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.

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