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Shetland Wool Week 2016: Shetland Flock Book, and my only class

This is my last post about Shetland Wool Week 2016.

You may have noticed: no classes for me during Wool Week! It’s partly a choice, and partly because I couldn’t manage to book the classes I wanted to. Shetland Wool Week is booked through a system called Box Office. While I was learning how to use it, all my classes went into a black hole called “sold out”! Kerstin got the same result, so for a moment both of us where a bit dumbstruck.

So what to do? Take tours, go to free events, have fun. That’s what Kerstin and I did, and wow what a week we had! Afterwards, while writing these blog posts, I was wondering how on earth we had time to do all we did.

This last post will take you to the Shetland Flock Book Show and Sale, and to the one class I succeeded to book.

The Flock Book first:

Kerstin and I wanted to go with our friend Sarah Jane to see more of Shetland sheep, and in the end everyone from our self catering ended up at Shetland Rural Centre just outside Lerwick. We went there on Saturday when the rams were shown and later sold at the auktion. Sarah has Shetland sheep at home in the US. and she was able to go behind the scene to follow an expert, while Kerstin and I were led to the show ring by Oliver Henry himself! I think he wanted to get us out from behind the scene where we had accidentally gone in the wake of Sarah.

I took this photo before we were led out by Oliver. He’s having a first glance at the rams before they go into the ring. He’s accompanied by Jen, his successor as wool sorter and classifier at Jamieson and Smith:

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From the ring:

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It was very quiet, neither the men or women in the ring nor the rams had much to say. There was some pointing with sticks and slow walking to move the rams, but everything was very calm and silent. The man in a blue jumpsuit to the right is Jim Nicolson, who just a few minutes earlier had gotten 40 pounds from me, and a good deal of money from Kerstin also 🙂

After all the pointing at and moving the rams, some of them were let out to the left, and some back through the door in the middle where they had been let in. The latter group had then been decorated with rosettes in different colours, which tells me they had won a prize of some sort. I suppose they were sold at the auktion later. These rams will be used in breeding programs. The photo shows the typical tails of a breed belonging to the group Short Tailed Northern Sheep.

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The rams came into the ring in groups: young white, young coloured, older white, older coloured etc. Kerstin and I left after a couple of hours, because the show went on until late in the afternoon.

Below you see three of Jim Nicolson’s coloured fleece. One of them had won the Premium prize: the light grey in the middle. Luckily for me Kerstin wanted the black and darker grey fleeces! I payed 40 pounds for the Premium fleece. I don’t remember what Kerstin payed for her two fleeces. Whatever it was, all three are fully worth their prices. You’ll hear more about mine in due time. It’s washed and now completely dry, and will be stored until I have time to prepare and spin it. Jim said he wouldn’t ask too high a price for the fleeces, but instead be kind to us, so I have no idea what you may be asked for a premium coloured fleece. Or then he was only joking and skinning us old ladies from abroad… 😀

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The only class I could get a ticket for was a woodworking class for Cecil Tait from Paparwark Furniture. He makes beautiful furniture and household items. I’ve looked at photos on his site for a few years now, and wished I was rich. So taking a class for him in how to make my own threading hook and nalbinding needle felt like a real temptation.

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I was a bit afraid I’d have to use an electric saw, and so it happened. First my father and later my husband both forbid me to use their saws because I break the blades. I told Cecil about it when he wanted me to make my piece of mahogany a bit smaller before I started working on it with a knife. He didn’t believe me, so I breathed in some courage and went to the saw – and broke the blade. You can see the scary saw to the right behind Cecil. He looked a bit confused, but changed to a new blade (which the others in the class used without any flying pieces of blade), and then handed me the biggest knife he had taken to the class, a beautiful Norwegian Brusletto. Oh how right it felt in my small hand! Yes, I’m serious! I love to work with knives. And I didn’t have to go near the scary saw anymore.

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I wasn’t able to finish my hook shaft and needle during the class, but finished them after I came home. Cecil drilled a hole in my needle, and a much smaller hole in the shaft for the hook.

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I already want to go back to Shetland. It mustn’t be during Wool Week, it could well be one of the textile tours the islands offers, or I could go with hubby and some friends. There’s so much I didn’t see during my two trips to Shetland! I’d like to sit down in the library and look through their textile books, go to Sumburgh and see the nature centre, and to Ninian’s Island, do some beech combing, go to Eshaness again, take a sea tour and see the bird cliffs again, take a croft tour, see the museums I haven’t had time to see yet, go to Fair Isle and Foula. And much more, like eating at some of the nice restaurants, which Kerstin and I didn’t have time to do during our busy week. Believe it or not, but I lived mostly on boiled eggs and good English ham and cheese and Swedish yoghurt the whole week. Only one evening did Kerstin, Veronica and I have time to go the Chinese restaurant just round the corner: lovely fish!

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Still here!

Hi everybody, it’s been a while!

