. Kate, the friend from back home, was going via Ollaberry so we would catch up on things once we both arrived at the campsite (for the next week plus) on Saturday evening. I had plans for shopping in Lerwick on the way through. 

  1. Hazel Laurenson is, IMO, a real expert in Unst Lace. I was very fortunate to have an all day class with 3 others, with her in my first Shetland Wool Week in 2014. She has the ability, that I have yet to gain, of being able to look at a lace motif and translate it into knitting and to design an overall item with a very balanced set of motifs. She has translated patterns from the collection found in a case, in Unst, some years ago. Some of these are in the booklet ‘Recreating Vintage Shetland Lace’ and others are in separate patterns. These are available to buy from the Heritage Centre and contribute to funds to keep it going. 
  2. Previous posts in this Shetland Wool Week 19 series have included my attempts at getting a knit on mitre that I am happy with in a small sample hap. 
  3. This nano electric wheel is called ‘the electric wheel nano’ and is by Maurice Ribble. It was initially funded by a Kickstarter campaign and as I write this is between $80-$110. Postage and customs duty to the UK needs adding. There is a FB page devoted to this with over 4,000 members. 

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Shetland Wool Week 19: 8, wind, lace knitting and birds

Thurs Sept 26 Day 11

A windy day had been forecast and it was windy in the night but we had experienced much worse during earlier stays. The good news was that high tide was at 9.00 this morning and not during the night. We do worry about a High Tide when there are high winds as we are very close to the beach. I did give a thought to those on the ferry last night, as I know several ‘wool weekers’ do come over a few days early. We know there had been lots of rain in Scotland and further south and thought we were on the edge of the bad storm that was the heavy and persistent rain on the mainland. It was very mild for the time of year and we thought we would probably rest here and in the hostel for much of  today. I had spinning and many photos that were still in the camera. I like to have them in at least two places as an insurance. When it was light M drove the van up behind the hostel, the rain started and it was likely the wind would get up to 54 mph during the day (1) 

However, we did need to get out as M had to make another appointment for an INR test at the Health Centre, this was made for tomorrow at 9.30. We decided it was definitely a day for a bacon bap at The Final Checkout (2). I thought I recognised the man sitting there drinking a hot drink, and I quickly realised it was Michael who, with his wife Dot, lives at the Zero Carbon House which they run as a B and B. Dot was part of the dyeing group at the Heritage a Centre last year and kindly asked us round for tea. (3). We chatted for quite a time and then left to go to the Viking Longhouse as I was determined to take some photos of the shawl(4).  I had knitted it many years ago and there was also the Dunella scarf that I had completed earlier in the year. It was going to be dark in there but not wet and hopefully not windy. In fact it was windy, but I had taken pegs and string and would be using the tripod so could use a long exposure if I could keep the lace knitting still. One or two visitors turned up as I was doing this and clearly thought I was crazy. 

These are a couple of my shots. 


I had spent a long time on the Dunella Shawl and got thoroughly frozen. I really need to take the bigger shawl back next year and spend quality photography time on this to get a sharper image. 

It had been very cold in there so then needed coffee, we made a quick visit  to Victoria’s and met a Swedish lady who was over early for wool week.

The it was onto Norwick, as we were so close and we made an early lunch of soup. 

It was great to look at the Turnstones, turning over the masses of seaweed that had been brought in. They are very well camouflaged. 

The Unst  Partnership shop was open from 14.00-16.00 and it would be good to look round a local ‘secondhand shop’. This proved a great place for me. I bought some dpns, some machine knitting cones of yarn (but not all) and some machine knitting patterns that were definitely in the category of vintage and I had never seen any like them before. M got some novels and we decided we would go back to the hostel and warm up and have our afternoon tea there. Yes, this was a day of sitting and relaxing and having drinks and cake. The Swedish lady, Helen, was staying at the hostel for the night and as I chatted to her, as she was here for wool week, I was very envious. She had done 5 day courses in Sweden last year, one on designing and Knitting a yoke for a jumper (that I think was taught by Hazel Tindall) and the second was learning to use 5 spindles for spinning in 5 days. We realised we were both doing Elizabeth Johnson’s ‘Spinning for Fair Isle’ workshop. 

After dinner we moved the van down by the sea, it was getting much windier and was wet, M sloped the van into the wind. 

So now I could semi organise my photos from the week. 

M has written the following about his ‘birding’ when we are in Shetland during this trip. There was little birdwatching today, other than of the gannets plummeting into the rough sea at Norwick. 

