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!


2017 Becomes 2018

As 2017 transforms into 2018, I’m scanning the horizon with all my needles by my side: machine; interchangeables; and tapestry!

2017 brought: the Edinburgh Yarn Festival; the Indieburgh Craft Crawl in Edinburgh; the Perth Festival of Yarn; Yarndale in Skipton, Yorkshire; Meet the Maker at the Dovecot Tapestry Studio in Edinburgh; and the EYF Wool Tribe’s Christmas Knitters’ Party. There were visits to Glen Affric in the Highlands, the Serra da Estrela National Park in central Portugal, Lisbon, London, Iceland, the Faroes and Catalonia. I also further developed my tapestry skills with visits to the Wemyss School of Needlework in Fife and Lorna at Stitchbirdie in West Kilbride.

2018 is going to be just as busy if not more so. The Edinburgh Yarn Festival will kick off proceedings in March. The prospect of this now three-day event is both exciting and yet terrifying! Travels planned so far involve Shetland next week and a hiking & knitting tour to Iceland in June. Not sure which is going to need more woollies!

Thank you very much for following Woolly Originals over the last twelve months. Your support and your encouragement are very much appreciated.

Here’s to 2018, and whatever it may bring!

Merry Christmas!

A Merry Christmas to all of Woolly Originals’ friends and followers! To celebrate the end of an amazing year for Woolly Originals, we decided to donate to a local charity in Edinburgh called Fresh Start on your behalf.

This is what Fresh Start does:

FRESH START – Helping People Make a Home for Themselves

Fresh Start is an Edinburgh based charity helping people who have been homeless get established in their new home. Working in partnership with volunteers and organisations from a broad section of the community, we deliver a range of services that provide the practical and social support that help people resettle successfully.

Each year Fresh Start helps thousands of new tenants settle into their homes. This can only be achieved by the hard work of our volunteers and generosity of the donations we receive.

Services we offer: Starter Packs; Training Initiatives; Cooking Classes; Cookers; Food Station; Helping Hands

We are a charity helping to end homelessness.

(Donation number – D188233846)

Heritage Orchard

Over the winter of 2011/12, my friend Fu of Bearford Yarns and East Coast Organics planted an organic orchard on her farm in East Lothian consisting of both heritage and modern varieties of apples, pears and plums. The heritage trees were included so that she could help preserve a number of lesser known British fruit varieties. When I visited the orchard in the summer of 2014 to admire her hard work planting over 1000 trees, I was amazed at the number of species I had never heard about! Supermarkets sell a very limited range of British fruit.



Recently when I was thinking of a new botanical design, her beautiful trees came instantly to mind. After a number of pattern revisions and swatches, I came to the conclusion that the Shetland weaving yarn from Jamieson’s of Shetland wasn’t suitable for this design.  However, their 2-ply jumper weight Spindrift Shetland yarn was!


Next, when selecting Spindrift colours, I decided to choose only those that reminded me of her fruit, especially the apples and pears that are in my veggie-box each week! Therefore, I chose the following three bases in Cardinal, Yellow Ochre and Moss with a complimentary-coloured tree motif.  Each bag is lined with a matching linen lining from Scottish Linen in Kirkcaldy, Fife.

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Small project bags in this new design will be for sale on Saturday 2nd December 2017 at the Wool Tribe Knitters’ Christmas Party organised by Edinburgh Yarn Festival at Akva in Edinburgh. Then, in the Woolly Originals’ online e-shop in early December 2017.

Thereafter, small, medium and large bags will be for sale at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March 2018.

Wool Tribe’s Christmas Party!

So excited that Woolly Originals is going to have a pop-up shop at the Wool Tribe’s Christmas Party! This fab event is organised by Jo and Mica of Edinburgh Yarn Festival, and will take place on Saturday 2nd December at 5pm at Akva in Fountainbridge, Edinburgh. Tickets are available from Wool Tribe

Other vendors at the event include Ginger Twist Studio, Woollenflower, Cosmic Strings and The Crochet Project. Woolly Originals will be there with a selection of bags, badges and also launching a new design, Heritage Orchard! 

See you there!

Gamaldags Cardigan

This August, whilst I was travelling around the top of Iceland, I visited the wonderful Anna-Fold yarn shop in Akureyri. I wanted to buy some local wool, so purchased enough Isotex Lettlopi to knit a cardigan. I chose a khaki main colour of the Aran weight wool with four complimentary colours for a fair isle yoke.

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On returning home, I decided to use this Icelandic wool to knit a Gamaldags cardigan by Helene Magnússon, known as The Icelandic Knitter.  I worked out my colour scheme on graph paper and then began.


Being a thicker weight than my last knitted cardigan, namely my Shetland 2-ply Cockatoo Brae, this one quickly progressed. Sleeves first, then the main body. Knit in the round as a jumper, it was relatively easy to steek.


Once I had finished sewing in buttons and steek ribbon on the inside, I soaked and blocked the cardi to size. It took three days to dry as it is rather thick! I’m delighted with the finished result, and grateful for the colder weather so that I can wear it!