Thursday, 30 January 2020

Shetland Wool Week 19: 18 Brae Teas

Sunday Oct 6: Day 21 

The second Sunday of Wool Week is one of my favourite days. It is so nice to see and talk to members of Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers  with their exhibition at Brae in what is called a Sunday tea in Shetland. 

Visitors are able to look at some of the wonderful knitwear the Guild members have made during the year and usually there is an opportunity to buy some items directly from the  makers. If this wasn’t enough some of the members would be spinning and knitting and of course there were the teas! On top of this , was the opportunity to talk to some of the members who over the years I feel I have got know as we have discussed either their knitting or my natural dyeing or knitting.  Then of course there was the chance to say good bye to fellow wool week attendees. 

But last year and this the Galley shed and the youth centre were open too. There were other craftspeople with quite a wide variety of crafts at a Makers’ Market in the Youth Centre. One lady was selling yarn and I took the opportunity to buy some Green Shetland yarn.  Whatever shade of green I have it seems never to be the shade I need! Bunchy, alias Spindrift Crafts, had a stall too so it was a great opportunity to talk to her about Natural Dyeing, to tell her how much I was enjoying her book and how good it is to see her iG posts about dyeing through  the year. (1)

The Galley shed besides having an Up-Helly-Aa exhibition also had a scissor sharpener, but unfortunately I had not brought the scissors  that could have benefitted with me! 

Once the Guild Teas were open we decided  we would have an early tea as we had just had a snack lunch. The Guild work so hard for this afternoon, the kitchen had many members adding more food, washing up etc and the tea and coffee ladies who fill the cups at the table were offering drinks to visitors throughout the afternoon. It is a tremendous task they take on. I am a member of a Guild in East Anglia and I can’t think we would believe we could manage anything on this scale. Shetland Guild need recognition nationally for what they do on this day in my opinion. Of course many of them have already had a busy week running classes and the like. As last year the Northmavine Fiddle and Accordion club provided traditional music on the stage. This is very  good too , with the bonus of seeing more Traditional Shetland Knitwear being worn. It was also entirely appropriate that there was an appeal for donations for the Peerie Makkers crowdfunding appeal, as this is a voluntary run scheme (2) so that more of the target age group can be involved and more of  Shetland can have a local group. The highlight of the day for me is twofold - seeing Shetland lace and Fair Isle  Knitting by Shetland designers and knitters and seeing the prizes they have won for these and being able to talk to them about what I feel is amazing knitwear. 

Part of Hazel’s display                                               Always something to learn from


For me personally it was a very enjoyable afternoon and it was an extra pleasure to meet again ladies from Unst who had organised a ‘day out’ to come to the Tea. 

We decided we would repeat our post Brae Teas experience with a trip to Eshaness. Last year it was really wild, but this year it was calmer and the sun was still out (just) and the views were stunning. It was good to be here again. 

As we drove back the sun was setting and around every corner there seemed another spectacular view. We had in mind to stop at Frankie’s for a Fish and Chip supper and so didn’t want to get too late. I just took photos with my iPad but made a note to myself that if the weather is like this next year I must make time to get the proper camera out with the tripod and filters for some truly spectacular shots. 

sunset over Frankie’s

So back to the campsite and the end of wool week organised activities, but we had another couple of days to begin to unwind and do last minute essential Shetland shopping. 

  1. I understand from someone who went to Bunchy’s workshop “ about Natural Dye plants and make a ‘colours of Shetland’ sample cushion” that it was very good too. 
  2. You can find out more about they young Shetland Knitters on the fb page ShetlandPeerieMakkers

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Shetland Wool Week 19: 17 Maker’s Market, Bod and Dinner

Sat Oct 5: Day 20 

The last Saturday of Wool week is always good, the Maker’s Market ensures this. The market is now held at the new (Anderson) High School and there is ample parking, and only a short walk from the Sports Centre should the parking ever get full. It starts at 11.00 and gives stall holders ample time to set up. I was hoping that I could catch up on some friends that I had missed or seen earlier in our stay. This happened so that was great and I met and chatted to Amanda from Whalsay with whom I had a great knitting class some years also. I also saw Minnie from Unst who was at the indigo class so it was good to hear her thoughts on how it had gone. I hadn’t seen Roisin all week so good to have a very quick chat, as she was looking after her stall. (1)

M went upstairs to the cafe, where the drinks and cake are superb and my plan was to meet him asap so I could have coffee before I ran out of steam. As usual with chatting it took longer than I thought but I had completed a quick look at the stalls and targeted a couple of things to buy after coffee. 

What is striking is the quality of the items on sale. I go to lots of ‘craft’ fairs at home and just wish I could transport many of the sellers to this one. Then they could see how it can be done and how people would be queueing for their items. It is not about price at all for me. It is about finesse and detail and seeing and then owning, a truly beautiful item. Shetland people know how to use the best quality raw materials with amazing workmanship! 