From Michael 

People often ask me when on Shetland what do I do while Janet is taking part in  Wool Week.  Well I do have an interest though I have never even learnt to knit.  My Father, like my Grandfather before him worked as a tackler (5) in a Cotton Mill near Wigan in Lancashire.  My Dad in fact was more interested in the engineering side and went to night school in Bolton to get his qualifications.  The mills were closing down and he managed to get a job in Manchester as a journalist on a specialist magazine before being taken on by the Civil Service to work for the Cotton Control during the 2nd World War.  He then became the editor of a magazine for the Textile Industry (The Textile Recorder) until he retired.  I remember as a Chemistry student he would recruit me to read some of the articles on Dyeing  to make sure the Chemistry was correct!

However what I really come to Shetland for are the birds.  I am not an expert or a very experienced birdwatcher but it does give me a chance to see birds that I would not normally encounter.   We always spend our first week on Unst, during which I will go to Norwick or Skaw, my two favourite places, as often as possible while making sure I check out some of the other good spots for example I always visit Halligarth Wood to see what might be there.  This year we were lucky to find the American Golden Plover right by the Uyeasound turn off the main road.  I found a red breasted flycatcher in the Health Centre garden, saw a redstart at Valyie and also at  Skaw as well as a Whinchat and another flycatcher.  I also picked up another bird I have not seen before in the Geo on the other side of the headland to Norwick, an Iceland Gull.  Going back to Valyie later in the week I had my best ever view of a yellow browed warbler.  There is often not much more that a glimpse of one in a bush but this one came out and let me watch it at close quarters for about ten minutes while it moved around feeding.   It is experiences like this when I find a bird by myself and can observe it properly that bring me back to birding again and again.  On getting back to Mainland I heard about a Bee-eater  at Ollaberry.  After dropping Janet at Hoswick for a class I headed North and found the Bee-eater happily using the gardens there to catch insects.  There I  joined about 20 birdwatchers and was able to watch the bird for 30 + minutes.  As I drove a 90 mile round trip to see this bird I am told I was behaving like a twitcher, not really my normal style!


Back to Janet......

 ...and so to bed 

I was glad our bed was at the back of the van. The wind calmed down considerably about midnight but it was another night I would not have wanted to be crossing from Aberdeen. 

  1. I have the Unst app on my iPad and we have found this accurate for the imminent weather. 
  2. Victoria’s tea room does not open until 11.00, and the bacon bap at The Final Checkout is very good. 
  3. Post of 4 Nov 18 gives details of this.
  4. This was my first fine hand-spun (88wpi) it is Shetland fleece with some Crookabeck Angora from the side of Ullswater in the Lake  District  added to give lustre. It was knitted in 2003/04.(I first started spinning after a trip to Shetland in 2000). The yarn is 2ply. The shawl weighs 88g, size 100cm x 50cm) and goes through a wedding ring. I combined motifs from Sharon Miller’s first Heirloom Knitting book (pub.02) and knitted this, in the Unst traditional way. It is not very fine compared to my spinning now! 
  5. A tackler was someone who could tackle anything.  When the looms broke down, as they often did, it was his job to get them going again.  With the weavers on piece work it was important to be able to get each loom back working as quickly as possible.

Sunday, 8 December 2019

Shetland Wool Week 19: 7, Birds, photography and natural dyeing

Wed 25 Sept: Day 10

Today started with a visit to the Health Centre where M had an appointment for his INR test at Baltasound. It was a glorious sunrise. (The square building on the right is the ruined Greenwell’s Bod, see post 27 May 18 for links to the Hanseatic League in Unst and Norfolk and more about it) 

The blood test indicated his INR  level was not within his given range. This had two immediate implications - the need to ring the surgery at home for them to adjust his medication and also we needed to book another appointment in a few days. The phone call was made and we needed to make another after 16.00 to be given the medication dosage. Fortunately M had a new mobile phone which made this relatively straightforward. The mobile signal was good, the most frustrating thing was trying to get through to our home surgery which is always very busy and can take around half an hour! 

Today we decided we needed  a second breakfast at The Final Checkout. We met a couple in a large rented motorhome, who were also not aware of Wool Week. They had flown up from London  and were enjoying a few days away from it all. They were becoming increasingly concerned about the weather forecast for Thursday and were deciding to drive back to Mainland today to be sure they got back for their flight home on Friday. It seems 50mph winds are forecast for Shetland and there was torrential rain in the north  west of England and Scotland. (It seems from contact with family at home East Anglia was pretty wet too!) The bacon bap was great, but soya cappuccino was not available so I collected lactofree  milk from the van and had a different sort of coffee for a change. 

