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….
As I touch down at Sumburgh airport there is a beautiful sunset over the hills to the west, It’s good to be back!
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
***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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 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.
Kerstin and I booked a guided trip to Whalsay, an island on the east coast of Shetland. The knitters there had arranged a wonderful day for people who attended Wool Week. They took us sightseeing on the island, and it was beautiful, and the weather was fine. There were sheep everywhere, on the slopes, in the gardens.
This photo is from Simbister Public Hall where we were served tea, coffee, cakes, sandwiches, and delicious fish and chips. I love the decorations in the ceiling! Ready for Christmas, but very nice the year round.
The incredibly kind ladies took us in small groups in their own cars to see designers and crafters. I went to Ina Irvine, spinner and knitter, and Angela Irvine, artist, knitter, photographer.
Let’s start with this handspun and hand knit Shetland shawl by Ina Irvine. She has the most fabulous handspun and knitted items in her small studio, but the shawl just made us stand there in silence first, then trying to say something that wouldn’t be flat.
Ina also makes miniatures for sale:
This is one of her wheels, a wee Shetland wheel. She has several wheels, both old and new.
She has a fine collection of miniature wheels. A few of them here (I have a similar reddish one):
Angela Irvine’s studio was a total contrast. She gets her inspiration partly from traditional Shetland knits, as in this luxurious hat:
Her dresses – imagine them in a night club, or at a posh party:
This cupboard is amazing!
There was much more to see in both studios, but now I want to go fishing. This is the vessel, or part of it because my camera couldn’t get the whole picture of it:
Those who wanted where invited to take a tour in one of the trawlers in the harbour. I wanted to! So I missed the textile exhibition, but as you can see in another post I saw quite a lot of textile in Shetland Museum.
Now ladies and gentlemen, have a look at this ship: not one little piece of dust to be seen anywhere!
If you’d like to have a fishing vessel like that you’d have to dig out some 25 million pounds from your wallet… Fishing is the main source of income in Whalsay. It’s a hazardous business still today. You can only imagine what it was like in earlier times, and what it was like for the women who waited at home while the men where at sea. They took care of all that had to be done in the house and on the grounds, and they knitted. That probably kept their mind away from what was happening out at sea at least for a while.
So what are they knitting now? Traditional, traditional with a twist, new garments. And they have a gang of girls learning to knit.
One of the ladies said it’s good that knitting isn’t taught at school anymore, because that gives the skilled knitters a chance to teach children that really wants to learn and not just play around. That was comforting to hear! As you may have noticed, there is great concern in Shetland about the future of Shetland knitting. I didn’t take photos of the children, but they were there, and they knitted, and they seemed to have great fun.
A good day in Whalsay! If any of you who arranged this happens to see my post, thank you so much!
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.