As some of you know, I haven’t been well these past months. But I’m still spinning, knitting, crocheting, dyeing, and weaving. I just haven’t had enough energy to also write.

Anyway, Wovember has started well for my part. I’m spinning the Premium Coloured Shetland fleece I bought last year at Shetland Flock Book. It’ll be a very thin 2-ply lace yarn (41 wpi/singles, will bloom when washed). I carded the fleece after first testing to comb. Combing took away at least 50% of the fleece, so I decided to drum card. A true worsted yarn would be better for lace, but you can’t always get your way with things! I use a worsted draw, though, so it’s a semi-something yarn. I scoured the fleece last year, and left most of the lanolin in it so I wouldn’t have to oil the fleece for carding or combing.

I’ve also spun quite a lot on spindles during the summer. These small skeins are the latest, all also plied on spindles. If you don’t already chain ply on top whorl spindles, watch Chewiedox’ instruction video. Easy! And fun.

The skeins: Swedish Finewool and Jaalanlammas, Swedish Finewool, black Campanica.

Isn’t that spindle beautiful? It’s from Forsnäs Hemman in the Swedish Lapland. The wood is rowan, one of my favourite trees.

I have given up teaching, but I do have two pupils who are studying for there apprenticeship in our local guild. Sometimes we just meet to have fun, like in October when we dyed wool and wool tops. These tops are ready for the steam cooker:

I also knitted a sheep. It’s my new travel companion, as I gave my travel teddy bear to my grandchild. The pattern is from Rostock Keramik/Lena Bergsman, only in Swedish I think: Fåret Ullrik. I used handspun yarns for the sheep, and acid dyed/handspun yarns for the clothes.

I crocheted a blanket for a family member. It’s a Christmas present, so I won’t tell you who’ll get it.

Hubby has been busy too. In August our barn looked like this:

Now he’s almost finished, re-using the planks and boards from the parts that had to go. Some red paint will change it completely, but I really like how it looks now.

And Kasper? He’s fine, only tired like old dogs often are. He doesn’t want to go on long walks every day. He was happy for the snow we had a couple of weeks ago, and not so happy when it melted the next day.

The sun doesn’t rise high now in November, so when it sometimes gets to shine a bit the effects are dramatic and very good for your spirit. 8:30 in the morning:

It was a good year for the rowans, of which we have plenty here. All those berries made it possible for some of the migratory birds stay here until a couple of days ago. Now they have eaten almost everything, and moved south.

Indoors the old Amaryllis is blooming after having spent the summer outdoors.

Shetland Wool Week Guest Blog by Veronica

Here’s my friend Veronica’s report from Shetland Wool Week 2017. I’m so happy she wants to share her experience from this years wool week here on my blog, thank you so much Veronica!

Her post is awesome, enjoy!

Wool Week Guest Blog

Hi Everyone! My name is Veronica and last year I was lucky enough to get to go to Shetland Wool Week 2016 with Barbro, and a mixed group of people some of whom had been before, and some who had not. Barbro blogged about this trip. (Barbro’s comment: I wrote several posts about Wool Week in October 2016).

The whole experience reminded me just how special Wool Week was, so I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to go back again this year on my own. Barbro said I could guest blog about it here for all those of you thinking about going. Here’s what I did….

Friday

As I touch down at Sumburgh airport there is a beautiful sunset over the hills to the west, It’s good to be back!

Saturday

Time to get started! I kick off with some light shopping and my first class. The class is a spinning class at a very tiny but cute venue called the Lodberries. This is the road where Jimmy Perez’s house can be photographed. The class only has four places, and if you see the space you will understand why, but it is lovely.

We do “Spindle Spinning and the Muckle Wheel”. It’s a nice gentle class – my main take-away is remember not to grasp your fibres in a death-grip when spinning. And the big feature of interest is of course the “Muckle, Great or Walking Wheel”. A very interesting bit of kit, which is almost like a spindle on its side. A giant wheel and a wooden stick or spindle on the side which you do all the spinning on. No bobbins, no Mother of all, no scotch tension, no complexity.

While we are there we have several visitors. One is a local boy doing a photography project, and one is a lovely man of advanced years who used to work in this shop as a messenger boy when he was 14 and it was a wool shop. Best job he ever had!

There was also chat. Apparently Mabel Ross’s nephew once stayed with the lady running the course on Fair Isle for reasons entirely unconnected with spinning. Shetland is that kind of place….

Rest of the day is my big shopping opportunity (highlights are yarn, books and Fair Isle patterned chocolate). I also fit in a trip to the Bod of Gremista / Shetland Textile Museum to see this years exhibition on Victoria Gibson.

I make it to the museum or Wool Week hub with ten minutes to spare before it closes. I’m a bit grumpy about what seem to be reduced opening hours this year, but very happy with the merchandise, which is better than last year. The logo this year is great.