Today we were driving along the road  to Skaw, the most northerly beach in Unst. We stopped along the way and M walked along the road to Lamba Ness to look for a Short-toed Lark. It had temporarily moved on somewhere and could not be found. I played with my graduated filter taking photos of the breathtaking scenery. It was a great day to be out in this wild place. 

We then drove onto Skaw and walked on the beach, where again I took more photos, this time of seaweed. This beach is great for getting a variety of seaweed. We had another good beach view for lunch and as a bonus we saw a Redstart and Winchat as we sat eating. 

M went on a walk round the headland and saw more birds (he’ll write about this in a day or so) and I stayed in the van checking I had everything ready for the evening. 

That evening  I was running an indigo dyeing workshop for the Knitting and Spinning ladies at the Heritage Centre. Last year we had dyed with madder and this year  it would be more hands on, with everyone able to have their own indigo vat. I had all my fingers crossed as clearly I could not bring all the dyeing equipment with me. Normally I would have varying with me if I was running a workshop at home. We had been in correspondence before the trip and we were all looking forward to the session. M had weighed out the ingredients, we had a couple of hours and I hoped everyone there would get some strong blue and also feel confident  to repeat the dyeing at home on their own. 

The mixed yarns and fibres I had dyed whilst trialling the method before travelling

We went back to the Hostel, cooked an early dinner then drove to the Heritage  Centre to prepare. The ladies were extremely well prepared and all had insulation for their dye baths sorted out as well as plenty of yarn and items to dye. I demonstrated setting up the indigo dye bath and  whilst waiting for this to be ready the ladies were able to get set up. 

All went very well indeed and the colours achieved were superb, I got so involved I forgot to take photos but this one sums it up. 

One of the ladies, Helen who lives in Yell, dyed a white linen top which she had  already tied up. She added this photo a few days later to her iG thread ( hart_of_shetland ) 

What a wonderful evening, I was paranoid about the clearing up as I knew on Friday the room would  be used to show fine lace and be the venue for the Knitting and Spinning ‘have a go’ session. Clearing up was a case of ‘many hands make light work’ ! 

It was a very rewarding evening for me and a delight to see everyone get great results. On the way back to the Hostel my head was already hatching embryonic plans for what we might do next year! 

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Shetland Wool Week 19: 6 More knitting, more birds

Tues Sept 24 Day 9

It was an unseasonably warm night and at 6.00 the van was showing it was 12 C outside. I was hoping this mildness indicated little or no wind and I could photograph my Dunella Shawl. My aim was to try and complete my practice piece mini hap. 

We had a leisurely start and planned to arrive in Haroldswick for 11.00 when Victoria’s Tea Rooms opens this time of year. We were there  ready and waiting. There was another couple and I assumed (wrongly) they were early wool weekers like us. However, they knew nothing about Wool Week and had arranged their own holiday. They were determined to get to Unst and caught the early bus and ferries up and had been dropped in Haroldswick and it was 5 hours before the next bus back. Once we got into  the teashop I managed to find an Unst leaflet and indicate some things they could do in the area. I think they were going to stretch their coffee out a bit as a start. 

I was pleased to be able to get soya cappuccino and the view was just as good as we remembered. We decided we would book lunch for Friday when I would definitely be back in the village as I would be spinning with the spinning and knitting ladies  at their  ‘Have a go with a wheel and knitting belt’ afternoon. 

Then it was on to the Heritage Centre and this time my guess that the lady who came in was a wool weeker was correct, in fact it was Jane of iG ‘Ithought I knew how’ and we had previously been in touch so I knew she was visiting Yell and Unst during the week before Wool Week. It was good to chat in person and not surprisingly we saw each other a few times during the week. 

Besides the usual exquisite lace knitting in the Museum section , the local ladies had mounted a display of patterns they (mainly Hazel Laurenson) had devised. These were for sale with examples of the actual knitting. These include a ‘new’ (as in not seen by me) little mat involving the knitting techniques of a bigger piece and another traditional Unst shawl/ scarf, this one being called the Norwick Shawl. I decided I would buy these. Mental note to self.....you need to get on knitting these or your eyes will give up before you make the set! 

