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.

No comments:

Post a comment