A Muckle Wheel

Sunday

***I’m not going to talk about food or accommodation in generally, or this article will never end, but note that eating out on a Sunday can be a problem. Many places are closed or have very short hours. Restaurants or self-catering may be your best bets. ***

Class 2 – Felix Ford and “Quotidian Colour work”. Felix is a previous Wool Week patron, and this is the class of her first published book. It’s a method of dragging design inspiration out of boring things. We have to take an inspiration object, match the colours, graph out a shape from it and swatch it. It’s a good class, and pretty much what I expected. Main takeaway? You don’t always have to spend hours pre-designing a perfect chart, then swatching it to prove the chart works. In a very modern, Agile kind of way just move fast and break things, i.e. just swatch without worrying. You may get something better than expected.

Class 3 – Amy Detjen. This is a techniques class on stranded colour work, so basically we swatch to practise the techniques. I got what I needed out of this class in terms of using both hands and wrapping floats on either hand. It was also suggested to take a video of yourself doing the technique. I did this in another class and it is a really good idea.

Reception! This live streamed on Facebook, so you may or may not still be able to see it. It was pretty good, although one of the speakers was universally agreed to be a little dull, and unlike last year there was no paid bar. The food was good.

There was also a bit of a joke which utterly bombed. The presenter (same as last year and very good) made a joke about people gatecrashing. I think she was just trying to say that it was such a great event that even the volunteers had come in to see what was going on, but this got lost in translation as hundreds of people who had not paid crashing the event. Be careful what you joke about! It was taken as truth and not well received by some.

Monday

Most of the day I spent on the “North Mainland Tour”, i.e. a coach trip. There are lots of trips put on during Wool Week, which are good for those who don’t hire a car. We did lunch, coffee, a cliff walk (more Jimmy Perez – this is where he chased a man over the cliffs), and Tangwick Haa museum. This was a little treasure, which I think needed an hour to appreciate, not the half hour we got.

The real purpose of the trip was to take us to the village hall at Ollaberry to see the haps. I think they left us here a little too long, but it was a lovely display, loads of cake of course, things to buy, and I spent most of the time watching the fingers of a master spinner at work. Not bad.

I spent the evening at Class 4 – Knitted Bangles. This class gave us wool, a choice of patterns and a bangle to cover. I think this one was a bit of an under-appreciated gem myself. The number of attendees compared to the number of places that had been advertised was low, but I liked what I made, and it gave me loads of ideas for ways to take this concept forward and do different things with it.

It was run by Helen Robertson an interesting local Shetland lady, and if she puts it on next year I encourage you to go.

Another Happening at Ollaberry

Bangles, Baubles, no birght shiny beads.

Tuesday.

This was my “hard work” day, and even I wasn’t quite looking forward to all this. I do not encourage people to over-schedule themselves in the way I do…

Class 5 – “Fae Ewe Tae You”. A fine lace spinning class with a local lady. Interestingly I had read an old newspaper snippet about her at the Ollaberry event the day before. This lady was very comforting about the joys of spinning in the grease, and simple preparation combing staples. I love making rolags, but for my actual spinning I do find combing better. That’s just me. I got a nice sample of lace-weight thread out of it, which I will knit up later.

Class 6 – Felted Creatures – or felt your own Trove (Steland troll). Of all the classes I took this is probably the one I could have ditched. Nothing wrong with it, a perfectly good class, but I have done something very similar making felted gnomes for Christmas, and this didn’t offer much over and above that. A group of ladies from Iceland loved it mind!

Class 7 – Victoria Gibson swatching. This class was tied to the exhibition at the Bod of Gremista. The short version is that an art-school lady called Victoria moved to Shetland and did some interesting and innovative things with stripy jumpers and chunky jumpers where the focus was on the texture and the mixture of colours. They were all knitted locally by an army of home-workers, including the whole island of Papa Stour at one point! And then oil came, and the business ramped down.

In this class Victoria herself and Lizzie who had curated the exhibition helped us do a swatch in line with her most iconic jumpers. I must admit I like the technique, and I absolutely loved the swatch I made in autumn shades. Good food for design thought here.

I whipped along to the “Year of Techniques” Trunk Show at Jamieson’s and Smith, before heading off to the Isleburgh Knitting and Spinning Group evening. I have to be honest, and say I mostly enjoyed cake and chat. I passed the Marie Wallens book launch, and that looked packed.

Swatch till you drop!

Wednesday

After a leisurely breakfast at the Peerie Cafe, Class 8 – “From lace to chunky”.

This class was at Vaila Fine Arts on the main street. It’s an art gallery the rest of the year, but for Wool Week the Shetland CIC take it over. They are the third main yarn producers on the islands, and they produce organic wool. They do a lovely display, and it’s worth visiting the shop just to look round.

This was about knitting in different weight yarns in a lace sampler. It is surprisingly difficult to swap from chunky to lace-weight in one sample I found! The best part of this class was the very clear pattern layout. The lady had written up various simple lace patterns in both chart and written form herself on her home computer, and she had done a super job on it – very easy to follow.