I also bought some super cards showing the fine lace to send special people who I knew would really appreciate them. 

We both voted for lunch at Norwick beach again. I couldn’t think of anywhere else I would rather look at as I knitted after lunch and M was more than happy to use it as a base for birding after he had eaten. 

The knitting went well and all I was left with was grafting the middle border to wedge 1. The middle piece is worked from the inner edge of wedge 4 and wedge 2 and 3 are added as the centre is being knitted. This  just leaves  the

 inner edge of border 1 to be grafted to the stitches remaining from the centre border.  It has been a great learning piece and has helped to hone  my eye in as I look at other Shawls.  However as a way of completing a shawl I am not convinced it is for me, I had failed despite counting everything I thought  to get the joins of the wedges at the corners of the centre. Also there are too many opportunities  for loose stitches this way and I noticed the ‘square’ in the middle is rectangular. (More about this later). Perhaps blocking would  improve the look of it. At the moment this shawl does not suit my perfectionist streak. I am not happy with it, but I have posted it here as my comments may also help someone else Next time it needs to be much bigger but as I said before a great learning piece. 

The now completed mini hap 

We went home via Skiboul stores, the majority of the shop is a grocery store with chiller and freezer cabinets, veg and fruit and the bakery. So having chosen a quiche - to help with lunches, Danish pastries for afternoon tea and a trifle for ‘pudding’ with dinner - we were set up. (We don’t normally do pudding with dinner but feel we use more energy living in the van, compared to being at home - well that is the excuse. ) The bonus was we saw 2 red-breasted mergansers in the water in front of the shop. 

Dinner was great, Donald joined us so we could swap bird notes, although this was very one sided. Donald is a serious and knowledgeable birder who was staying at the hostel. 

Another great day with the promise of an even more interesting Wednesday. 

Needless to say it was not still enough at any time during the day to photograph the Dunella shawl. 

Monday, 18 November 2019

Shetland Wool Week 19:5 Checking up on Unst after a year’s absence

Monday 23 Sept: Day 8 

It was a grey morning but we were very snug due to the  van’s central heating.(1)

Today we planned to visit some of the shops in Unst. Given that the population in the 2011 Census was 632 there is a good range of shops. 

These are: 

Skiboul Stores (and bakery and small self service cafe and petrol station) 

Henderson’s - probably the largest and more varied of the three general shops, selling nearly anything we have ever wanted. 

(There is another great store and cafe - The Final Checkout - which is also a petrol station and where last year I bought sandpaper needed for my spinning wheel! ( Discussion of visiting this later along with the other ‘shops’ in Unst).

We would also visit the Heritage Centre which has a shop related to items in the Museum. 

I also had a plan to take a photo of my Dunella Shawl (post of 14April19) through  a window of an abandoned croft. However the shawl is very fine weighing just over 25g and today the wind, although light by Shetland comparisons, would be too much and blow the shawl horizontal. However I had a fallback plan for this photography too. 

The day started with a wonderful surprise, I was now the proud and very grateful owner of an Unst Shetland fleece. I was over the moon. I am going to knit a wool week 19 hat for the donor of this. However, from my previous ‘knitting a hat for another person’ I was definitely going to get the head measurement first. (Post of 29May19). M provided his hat, to be tried on, and I feel confident I can knit one now to fit. 

M’s INR was not stable when we left home so we needed to go to the Health Centre to arrange a blood test.(2) This involved registering as a temporary resident and making an appointment. He noted the ease of doing this and the fact that the waiting room was empty, unlike at home. 

Next it was on to Henderson’s, which is a great shop, and a real joy to spend time looking around. Besides the fan heater, for which we had a choice of two, we bought a couple of sharp knives, we seem to need 4 when we are away  and only had 2 with us,  and a lovely little bamboo and silicon spatula for getting the last bit of froth from the coffee machine froth maker. Then to Skiboul Stores where we got a homemade pie for lunch. 

Next we drove up to Haroldswick and could not go through the village without going into the Heritage Centre. I bought a great locally authored booklet on the History of Unst, looked at the patterns which were newly available so I could decide which I would buy. 

I was pleased to see Frances so we could chat about what had happened to us both during the year. I was very glad to hear that  the Heritage Centre had been very busy. It is hard work for the small band of volunteers that keep it going. They were trying to build up energy for the numbers that they knew would come up during wool week. 

Norwick beach, one of our favourites was designated lunch spot . 

