Sunday, September 14, 2014

Shetland Designer

One of the best things about doing a knitting tour with Gudrun and Mary Jane was that they had arranged for us to meet with and learn from some of Shetland's most talented knitters.

One such lady is Wilma Malcolmson, owner of The Shetland Designer . We visited her shop and studio and got to speak with her about her design process, as well as drool over some of the most beautiful Fair-Isle knitting I've ever seen.

Here's Wilma explaining where she gets her colour inspiration. In this case it was a photo of old painted barrels.

All these swatches were knit with the same yarn. So fascinating to see the difference depending on what yarns were used for the foreground and background motifs.

Here, Wilma showed us swatches she worked up for the Shetland Museum. The staff that greet visitors wear beautiful Fair-Isle vests designed by Wilma.

If you ever find yourself in Shetland, you must visit Wilma's shop and studio. As you can imagine, we all left with lighter wallets and lovely woolens. I'll try and take some good photos of the goodies I brought back to show you in another post.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Shetland, land of wooly goodness!

Today, I want to show you a few of the wonderful sheep-related activities we got to experience on the trip.
Shetland sheep. They're small, hardy, cute, and everywhere!

The majority of the fleeces from the sheep we saw grazing all over the island go to one place: Jamieson and Smith Shetland Wool Brokers. We had the great privilege of visiting with Oliver Henry, J&S's master "wool man".

Oliver Henry hard at work

Several people referred to Oliver as the "high priest of wool" and that's pretty much what he is. For over 45 years, his eagle-eye and deft hand have been sorting and grading fleeces for colour and quality.

Raw fleeces

Child's Fair-Isle jumper knit with natural Shetland colours
Oliver explained to us the special properties of Shetland fleece. It's very fine and soft and comes in a great variety of colours. Many of the colours have Shetland dialect names:  light grey, grey, white, emsket (dusky bluish-grey), musket (light greyish-brown), shaela (dark steely-grey), black, fawn, moorit (reddish brown), mioget (honey-toned, yellowish-brown), and dark brown.

Pat listening attentively to the master

It was wonderful to hear Oliver speak. He's a man clearly in love with what he does, with an impressive mastery of his craft (this would be a defining characteristic of so many of the Shetlanders we met all week long).

Next, we visited a croft (a small farm), and got to see some pretty impressing hand-shearing. Here's Ronnie, the crofter, skillfully ridding the sheep of its warm coat. I was struck by how swiftly and gently he handled the sheep. This man knows what he's doing!

Mary Jane was the only one of us brave enough to try her hand at shearing. Way to go Mary Jane!

After all that hard work, we headed back to the family house to have a delicious lunch of soup and bannock (a Scottish version of scones). We all fell hard for the resident cutie, Rowan. And we got to buy some of Ronnie's lovely organic yarn.

Of all the things I loved about Shetland, the warmth and generosity of the people is what left the biggest impression on me.

I have many many more wooly things to tell you about, but I think this post is long enough... Next time, I'll show you all the amazing things that people make with beautiful Shetland wool.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My Grand Adventure - Shetland, settling in

I fell in love with Shetland the minute I caught a glimpse of it from the plane. Wild, green, windswept, lush, covered in sheep, surrounded by the crashing ocean, I was in heaven.

I arrived a day before the actual tour started. Flights to Shetland are often delayed or cancelled because of fog, and I didn't want to take the risk of missing any of the tour. So I spent the first night in Lerwick, the capital and main port of the Shetland islands.  As you can see, the weather was very fine. Like Glasgow, I was surprised at how warm and sunny it was. Lerwick is a charming port town with pretty streets lined with little shops selling all sorts of wooly goodness. I kept my wallet in my pocket though, knowing that I would have plenty of opportunities to acquire "souvenir yarn" during my week-long tour.

The next day was when the real fun began. I met up with some of the lovely ladies that would accompany me on this adventure, and we all set off in a van for Burrastow, our beautiful home for the next week.

Burrastow House

My beautiful loft room....

...with a view.

Some of the lovely ltp's (lucky trip people): Pat, Kathy, Paula, Lori and Claire

We had a relaxing first evening, just hanging out, having the first of a string of gourmet meals, and walking off all those delicious calories. The hiking trails around Burrastow were outstanding, and we were keen to explore Shetland's stunning landscapes.

First glimpse of Shetland ponies!

Hello lovely Lori!