In the afternoon I did the Jamieson’s Tour, and I’ve got to admit this was a surprise revelation. I’d had various bits of advice about this tour. First was it’s a lovely drive out – true. The scenery on the way to Sandness is spectacular, and although this is very much a trip to see the Jamieson’s factory not a coach tour, i.e. no commentary, it is worth it for the drive out alone.

The tour is split into two groups. I had been warned to do the first tour which goes round the factory then the shop so that I could go and sit back on the bus if I wanted. This was on the basis that both the shop and the coffee room (yes, there is a room with free hot drinks and cake) are very small. This was good advice, but I did it the other way round, (shop then factory tour), because I personally had no trouble spending an hour shopping up front, (and drinking coffee) and could have used longer. Horses for courses.

The tour itself was very interesting, and I am in awe of their business, which I think must be a very difficult one to run. They process the fleece, dye it (this is clearly their number one USP), spin it, ball it, weave it, make clothes from it, and sell it. Gary Jamieson himself did the tour, and he is an excellent ambassador for his family’s business. Kudos.

As a nice bonus you get three free balls of yarn on this tour, and this and another subsidised event were the best value for money events on offer.

In the evening was “Stitches from the Stacks”, an event at the Shetland library, where apparently Outi Kater works, because she was running it. The focus this year was much more on browsing the books, which they had piled up everywhere. There was also the obligatory cake. It is a lovely event, and a great way to spend some time in the evening.

Jamieson’s Factory

Thursday

An opportunity to go to Bressay. I have been to a number of the Islands now, and it was nice to tick another one off the list. However, today was not the day. The weather was terrible.

I went to spend some time hanging out at the hub in the museum and drinking their delicious coffee. I then ran through the rain to catch the foot ferry to Bressay for Class 9 – Horseshoe Lace Knitting.

The Textile Museum (Bod of Gremista) possibly with the Bressay Development Association had put a tonne of stuff on for Wool Week on Bressay. Others who did the Croft Tour with Chris Dyer highly recommended it. There was also an option to go just to see the Textile museum display at the lighthouse. I saw this as part of my class, and I will be honest and say if I had gone just for that I think I would have been disappointed.

I had chosen to do some lace knitting at the light house, as I thought it would be a nice environment, and it was. It was a good class, and the main thing I learned in this one, is that work by Shetland knitters looks so good because they put extra twiddly bits in THAT AREN’T IN THE PATTERNS. We had a scarf pattern, the lady told us what she would add, and it if you looked at the cover picture it included these extra bits. Grr. Why they can’t just put those in the patterns then, I don’t know, but it’s definitely something to look out for in future.

So, a good trip, but all I saw of Bressay was misty windows.

In the evening I had two talks. It was back to the Bod for a talk on Victoria Gibson. Although I had already seen the display and taken the class, it was worth going back for the talk. There was a lot of stuff about how it had been curated that made me appreciate the exhibition a whole lot more.

I then hot-footed it back to the Museum for a talk by the Ladies of Thingborg. They are an Icelandic collective who run a fibre-based shop and teaching centre. Their talk was very interesting about how they started, how they got the building and what they did.

I have to give praise to the ladies who did a talk over an hour long in their second or third language and indeed what they have managed to build at Thingborg and what they do there. These are just ordinary women with jobs and families who do this in their spare time.

Friday

Class 10 – “The Beauty of the Icelandic Ocean” with the Ladies of Thingborg. They brought some of their hand-dyed Icelandic wool for us to buy, and a pattern for a nice shoulder shawl using the wool. This was a very simple pattern which I got a great start on over the weekend. (Easy to knit garter stitch triangles you can chat over). The main focus was on the wool itself, and the lovely colours.

At lunchtime I ran to town to post some stuff home. I had been hesitant to do this, but everything arrived safe, sound and quickly and I was very pleased I had done it the following week. Shout out to the Shetland Book store who could not have been more helpful with getting a post bag and packing it. 70p well spent.

Class 11 – Last class! And I will admit I was flagging a bit by now. This was knitting a mini half-hap with this year’s patron Gudrun Johnson, and I perked up as soon as I saw what we were going to make. It was a tiny hap, big enough for a teddy or doll and super cute. I finished this off over the weekend in parallel with my Ocean shawl, so a quick make.

The evening was the last big collective event (or second, there was only really this and the Reception) – a Spree for Cushla. This was a dance in memory of a lady called Cushla who had been heavily involved in Wool Week and the Textiles Museum.

I enjoyed this event, but I think it was really a treat for people from abroad who don’t seem to have these kind of local village hall dances and perhaps people from very urban areas who have never done any country dancing or been to a Ceilidh. It wasn’t a Ceilidh, because apparently Shetland doesn’t have those, but it kind of was really. A good Friday night either way, with a bar, buffet and of course the obligatory raffle. (For those who don’t know the raffle is a staple of any event held in the UK in a village hall).

Saturday

The wind-down begins. I went to Jamiesons and Smiths – always a lovely place to hang out in and hung out. From there the bus picked us up for a morning based on the Flockbook.