One of my purchases, I just love the detail. 

Jumperboard necklace made by Pinkfish (2) 

Eventually I got upstairs to find Michael with Sally, who we first met in Shetland some years ago. I had taken a ‘made by me’ bundle of sticks for her to use as a ‘knitting belt’ and failed to meet her earlier in the week as I had to opt out of a couple of evening functions. It was great to catch up with her and her friend. I hadn’t seen Sarah (3) either all week although we were meeting up for dinner later in the day. She was full of her wonderful time on the trip to Foula. (4)

She got Michael to take this photo of us with Hazel. I don’t like photos of myself but do quite like this one! 

Photo of sarah, Hazel, me 

Before I left I wanted to see the Shetland Peerie Makkers, the youngsters learning knitting. This is an initiative set up out of wool week initially I believe, where volunteers  teach groups of the young knitters in the processes of Shetland Knitting, ‘helping to preserve Shetland’s knitting culture’. This is a great initiative and it is lovely to see most of them using knitting belts and working from their own drafted motif designs, ie learning the designing as they learn to knit. Materials and equipment are provided for the knitters. The initiative started in 2015 and it is great to see how it has grown and the progress of the knitters. It is a very good project to donate to, imo. With all this happening we were at the Makers Market for longer than intended but it didn’t matter as were were getting a light lunch in the van. I had devoted the afternoon to The Bod as I hadn’t had a serious look round  during the week. 

It was great to see James (5) as I got there and we had a long talk mainly about dyeing, both natural  and acid, to which others in the lower room joined in. Eventually I moved away to look at the two rooms upstairs and found yet more demonstrators to talk to as well. As always there was wonderful lace knitting and fair isle knitting and plenty I had not seen before. 

I was very taken by a display related to Bess Jamieson, in particular her baskets made by weaving pine needles.(6) 

Pine needle baskets

I also noticed a display relating to the Back to Back Challenge. This one looked more official than others I have seen as it seems to be international! 

You will be able to spot some names you know:

Can you identify the people from 1977, at least one should be possible. 

Another great visit. The Bod will be closing it’s doors now and reopen in the spring. If you haven’t ever been to the Bod, do try and add it to your ‘must visit’ list.

We just had time to go back to base, have a short rest and then meet up for dinner with Sarah and friends in the String. 

Helen Robertson and her Mum would be there and Sarah brought with her Laura, a tattooist and bird watcher, from USA, who just happened to be another avid knitter. It was a fun evening, I think the waitress was persuaded to take this photo. 

Another wonderful day, including the weather,  with tomorrow being the last official day of wool week. 

  1. Roisin runs R.A.M knitwear, she is the on the staff of Shetland College  and last year I was lucky enough to visit her Machine Knitwear  studio in Bressay one evening. You can see some of her work on her Fb page ‘R.A.M Knitwear’. 
  2. ‘Pink Fish’ is the trading name of Shona Anderson. I had met Shona on Friday whilst she was working in Ninian, with Joanne Hunter. I have since been told that Shona is the daughter of Kathleen Anderson. 
  3. Sarah and I go back a few years, having met at a Maker’s Market I organised for A Community Group (Alsager Music and Arts) when we lived in Cheshire. We next met in Shetland - the power of wool week! She is a very skilled worker in many textile areas and beyond. She is on iG as ‘didyoumakeityourself’. The photos with Sarah on were taken on her phone by M and a waitress.
  4. This year the weather was kind to flights during wool week. The trip to Fair Isle went ahead and the new trip to Foula, was able to go ahead too. It was a chance to find out about Foula and Foula Wool in particular.
  5. James and I had both done the Warp Weighed Loom workshop in 2018. James lives and works in Shetland and is also a dyer and spinner. We always have lots to talk about when we meet. 
  6. Bess Jamieson was born in Sumatra where her father worked on a Rubber Plantation, she returned to Shetland in 1930. She was a much travelled lady during her life but retired to Walls. 

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Shetland Wool Week 19: 16 Mood Boards and Machine Knitting

Friday Oct 4:Day 19 

Today I was taking my last class of wool week and like yesterday’s class it was one I had been hoping to take for some years. The American lady I chatted to from the table next to ours last night in The string had taken the class Thursday afternoon. She was very complimentary about it and if anything, over breakfast, I was looking forward to it even more. 

We were up and about early as M was going to drop me in the middle of Lerwick at 9.00 and then drive back and park at Tesco. He could pick up bits and pieces we needed and walk back to the Health Centre to have another INR  test. 

