A Working Holiday in Shetland


Last week, Neil and I headed up to Shetland, travelling by Northlink Ferries from Aberdeen to Lerwick for a week’s working holiday. The overnight 12-hour crossing was rough as predicted though enjoyable as the cabin was comfortable, the staff were really friendly and helpful, and there was an onboard cinema! We were the only two people in there and they served Orkney Ice Cream. It was a fantastic start to our trip!

YDRBE8090Arriving on the Wednesday, the first stop was the Shetland Museum & Archives in Lerwick on the water front. The striking museum houses a permanent collection covering the local geology, the archeology, fishing industry and textile history. There’s also an amazing cafe, Hays Dock. The wool exhibits were fascinating, including an old knitting machine from the 1950s, woven textiles and fair isle garments from the 1920s. Both lunch at the Peerie Shop Cafe and then dinner at Fjara were excellent.

The following day, I drove out to Sandness in the west of mainland Shetland, to visit the Jamieson’s of Shetland mill and to collect an order of Spindrift to make my Heritage Orchard project bags. Louise kindly gave me a tour round the mill, explaining each of the various steps in producing their yarns, woven fabrics, and machine knit garments. They certainly have an interesting way to pack their dyeing vat!

As the weather was so good, I walked out to the restored Huxter watermills in the afternoon. These Norse or horizontal mills were once common in Shetland, and were used to grind oats or barley from the surrounding fields. Each mill was owned by a group or a single family. The simple design allowed a number of mills to be built along a single stretch of stream. It was such a treat to visit under windless, blues skies.

The scenery on the drive to and from Lerwick was stunning. Luckily, I came across a couple of friendly Shetland ponies who were quite happy to be photographed as they enjoyed the rare January sunshine! And, a very late lunch stop at the Bonhoga Gallery was excellent.

SLC_0176On Friday, I decided to head north to the island of Unst. This involved an early start and firstly a 40 minute drive northwards from Lerwick to Tolt, then taking a 25 minute ferry to Ulsta on the island of Yell. A 20 minute drive in convoy across Yell followed, to reach the ferry terminal of Gutcher.  After a short wait, the last 10 minute ferry took me to Belmont on the isle of Unst as the sun was rising.

Unst was fascinating even in January or maybe especially in January as I felt as though I was the only tourist visiting.  I first drove to the far north of the island, to visit the Norwich beach ophiolite.  The main photo below shows the continental zone on the left, the shear zone in the middle, and the oceanic zone on the right. The smaller photos show a selection of the exposed rocks, e.g. serpentinite, phyllite, and talc steatite.

The main reason for travelling to Britain’s most northerly inhabited island was to visit the Unst Heritage Centre and their lace collection. Sharon, one of the Centre’s volunteers, very kindly opened up the building to let me see their wonderful collection. What a treat! As visitors are requested not to photograph the exhibits, here are some photos of my purchases, the building and my travel info!

Before heading back to Lerwick, I just had time to visit Britain’s most northerly church, the most northerly post office and that famous bus stop near Baltasound which was still decked out in its Christmas finery.

After a quick turnaround when I got back to Lerwick on Friday evening, we headed west for the Scalloway Fire Festival. The event though smaller than Up Helly Aa in Lerwick was an incredible spectacle and everyone participating or watching was very friendly and welcoming. It was also amazing being able to walk at the back of the procession and then watch the viking ship be set alight and launched into the harbour. The bar at the Scalloway Hotel beckoned afterwards!

The weather started to deteriorate over the weekend. I did however manage a quick trip to the southern tip of Shetland to see the Sumburgh Lighthouse, driving over Sumburgh’s Airport runway to get there!

The rest of the weekend and Monday was taken up with shopping in Lerwick for knitwear, wool, chocolate and Shetland Reel gin; visiting the Up Helly Aa exhibition at the Shetland Museum with a friend, James; and also a fantastic dinner at the Scalloway Hotel. By 5pm on Monday, it was time to board the ferry to head home. Despite the very rough crossing on the way back, Neil and I managed to visit the cinema again, this time for two films. With Orkney Ice Cream of course!


Waterlily Knitting

I love the Waterlily pattern by Meghan Fernandes which was published in the Spring 2014 issue of PomPom magazine.  The combination of knitting in the round, Latvian braids and lacework are so appealing.

I knit my first Waterlily in 2015, starting on 11th June and finishing on 28th Aug, using beautiful Splendor 4-ply yarn in Little Cat Feet from GingerTwistStudio. Initially apprehensive about the Latvian braid, Meghan’s wonderful tutorial walked me through the construction. I generally struggle with lacework, but the simple repeat pattern soon clicked into my memory.  I was happy with the result, and for its debut, wore it to the Edinburgh International Festival for my birthday treat.


A second Waterlily followed. Again I used a wonderful yarn from GTS, Luscious 4-ply in Gorblimey.  Both braid and lacework flew off my needles this time, and once again I was pleased with how easy the pattern was to knit.  And, this version debuted on a recent wonderful weekend away!