Last year the real Flockbook was on at the Mart (again Barbro blogged about this, and got some prize winning fleece (Barbro’s comment: I will work with this fleece during Wovember this year. My friend Kerstin from Sweden, also attending Wool Week in 2016, bought the other two winning fleeces).

This year the Flockbook was on the week after wool week, so they put on a fantastic event at Gremista farm. Eric the farmers own well-bred Shetland sheep were there, but they were mostly white, so a couple of other people had brought some coloured sheep to exhibit. There was a barbecue, free booze, fleece to fondle and a talk about both the sheep and Wool on the hoof. Nice.

After this I dashed to the Makers Market. Busy, but not rammed. I did some shopping, including treating myself to the hand-spun kit for one of the Annual designs (so happy I did that! The yarn is georgeous).

I then went back to Bressay, this time much more successfully. The weather was divine. I went on the ferry, walked to the Cafe, had refreshments, looked round the charity shop, the display of garments from the Reception fashion show, and the other displays.

Bressay is amazing. It really is rural Shetland, no question, but on the east coast you are staring straight at Lerwick. I like it a lot. All the literature kept saying the cafe was 15 – 20 minutes walk from the ferry. I’m not sure about that. On my way back I sped up, and sped up, and sped up again, and yet I am sure I would have missed the ferry by a couple of minutes if a very kind lady had not given me a lift for the last few hundred yards. Allow plenty of time!

I didn’t see their Heritage Centre, but those who did loved it, including a professional archaeologist. Apparently it is small, and has a Burnt Mound in the grounds!?! One for next time.

Sunday

Last Day. I had stayed on specially to visit the Sunday teas this year, and I did that by going on a coach tour organised for this purpose. Those who went to Sherry and Sharing at Hoswick loved it – these and the Tingwall teas were the two main events and several people went to both. I just did Tingwall.

The weather started nice and deteriorated over the day. We drove to Scalloway in the sun, and took pictures from a view-point. At Scalloway we saw the museum (small, but a lovely little place. A very small textile display, and a lot on the Shetland bus). We also saw the castle.

The wind turned into rain, and we went to see some Shetland ponies. The owner was very enthusiastic and the ponies were lovely, but some people chose to stay on the bus rather than get soaked seeing them.

Then we went to the hall at Tingwall. This was teas (hot drinks, lots of cake and sandwiches), a display of work, and a display room where the knitting and spinning was being demonstrated. I think we arrived at just the wrong time, as the place was swamped, but it did die down. There wasn’t a lot else to do on the Sunday, so I saw pretty much everyone who had been involved in Wool Week there.

And that was it. Wool Week. Done.

Will I go again next year? Weeeeeeell. Let’s just say I might have booked some accommodation already, and leave it at that.

Foot Note (Sort Of).

Just two weeks after Wool Week finished Loch Ness Knit Fest happened. In some ways it’s a bit close to Wool Week both in terms of both time and location (yes I realise Inverness is a very long way south of Shetland). Nevertheless I went and saw quite a few Wool Week faces there. Some were locals, but there were a few ladies from abroad too. If you have the time, you can tag this on as part of an extended holiday involving Wool Week.

Sadly I couldn’t get more time off work to take the Friday off, and I don’t know if that impacted my enjoyment or not. This event runs Friday – Sunday and is based on the Danish Fano Strikkefestival.

This was only its second year, the organisers are clearly trying very hard to build it, and I wish them luck. I kept having to remind myself it was NOT Wool Week and not to compare apples and oranges. Wool Week is it’s own very special and unique take on a knitting festival. Loch Ness Knit Fest is a bit more like Cumbria’s Wool Fest or WonderWool Wales (both great events).

The format is pinned around the show which is various vendors and some displays. I liked the activities on the stage, which included some very soothing harp music. The bagpipes during class were maybe less soothing.

I went for the classes. There were quite a few of these, and I managed to pick up two I missed at Wool week, including one with Hazel Tindall, as well as an extra one with an American tutor for something different. That one was actually my favourite.

They also put on other events, there was a fiddles concert, a dinner, and a cruise of Loch Ness. I did the dinner which I thought was OK for what it was, but over-priced. What I did like was that the event was big enough to be meaningful, and well attended, but not packed out. You could still get classes quite late on for example, compared to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival which has already sold out for next year.

This was a very sold weekend away trip, and I look forward to going again next year. Also shout out to a couple of the vendors who were also trying hard, putting on special dye runs and creating patterns just for this show. Good work guys.

Spinning silk with friends

One of the highlights of the year: meeting with friends for a day-long spinning session! We live in different parts of the country, so we have to travel for hours to meet. Because of the long distances we can’t meet very often, but on the other hand we get a lot done during the intense sessions.

This time we spun silk. We started with hankies, which I find easiest for beginners. But one of us liked silk top better, which was a surprise to me. As a spinning teacher (which I used to be) you can never be 100% sure what fiber to bring to a beginners class. I would’ve thought that opening the hankie, pre-drafting it, and just letting the wheel make the twist and pull the strand onto the bobbin would’ve been much easier than the tedious precise short draw. And she was using a super fast Saxony wheel on top of it!