I took the opportunity to walk up the town (North) and spent some time looking in Tullock’s window. This was like looking in a Museum as on display were a selection of jumpers that had been knitted around the 1920s and 1930s and had been lent by Elizabeth Angus.They were very interesting as many were knitted in fine rayon, many had fantastic finishing details and many had won knitwear prizes and they were in great condition. (1)

The window, apologies for the reflection! 

One of the prize certificates. 

It is so lovely to see shop keepers getting into the spirit of wool week and pulling out all the stops. Again looking at these was free and something any visitor to wool week could do. 

My class was in Ninian in Joanna’s  upstairs workshop. This is quite small  and 4 of us sat round a table with Joanna standing. It was very much a workroom and it felt good being in there.(2) She is very enthusiastic about what she does and still had bags of energy left on Friday. 

What was great was that she had the whole set of Jamieson’s yarns for us to select from. These were in the Spindrift range- that is a lot of yarns and they weren’t just samples they had started as whole balls of yarn. (This is important, I have the shade card but having more of the sample colour makes such a difference.) Joanne wanted us to work outside our comfort range of colours- I found this the most difficult part of the class. 

She began by talking about her background in designing going right through to making the finished machine knitted product. She talked about  where this had taken her geographically and also gave real gems of tips. Then it was our turn! We started with a blank sheet of A3 paper and guidance as well as one to one encouragement and motivation to stretch our capabilities. Then there was the selection of a working palette. 

The final treat was to see these mocked up into a working design, using DesignaKnit which I had heard of, it is used by some machine knitters. I thought (wrongly) that it was just about designing shapes but was more interested in it when I saw how it could put colours together and then switch individual colours at the press of a button (or two). Seeing our colour choices  added into a charted pattern was great. The class ran over. The cake and drink were superb and the time went too quickly. It was a great class to end the week on for me. 

I met M who was anxious as I was so late. (I need to eat regularly and often to avoid migraine) so we drove down to Mackenzies, our usual second breakfast venue. Although  it was busy we managed to find a space to eat, along with other woolly minded people. The bonus was M got chatting to a birdwatcher and got details of  another place or two to add to his list to visit. My plan had been to go down to Bigton for lunch but we felt it would be too much of a rush. Another item for next year’s list....assuming they will continue to be part of Wool Week in the future. 

After lunch we decided to shop at Wilma’s as we hadn’t seen her or Irene all week.(3) It was good to have a chance to have a proper chat and M found a couple of jumpers he really liked, this is one of them and Irene and I talked about some of Wilma’s new designs for this year based an Mike Finnie’s artwork.(4)

Wearing the new jumper 

I think the other jumper  is very clever, it is in finer wool and has stripes and both the body  and each sleeve are knit in the round. As a machine knitter is it good to see different designs from those in my usual repertoire. 

Another great day finished off by sharing notes with Kate, who had been on the Whitling a Shawl Pin workshop and visiting St Ninians - one of the very special places of Shetland. 

  1. They were all knitted by her mother or aunt. They best prize had been of £50.00 and had paid for a holiday in Edinburgh for their sisters and their mother in Edinburgh. 
  2. As Joanna could only have 4 at a time she ran this class 8 times during wool week. I was there on the Friday and she showed no sign of it being her 7th time that week! 
  3. Wilma Malcolmson is TerriLaura’s grandmother, we had seen them briefly at the Terri’s Creative Crew evening on Saturday. Wilma trades as Shetland Designer and M very much likes her jumpers. He likes to get a new one each year. 
  4. Mike’s artwork can be found at

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Shetland Wool Week 19: 15 Estonian Edgings plus and Fine Lace Knitting

Thurs Oct 3:Day 18 

I had hoped to do Hadewych’s ‘Crossing Borders’ class last year, but it wasn’t to be. I was very pleased to be doing it this year and it was to be another day spent in Hoswick. Again there were just 6 in the class, Maggie and I from England, an Israeli lady who I first met and chatted to in a previous year when we were in Unst, an American  lady and 2 ladies who were friends and part of a group of 4 from Australia. 

Hadewych (1) began by showing us some of her colourful and beautifully finished knitwear. It was obvious she was, like me, a perfectionist in terms of finishing her garments and I realised I was going to like this class even more than I had anticipated.

We had been asked to bring a 15cm square which we would work round during the class. I had knitted mine in the grey wool of my yoked jumper and taken my naturally dyed ground elder yarn with me to use. (2) Hadewych gave out a well illustrated and clear handbook for us to use at home but did not expect us to work through it in the class. 

We started off doing what was described as a relatively simple border which resulted in a textured bobble edge and this got us into finding the stitches required at a border. After some time spent on getting perfect facings and learning about zip insertion that stays flat we moved on to Borders in Estonian Knitting. Hadewych had initially learned  from Riina Tomberg and I quickly realised that this could turn into another obsession. 