Before we left home I looked in Sarah Don’s book, ‘The Art of Shetland Lace’ which I have had for an age. As I look at more lace I see more and more. I liked some of the ‘patterns’ as they would be called in Shetland, but I am more likely to call them motifs. I decide it would be a good discipline if I turned the text of of how she describes them into charts. I had brought plenty of graph paper with me for the job and this afternoon sitting with a cup of tea in the snug of the van seemed like a very good place to get started on it. I knew I was going to get my knitting fix later. I did not finish but had made a good start and could already see how much help this was being to me. 

Stage one of charting a tree and wave

M walked up the road away from the beach to Valyie, one of his favourite  birdwatching spots in Unst. 

After an early dinner I was in for a lovely treat. I had been invited to the knitting group that meets at the Youth Hostel on Monday evenings.  I took my sample lace shawl. I had knitted the lace edging and had picked up stitches and knitted one of the wedges which I worked out had to have loops on both ends of the wedge. I would attempt to knit and join on the second wedge during the evening. It was rather a silly thought as it needed full concentration and although there were brief periods of silence, there was knitting chat too. It was lovely to meet the ladies again and talk about their latest and current knitting. One lady was also a machine knitter but always hand knitted her Fair isle yokes. This is my feeling too, I can’t imagine wanting too, or actually knitting the yoke on the machine- who wants seams in a yoke? 

The Youth Hostel works on a tight budget, so does the Community Hall at Uyeasound and from the meeting I understood that voluntary organisations were able to bid for a grant and that the whole community were invited to a meeting the Thursday of Wool Week to vote for who was to get the money. I was happy to write a couple of lines about why I thought the Youth Hostel was a deserving case (3)

I did manage to do a couple of the wedges with the joining on but I wasn’t really liking the look of this method much in this yarn with this pattern but I would finish it. 

We live, at home, in an area where we have no street lights but as I sat there I realised I had to negotiate going across the lawn and finding the correct place to step down to reach the van afterwards. What a relief to see DH waiting for  for me with a torch when I tore myself away from the knitting. 

Another great day. 

  1. Our motorhome is a Wildax, one of it’s many brilliant features is that it is fully insulated to the highest standard. It also uses LPG which we use for cooking and can choose to use for heating and the fridge. This enables us to ‘wild camp’ something we have only done occasionally. I prefer to be on a recognised camp site, partially because I believe strongly in supporting the local communities we visit while enjoying their local scenery. 
  2. He takes warfarin daily as he has had 2 major heart operations and now has a mechanical mitral valve. 
  3. Back at home, this would be decided by the village or town council. Here each group was to have a table at the voting evening and my understanding was that a representative or two of each group was to be there to explain their case and answer any questions members of the community might have. Although, this is quite a burden on each voluntary group it did seem to be a way  of really involving the community in decisions. I am happy to say the Youth  Hostel were successful in being awarded the £500 they had asked for, this will now go towards reflooring one of the public rooms of the  hostel that is in poor condition. By having a successful hostel, there is somewhere for people to stay, at low cost, on the island which has to help bring in more money to the local economy. Uyeasound Hall was also was successful in its bid. 

Friday, 15 November 2019

Shetland Wool Week 19: 4 A rest day in Unst

Sun  Sept 22 Day 7 

We had come up to Unst for a week’s relaxation before wool week. We love the people, the landscape, the knitting and the birds, particularly at this time of year when there might just be some early migrants as well. Today was deemed a real rest day as we had been travelling and busy for 6 days. 

Another view from the van

We woke to a blustery and grey morning but the temperature outside was 10 and inside the van first thing it was 13, much warmer than it had been in Perth. 

We had a good start with birds, spotting a redshank, ringed plover and turnstone on the beach right by us. 

The hostel was very much as it was last year but with an important new addition. There is a new ‘cleaner/ essential job man’ (but that does not do justice to his impact), who is also a crofter  with lots of Shetland Sheep. The downside is that the fleece had gone off to Jamieson and Smith already. He is a delight to talk to and this is an extra treat for our time in Unst. 

M stayed chatting in the hostel and I walked down to the van to make a coffee using our new mini  Nespresso machine, it was delightful. I had turned the fan heater on and at the same times flames shot out from the wire at the back. Having removed the plug  and dealt with the flames I was quite shaky! We were going to buy a new fan heater anyway, hopefully tomorrow.