It was lovely to settle in to these beautiful surroundings, get to know everyone, and just catch my breath before the start of our full-on yarny adventures. More on these soon...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

My Grand Adventure - Glasgow

I've been having a hard time knowing where to start with this account of my fabulous trip. A blog post simply can't do it justice. Partly because that overwhelmed feeling has not left me. The trip was just THAT good. And partly because I didn't bring my "good" camera, which I now regret. I can't help but feel that my photos don't accurately capture the beauty of the places I saw. The photos I took with the ipad I borrowed turned out really quite awful, but the ones taken with my sister's small point-and-shoot were decent once I sharpened them up a bit. (Luckily, many of my Shetland traveling companions were accomplished photographers armed with the right gear. I highly suggest you visit Kathy's Instagram and Lori's blog and Instagram to see some amazing pictures of Shetland.)

I'll start at the beginning, and do my best to give you a glimpse into my grand summer adventure.

As you can imagine, there is no direct flight to remote Shetland, and so my first stop was a quick 24 hours in Glasgow. I was extremely jet-lagged when I arrived early on a Friday morning after a sleepless red-eye, so my impressions of Glasgow are a bit blurry. I basically jumped on a hop-on hop-off bus and tried (sometimes in vain) not to nod off! Here's a bit of what I managed to see:

George square, where my hotel was, and one of the hubs of the Commonwealth Games which started the day I arrived. Glasgow was simply teeming with people!

Hop on the bus and try to stay awake!

The weather was glorious, and unexpectedly HOT, which I was not prepared for clothing-wise. Even the Glaswegians seemed shocked by the good weather.

The Tolbooth steeple, built in 1625-26, is a remnant of the old Glasgow Chambers building. This impressive sight is one of the few remaining medieval buildings in the city (it's also where they used to hang people, as our tour guide pointed out with grim glee).

Looks like Dr. Who was in town for the games!

Glasgow Science Centre. If you look closely you'll see that there are some brave (crazy?) people scaling the spine of the building.

McLennan Arch, at the entrance of Glasgow Green, the oldest park in the city established in the 15th century.

 Italia statue atop the Italian Centre in the merchant city area.  

A statue of St. Mungo, Glasgow's patron saint, tucked into a niche above the Savings Bank Building.

And here's Glasgow Cathedral, also known as St. Mungo's Kirk. St. Mungo (aka St. Kentigern) performed 4 miracles in Glasgow, one of which involves a fairly convoluted story about an adulterous queen and a golden ring in the belly of a fish... The saint also brought a robin back to life and reignited a holy fire by blowing on a hazel branch. You can more about his mysterious deeds here.

I wish I could have spent more time in this cool, friendly place. I definitely want to heed the invitation to "haste ye back" and explore more of what Glasgow had to offer, especially Kelvingrove, the Necropolis, and the Gallery of Modern Art.

Soraidh Glasgow!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Still unpacking…

I’ve been back a few days, and I’m still making sense of the wonderful experiences I’ve had over the last few weeks. How does one “unpack” the rich treasures that such a trip brings: the lovely new friends, the wonderful experiences, the breathtaking sights, the decadent accommodations, the complete freedom and delight of being fully engaged in a wooly world…? Never mind sorting out the laundry, the photos, the yarn! It’s a bit of a shock to the system coming back to work obligations, house-cleaning and heart-breaking headlines. I’m taking things slow…

This weekend I plan on:
 - sorting out some of my photos to show you glimpses of Shetland and Iceland
- soaking up as much time as possible with my dearly-missed husband and friends
- wrapping myself up in my brand new Icelandic-yarn shawl (it’s surprisingly cold here!)
- going to the farmer’s market, and eating as many veggies as I can stuff into my face (the price of produce in Iceland was MIND-BLOWINGlY expensive!!!)
- Look through my cookbooks for a nice tea cake recipe

What about you? What are you up to this weekend?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Madder Anthology 1 samples

I'm sure many of you have seen Carrie Bostick Hoge's gorgeous new collection, Anthology 1 (slideshow of the collection is here). To say that I love everything about this would be an understatement. The patterns, the styling, the photography, the colour palette, it's all perfect. I knit 2 samples for Carrie:

The Sibella cardigan

Photo courtesy of Carrie Bostick Hoge

Photo courtesy of Carrie Bostick Hoge

The Beatrice cardigan

Photo courtesy of Carrie Bostick Hoge

Photo courtesy of Carrie Bostick Hoge

Photo courtesy of Carrie Bostick Hoge

Both have that exquisite marriage of simplicity and femininity that Carrie is famous for. Of course I want to knit them again for me.

Perhaps when I get back from my trip. Only 1 more sleep before I leave. Eeeep!