I was so pleased to be introduced to these techniques and I could see how different combinations of stitches and colours could personalise any knitwear. I had plans in my head for my 2020 knitwear. We will see if I can add some of what I leaned in this great class. (3)

Michael arrived back during the afternoon. He had driven to Ollaberry (a round trip of 80 miles) to look for the Bee Eater he had heard about. He had had a great day, watching it for some time and taking photos. 

We had a fairly swift turn round as we were off to dinner at The String. This was just as good as we had anticipated and it was great to see and talk to other diners who virtually all seemed to be there for Wool Week.

We then walked to the museum where I was going to Carol Christiansen’s talk on ‘Elegant and Handsome Specimens of Knitting: Shetland Lace Close-up’. 

I sat with Kate and we had a catch up on how we had spent the day.(4)

Carol’s talk was excellent. There is no other word for it. It was well illustrated and she spoke for an hour or so. There are about 400 pieces of lace in the Museum  Collection. Carol described the history of lace knitting in Shetland and  referred to 10 years of research. She discussed a couple of earlier pieces of work in the quest to try and define Shetland Lace Knitting and what sets it apart from other Lace Knitting. Most of the pieces in the Museum are knitted from hand spun yarn. Most of the pieces have little documentation. Her current research project was described and we heard how Ann  Eunson is examining and charting some of the motifs and Kathleen Anderson is knitting these as samples. The plan is that a book of these will be published. I took copious notes, as I do, 16 pages and so can do no more than outline  what I noted. (5). As a dedicated fine lace spinner and knitter I found this excellent and good value for my £6 ticket! 

What a wonderful day for both of us. 

  1. Hadewych had a career as a teacher in the Netherlands. As a school pupil she spent some time in Norway and got interested in two colour knitting. She has run many workshops in wool week and also Netherlands, Norway and the Faroe Islands. 
  2. In hindsight  this was not the best choice. I would have been better using strong clashing colours so I could see the separate stages of each process. 
  3. As I was doing the class it brought back memories of machine knitting classes I had done at Metropolitan Machine Knitting with Carol Hocknell based on the work of Audrey Palmer. I determined to get these samples out when I got home! 
  4. An early piece of lace in the collection has been on show in the museum and belongs to the family of Kate, dating from when a distant grandfather was Minister in North Mavine. It is thought the piece was knitted by the nurse to the baby. This is a very complex piece  with a hood and is being  studied by this research project. 
  5. Carol was interviewed for Fruity Knitting podcast 89 where she talks and shows some of the samples of knitting done in the quest to chart these motifs. She has also written a blog post about this latest project on the Museum website here.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Shetland Wool Week 19: 14 Spinning for Fair Isle

Wed Oct 2:Day 17 

When I knit Fair isle I like to have naturally dyed the colours first, to me this helps make the garment special. Natural dyeing is a slow and very enjoyable part of the total project. If I am doing the dyeing I don’t usually spin the yarn - life is too short and there are so many other textile things I like doing.

I was looking forward to this class ‘Spinning for Fair Isle’ with Elizabeth Johnston as I would be taught how to get a coordinating range of colours by carding and spinning. Just like natural dyeing I could have my own unique  item - this is  a different way of ‘making the colours’. It was also rather special for me to have a class with Elizabeth as it was her who first taught me to spin on a drop spindle in 2000. Life changing at its best! 

It was a full day class at Hoswick, which is a lovely place to spend a day. There were just 6 of us  in the class and I believe I was the only British person there. However, I had already met Helen, from Sweden in Unst and I knew Suzanne from the USA from previous years at Wool Week. I had taken my Joy  wheel and also my own carders because I could! I was also able to spin with my wheel in Unst this year and of course I needed it for yesterday in Ollaberry. 

We started by preparing rolags in each of black and white and then from these a range of colours  in between. Elizabeth was keen to help those that she thought could make rolags more easily. I kept my head down and hoped my method met with approval as I had done carding, albeit for lace during a class, with Elizabeth last year. 

We had the chance to  repeat this with brown and white so we would have 2 naturally coloured ranges during the day. My carding certainly improved. I like to do things slowly but even my speed improved with all this carding. The aim was to get a range of rolags of different colour values. 

The afternoon was more experimental when we added colour into our initial mix of fleece and got great variations and I could see the endless possibilities of what we could achieve by these techniques. Careful notes were needed to know what I had done. 

Some of the class were spinning before lunch but I like to get everything prepared first! 

I was delighted with the results as I began to spin some of the rolags later in the day, but they were really too good  to spin! 

The day went so quickly but this is another wool related hole to fall down..... no spinner can ever be bored! 

I had been planning to go to the High School for the Knitting  night. I knew I had to give up on this idea in the interests of managing to get to my class, another full day, tomorrow. I guess the Knitting  evening will be on next year too. It is always nice to go and chat to friends who I only meet at wool week but if I got a migraine I wouldn’t be going anywhere tomorrow. 