It was a day to do some laundry and we deemed it a ‘4 peg day’ , that is per item. As I left the linen line the washing was horizontal, as long as it doesn’t rain it would be dry in no time and by lunch time it was much brighter. 

I had planned a knitting afternoon. I wanted to have a look at Hazel and Elizabeth’s DVD (1) I was keen to remind myself what this showed about making a loop at the start of a row, that would then be knitted into later. I wanted to refine what I was doing and realised that the tension of this first stitch would be very important. 4 ways were shown, with 3 being suitable for lace and then ways for joining in lace were given. This was comprehensive and I decided I would join my 4 wedges using different joining methods selected from combinations of these. 

As I started the knitting the wedges in the hap, I realised I had already been inconsistent  as there was a different number of loops on each right edge of the  wedge. As I pulled out the wedge I realised this was as important as the openness of the loop. What a good job I rather like doing samples and trial knits. 

In this  diagram I am showing what I am attempting to do. It is an ‘outside in’ shawl which I am told is the traditional Shetland method. 

When I was knitting M walked up to the main road and back down past the lochs behind the sea. He amassed a list of seventeen birds, including snipe and red breasted merganser but nothing at all that was unusual for Shetland at that time. There will be more about birds in a later post. 

We had brought lamb with us to roast and decided to stick with this even though Uyeasound Hall had a Chinese Night. I had only had one Chinese meal since I had my severe food poisoning 13 years ago and I did not want to risk being ill for our week in Unst. Perhaps next time I will be up to a meal at the hall.

(1) 50 tips from Shetland  Knitters : Hazel Tindall and Elizabeth Johnston. 2 DVDs with over 3 hours of great advice. For many techniques more than one way is shown. These are based on many years of experience perfected by generations of Shetlanders. In my mind it is brilliant and is my go to guide. 

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Shetland Wool Week 19: 3 Lerwick to Unst

Sat 21 Sept : Day 6 

It was a very pleasant calm crossing. We are by nature early risers so going to breakfast for 6.30 was no hardship. We enjoyed eating breakfast, which included some lovely fresh autumnal fruits, as we looked out over the Shetland coastline. The lounge became busy and we invited two ladies to join us at our table. This became an opportunity to talk Shetland Knitting as one, on her way home to Tronda, was wearing a gorgeous all over Fair Isle cardigan which was knitted by a friend many years ago (although it looked as though it was newly knitted!). This is one of the nice things about Shetland, talking to anyone about knitting, and it was a great start to what would become a lovely day. 

As usual we popped down to Tesco to pick up some provisions to get us over the weekend in Unst. We used the opportunity to check emails- I carry a 4G mobile WiFi but not surprisingly even that struggles on the ferry! However, we could not find Michael’s ipad and realised we had to return to the ferry to see if in the fuss with my finger last night we had left it in the cabin somewhere. (1) 

The iPad was found and I gave a sigh of relief, knowing how much we have come to use these for so many varied tasks. 

We returned to the middle of Lerwick and parked on the quay, it was time for a real treat- a visit to the Shetland Bookshop where I had promised myself a copy of volume 2 of the Shetland Guild of Weavers, Spinners, Knitters and Dyers latest book of Fair Isle Knits. On a brief glance this one looked fascinating as the first section described  the setting up and history of the guild and a question and answer session with some of the members of the guild on knitting techniques with the second section containing a wide variety of Fair Isle patterns. Just as volume one it was well illustrated. Michael  bought Thin Air from the Shetland  series by Anne Cleeves, this will complete his set. I wondered how many days this would last him! 

We needed a coffee and made for the Dowry, which was busy but we did manage to move to a favourite window seat overlooking the quay. 

You will notice I have not mentioned the burnt finger. I had no pain when I woke up and decided I did not need to bother A and E as it must be a lot better. My plan was to visit Boots and hopefully buy a finger bandage or two ! This we did after coffee and then I would force myself to look at the damage I had done. It didn’t look infected, our make do dressing had worked, so I now just had to hope it would recover enough to enable me to knit and  spin in a day or so.

We had more shopping to do in Lerwick, a visit to Jamieson’s was needed. I really liked the Spindrift grey (granite) that I had knitted the yoked jumper in (post of 19Sept19). I thought if I ordered a cone I could pick it up and take it back with me, saving postage. Unfortunately this would normally be the case but Shetland Wool Week would be far from normal conditions. I understood this and ordered one nevertheless and as I was in the UK, if it was not ready in a fortnight and 3 days it would be posted on for no additional cost. I thought this was a generous offer. Whilst there I saw a book that had some nice contemporary designs and when you see a good book, imo, you need to get it ! Hence I became the proud owner of this. 

