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:
From the ring:
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.
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… 😀
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.
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.
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.
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!
One day Kerstin and I drove to Yell and Unst. We visited Global Yell and saw the looms guided by Andy Ross. There are more looms than you can see in the photo below. Weavers may be interested in the Tours hosted by Global Yell.
A textile sculpture made by students at Global Yell:
After Global Yell Kerstin and I continued to Unst Heritage Centre and saw the lace exhibition. I can’t show you photos, because:
someone has copied some of the lace, made patterns, and sold them on Ravelry!
The result is that it’s now forbidden to take photos. Things like that make me mad. Why do people act like that? And of course there was a person among the visitors this time also who took as many photos she could possibly do without her battery getting discharged… it didn’t help that she was told she wasn’t allowed to do that. Where do people like that come from? And how do their minds work?
But all the same. The Shetland Museum also has a lot of knitted lace, which you can see in an earlier post in my Shetland series. It would’ve been nice to show some of the lace in Unst Heritage Centre, as the most delicate lace was knitted in Unst. There are a few photos at the Centre’s site. Jamison & Smith has a booklet with lace history and patterns, Unst Heritage Lace.
While on Unst, you must visit Foords Chocolate. You can have lunch in the cafe, and you can buy chocolate. Or have their Deluxe Chocolate Experience… at your own risk.
We headed south again, and came upon one of these interesting small museums you stumble upon all over Shetland: the Viking museum at Haroldswick. A couple of photos:
Some of you may have wondered if we missed the Bus Shelter? No we didn’t!
It seems travel was the theme for 2016, as the shelter was decorated with maps and souvenirs, and travel guides in the book shelf:
It was a good trip, as all of Kerstin’s and my trips were during that week. Only a few drops of rain that day. Ferries from Shetland Mainland to Yell, from Yell to Unst, and back again. I love small ferries, got used to them in my childhood in the Kvarken Archipelago. My hometown Vaasa is almost empty of people in the summer, when everyone move to their summer houses on the islands. Only the tourists wander the streets, wondering where all the natives are. Do Shetlanders also have summer houses?
You could drive much faster from Mainland to Unst, was it not for the ferries. A tourist probably enjoys them, but I wonder what the people living in the islands think? Would they love bridges and much more tourists? I suppose this is a matter that divides people depending on what you work with.
There was no fog, so we could see all the rather scary stone walls by the roads in Unst. I always find myself thinking of the people who build these walls, and had to maintain them year after year. All the work people have done! And still do, but in another fashion in the western world. In many places in the rest of the world you still use manual power for big projects.
You may also have wondered why there are no sheep in my photos. Because there ARE sheep in Shetland! Everywhere! But it’s not easy to take photos from a moving car, and if you stop and get out, the sheep run away.
More stonewalls, more sheep, crappy photo from the car. This is what it looks like on many hillsides.
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:
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.
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.
“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!
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.
I have promised a post about Shetland Museum and Archives for a while now. I like museums, and I like this one very much. As with all museums, also this one has a lot more to show than you can see in the public exhibitions. For instance, textiles are often stored away from light that may damage them. In the Shetland Museum you can still see a lot, both originals and copies. They are behind glass, which you can see in my photos, sorry for that.
Sweaters, cardigans, vests, tops, hats, tams, scarves. Stranded colourwork has developed especially in Fair Isle, the little island southeast of Shetland mainland. But it’s been, and is, practised all over Shetland. In one of the photos below you can see a photo of Edward, Prince of Wales, wearing the sweater that started a boom in the 192os. Fair Isle knitting is an ever changing story. Throughout its history the fashion of the period has influenced the patterns, and the colours used.
Sheila McGregor and her books have their own showcase:
Shetland tweed. Weaving has been much more common in Shetland than is usually known. This would be something for me to explore next time.
When you see all these beautiful textiles, you can’t but marvel at the women who did all this beside their everyday tasks. It’s overwhelming. I can’t fully comprehend it.
And when you come to the cases with lace – it’s then when a spinner and knitter would be happy for a chair to sit on, because the sight makes you feel weak.
Lace shawls and haps, case after case. Sometimes the lace is so fine you need a magnifying glass to see it properly. Samplers remind us that all knitters couldn’t read, and that there weren’t always charts to follow. The lace knitters were extremely skilled. They made their own patterns, and they varied them in their own fashion. Skilled lace knitters work like that still today. The finest shawls are still called Wedding Ring Shawls. Even the biggest of these shawls can be drawn through a wedding ring.
The equipment for spinning the fine yarns are the same we use today. Hand carders for the very fine Shetland wool, a spinning wheel, a niddy noddy, a lazy kate. In the photo below there’s also something we don’t use anymore: a smoke barrel with sulphur for whitening the yarns. Nowadays some of us also use dog or cat combs to prepare the wool for worsted spinning.