So dinner and an early night for me! 

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Shetland Wool Week 19: 13 Ollaberry plus

Tues Oct 1: Day 16 

This was a day without any classes.  I had planned to go to Isleburgh Knitters and Spinners again this year in the evening, but realised that if I did I would be so knocked up I wouldn’t cope with my classes on Wednesday and Thursday. 

We started off in Mackenzies as we usually do in wool week for our second breakfast. Then it was a quick trip along to Isleburgh. I had arranged with Bunchy that I would pick up my Natural Dye Colours from Shetland book before her class. I knew how frantic preparing for the class might be so I had the money ready in a sealed envelope and all I had to do was swap it for the book. I had followed  the progress of the book on IG and I believe I was the first person to put my name down when Bunchy said she was producing this book. (1) I had seen the book in Unst as Helen got her copy when she was on Mainland and brought it along to our dye workshop  on the Wednesday evening. Taking as little time as possible I got my hands on the book. 

We then parked the van at the museum and went in for a coffee. 

Entrance Hall Of the Museum

This was my opportunity to have a closer look at the items belonging to the patterns in the SWW annual and also to look round the knitwear section of the Museum. It doesn’t matter how many times I look round I always ‘see’ more things. I was particularly interested in grafting in shawls this year. 

So first of all the Hub where the Annual Knitwear display was - it was good to see how Elizabeth (Johnston) had mitred the corners on her shawl pattern in the annual. 

What a mitre! 

The museum hosts other exhibitions of interest during wool week. One such was from Deborah Gray:  ‘Of the land: Icelandic Wool’ from her time as an artist in residence there. The frames are bound with hand spun wool, naturally dyed. During her time there she explored the differences between the two different wool fibres in the fleece  and the effect of natural dyeing on these. 

While looking around the knitting section my eye caught a glimpse of a name I was familiar with from a fb lace knitting group. I duly messaged the owner, in Thailand,  who was really pleased that I had noticed this. He had answered the call some time ago to take part in the Nottingham-Shetland Lace Research Project and had sent in his samples in 2018. He did not know they  were exhibited in Shetland Museum and was very pleased to be able to see photos I sent him. Another example of the wonders of fb! (2)

Then I had to return to look at the exquisite examples of the ‘so fine’ lace and tell myself to be patient. I am spinning fine, I just need to do metres and metres more and then design my own shawls just like these truly amazing women did. 

We left at lunch  time and were going to drive up to Ollaberry. The day was warm and bright, what a super journey we were in for. 

 Hays Dock by the Museum, it was October! 

Ollaberry is special, it is associated in my mind with much marvellous lace, the ability to talk to lace knitters with real expertise and great food. We decided that we would have our plate of food when we got there and call it lunch! 

We were too polite to be the first for the spread, but were encouraged by the ladies serving that this would be good. As we sat down they told us they were expecting a coach tour, this was  one  of the tours put on for wool week and it must have been full considering the number who came in for lunch. As always it was a wonderful spread and after the coach had left more food was added and one would not have known 50 or so people had just been in for lunch. 

We had come to Ollaberry this day in particular as I was going to meet Gordon (Fleece loved products) and his wife Gill. I had been in touch with him before we left home and I was hoping I could buy  one his fine lace bobbins and the brake system that he had customised for my wheel. Kate had told me how great they were and so I was very excited by this prospect. We met and I used the said system on my wheel and was delighted with it. It was great to be involved with these expert fine spinners such as Betsy Williamson who the bobbin, named the Ollaberry bobbin, had been expertly designed for. This was one of the major highlights of my week. I decided to have enough bobbins to spin and ply the yarn this way and also purchased an Ollaberry Lace Weight Gauge (and one for another Shetland Spinner and knitter) who had seen Gordon on Saturday and not acquired one. As a bonus I was able to try Gill’s Ashford electric spinner. I didn’t expect to like it, but I absolutely loved it. DH came back from his bird watching walk as I was using it and I believe I heard him say I ought to have one for Christmas! It was a delight to meet this couple and to feel that spinning as finely as I do in not ‘freakish’. (3) It was lovely to be made so welcome by the local ladies spinning at Ollaberry and to be able to talk to them again this year. 

Fine lace gauge and a bobbin

On show close to where we were sitting was displayed the most gorgeous and perfect shawl. This  had been knitted by a young knitter and won lots of prizes. Her name was Lauren Anderson and I heard from one of the ladies (her grandmother) that she had ‘knitting genes’ from both of her parents.(4)

Lauren’s Shawl

What an afternoon this had been, on top of a wonderful morning. It only needed to be finished off by stopping off at Frankie’s Fish and Chip shop in Brae for a very tasty dinner. 