I had also seen another book in the Shetland Times bookshop and after consulting my library list (I have over 1000 textile related books), it was not in my library so I was back to the bookshop to get that. We also decided to purchase the excellent Shetland Geology book as this is something we are both interested in. I went in on my own and had an interesting conversation with the lady serving me who told me they had just had a man in the shop wearing a striking wool week hat - yes it turned out to be DH. I felt obliged to show her a photo of my more refined hat, so then we chatted about natural dyeing too.

So our final collection from the bookshop was this:

Needless to say M thought I had got lost and was getting anxious we would not have time to get lunch before the ferry to Yell. We popped into Harry’s and managed to get a new step for the van, but the fan heater would have to wait until we were in Unst. (2) 

We made it to the ferry and quickly made lunch enjoying the view over the beautifully blue sea. 

After some discussion we decided to leave looking at the exhibition at Burravoe until later and drive straight through Yell to Unst. 

The view from the ferry  to Unst was as good as ever, the weather was lovely although it was colder than further south and the sea was getting a bit wavy! 

We arrived at our stop for the week which looked just as beautiful as when we left it last year. 

We parked the van and were followed in by another van and to our surprise if was driven by Kate, who lives within striking distance of home. Needless to say we had not seen each other since SWW last year. We had much to catch up on and were pleased we were both in the same Advanced Lace Knitting class on the Monday during wool week. 

I settled down and experimented with joining by knitting on, working inwards a couple of wedges for the mini lace shawl I was going to re-do.

It had been a very happy day. 



  1. You can stay on  the ferry from Aberdeen having a leisurely breakfast until 9.30, or if you are the driver, take the vehicle off and return to the ferry for this. We made it with 10 minutes to spare. 
  2. The step collapsed at Hoddom and the fan heater needed replacing.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Shetland Wool Week 19:2 The journey to Shetland part two

18-20 Sept  Days 3-5 

The next part of the journey saw us travel to Perth. We like this part of the journey, the scenery was improving and the traffic was light compared to the journey north through England. There is an added bonus, Cairn  Lodge or Happendon Services as it is also called has been taken over and fully refurbished by The Westmorland Family that own Westmorland Services in Cumbria, going north on the M6. We decided on  coffee and croissant. This was the best croissant I have had for ages, officially it was an almond croissant but the top was coated with marmalade to keep the almonds on. Croissant first prize for the holiday so far. 

We also choose ‘wraps’ from the farm shop to eat later. Finding a stop for lunch was not easy. We wanted somewhere to have a bit of a rest, rather than a roadside service station. In the end we followed a picnic site sign (150 yards to this)  and turned into the village of Blackford. It was in fact a very wide street. After searching for the picnic site M went into the village shop and bought a few provisions and asked just where the picnic site was. Much head scratching and the suggestion that it must be the benches in the local park! We were able to park safely on the side of the road and really enjoyed the wraps. 

There used to be a book of places to stop away from a motorway or main road. I guess it dated quickly.   A new one would be useful as I am sure we are not the only people that like to leave the road to have a complete break but I guess it would suffer the same problem. Perhaps  there is a fb group that I don’t know about. (1) 

The next stop was Scone Palace where we would stay for two nights. The following day we decided we would take the train from Perth to Dundee , the V and A looking as if it was close to the station there. There was a one mile uphill walk from the campsite to the bus stop into Perth, the bus was every 2 hours. Therefore, we ordered a taxi and looked forward to a non drive day. 

It was very foggy when we woke up ! The journey had been warm and quite unseasonal for the end of September and the forecast was for hot sun in Dundee. Deciding what to wear and what to carry was challenging, so different from being out all day when we could have everything with us in the van. The taxi was early and got us to Perth station in plenty of time. 

Perth Station 

The train was new, quite busy and had free WiFi, the 20 minute or so journey  was very enjoyable. 

The V and A Building  was just as dramatic as the photos we had seen. 

One of my photos of the outside of the building, I liked the seats too! 

Wow, is the word that springs to mind. We ambled around it taking photos, and for me it was great to see the Discovery next door. (2)

First stop was the cafe, in the huge entrance area. The selection of gluten free cake was excellent, as was the cake ! All the plates, beakers etc were recyclable being made from plants and would be composted. (I cannot now find the name of the firm making these! ) (3) The assistant even asked if I needed the  gluten free cake to come sealed so it  would not get contaminated. Such awareness was brilliant and customer service here got a very good rating from me. 