There’s lots more in this amazing museum! But I want to show you the Gunnister Man. The link takes you to Wikipedia, but there’s much more to read about him and his clothes and accessories. I like this article with lots of links: Costume Historian. There are a free purse patterns on Ravelry, the link takes you to one of them. I’ve made a few purses to give away to friends.
This year’s Shetland Wool Week hub was in the museum. In the hub you could meet other attendants, sit down and knit for a while, have coffee or tea, get information about everything concerning Wool Week. You can see some of the knitters behind the Gunnister Man.
You could also take part in a charity project by knitting a square or two for a blanket, bring them to the hub, and have them sewn on to a blanket. The blankets will be sent to South Africa to children that have lost their mothers because of aids. I knitted three squares.
If you want to know more about knitting in Shetland there are lots of books and articles, and much to be found on internet, like the museum’s digital photo archives. I will show some of the books I own in my next post.
I fell in love with Lerwick when I first went to Shetland in 2010. Stone, stone, stone everywhere, still the impression of the town is friendly and welcoming. The people are so friendly! I haven’t seen any irritation at all with the whimsical tourists who take photos of everything and are in the way in the narrow streets and shops, and sometimes also shrieking instead of talking, which is considered to be a bit uncivilised in many European countries. More information about Lerwick here.
Kerstin and I had a plan for our Shetland trip, and one of them was to walk in the centre of Lerwick for one day. Of course that had to be the only day it was raining during that week! So we didn’t see all the places I had planned, but it was quite a good day anyway.
Let’s start with a photo I took a couple of days earlier, when it wasn’t raining. This is Commercial Street with our self catering upstairs in the building to the right. I love the bunting!
And a couple of days later seen from the market square:
From the other end:
The Shetland Library. It used to be a church:
It’s a beautiful library, but as a librarian I can see there’s not enough space. With movable shelves you can easily change the rooms, though.
Shetland Museum and Archives:
When you walk towards the museum you see this, if it happens to be Shetland Wool Week:
The sea is present everywhere in Shetland, so also in the photo above. An old black ship is anchored next the museum.
I’ll show more from this enchanting place in another post. It has a big and well displayed textile collection. But if you turn around and look in the other direction, you see Hay’s Dock, one of the most beautiful places in Lerwick on a sunny day:
But back to the old part of Lerwick: Lodberrie. This used to be a private pier. The houses were build in 1730:
Lodberrie from the other side. All who have watched the Shetland TV series know this building. For your knowledge: Jimmy Perez walks through the green door, but the kitchen you can see inside isn’t in Lodberrie. It’s somewhere in mainland Scotland, Glasgow perhaps?
And the famous door:
And now: Shetland Woolbrokers/Jamieson & Smith, aka J&S. The wool room and the shop. And you know what? I forgot to take photos in the shop. I have been talking angrily to myself, but it doesn’t help. So have a look at their site to see what they offer. They ship worldwide.
When you walk through that door you enter a big room with different qualities of yarns, tops, and literature on shelves that fill the walls. There are also knitwear and knitting equipment, and in the middle a counter with desks on four sides so the nice and service minded, qualified persons inside can serve a lot of customers at a time. At least two skilled designers work at J&S: Sandra Manson and this year’s Wool Week Patron Ella Gordon.
This is the headquarter of Shetland Wool Week, here it was initiated in 2010. It grows bigger and more beautiful with each year.
I’ll take you to the wool room next to the shop, because luckily I remembered to take photos there. First a glimpse of the incredible, lovable Oliver Henry, the man with more knowledge about Shetland wool than anyone else. I was at his last wool talk on September, Friday 30th, and it was just as fascinating as his talk at Stirling University in 2010, and later that same year in this very wool room. Oliver will retire in a near future, which makes many of us a bit sad. But he has an heir, a young lady called Jen, and I’m sure she’s capable, and the work will continue.
Oliver working in the wool room before his talk, moving wool from one place to another:
Below: Oliver talking about wool, showing us different types of Shetland sheep wool. His fingers are constantly touching the wool, patting it, stroking it, adding fleece after fleece on the table. The audience is so quiet, we try to take in what he’s saying, try to remember as much as possible. Behind him the already classified fleeces from supreme to cross to double coated, all in their designated shelves. In a room downstairs: more fleeces. From one of the piles I pick a supreme fleece for three friends in Finland.
Two types of fleece: supreme and double.
Oliver’s hands examine a wool staple from a Shetland supreme fleece. He demonstrates what this fleece will be turned into by showing us the supreme quality top and a ball of Shetland Supreme 1 Ply Lace Weight, a yarn almost as thin as sewing thread. Beside them lace scarves knitted from this yarn.
A close up of a Shetland supreme fleece. All you spinners out there: don’t we love that crimp?
Yes, I love Oliver Henry’s great knowledge, the quality of his work, his humble but at the same time confident way to present it. The even quality of the yarns J&S produce depend on the farmers and their work with the sheep, and on experts like Oliver.