People coming to wool week get upset when they can’t get the classes they feel they ‘need’ when booking. I hope this day will go some way to showing that there is so much wonderful stuff to see and marvellous ‘wool’ people to meet and talk to, that having a day with no classes is nothing to worry about. There is so much to see and do. Everything I did today was free, except for the purchases I made and yet it will be one of my best days in Shetland. Keep your mind and eyes open, talk to people and you will learn so much! 

  1. Again a very good example of social media, Bunchy posts as Spindrift Crafts both on iG and fb and it has been good to follow this publishing journey with her.
  2. Carol  Christiansen mentioned this project on her talk on Thursday. I will be writing more about it then. 
  3. Gordon has amazing skills. An engineer by training he is making a number of laser cut birch products of quality for knitters, spinners, weavers and crochet lovers. It is the ‘cleverness’ of the design which is particularly striking eg on the Ollaberry Gauge just 20 winds of the yarn can give you the wpi down to 200. A very useful tool when actually spinning. If you search for ‘fleece loved products’ you will find Jelly Bean yarns on Etsy and Beaker Button (also both on fb) as some of the stockists or contact directly at 
  4. This is the second shawl of Lauren’s. She was just 16 when she knitted the first shawl and won the children’s section and the judges were so impressed that the shawl was put in the adult section where she won that prize too. She was just 20 when she knitted the shawl in the picture and it won all the prizes possible at the Voe Show. This shawl is just perfect. Lauren was interviewed for the  Fruity Knitting podcast no 87 and  she can be found on iG as laurenclaireart

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Shetland Wool Week 19: 12 Advanced Shetland Lace

Mon Sept 30 Day 15 

I had been really looking forward to this class for a very long time indeed. 

We were definitely up early and first in to Mackenzies for a bacon bap at 9.00. I would certainly need fuel for today. The class was at  Islesburgh  and Michael was going to have a whole day to himself, although he was hinting about having a rest day. We were just over half way though our month away so a suitable time to have an easy day. 

The class was being led by Anne Eunson and Kathleen Anderson (1), two truly expert lace knitters. I had done a lace grafting class with them before and learnt to do things that I did not even know was possible. That was a half day class and today was a full day so even better. I learnt to spin to enable me to knit lace with yarn finer than Jamieson and  Smith cobweb yarn, which was the finest yarn they sold then.(2) I am confident in designing my own Fair Isle. I don’t feel I have reached the same level with my lace knitting. I can spin finely and knit with fine yarn and make a wedding ring shawl. I can take a pattern and alter all the components (3).  However,  I don’t feel I can start with a blank piece of graph paper (well several sheets) and design a whole traditional Shetland shawl, knitted outside in. I hope to make progress towards that aim today. 

There were 12 in the class and just 2 British, Kate and I. I had previously spoken to the Japanese lady at Terri’s Creative Crew evening on the Saturday. She is also a spinner, which if I understood her correctly is an unusual activity in Japan. She was wearing a lovely shawl she had made. There was also a German lady wearing an amazing lace dress that she had knitted, it wasn’t any simple lace dress, it was completely fitted. Awesome in the true meaning of the word. 

Before the class, Anne and Kathleen unwrapped what seemed like an endless collection of amazing shawls of all sizes and shapes, their only common feature was they were excellent. If my memory is correct, at least one of them Anne had spun the yarn for as well. I think  a question and answer session about these would have been a suitable additional class! 

Part of just one of the shawls

Anne and Kathleen shared talking through the construction and what they hoped we would achieve for the day. They talked about favourite books, ways of  designing and planning and some motif designs were available to get us going if we wished along with the blank graph paper. 

It was a great workshop for me, I had thought long  and hard about what I thought I most needed to know to progress my own lace shawl journey. However, as always you learn things that you didn’t know you even needed to know. I had some motifs with me that I had charted, that I particularly liked and thought I would try and incorporate these into my design. I was certainly noticing much more detail than I had previously about shawl construction. 

Naturally, as with any workshop, the participants all start at the same point and all end up in a variety of places having taken different paths. With 2 tutors  there was little if any waiting for help and Anne and Kathleen were brilliant at answering any question that would help us progress during the day. 

Kate had a very specific focus, she is hoping eventually to reproduce her family shawl that is in the Museum. Anne and Kathleen have been working on this and so could help with the interpretation of one of the motifs that Kate hopes to knit first. It seemed a very complex design with very little ground between the motifs. It is a remarkable item. 

Many in the class were knitting early on, I felt I could knit what I had designed and was more interested in doing more of the design and getting the motifs in suitable positions so concentrated on this and in fact did not knit  anything on the day. It was hard mental work but so rewarding and before the class was over I felt that I had got over my hurdle  to this sort of designing.

I was able to think ahead and see what a mammoth job designing a whole shawl is. I never start actual construction until I have the whole of an item planned and each stage will have undergone several trials, that is how I work and it seems to work for me. 