Mervi, Petra, and Sanski with my Saxonys in my spinning room:

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Yes, you’re right: Kasper the dog has been doing some woodwork and left it in the middle of the floor for humans to stumble upon… no problem really for the three of us, as we all have dogs. We are used to odd things being left in odd places.

We also exchanged fibers, which for my part means I have three boxes of raw wool I bought from Petra,  some washed mohair from Sanski, and a big plastic bag full of fibre samples to work with.

Petra has a flock of Finnsheep that produces superb wool and delicious meat. Hubby and I have lamb meat and sausages in the freezer again! Myllymäen tila

Sanski is a professional spinner and dyer that specialises in natural dyes: Rukki ja rautapata

Mervi is studying to become a teacher in different crafts. She knows a lot of techniques, but her main craft is bobbin lace.

Shetland Wool Week: knitting books

I have a few of the myriads of books on knitting in Shetland. As with my spindles, when I’ve bought yet another book I always think “OK, now I don’t need another one”. And as with spindles, eventually I find that I’m wrong.

I gladly recommend all the books I show you today! The textile tradition in Shetland is so overwhelmingly manifold, that one book in your textile library just isn’t enough.

I don’t knit very much Fair Isle, but I still have a couple of books:

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As you can see, two classics (McGregor and Starmore). I think you can survive pretty well with those two. Kate Davies is a must for all knitters! For me she represents the very best of new designs leaning on tradition. And the photos are wonderful!

“Knit Real Shetland” is a collection of new designs by among others Jared Flood, Hazel Tindall, Gudrun Johnston, Wolly Wormhead, Sandra Manson, Mary Jane Mucklestone, Mary Kay.

“Stranded Colourwork  Sourcebook” by Felicity Ford (Knitsonik) shows you how to make your own designs by using colours and shapes in your surroundings. Felicity is also behind Wovember, the great event we all look forward to this time of the year.

“Wool Week Annual” 2015 and 2016 include essays about Shetland textiles, and designs by designers like Hazel Tindall, Donna Smith, Gudrun Johnston, Outi Kater, Ella Gordon, Wilma and Terri Malcolmson. 2015 is sold out, but 2016 can at least today still be purchased here.

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I love knitting lace, and Shetland lace is especially dear to me. I have books on lace knitting in Estonia and Russia also, but I always return to my Shetland lace books. I must confess: I read the books, and look at the photos more than I knit these complicated looking designs. I know it’s less difficult than it seems, so now I’m totally determined: the Premium fleece I bought at Shetland Flock Book will become a Shetland lace.

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“Heirloom Knitting” by Sharon Miller is out of print, but can sometimes be found as used copies. This book is considered to be THE book about Shetland Lace.

Liz Lovik’s two books, “The Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting”, and “Magical Shetland Lace Shawls to Knit”, are two books with admirably well and logically made instructions, easy to follow and understand.

“The Book of Haps” is edited by Kate Davies. It’s a collection of hap patterns designed by a number of skilled designers from several countries. As the term “hap” suggests, the shawls are designed for everyday use. The book also has also a fairly long essay about haps and shawls, written by Kate Davies.

All the books above have articles about knitting in Shetland.

“Shetland Textiles 800 BC to the Present” has no patterns, but is just like the titel says, a history book. Of course, you can’t go deep into the different techniques in just one book, but as an introduction it’s very good, and so beautiful!

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I forgot to buy a book I’d really love to have, but forgot to buy during Wool Week: A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book by the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers. I’ll buy it as soon as my credit card has recovered from my trip. Another book on my wish list is “A Legacy of Lace” by the same guild, also to be found at Jamieson and Smith.

I also have books that only have a couple of Shetland patterns amongst others from all over the world. But if you really want to learn about and understand Shetland knitting, you need books that concentrate on the topic, and that preferably are written by people from Shetland (or at least Scotland Mainland). They know what they are talking about! I very soon realised that when I went to Shetland the first time.

White mohair, black sheep, and black and white sheep

Spinners must be the most generous group of people in the world! I want to show what’s been given me the last couple of weeks. Let’s start with mohair that Sanski Matikainen gave me. Sanski is a professional spinner, and she also teaches spinning and natural dyeing. She’s also very generous with advice on mohair, which a great joy for me.

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This is a sample of mohair from a 14 year old goat named Birgitta. Soft and lustrous, and very white.

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I washed it (remember, very hot water for mohair, otherwise the waxes won’t come out and it’ll be sticky and unpleasant to work with, and almost impossible to get clean later), and then browsed my stash to see what to blend it with for a sock yarn. I chose fawn Shetland top and white silk brick. Next step will be to gently card them together. There’s 14 grams of mohair, 14 Shetland, and 5 silk in each heap. I have four heaps altogether. I’ll add more wool to the blend, after advice from Sanski. Mohair is almost new to me, as I count the 4-5 times I’ve spun it only as an introduction.