One last photo from the wool room. This is a double coated fleece, a quality that is very difficult to turn into yarn in a ordinary modern mill. But handspinners can! Don’t be afraid to buy beautiful fleeces like this. Double coated fleeces have been used for thousands of years. With the right kind of knowledge and skills you can spin them and weave, knit or felt beautiful and much valued sweaters, hats, mittens, blankets, socks, carpets.
Just now I feel like going back to Shetland.
ETA: Please note that the spinning mill “Jamieson’s of Shetland” is a different company than “Shetland Woolbrokers/Jamieson & Smith” aka “Jamieson & Smith” aka “J&S”. I will return to J&S later.
Writing about all of the places I tell you about in this post would make a very heavy post with far too many photos. So I decided to give you links instead. Hope you don’t mind!
I was in northern Sweden in August 2015, meeting up with Swedish spinning and knitting friends for a weekend together. I showed photos from my first trip to Shetland in 2010, and all of a sudden some of us were planning a trip to Shetland Wool Week in 2016! In the end only Kerstin from Sweden and I from Finland were able to go, but others joined in: my friends Sarah Jane from US and Veronica from UK who were also in Shetland in 2010, and Malin and her husband Urban from Sweden. We booked Fort Charlotte Self Catering in the centre of Lerwick in September 2015. Before leaving Shetland in October 2016 we heard it was already booked for Wool Week 2017.
I went to Orkney on Wednesday 21st, and flew to Shetland on Saturday 24th. Four of my friends met me at Sumburgh airport. We then drove to Jarlshof to have a look at the Viking site, but as it was closed we went on to Hoswick Visitor Centre for tea and coffee, and then to Lerwick.
In the Hoswick Visitor Centre we saw this small Shetland spinning wheel. We saw many more of the same kind during the following week. Wheels like this have been used for spinning yarns for lace and sweaters in Shetland. There are still handspinners who know how to spin Shetland wool into the super thin lace yarns.
The Shetland Wool Week Opening Ceremony was a grand show with live music, a fashion show with garments made by renowned Shetland designers, good food and drink. Here’s Nielanell on stage. She designs garments that work like magic: they fit all types of figures.
And then all of a sudden the Guizer Jarl and his Squad marched in! The handsome “Vikings” with their thoroughly made costumes and friendly behaviour were well appreciated and much admired. No one was hurt or killed… Find out more about the fire festival here: Up Helly Aa. You can also watch it live, next year on Tuesday 21st January 2017. The Viking influence is strong in Shetland even without the Jarl Squad, and for a Swedish speaking tourist like me Old Norse is obvious in many place names and in the Shetland dialect.
Kerstin rapidly got used to driving on the left side of the curvy and narrow roads. She kept murmuring “vänster, vänster, Kerstin vänster” in the roundabouts and crossroads (Swedish “vänster” meaning “left” in English”). Following that rule she took us to Burra Bears and Jamieson’s Mill during the first two days.
The crossroad to Houss and Burra Bears. Stonewalls are one of the most common sights in Shetland.
I bought a bear from Burra Bears. I couldn’t get one to fit into my luggage the last time, but now this sheep-bear sits beside me in my spinning room.
The Burra Bears studio is beautifully situated in Houss on East Burra, with sheep grazing on the hill slopes, and with the firth (I hope this is the right word for the bay between East and West Burra) on the west side. I didn’t take photos in the workshop, but here’s one from outside:
Jamieson’s of Shetland produces yarn from Shetland wool. Kerstin and I walked through the mill with it’s big, clean, impressive machines. They also wash and dye wool, but we didn’t see that part of the mill. We had no guide because we weren’t able to book the official tour, but it was still interesting to se the mill. Here Kerstin is trying to choose yarns from the shelves in the shop:
Jamieson’s also produce Shetland knits:
From a hand spinner’s view this looks impressive:
… and complicated…
Jamieson’s also produce weaving yarn:
We had time to drive down to the beach near Jamieson’s, where you can see Papa Stour, one of the biggest islands in the Shetland archipelago. There’s a small church and a church yard, beautifully situated by the sea.
Scalloway is a small town near Lerwick. We drove there on the way home from Burra Bears. We wanted to see the castle, but just like Jarlshof it was closed. Maybe next time… It seems I have to go to Shetland at least once more to see everything that was closed 🙂
New houses in Scalloway are often build from wood, which hasn’t been usual in the treeless Shetland.
Back in Lerwick the stairs up to the self catering almost killed us…
But once you’d gone through that ordeal, you could rest in a comfortable, clean and well equipped apartment.
I’m taking a break from the survey of Finnish and Swedish breeds I’m working on. I love the white Shetland top I bought from Jamieson & Smith in Lerwick in 2010. I’m finally confident enough to spin it, not only practice spinning it. I don’t spin it as fine as some of the spinners in Shetland, but I think it’s fine enough for a Shetland shawl.