Some of my designing on the day and a couple of great Shetland Lace Knitting  books

It was a great class and I would happily have spent the whole week doing the same class. Now I am home I need to find time for that  the week (or several) to complete the design. 

Soon after 5.00 when the class ended I left my bag of books etc in Kate’s camper van and we walked down to the Dowry where we were booked in for dinner. M was already there waiting for us. We were meeting some friends from a previous wool week and then four of us were going on to Oliver’s talk at Mareel. (4) Unfortunately the friends had to pull out of the meal at the last minute for health reasons. We never did catch up with them last year, so will try and meet up at the next wool week that we are both at. 

Mareel seats more than the lecture theatre in the  museum and this extra seating was needed. Oliver was well prepared and gave a great talk on ‘A Journey with Shetland Oo’. He is an excellent speaker, could be heard easily, kept to the topic and of course is always entertaining. Wool Week would not be happening without him and it was a fitting  tribute that he was chosen to be patron in this 10th anniversary year. 

When we got back to the campsite I got my spinning wheel ready for tomorrow, it was in for a special treat. We decided to attach the thicker half of the quilt to the current layer we were using. Never before have we not used it’s full thickness during all of our time in Shetland in the autumn, it had been unusually  mild this year. 

  1. Anne and Kathleen are heavily involved in the current lace knitting research being carried out at the Museum. More about this in the post about Thursday 3 October.
  2. Jamieson and Smith now sell Worsted spun Shetland Supreme 1 ply yarn 1/16NM
  3. An example of this is shown in one of my shawls I photographed in the Viking Longhouse last Thursday which can be seen in the post of 12 Dec19 
  4. Each year the patron of Wool Week gives a talk on the Monday evening.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Shetland Wool Week 19: 11 Jarlshof and Sumburgh Lighthouse

Sun Sept 29 Day 14 

In all the years we have been to Shetland, although we have been to Scatness we have never looked round Jarlshof at the far south of mainland. Before we left home we found out that it was open normal hours for September. We decided we would go this day and had booked tickets online. You get a time slot and ours started at 9.45. The car park at the Sumburgh Hotel was quite busy but it did not look as if many were looking round Jarlshof. 

Although we usually start the day by having a second breakfast of a bacon bap and coffee at Mackenzie’s Farm shop, we would have to forego this today. They have a late start of 11.00 on a Sunday and they definitely deserve this. Once at Jarlshof we made ourselves coffee in the van and were entertained by a helicopter arriving on the hotel’s landing pad. We were interested to see who stepped out, but it looked as if it was just the crew! 

Jarlshof did not disappoint. We were each able to have an audio guide and despite M wearing hearing aids in both ears he was able to use the guide. For anyone looking round the site I would recommend this addition. We briefly looked round the display in the entrance room so we could get an overview and set off. What a wonderful tour of history this was. It is one of the most important prehistoric sites In Shetland with a history of uninterrupted habitation right up to the 1600s. (1) I took a photo record as well as some ‘arty’ shots and other than it feeling cold it was a great way to spend the Sunday morning. 

A general view of one small part of the site 


Colour inspiration for Fair Isle Knitting 


We decided we would drive on to Sumburgh Head and see if we could get an early lunch in ‘Katja’s Cakes’ pop up cafe which was there. We briefly queued and then I joined a local couple at their table while M queued to order. I had noticed the cake looked divine and determined that after lunch we would buy some to keep for afternoon tea. I had chicken and rice soup which was superb and M had goats cheese quiche. What a find this was. Great views, great food and good company as  we chatted to the couple we sat next to. I also spotted a cookery booklet, supporting Lerwick Amateur Swimming Club for sale. This is great and contains recipes by local people to cook when home. If I can make cake half as well as I eat in Shetland I will be pleased. 

After lunch we walked around the buildings and popped into the shop where we bought more cards to send to the grandchildren back home. I treated myself to a new spectacles cleaning cloth which would be a nice reminder when we were home.

This image shows a part of Katja’s  wonderful van with the lighthouse above, love the shapes on the top.

As we walked back to the van looking at birds as we went,  we realised that it was such a fine day that we could see Fair  Isle on the horizon, if you look hard. 

Unusually for us we had decided not to go to the Wool Week Opening Ceremony this year. It is better for me if I can eat at regular times and going to this disrupts that, we knew walking round Jarlshof would be tiring, I easily made my 10,000 steps just doing that and more importantly I had a full day with the Advanced  Lace workshop with Anne Eunson and Kathleen Anderson the next day when I was expecting to need 100% plus concentration to design knitted lace. I did not want to jeopardise that by suffering a migraine! Although it was sad not to go we made a sensible choice as we were both exhausted by being outside for so long. After all, this was supposed to be our rest day. 