Mohair (Angora) goats don’t go out very much in winter, because the damp weather isn’t good for their coats. Here Birgitta enjoys the nice sunny winter weather. All goat photos with courtesy of Sanski.

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And after being to the hair stylist:

Birgitta lyhyt villa

More of Sanski’s goats:

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The second gift was some readily carded black Finn from Petra Gummerus. I spun a rather thin 2-ply. The two small skeins are bobbin leftovers from light brown and black Finn also from Petra. The yarns before washing:

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May I present Weera, the black ewe who delivered her wonderfully soft and silky wool. Sheep photo courtesy of Petra.

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She lives on Myllymäen Tila together with a herd of Finns with lovely fleeces in white, brown and black, gently cared for by her shepherdess and spinner Petra Gummerus. Petra spends hours skirting and removing double cuts and vegetable matter from the wool before she sends it to her buyers. She’s a gift to hand spinners!

The third gift is a rare wool. Härjedalsfår from Sweden isn’t a recognised breed. It’s a cross or mix of several breeds, where Norwegian Spaelsau seems to be dominant in this particular sample. There are only 5 flocks in Sweden, so there’s isn’t any chance they will be registered as a breed in the near future. But you have to start somewhere, don’t you? The sheep are double coated with a strong overcoat and a soft undercoat. Several breeds in Sweden have that kind of wool, among them Värmlandsfår, Dalapälsfår, Klövsjöfår, Roslagsfår. Thanks to Désirée, who sent me this! It’s still in the grease, but will be scoured very soon. I haven’t decided how to handle it. Separate the colours, separate the guard hair from the undercoat? Or just card everything together?

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As you can see, I have some wonderful moments by the wheel ahead of me. I have to get it done soon, because it’s now definitely clear that I go to Shetland Wool Week in September. You who have been there, guess where I’ll go more than once? And what I’ll have to send home by mail, as it won’t fit into my baggage?

I bought a whorl and made a spindle shaft

A Swedish ceramist, Lena Bergsman, who is also a spinner, made spindle whorls for sale in the Swedish FB group Spinnare. I bought two of them. Here’s one of them, now with a shaft I made:

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The wool i Grå Trøndersau, an extremely rare Norwegian breed that was thought to be extinct until a flock was found  in the 90s. The breed has very fine and soft wool. The sample I have is also short, 2-3 cm, so carding and spinning on a supported spindle is the best way to spin it. Long draw on a walking wheel or Saxony wheel would also work fine. I found the lovely spinning bowl in IST’s booth at Woolfest some years ago.

The woodworking process:

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First you go out and find a piece of wood in the fire wood shed. This is birch. It has been drying for a year.

Then you shape it with your knife and sandpaper:

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Then you test spin. I shortened the shaft to 27 cm, which is suitable for me as I’m a short person. I also made the shaft thinner. The result is a spindle I probably will use very much, as it spins very well. This is the first whorl formed like a cone in my spindle collection. I now understand why they have been so common in many places all over the world: they spin fast and long. My whorl weighs 35 grams, a good weight for the short and fine wools I often spin.

I bought the whorl here: Rostocks keramik. Lena doesn’t sell them in her net shop, but you can contact her to see if she has any in stock. The Swedish spinners were excited, so she sold a whole lot of whorls in a couple of days.

Estonian Native Sheep

My fiber studies 26

There has been a pause in my public fiber studies. I think my last one was number 25, and that’s more than two years ago (you will have to go to my old blog Hillevis Trådar in May 2011 to find the last study). Since then I’ve spun lots of different breeds, but I haven’t documented them otherwise than I did in the portfolio for my Certificate of Achievement, or in my Handspun projects on Ravelry.

It feels good to start a new series of studies with a rare breed from Estonia. Estonia is Finland’s neighbor in the south, with a textile tradition that few countries can compete with. Information about sheep and livestock in Estonia: here and here.

Last summer I met a lady who’s originally from Estonia.  She now lives in Finland, and is a member of my guild. We came to talk about wool – surprised, anybody? She said she could get wool samples from the rare Estonian Native Sheep. A couple of weeks ago hubby and I went to town to fetch the wool.

Kadri, who is one of the farmers that run the farm Muhu Maalammas, gave some information about the wool in a letter. Later I also learned from her that all samples are winter wool, i.e. from the spring shearing. Winter wool is always of lower quality than summer wool in our parts of the world, which makes me wonder how the summer wool from these sheep is…

Eesti maalammas (Reet)

Because, let’s establish from start: this is gorgeous wool in many ways. It’s strong, soft, some of it also has a nice lustre. There’s wool for all kinds of garments, from soft baby clothes to outdoor clothes for rough weather.

Samples 6 and 7 were too brittle to card, but they were an exception. Both are extremely fine wools, very close to what we think of when we talk about the finer qualities of Merino. There was a severe attack of horseflies in the flock that provided the samples, and especially the young ones suffered from it. The farmer and her partners used the wool for felting.

