A Working Holiday in Shetland

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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!

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Neon Project Bags

Having bought a second-hand copy of “The Harmony Guide to Machine Knitting Stitches”,  I was intrigued by one of it’s star-shaped patterns.  Unfortunately, the pattern was laid out for a 50-row punchcard.  So, using my knitter’s graph paper from Rowan Morrison Books, I adapted the pattern for my 60-row punchcards.

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After I had knitted up some sample swatches using the new punchcard, I designed a new fabric bag, one large enough to take a medium-sized knitting or crochet project.  I decided to complement this with a long tool case that could take DPNs.  Once these were fine-tuned, I decided to make a collection of neon coloured bags, with a grey contrast colour.  Trips to the Knit Rennie woollen mill in Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire and to the fabric mill,  Scottish Linen in Fife were then needed to stock up on the right colours and fabrics.

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Once I had machine knitted the fabric, I  cut out and sewed the medium-sized project bags and long tool or pencil cases using complimentary lining fabrics.  These are now for sale in my Woolly Originals E-Shop. Next up, my Granite Star designs!

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Haps & Shawls 

Having been very tentative about trying to knit a shawl, I decided to attend Veera Valimaki’s class on “Shawls and Shapes” at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March.  She was amazing and during her class she broke down different shawl shapes into very simple 4-row patterns!

With newly found confidence, I decided to start a v-shaped shawl using her basic pattern; this shape being perfect to wear with yoked jumpers and cardigans, and as a cycling scarf to keep the back of my neck warm!  I added a mix of stocking stitch and garter stitch blocks to the basic pattern to create a slightly more interesting texture.  I decided to knit the shawl using a skein of 4-ply Titus Goddess in Filey.  The result has been well worn and is much needed with the unpredictable spring weather!  In fact, the result was so well used that I decided to knit a second v-shaped shawl in some leftover Blacker Yarns Gotland DK wool.  Not having enough of one colour for a whole shawl, I added a paler band to the edge.  Again, the shawl has been well worn!

So, now for the big challenge: a Shetland hap.  As I’d loved Veera’s class, I decided to knit her 3/4 Hap for the KnitBritish Hapalong that started on Friday 10th April.  Again, I decided to use 4-ply Titus, in Coal, Crucible and White Rose.  I’m ridiculously pleased with result, and cannot wait for the right occasion to wear it!