So after our roast chicken dinner I packed my bag for Monday and treated myself to some fine silk spinning which was part of an ongoing project started earlier in the summer. I had got my Joy spinning wheel with me for a spinning workshop later in the week. 

  1. From the Guidebook Jarlshof. It is one of eight Historic Scotland properties in Shetland. 

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Shetland Wool Week 19: 10 Leaving Unst, Wool Week Starts

Sat Sept 28 Day 13 

We woke up to a very mild morning and the sea was flat calm with hardly any movement- what a difference 24 hours can make! As always we were very sorry to be leaving Unst but we were also looking forward to seeing wool weeker friends and soaking up the general atmosphere of wool week. We had decided  not to take the earlier ferry but to have a leisurely start and could have coffee before we left. We did some sums and made a plan for the day taking in some things I ‘needed’  to do in Lerwick before we drove south to our stop for the next 10 nights. Once we reached mainland we decided we needed more tea and cake, and enjoyed some lovely ginger cake we had saved from the Final Check out.

We were travelling leisurely and were quite surprised how much fog there was on mainland. We should have stopped and I should have got the camera out but there were lots of ‘must dos’ on my list so reluctantly I left photography for another day. 

It began to look sensible to stop at the Bod first which would open at 12.00. Last year I had bought a super set of dpns needle ends, made by Brita’s husband.(1) I had contacted them some weeks ago and they had kindly offered to reserve another set.  Brita knew all about these and produced  the set. I love these too, so now have a set for my fair isle knitting and a set for my lace knitting. It is so lovely to have Shetland thoughts when I get my knitting out during the whole year. 

The latest needle ends

Next stop was Jamieson and Smiths and some cones of natural yarn  to buy before the shop got super busy in the week. This means that  once the weather obliges in the New Year natural dyeing will not have to wait for the postman to arrive. 

Next stop was the Hub. From posts on the Wool Week page prior to leaving home  it seemed this year as if there were likely to be more than the 600 or so people that  attended in 2018. I was amazed at how many people were queueing to pay in the Museum Shop and thought this suggestion would be true. Little did I know then when the numbers were calculated for 2019 that 1000 would be the number estimated for attendees. (2) I collected my SWW annual from the hub and was very pleased with it. It is such a great publication each year and is a physically nice annual to have and as always there was more in it than just the knitting patterns. However, the knitting patterns themselves are excellent. I had seen Hazel’s Hoosiefield gloves before I left home and decided to take some wool with me so I could get started once I got the annual. What was nice was that in the hub there was an example of each of the items knitted from the patterns in the annual and these were very nicely presented. There are several that I would like to knit. 

We popped upstairs to look at the new cafe (3). It was good to see that it was busy and we noticed that some of the tables were reserved and knew that we would be having coffee there later in the week. 

Next stop was Tesco, we were able to get an organic chicken and some other provisions so would be set up for the start of the week. The shop was busy, it looked like with local families doing their shopping. I don’t think I had ever seen it that  busy. 

I was keen that we got the shopping done as quickly as possible as I wanted to visit Sally Ead (4) and her pop up shop on Commercial Road. I had been in touch with her before either of us set out as I saw that she was bringing some knitting sticks with her. Knitting sticks appear to have been used in East Anglia and much of England to serve the same function as the knitting belt in Shetland. I was hoping to buy one. It was just like being in a sweet shop, there were some beautiful linen smocks, sheets of linen and hemp, some knitting sticks and rag books made of hemp. I was particularly interested in items made from linen and hemp (5). I was so delighted to be able to chose  one of the knitting sticks and also treated myself to a small rag book with hemp pages. 

I hoped to return later in the  week to look more seriously at the hemp sheets. 

We then drove on to our campsite, where we would stay for the next 10 days. We were surprised that there were 3 caravans with families and their children. Usually the only campers are there for Wool Week. 

Kate arrived back from her trip to Ollaberry so had much to report about the haps and the fine lace spinning that was taking place. I was planning to visit on Tuesday and was very excited by the thoughts of this. 

We made a quick dinner as the day was not over yet. We were off back into town and to meet up with other members of Terri Malcomson’s Creative Crew fb Group who were coming to SWW.  This year we were meeting in Havly Cafe. We got a drink and some excellent cake and then caught up with old friends and newcomers to wool week.

What a great start this had been to Wool Week. I was glad we were having rather a rest day on Sunday as I wouldn’t be able to take this pace all week. 


  1. The post showing these is 20Nov18
  2. Giving an actual number is impossible. There are so many events over the whole of the islands that make up Shetland. Many are free and any number could pop into these without being registered so I suspect any official number given is an underestimate. 
  3. Sally Ead can be found on Instagram.Sallie Ead 
  4. The house we live in, in East Anglia, is built on land that belonged to Flaxlands Farm and there is quite a large area of our village called Flaxlands.