Not surprisingly she shop was situated next to the cafe and was very enticing. The arty paper clips tried to entice me to buy them but at £14.00 for a small set I thought I ought to keep my money until I got to Shetland (see later, it was a very wise decision). We did support the shop by buying a wet day activity to use with the grandsons. The loos were great too. 

Inside the V and A Dundee 

We looked round the Scottish Exhibition, but I was completely underwhelmed. Examples of particular interest to me were:  

  • Paisley Shawls and  their similarities and differences from Norwich Shawls (4)
  • a Shetland lace shawl but  it was virtually impossible to see the detail of construction and I knew I would see finer in Shetland 
  • A fair isle jumper, that in my mind was simple and again there would be many finer examples in Shetland
  • The Macintosh Room, was very dark and just that- a room that was unfurnished. 

When we had lunch ( excellent restaurant, excellent view, excellent food)  I looked up reviews of this V and A. I have to say I agree with the review in the Guardian which to me says that the building is great, but the inside is a disappointment. Perhaps more will be added as it’s use develops I do hope so. 

Our lunch view 

I loved seeing  the building and the cleverness of the design, our coffee and lunch could not be faulted but surely it should be more than a nice place to dine. 

After this we popped into the Discovery Centre deciding we would leave going round the ship for another visit to Dundee. Before we got too exhausted,  on our day ‘off travelling’ we took the train back, phoned the taxi that came promptly and arrived back after a good day out. 

More tea and cake and by then too hot and sunny to sit out.  I uploaded the blog post about the fair isle jumper and have been stunned by the lovely response to it from hundreds of people. Early to bed and tomorrow an easy day before boarding the ferry. Fingers crossed the weather would stay good and give us a calm crossing. 

Friday morning meant ‘pack my rucksack for staying in the cabin overnight’ or rather what could I not do without! I abandoned taking a drop spindle and opted instead to take the micro lace shawl that I was trying to finish. We had an easy drive initially and then decided to go to Crathes where we would get a bite of lunch. The drive in to the estate is superb with a very photogenic lake on the right which always seems to have great reflections. I avoided taking another photo this year. We had a simple lunch and did last minute packing and putting away in preparation for the ferry.  It was a very hot sunny day and really too sunny for great photos. 

It was incident free getting  to the ferry other than traffic, after all it was Friday late afternoon. The sea looked very calm and the ferry did not look as if it would be very busy. We do treat ourselves to a good cabin which includes the lounge. When we got on board we decided to eat straight away. The restaurant and lounge however, were much  busier than we have seen them even in summer.

A view from our table for dinner 

We saw one lady knitting but she left the lounge while we were eating. It was abnormal- no one that I knew and no knitting in the lounge! We decided to get an early night however  this was not to be. 

I poured boiling water over my left index finger. How was I going to knit and spin? I had a week to recover. I have suffered severe pain in my life but the pain from this burn was unbearable. Every time I tried to remove my finger from the cold water I it was awful. I thought I would have to seek medical help. However, we checked the Red Cross app, cobbled together a dressing from an antiseptic wipe) and covered it with a plastic bag, I took painkillers which on top of the gin ensured I went to sleep eventually, thinking how could I come to Shetland and manage without knitting or spinning ? I was expecting to have to go to A and E tomorrow. This trip had already had more incidents than we wanted. But tomorrow we would be in Shetland. 

  1. I have found an Alistair Sawday book ‘ The extra mile’ which looks promising. Has anyone used it? 
  2. Michael has  fond memories of the Discovery as he walked past it everyday on The  Embankment on his way to King’s College when he was a student there. He also had been to the Discovery before in Dundee when I had taken a course with Jeannette Sendler of Big Cat Studio in Newburgh. Her calendar of Textile courses can be found  https://textilecentre.co.uk She has a number visiting international experts as tutors. 
  3. might be vegware, I am trying to find out from the V and A but they tell me it will take 21 days to reply to my query! However, they got back to me in a few days and have confirmed  the name of the firm. https://www.vegware.com/
  4. I only carried my camera as we travelled by train and a filter to cut down the glare from the glass. Using it meant I needed the tripod to allow a slower shutter speed....which would have given a blurred image. So apologies for the disturbing marks.