My Knitting Journals

I learned to knit as a child. My mother taught me. I knitted through my teenage years and into university. Then, I put my needles down. I’m not sure why: maybe it was my job with its long hours, shift pattern and UK-wide travelling. When I next picked up my needles, much had changed: modern circulars; interchangeables; independent local yarn shops; YouTube tutorials; and Ravelry! Hats, scarfs and mitts flew off my new single-pointed needles but I lacked the skills or knowledge to progress further.

So, on the day of returning from a family holiday touring round northern Portugal, I dropped my bags and headed out the door to travel up to Stirling for a one-day Finishing Techniques course run by Carol Meldrum at McArees. Saturday 10th August 2013 was one of those pivotal days that come along in life occasionally.  I learned to pick up stitches with precision accuracy, to sew up seams with seemingly invisible yarn, and to create flawless buttonholes! More importantly, Carol’s knowledge, enthusiasm and endless patience were inspiring.  Knitting which previously had been a casual aquaintence, within the space of a day became a very close friend!  Carol encouraged us to take notes during the course.  I hadn’t brought a proper notebook so on the train back to Edinburgh that evening, I started thinking about what sort of notebook I wanted: A5, hard cover, square paper, and an elastic band to close the book. A pocket of some sort would be a bonus! After trawling the Internet, I found it: the Habana Graph Notebook A5 from Quo Vadis.


And so it started. First page was copied notes from Carol’s class. Second page was a stuck-in photocopy of a sleeveless pullover pattern from one of my knitting books. Then I thought, why not add details of yarns and needles used, and the project start date. It snowballed: yarn samples, pattern amendments, and finally a photo of the finished article were added. Washi tape started to play a big part in my life! That Museum of Modern Art tape purchased on a previous trip to New York suddenly found a use. Other multicoloured, patterned or pastel Washi tapes followed.

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The notebook had surreptitiously slipped from a few course notes and patterns, to a chronological documentation of my knitting projects and progress. When the first notebook was full, a second and now nearly a third have been filled.

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And, always in the back pocket I keep my most treasured class and workshop notes: Carol’s Finishing Techniques; Clare Devine’s Kitchener Stitch picture tutorial; and Tom of Holland’s notes on darning.

Bandit Brioche!

In February, I went on a wonderful course run by McAree Brothers knitting shop and taught by Carol Meldrum, known as Beatknit. The course was on hand knitter’s tuck stitch also known as brioche.  It was amazing, and a great start to learning this technique.

I next encountered brioche knitting at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March when I attended a workshop run by Stephen West of Westknits.  His shawls, his enthusiasm for brioche, and his amazing sense of colour were all so inspiring!

So, I started thinking about a new design for my machine knitted fabric.  Colour choices in brioche are so important.  Stephen West makes it look very easy!  After a number of attempts, I came up with a design.

As its not proper brioche, I needed to find a new name for it.  These are some of the rejected names: bogus brioche (sounds like a hybrid monster); bad-ass brioche (son raised eyebrows and said No); pseudo brioche (too serious); artful brioche (maybe)! I eventually settled on Bandit Brioche: it’s not real brioche; and it’s a wee bit of a chancer!

Hope you like the new design which I will be selling at the Boggs Community Market on Saturday 7th May.

Boggs Community Hall Spring Market – Saturday 7th May 2016


I’m delighted to announce that I will be attending the Boggs Community Hall Spring Market on Saturday 7th May between 12pm and 4pm.  I shall be selling my Woolly Originals craft bags and taking orders for bespoke items.

The Hall is a vital resource in Pencaitland, used by the local Boggs Holdings community. It needs refurbishing and the committee decided to hold a spring market to raise funds.  

So, if you’re in the area or fancy a trip out to a beautiful part of East Lothian, come along! There will be a variety of stalls selling produce ranging from sour dough breads, organic fruit & veg to plants, homeware and artwork.  There will also be a cafe serving food and drinks.

See you there!




Fair Isle Dog Jumper

I have quite a few hand knitted jumpers in my wardrobe. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know which one to wear when I’m planning a walk with my dog, Badger. However, until today, poor Badger only had one black fleece from which to choose! After numerous comments from friends and family about the paucity of knitwear in Badger’s wardrobe,  I decided to create for him the ultimate Fair Isle sweater!

After researching dog patterns, I choose the beautiful Fetching Fair Isle pattern from “Dogs in Knits” by Judith L Swartz. After swatching the Jamieson & Smith 2-ply jumper weight Shetland wool, I increased my needle size to 3mm and reduced the number of colours in the pattern from eight to six.  

The coat knit up beautifully, though the distraction of other projects delayed its progress, taking me three months to complete the main body.  Sewing in all the wool ends then took almost a whole weekend! The steeked leg holes were relatively easy to do, having steeked a few cardigans.  Finally, the coat was washed and blocked.  

I’m delighted with the result, and as the pictures show, so is Badger!  Just need a cold day to take him for a walk and an “in-action photo session”!







Navia Jumper

I have finished my Navia jumper!  The beautiful Faroese wool that can be purchased from The Island Wool Company is wonderful: soft, warm and easy to knit. I used a pattern by Malan Steinholm published in Navia Book No. 17.  The sleeves needed adapting slightly to shorten them, and the length of the body also required altering. I made a few modifications to the zigzag pattern too, to ensure it “matched up” on the sleeves.  I just need to wait for the weather to cool to wear, which probably won’t be long, knowing our Scottish summers!