The flock is primarily used for landscape conservation grazing in the Muhu island off the western coast of Estonia.

The wool had been washed in the sea, which in this case means it’s been washed in slightly salty water. The water in the Baltic Sea is brackish with less than 34 promille salinity. I’ll return to the interesting matter of wool and sea water in another post.

Kadri later told me something interesting in an e-mail: “Actually about sea minerals – back in soviet times Saaremaa wool was known to be more soft than mainland wool because sheep grazed on seashore meadows with more minerals. I’m not sure these minerals work when applied outwardly, but when taken inside they are only a benefit for the wool :)”

Let’s move on to my sampling. I carded all samples except the two brittle ones, that I didn’t process any further than to see if the wool could be used. I spun a meter or so on a drop spindle. I spun all other samples on my Hansen Minispinner, and made 2-ply yarns. I did not wash the wool, as I wanted to work with it as it was because of the very special way it felt when touching it.

I use a gauge for measuring crimp that I’ve copied from Dansk Fåreservice (I sincerely hope I don’t bread any copyright rules by showing it). It measures the amount of curves per 3 cm.

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Sample 1. Black wool with bleached tips. This wool had enough lanolin left to make it difficult to card and spin. I took off most of the tips. I tried to spin woolen, but had to modify into a semi-woolen/double draw. Staple length: 9 cm. Crimp: 5.

Sample 2. Black wool with bleached tips. This wool had almost no lanolin and was much easier to work with than sample 1. I left the bleached tips for a tweedy effect. The wool was long enough to be combed, but I wanted to prepare all the samples in the same way, so I carded it and spun woolen/longdraw/double draw. That worked well too. Staple length: 10 cm. crimp: 6.

Sample 3. Tri colored fleece. Soft wool of good quality. I carded it without trying to blend the colors, or sepataring them, only picked them randomly from the fleece. I spun two bobbins woolen/double draw, starting with the lightest color and ending with the darkest. Staple length: 14 cm. Crimp: 4.

Eesti maalammas, tricolor

Eesti maalammas, tricolor

Sample 4. White, strong wool, that most of all resembled some of the longwools, like a sturdier Cotswold or finer Leicester. I carded it, but it could have been combed. I spun against twist. Staple length: 10 cm. Crimp: 3.

Sample 5. White wool with low crimp. Soft! It opened up well, but – there was scurf.  I decided to leave it and see what eventually falls out, which proved to be almost all. There was three types of fleece: wool, hair and kemp. It’s lovely wool, suitable for sweaters, socks, hats, mittens and woven fabric. Staple length: 8 cm. Crimp: 4.

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Sample 6. Very fine white wool. It’s fragile and can’t be carded without breaking, so I only spun a short thread on a drop spindle and doubled it. The wool is very soft and could be used next to skin, lace, and in baby clothing. Staple length: 9 cm. Crimp: 5.

Sample 7. Very fine white wool. I think this could be neck wool from the same sheep as sample 6. It broke when I carded it, so I chose not to work with it more than in four tiny rolags that I spun on a drop spindle. The wool could be used in the finest of lace yarns and in baby clothing. Staple length: 8 cm. Crimp: 6.

Sample 8. Very fine wool with a high percentage of lanolin. It’s soft and merino-like, and can be spun into super fine yarn. Next to skin, shawls, scarves, baby. Staple length: 5 cm. Crimp: 5.

Estonian Native Sheep. Samples 1-8

Estonian Native Sheep. Samples 1-8

I was at once thrilled by how the wool felt. We call it “hand” or “handle”, the way wool feels when you touch it and work with it. It’s impossible to describe in words the information your hands give. I knew I hadn’t felt anything like this wool during my 30 years of spinning. All finished yarns are soft in way I haven’t experienced before. The yarns are also strong, so even the winter wool was of excellent quality.

I was naive enough to ask what people know about wool and sea water in two groups of spinners in Ravelry and Facebook, and also in Online Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers’ discussion group on Yahoo, hoping to have a few answers. I now sit here with 30 printed A-4 pages of discussion! I will make a summary in another post. What an amazing community spinners are!

The textiles in Estonia are colorful and made with great skill. Muhu is known for it’s rich tradition in knitting, embroidery, band weaving and braiding, and there’s amazing crochet also. This photo shows a page from the book “Meite Muhu mustrid” by Anu Kabur, Anu Pink, and Mai Meriste. My Estonian guild friend Reet was kind enough to lend it to me. It’s a luxurious book like so many others that have been published in Estonia the last few years. It has wonderful photos, and the charts are so clear that even if you don’t know Estonian, but have basic skills in knitting, embroidery or braiding, you manage without the text if you want to make some of the socks, mittens, or clothes.

From "Meite Muhu mustrid" by Anu Kabur, Anu Pink, Mai Meriste

From “Meite Muhu mustrid” by Anu Kabur, Anu Pink, Mai Meriste